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Eltham

( Originally Published 1932 )



Eltham is situated in New Kent County, and was the home of Captain William Bassett, the first of the family to come to Virginia. He died in 1672 and was succeeded by his son, William Bassett, who died in 1673. This second William Bassett was a member of the Virginia Council. There was a third William Bassett, who inherited the place and was a member of the House of Burgesses. The son of the third Bassett, William Burwell Bassett, became the owner of Eltham and he, too, sat in the House of Burgesses.

The mansion was burned many years ago. It was built of brick, and its massive foundations can still be seen. There was a central portion of the house two-and-one-half stories high with dormer windows in the well-designed roof. Through passages on each side one reached the low wings to the house. The illustration of Eltham used in this book was made from a drawing done by a member of the Bassett family. The house is considered by many architects to have been one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the South.

Much interest is attached to Eltham because Burwell Bas-sett married, on May 2, 1757, Anna Maria, daughter of John Dandridge, and a sister of Martha Washington. General and Mrs. Washington often visited the Bassetts at Eltham, and Burwell Bassett was one of the agents who had charge of Washington's business affairs while he was in command of the army during the American Revolution. In one of his letters to Bassett, written from Cambridge, Massachusetts, in February 1776, he says: "I thank you heartily for the attention you have kindly paid to my landed affairs on the Ohio; my interest in which I shall be more than ever careful of, as in the worst event they may serve for an asylum." In another letter he urges that no tenants be ejected from his properties for non-payment of rent due, should their tardiness to pay be due to illness in the family. These letters are now owned by Herbert A. Claiborne of Richmond.

The Bassetts married with many well-known families of Virginia, including the Dandridges, the Lewises, the Claibornes, the Burwells and others.

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