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Elsing Green

( Originally Published 1932 )



Elsing Green is situated in King William County, the original owner being Captain William Dandridge, who was a member of the Virginia Council. The Dandridges sold the place to the Braxton family, and from them it was purchased by William Burnet Browne, who is supposed to have named it after Elsing Hall in Norfolk, England, a home of the Browne family.

The house is of brick, built in the form of the letter H, and is somewhat similar in plan to Stratford and the old capitol in Williamsburg. It is of very substantial construction, and although the building has passed through two fires its walls were not appreciably damaged, so that its exterior must have very much the original appearance. The interior has probably seen many changes.

In 1758 the house was restored by Carter Braxton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who made it his home for some time. His initials can be seen over the north door, with the date 1758. The initials "G.B." also appear, and are thought to be those of his father, George Braxton. A later inscription is "R. Gregory, 1842." These inscriptions are interesting in showing the old English custom of placing initials and dates at the time of major repairs or additions to buildings.

William Burnet Browne, of Beverly, Massachusetts, made Elsing Green his home for many years. He met Judith Carter of Virginia, daughter of Charles Carter of Cleve, and won her hand, promising he would make Virginia his home. He was a grandson of William Burnet, provisional governor of New York and Massachusetts, and great-grandson of the famous Gilbert Burnet, Bishop of Salisbury. William Burnet Browne's tomb is at Elsing Green.

The daughter of William Burnet Browne and Judith Carter, Mary Burnet, married Herbert Claiborne, and the estate descended to their son William Burnet Claiborne on the condition that he assume his grandfather's name, which was done by an act of the legislature. From the Brownes the place passed by purchase to the Gregory family, who have occupied it for a century.

A room hung with Gobelin tapestry; a copy of Holbein's picture of Sir Anthony Browne, Viscount Montacute; backs to the fireplaces depicting celebrated historical scenes were among the many decorations of the old house. An interesting inscription on the back of the portrait stated that the copy was made by Gabriel Mathias and that the original "is at this time, Anno 1759, in the possession of Thomas Greene, Esq. of Elsing Hall in Norfolk, who married Mary Browne, the heiress of Elsing Hall."

Not far from Elsing Green is the Romancoke estate which was granted to William Claiborne, secretary of state of Virginia, by the Assembly in recognition of his military service in the campaign against the Indians in 1624. It was Secretary Claiborne's great-great-grandson who married Mary Burnet Browne and lived at Elsing Green. Romancoke continued to be a Claiborne family seat for four generations. It then passed by purchase to the Custis family, and later became the home of Captain Robert E. Lee. The original house was burned many years ago.

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