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Carter Family History
'Burgess' John Carter came from England in 1649 settling at Corotoman, 13,500 acres in Lancaster County on the Rappahannock River. His son, Robert, was an agent for the Fairfaxes. He become known as 'King' Carter, the largest landowner in the colonies, accruing 333,000 acres by 1732. Robert I had 5 sons: John II, Robert II, Landon, Charles and George. Robert II, owner of Nomini Hall, died before his father. Robert III inherited 70,000 acres and Nomini Hall at the age of 21, married Francis Tasker of Pennsylvania in 1754, and raised 17 chidren there. The children's tutor, Phillip Vickers Fithian, recounted a year in the life of the family (1773 – 4) in his well-known Journal.
The First Emancipator (1728 – 1804)
Robert III sat on the Governor's Council, and was the largest single slave owner in the colonies at the time. 'Councilor' Carter had set up and equipped so many plantations and farms that he resorted to naming 12 of them after the signs of the zodiac. But he grew to feel that what he possessed was not truly his. On September 5, 1791, Carter severed his ties with the glamorous elite and a financial empire with a single stroke of the pen. His Deed of Gift declared his intent to set free nearly all of his 509 slaves. This manumission was to be accomplished on a gradual basis over a period of twenty years, since to have set all free at once would have resulted in great distress for the slaves and chaos for the community. As the largest private act of emancipation in American history, it preceded President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation by more than 7 decades. Yet Robert Carter III is buried in an unmarked grave at Nomini Hall as requested, all but vanishing from the annals of history.
The original Nomini Hall was an elegant square brick Georgian-style home built in 1729. The house was 3 stories high on 2,000 acres with a view of the Potomac River and the Nomini Creek dock. Robert III planted an allee of yellow poplar trees from the house to the road in the 1750s which are now considered the oldest in Virginia. The originial house tragically burned to the ground, a frame structure was rebuilt on the spot in 1850.
The Northern Neck is the long arm of land in Virginia between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers. Westmoreland County was created from Northumberland County in 1653. George Washington was born in Westmoreland in 1732 and James Monroe in 1758. Washington's Birthplace on Route 3 is open to the public (for a small fee). Elegant Stratford Hall, the Lee family seat and home of 2 signers of the Declaration of Independence and Robert E. Lee, was built in the 1730's and is also on Route 3 and open to the public (for a small fee).