During the Revolutionary War, Virginia Governor Patrick Henry Appoints the Initial Justices For the Newly Formed Fluvanna County

Documents signed by Henry during the Revolution and in his early days as governor are extremely scarce, this being the first we have ever seen

Patrick Henry was an early critic of British authority and leader in the movement toward independence. He is best remembered for the speech he delivered during the Virginia Convention of 1775 that famously ended with the words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” The next year, after the Declaration of Independence,...

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During the Revolutionary War, Virginia Governor Patrick Henry Appoints the Initial Justices For the Newly Formed Fluvanna County

Documents signed by Henry during the Revolution and in his early days as governor are extremely scarce, this being the first we have ever seen

Patrick Henry was an early critic of British authority and leader in the movement toward independence. He is best remembered for the speech he delivered during the Virginia Convention of 1775 that famously ended with the words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” The next year, after the Declaration of Independence, Henry was seated as the first post-colonial Governor of Virginia, serving from 1776 to 1779.

Fluvanna County, Virginia was established in 1777 and named after the river that flows through it. Fluvanna means “Anne’s River”, which was itself named in honor of Queen Anne of England. Sparsely populated at the time, the residents mainly grew tobacco and sent it down river to Richmond for sale. Instrumental in formation of Fluvanna County were men like Wilson Miles Cary (who was thus the first justice and administered the oath of office to the others), and Martin Key (who became the first sheriff in the county), and families like the Napiers (on whose land the county courthouse was to be situated), Wills, Burtons, and Thompsons.

With the birth of this new county, the first order of business was to set up a county government and court system. Governor Henry turned to the prominent founding families of the county to fill the slots and assume the responsibilities. He selected 19 men to be made the initial justices of the peace.

Document signed, Williamsburg, Va., December 9, 1777, naming Wilson Miles Cary, Martin Key, John Ware, Roger Thompson, William Henry, George Thompson, Thomas Napier, Jesse Burton, Elias Wills, Anthony Haden, Benjamin Anderson, Richard Napier, Robert Burton Paine, and half a dozen others, “justices to keep the peace the County of Fluvanna, and required to keep, or cause to be kept, all ordinances and laws of the said Commonwealth…”  Mounted to light board and silking on back.  On December 24 the Virginia Assembly followed up and passed an act allowing the new justices to determine where to hold their courts.

Documents signed by Henry in his early days as governor (1776-1777), in the wake of the Declaration of Independence, are extremely scarce. A search of public sale records going back 35 years fails to reveal any that reached that marketplace, nor have we ever seen one before.

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