William Bartleman’s life journey from his birthplace in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, to his multifaceted legacy in the United States is a story of resilience, community involvement, and unwavering commitment. A prominent figure in Alexandria, Virginia, Bartleman left a lasting mark as a merchant, Mason, and valiant veteran of the War of 1812. Let’s delve into the various aspects that define the remarkable life of William Bartleman.
A Journey to a New Land
Born in 1767 in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland, William Bartleman’s early life was marked by his Scottish heritage and upbringing. At 14 in 1784, he embarked on a life-altering journey, emigrating to the United States with his brother John—their destination was Alexandria, Virginia.
Establishing a Flourishing Merchant Business
In Alexandria, William Bartleman wasted no time becoming an integral community member. He became a merchant and grocer, quickly gaining recognition for his business acumen. His early business operations were on Prince Street, but he eventually moved his establishment to Lower King Street. It was in this town that his legacy began to take shape.
A Home and a Place in History
In 1810, William Bartleman’s influence expanded as he built a house at 207 King Street, a location that would later house Sonoma Cellar’s establishment [link]. Adjacent to this residence stands the “Alley House,” a unique structure with historical significance. Despite its lesser-known status compared to the nearby “Spite House,” the Alley House stands as a testament to Bartleman’s lasting impact on the architecture and heritage of the area.
Embracing Camaraderie and Heritage
Bartleman’s involvement in various organizations reflected his commitment to community and heritage. He became an esteemed Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge 22 member, holding the position of Senior Deacon. His Scottish roots were also celebrated through his membership in The St. Andrew’s Society of Alexandria, showcasing his camaraderie with fellow Scots and his dedication to preserving his heritage.
Paying Respects and Ensuring Safety
William Bartleman’s dedication to public service was evident in his membership with the Relief Fire Company. This affiliation highlighted his commitment to community safety and his willingness to serve beyond his merchant endeavors. His participation in the funeral procession of George Washington on December 18, 1799, further demonstrated his reverence for the first President of the United States and his desire to honor national figures.
Valor in Times of Conflict
The War of 1812 marked a significant period in American history, and William Bartleman proved his mettle as a valiant participant. He played an active role in the Battle of the White House, showcasing his determination to defend his country during times of turmoil. This courage underlines his multifaceted legacy as both a community contributor and a patriot.
Family and Enduring Connections
In 1800, William Bartleman married Margaret Douglas, solidifying his family’s place in his legacy. Together, they had several children, including a daughter named Wilhelmina Bartleman. Wilhelmina’s union with George Washington Dennis Ramsay tied the family to historical figures—Dennis Ramsay served as a pallbearer at George Washington’s funeral, bridging the past with Bartleman’s present.
Remembering a Respected Merchant
On December 21, 1842, William Bartleman’s earthly journey ended. His gravestone inscription serves as a reminder of his impact:
Dec. 21, 1842
in memory of
long a respectable merchant
in Alexandria, born in the island of Lewis
died here Dec. 21, 1842
in the 75 year of his age.
This inscription encapsulates a life of accomplishment, service, and dedication.
The legacy of William Bartleman is a testament to the power of an individual’s contributions to a community and a nation. As a merchant, Mason, and courageous veteran, he left an indelible mark that resonates through the years, reminding us of the significance of preserving history and honoring those who shaped it.
Sources of Information
McGroarty, W. B. (1940). The Old Presbyterian Meeting House at Alexandria, VA 1774 – 1874. The William Byrd Press, Inc.
The Alexandria Association. (1956). Our Town 1749-1865 at Gadsby’s Tavern Alexandria, Virginia. The Dietz Printing Company.
Pippenger, W. E. (1992). Tombstone Inscriptions of Alexandria, Virginia: Volume 1. Family Line Publications.
Hamilton, E. J. (2021). A Scottish Migration to Alexandria. Ellen J. Hamilton.