Saturday, May 11, 2019

A Survivor's Story....Part Three, Things Go From Bad to Worse

Read Part 1 of this story here PART ONE
Read Part 2 of this story here PART TWO

So the murder trail of Richard Randolph and his sister in-law Nancy Randolph was over and they were both acquitted.
So it was back to their normal life.....or was it?

Though legally they were free and clear, the notoriety it brought on the families was altogether something else.

Not only was there the stigma that the unmarried Nancy had become pregnant and either miscarried or given birth to a stillborn infant but society of that time wasn't able to get past the murder trial.
There was no way for Nancy to stay among her social peers and have any hope of marrying within her social set and having the only type of life a woman of her standing in the late 1700's could hope for.  In that time the only thing a woman had going for her was her virginity and her good name.  Nancy now had neither and it was a widely known fact.  No proper young suitor would be trying to court her.

Unwed and widowed women in that time and culture were the burden born of their extended families.
Until a woman married she was either under the control of her father(and mother to an extant)or if her father was dead, she became the ward of another male relative-either a brother who was of age, an uncle, a grandfather, a nephew or some other male relation.  Very few women could own property outright, they certainly couldn't vote, or even enter into a legal contract during this time.

A young and attractive(and even better if her husband had left her with property/wealth)widow could still hope to remarry if a suitable societal match could be found.

Nancy had no hope of every making a proper marriage match now.  To be 17-18 years old and to know that your best days were behind you.....never to have a husband or your own family.  Nancy could only live at the pleasure of your male benefactor's whims for the rest of her days.

      Painting of Nancy Randolph in later years.

So Nancy continued to live at "Bizarre" Plantation with Richard and Judith and their two sons, John St. George Randolph(named after Richard's beloved stepfather St. George Tucker)and Theodorick Tudor Randolph(named for Richard's deceased brother and Nancy's secret betrothed and/or for Richard's maternal grandfather, Theodorick Bland).

Society was very strict place in Colonial times.  You associated with those in your social circle and you married within that circle or you didn't marry.  For the Founding Families in Colonial Virginia this meant a very small pool of folks from which to choose a spouse.  People did not move around and people did not as a rule travel far from where they were born so the available potential marriage partners were located within say 100 miles of where you lived.

And with these families, more than not, having a great number of children, who in turn, married cousins of varying degrees to themselves, the gene pool began to break down, much like the farmlands in Colonial Virginia did by the turn of the 19th century.

The Randolphs of Virginia were notorious for marrying within their extended family. Richard's brother, Theodorick died of consumption.  Consumption or Pulmonary Tuberculosis has long been thought to be one of the common side effects too close intermarriage within a family.
Richard and Judith's sons-John St. George Randolph(called St. George or as he was known within the family "St. John")was born deaf(another genetic defect)and Theodorick Tudor(called Tudor)also died at a young age of TB.

Tobacco had been successfully and commercially cultivated since 1612 in Virginia.  Tobacco is a bothersome crop in terms of the nutrients it takes from the soil.  But in the 1600's our forefathers knew nothing of crop rotation and such, so soils were depleted after a few seasons of tobacco and new fields had to be hacked out of the forests and put into use.  Tobacco by the 1790's was in decline as a cash crop, being replaced by the cotton trade which  flourished further South in the Delta lands.  To be successful with tobacco farming at this point in time meant continually buying more and more land to plant, and land in Virginia was getting quite expensive and these grand plantations, after primogeniture passed out of favor in the Colonies after the Revolutionary Way, got broken up or sold away.  The Landed Gentry Class in Virginia was hanging on by a thread by the 1790's.

Bizarre was founded by Richard's grandfather, Richard Randolph of Curles.  Upon Richard of Curles death, Bizarre would have gone to his son, John Randolph of Mattoax, Richard's father, but since John was dead, the plantation went to his son, Richard.
So Judith, Richard and their children lived life at Bizarre along with their relation Nancy.
Judith was not convinced that Richard and Nancy had/were still having an affair so she slowly simmered a hatred toward her sister Nancy.  After the trial Judith had written to the cousin they had been visiting at Glenlyvar when Nancy had given birth, Mary Harrison, "My health is very bad, indeed so much have I suffered lately, both in body and mind that I much fear that a few months will put an end to my troubles in this world, neglected and thrown off by all whom I once fondly relied on".

