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The President's Brother-in-Law

Isaac Hite, Jr. (1758 - 1836) by Charles Peale Polk

Isaac Hite, Jr. was born 7 February 1758 at his father's estate, Long Meadows, Middletown, Frederick County in the Shenandoah Valley, VA. He was the only son of Isaac Hite, Sr. and Alida Eleanor (nee Elting) Hite (For more information about the Hites, click here).

Isaac attended William and Mary College and was one of the first inductees in Phi Beta Kappa Fraternity in 1777.

During the American Revolution, he left William and Mary and enlisted in the 8th Virginia Regiment under Colonel Peter Muhlenberg, as a private. Subsequently, Isaac became an Ensign and Lieutenant successively.

Isaac acted as aide to General Muhlenberg at the 1781 siege of Yorktown. In his private notebook, Isaac recorded the events of each day of the siege, the number of officers, arms, and men surrendered, and also, the articles of capitulation.

After the Revolutionary War, Isaac Hite, Jr., was commissioned a Major in the Frederick County militia.

Nelly and son James Madison Hite by Charles Peale Polk

In 1783, his father gave him and his bride Nelly Conway Madison, sister of a future President of the United States, the 483 acres on which Isaac would build a grand manor house.

He married Nelly Conway Madison on January 2, 1783. She was a sister of James Madison, Jr., who would be elected the fourth President of the United States.

Their first child, a son, was born on April 10, 1788. He was named after his famous uncle, James Madison. He would die on December 8, 1791 at the age of three. A daughter, Eleanor "Nelly" Conway Hite was born on 1 December 1789. Their next child would be born January 20, 1793. He was named James Madison Hite in honor of his deceased brother. Throughout his life, he would be called by middle name “Madison”.

James and Dolley Madison

In September 1794, James Madison and his new wife, Dolley, would spend their honeymoon with the Hites. After the visit, Madison would send a letter to Thomas Jefferson, in which he wrote:

"This will be handed to you by Mr. Bond who is to build a large House for Mr. Hite my brother in law. On my suggestion He is to visit Monticello not only to profit of examples before his eyes, but to ask the favor of your advice on the plan of the House. Mr. Hite particularly wishes it in what relates to the Bow-room and the Portico, as Mr: B. will explain to you. In general, any hints which may occur to you for improving the plan will be thankfully accepted. I beg pardon for being the occasion of this trouble to you, but your goodness has always so readily answered such draughts on it, that I have been tempted to make this additional one." (It is uncertain what Jefferson's recommendations were, but a bow-room (a chamber with a semicircular or octagonal bay) was not included in Belle Grove's final design).

Belle Grove Manor House

Completed in 1797, the grand mansion was built with limestone quarried on the property and faced the Valley Pike to display the owners social and financial status. During its construction, Isaac and Nelly lived at Old Hall, an existent building on the property.

Nelly died on Christmas Eve, 24 December 1802. Less than a year later, his father married Ann Tunstall Maury on 3 December 1803. Ann was twenty-one years old; Isaac was forty-five. Ann’s father, Reverend Walker Maury, had officiated Isaac’s first marriage.

Ann Tunstall Maury Hite

Isaac and Ann would have ten children, all of whom would live to adulthood. Between 1815 and 1820, as the family grew, an addition was added to the west end of the original house to create the present 100-foot facade.

Isaac became a major land-holder in the area, eventually controlling 7,500 acres. His would add a grist and saw mills, a distillery, and a general store to his plantation.

Isaac was a lover of flowers, and imported a variety of seeds, bulbs, and tuberous roots. His orchards and vineyards were very large and he always kept a Dutch or German vinedresser.

Unfortunately, his beautiful estate and comfortable life were made possible by slavery; he owned 276 slaves between 1783 and 1851.

He was always a student and watched with keen interest every scientific discovery and the politics of America, England and Europe. During his lifetime, he accumulated an extensive library. He was a personal friend and admirer of Thomas Jefferson and his disciple in politics. Isaac served as a member of the Virginia delegation at the Constitutional Convention and as a Justice in Frederick County.

Major Isaac Hite, Jr. died on 24 November 1836 and was buried in the family graveyard near Long Meadows. Ann died on 6 January 1851.

Hite Family Burying Ground

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