Christ Church Cemetery

Edmund Jennings Lee I (May 20, 1772 – May 30, 1843) – Eminent Jurist and Statesman

The Legacy of a Distinguished Lee: Edmund Jennings Lee I’s Impact on Law and Society.

Edmond Jennings Lee I. Image courtesy of The Lee-Fendall House

Early Life and Family Heritage

Edmund Jennings Lee I, a beacon of legal prowess and civic dedication, emerged from the illustrious Lee family of Virginia. Born on May 20, 1772, his roots traced back to a lineage deeply entrenched in the state’s history. His remarkable journey would encompass not only legal acumen but also a profound influence on the cultural and societal fabric of Alexandria, Virginia.

Ties That Bind: Marriage into Renown

In 1796, Edmund Jennings Lee I’s life took a significant turn as he married Sarah Lee, daughter of the renowned Richard Henry Lee. This familial connection linked him to a distinguished representative from Virginia who played a pivotal role in advocating for the colonies’ emancipation from British rule. Richard Henry Lee’s groundbreaking proposal laid the cornerstone for the birth of independent states, setting the stage for a nation’s destiny.

A Home Steeped in History

In November 1828, Edmond Jennings Lee acquired the Lee-Fendall House through a public auction. This historic property had previously belonged to his older sister, Mollie, who was the third wife of Phillip Fendall Lee. Unfortunately, Mollie had passed away in 1827, and the house was put up for sale to settle her outstanding debts. At the time of this acquisition, Edmond and his family resided across the street at 428 North Washington Street.

Taking up residence in the venerable Lee-Fendall House, Edmond Jennings Lee I and his family left an indelible mark on Virginia’s rich historical tapestry. The reverberations of their lives within these hallowed walls would continue to influence generations to come.

Map depicting ‘Lee Corner’ in Alexandria, Virginia, showcasing the locations of three residences belonging to the Lee family. Initially, Edmund Lee resided at the junction of Oronoco and Washington Streets, later relocating to the Lee-Fendal House. Source: Ludwell Lee Montague’s ‘Shaping a Nation: Stories of the Lees

Trials and Triumphs: Financial Hardships and Resilience

Edmund Jennings Lee I’s life was not without its challenges. Financial difficulties led to the sale of their cherished home in 1833. Yet, through the unwavering support of their son, Edmund Jennings Lee II, the family found their way back to the Lee-Fendall House. The resilience of the Lee family shone through, illustrating the strength of their bonds.

A Journey of Civic Duty

Lee’s commitment to his community manifested in his involvement in local governance. Elected to represent the third ward in the Alexandria Common Council in 1809, he embarked on a journey of civic duty that would leave an indelible mark.

Leading the Council

In 1810, Lee ascended to President of the Common Council. His leadership was marked by his dedication to the community’s well-being and his resolve to uphold values that mattered to him.

Mayor of Alexandria

March 1815 saw Lee’s elevation to the role of Mayor of Alexandria. His three-year tenure was characterized by a steadfast commitment to prudent fiscal policies and a resolute stance against gambling, even when it involved individuals he knew personally. His unwavering integrity shone through during this pivotal period.

Legal Contributions

Lee’s commitment to civic service extended to the legal realm. His appointment as the Clerk of the Circuit Court for Alexandria County in 1818 marked the beginning of his invaluable contributions to the legal infrastructure of the region.

Beyond the Call of Duty: Community and Religious Contributions

Lee’s impact on his community transcended legal and public service. His involvement in Christ Church’s vestry demonstrated his dedication to the spiritual well-being of the people he served.

Educating the Future

Edmund Jennings Lee I’s commitment to education was evident through his appointment to the Board of Trustees of the Alexandria Academy. This venerable institution, with roots dating back to 1785, held a special place in Virginia’s educational landscape.

Advocate of Change

Lee’s progressive spirit was evident in his support for the American Colonization Society, an organization aimed at improving the lives of free Blacks by advocating for their repatriation to Africa. His support for this cause showcased his dedication to societal improvement.

A Lasting Legacy

As the chapters of Edmund Jennings Lee I’s life unfolded, his multifaceted contributions left an indelible mark on the fabric of Alexandria. His legacy, etched in history and memory, continues to inspire generations to strive for a better society. In his final resting place in Lot 4:4, Lee’s influence lives on, a testament to the enduring impact of a life devoted to the betterment of all.

Gravestone of Edmund Jennings Lee I in the Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery.
30th May 1843
aged 71 years, 10 days
My flesh shall rest in hope
Lot 4:4

Sources of Information

The Alexandria Association. (1956). Our Town 1749 – 1865. At Gadsby’s Tavern Alexandria, Virginia. The Dietz Printing Company.

Lee, Jr., Cazenove Gardner. (1957). Lee Chronicle Studies of the Early Generations of the Lees of Virginia. Published for The Society of the Lees of Virginia by Thomson-Shore.

Pippenger, Wesley E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, VA (Volume 3). Family Line Publications.

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By David

Hello. With a passion for bringing history to life, I serve my community as a public historian and cemetery superintendent. My journey has led me to own businesses, conduct Civil War battlefield tours and research Alexandria’s cemeteries.

Since 2015, I have had the privilege of serving as Superintendent of the historic Presbyterian Cemetery and Columbarium, located within Alexandria's Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex. The Presbyterian Cemetery has close ties to the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, situated one mile east, where my family has worshipped for two generations. My parents are laid to rest in this cemetery, which holds a special place in my heart.

Most weekends, you can find me leading tours of the Wilkes Street Cemetery Complex, where thirteen cemeteries are located, with over 35,000 buried. Considered one of the most historic cluster of cemeteries in the United States, I weave my enthusiasm for teaching with the stories of those interred there. I also manage a blog focused on all the cemeteries in Alexandria where the many souls buried across the city are memorialized.

In addition, I'm an active Board Member of both the Alexandria Historical Society and Lee-Fendall House Museum. As part of the Northern Virginia Cemetery Consortium, I diligently preserve endangered burial sites throughout the region.

If Alexandria’s history captivates you, I invite you to join one of my cemetery tours, read my blog on memorializing souls buried across the city’s cemeteries, or connect with me on social media. I find joy and purpose in bringing Alexandria’s rich past to life and serving my community.

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