A mere three years after the scandalous trial ended Richard Randolph lay near death in June of 1796.  There are stories that still persist about that time.  One tale says that Judith changed the amount of ingredients in a concoction to alleviate Richard's pain which brought on his death.  Judith told Nancy to fix this altered potion and give it to Richard but then slipped the original recipe into Nancy' apron pocket thereby framing her once Richard passed and questions began to be asked.

Another story goes that Nancy knew Judith was trying to poison Richard but she was too afraid of Judith to say anything and expose her.

Still other's say Judith and Nancy were in cahoots to bring on Richard's end.

There was a witness to this macabre scene playing out, an English traveler who had come to Bizarre with a letter of introduction from yet another famous family member, Colonel Beverly Randolph(the 8th Governor of Virginia).  This traveler asked why Judith had not sent for a doctor yet to help Richard.  As a thunderstorm boomed large Judith replied that the doctor wouldn't come until the storm had passed.  Once the doctor arrived the next day Judith insisted on nursing Richard but it seems she didn't give him the medicines that the doctor prescribed but her own potions. Richard Randolph died within 2 days after that, a month past his 26th birthday.
We will never know what hand Judith and/or Nancy had in Richard's death or even what killed him.

After Richard's death the lone surviving Randolph brother, John Randolph of Roanoke inherited Bizarre but he spent very little time there.  Judith, Nancy and the two children, John St. George and Theodorick Tudor lived together at Bizarre in isolation from most of their family and society.  Between Judith and her brother in-law John Randolph, they spent the rest of their lives vilifying Nancy, blaming her for Richard's demise and twisting Judith's sons young minds against Nancy.

Once Richard died Judith became emboldened toward her sister Nancy.  She began to take away all of Nancy's privileges.  She no longer had free run on the plantation and house.  She no longer was allowed to ride the plantation's horses(one of the joys of her life), could no longer play the drawing room harpsichord, or given leisure time for reading.  She was forced to take all her meals in the kitchen or in her bedroom and not in the dining room with the boys and Judith.

For the next 12 years Nancy lived as a servant at Bizarre.  She was expected to work from rising until Judith went up to bed every night and to stay out of Judith's sight.  Nancy was expected to empty the chamber pots every morning so that "it would free up a slave to do other work" in Judith's words.  Nancy spent a lot of time in needlework(probably one of the few useful skills she had)when she wasn't reduced to menial labor like a slave.
Judith's mental state deteriorated over those 15 years and she was reported to suffer convulsions and fits.
The final straw came when a note Nancy had written to a literate slave named Billy fell into Judith's hands.  Nancy had written, "Dear Billy Ellis" and had asked him to polish the andirons.  In Judith's twisted mind she was convinced Nancy was having sex with this slave.  After screaming at Nancy Judith had Billy whipped, Nancy locked in her room until John Randolph could be sent for.
Upon hearing from Judith, John ordered Nancy to leave Bizarre plantation and never return.

In the year 1808, at the age of 33-34, Ann Cary "Nancy" Randolph left Bizarre, her home for the last 19 years.  Both her parents were long dead and she had no relationship with her father's second wife who was only 2 years older than Nancy, and the reason she had fled her father's home 19 years ago. Nancy had no relatives who would take her in being a social pariah and nowhere to go and no financial support.

Part Four next time..........



  1. Oh the webs we weave. My family finally quit marrying first cousins just two generations ago. This is why we have had children die and so many auto immune problems in the family. I always said I was the by product of two first cousins. How about you. I am on pins and needles for the final episode, is it the final?

  2. What a great tale. Write the next part quickly!

  3. I can’t wait to hear what happened to Nancy! It doesn’t sound auspicious.

  4. What an interesting story! You have a gift for writing Sluggy.

  5. My ancestors consistently came from different parts of the country, so no cousin marriage. Yes, I have three rare diseases/conditions. I love these true tales. You are related to so many "famous" people.


Hey there! Thanks for leaving a comment. Though I moderate it's partly to keep spam out but also partly so that I read every comment. I don't often respond to comments so if you need me to answer you please write me at my email addy posted on my "About Me" page, linked on the side bar.