Charles Lynch (judge)

Map of the Colony of Virginia during the pre-revolutionary era.

Charles Lynch (1736-1796) was a Virginia planter, politician, and American revolutionary who headed an irregular court in Virginia to punish Loyalist supporters of the British during the American Revolutionary War. The terms " lynching" and "lynch law" are believed to be derived from his name. [1]

Early years

He was born in 1736 at an estate known as Chestnut Hill on the banks of the James River in Virginia, a place at which his elder brother would later establish the town of Lynchburg. [2]

Lynch's father left his native Ireland and emigrated to the English Colony of Virginia in about 1725 as an indentured servant, called a "redemptioner" in the nomenclature of the day. [2] Upon arrival to the New World, Lynch's contract of indenture was sold to a wealthy planter living in Caroline County. [2] Lynch remained with the planter for his fixed term of servitude, winning in the process not only his freedom but also the hand of his daughter, Sarah Clark, in marriage. [2]

With the financial assistance of the elder Clark, the Lynches themselves became planters of tobacco on a large scale, farming well over 7,000 acres of Virginia land. [2] Sometime between Charles' birth in 1736 and the middle of the decade, Charles' father died, leaving behind his Chestnut Hill estate to his eldest son, John. [2] His mother joined the Quaker religious sect in 1750, bringing her sons with her into that religion. [2]

Lynch married a fellow Quaker, the former Anne Terrell, on January 12, 1755. [2] With Chestnut Hill occupied by his brother, the young couple set out to establish their new home on Virginia's western frontier on a more distant parcel of land granted to his father by King George II, in the newly established Bedford County. [3] Green Level, the Lynch estate where the couple would ultimately raise five children, was located at a place now marked by the town of Altavista.

Lynch was instrumental in organizing a Quaker meeting in Bedford County and raising funds for a building to house it, the first public house of worship in the area. [4] Lynch served for several years as the clerk of the meeting and as trustee of the group's meeting house. [4] He was also a delegate to the Quaker Assembly in Virginia. [4]

Following the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, the danger associated with life at the frontier greatly lessened, and a flood of newcomers began to appear in Bedford County. [4] His position as a landowner and leading citizen was now well-established. [4] His farming of tobacco and raising of cattle had made him a wealthy man, the possessor of property and African slaves. [4] Beginning in 1764 other citizens began to approach Lynch to ask him to become a candidate for the Virginia Assembly. [4] Lynch initially refused the entreaties on the grounds that swearing the necessary oath of office was prohibited behavior for an adherent of the Quaker religion. [4]

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