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Documenting a Legacy:
Governor Thomas Sim Lee

After being elected to three consecutive terms as governor, 1779-1782, Lee stepped aside as required by the state constitution. He did not, however, leave public life. He held a variety of public positions over the next decade, including a term at the Continental Congress, as well as attending the Frederick County convention called to debate ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788.
Lee later moved to Georgetown, in Washington, D.C., where he invested in real estate, as did many others who anticipated that Washington would become the national capital. In addition, Lee remained an active leader in the Federalist party, and his residence in Georgetown became a meeting place for that party. In 1792, Lee was again elected Governor of Maryland, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of George Plater.

During this second tenure as governor, from 1792 to 1794, Governor Lee oversaw the state during a tense period. In addition to growing international hostility, the Federal government faced a strong challenge to its authority. In the summer of 1794, the Whiskey Rebellion broke out in Pennsylvania and Western Maryland, as citizens demonstrated in opposition to a new federal tax on whiskey. In this letter, shown above, Governor Lee lauds those who, at the request of President George Washington, volunteered for the militia to quell the violence for “their patriotism and attachment to…public order.”

In 1794, at the completion of his second term, Governor Lee declined reelection, and retired to private life at his Frederick County estate, Needwood.  He and his wife Mary lived at Needwood and raised their seven children. 

Click to enlarge
Letter, Gov. Thomas Sim Lee
August 26, 1794
MSA S1005

At the time of his death on October 9, 1819, Thomas Sim Lee's estate was valued at $12,767.91, and included his livestock, farming supplies, furnishings, and over one hundred slaves. Lee's will distributed his property in Georgetown, as well as in Frederick County, including Needwood. Lee also set aside money for the construction of a Roman Catholic Church in nearby Petersville, Maryland.
Thomas Sim Lee's will [right, MSA C900] and inventory [left, MSA C807], 1819.
Click to view the entire documents



Bearing the Lee family crest, this ring was used to make an impression for a wax seal.
Courtesy of a private collection

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