Patrick Henry was born at Studley Plantation in Hanover County on May 29, 1736. His mother was Sarah Winston, daughter of Isaac Winston and Mary Dabney. His father was John Henry, son of Alexander Henry and Jean Robertson of Aberdeen, Scotland.
After reading law on his own and passing the bar exams, Henry quickly became known for his brilliant oratory and his defense of the constitutional rights of the citizens, particularly with respect to religious freedom, taxation and suffrage. He was considered a “radical” and a “firebrand.” As a lawyer, he represented the “common man.” As a politician, he was said to have an uncanny insight into the future consequences of the acts of the British Parliament against the colonies and to quickly understand the discontent of the common man and turn public fervor into legislative action.
As the colonies began to openly rebel against British rule, in Virginia, Henry led the way. Henry’s oratory gained its first public notice in The Parson’s Cause, when he criticized the king for disallowing a statute, the Two-Penny act, passed by the General Assembly of Virginia for the good of the colony. He represented Thomas Johnson, collector of the parish levies, against Rev. James Maury, both of Louisa.
Henry’s success at this trial propelled him into the public arena and, with the help of influential friends, he filled Thomas Johnson’s seat in the House of Burgesses, 1765- 1769. In c.1766, Henry moved his family to Louisa. The remains of his home, Roundabout, still exist.
From his position in Louisa County, Henry rode the circuit of court days, Louisa’s being the second Monday. Henry purchased Scotchtown in 1771, served in the House of Burgesses until 1774, was elected to the Continental Congress in 1774, was a Virginia Militia leader in 1775 and became the first Governor of Virginia, serving five one year terms, 1776-79 and 1784-86.
The life and times of Patrick Henry provide an excellent backdrop from which to educate and display the Colonial period and the Revolutionary War period in Louisa as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through photos, interpretive signage, costumes, household artifacts, etc. adults and children can learn about their community’s character during this period of nation building including tavern life, schools, churches and religion and tobacco farming.
The county of Louisa was formed from Hanover County in 1742.
At the meeting of the first Court held on December 13, 1742 at the home of Matthew Jouett (father of Jack Jouett), one of the first acts of the Court was to grant permission to Mr. Jouett to "Keep an ordinary at his home in this County by the Court House." Thus began the pivotal point or nucleus of a community to be known as Louisa Courthouse and later the village and later to become the Town of Louisa.
The ordinary or tavern, located at the site of the courthouse, served as a place of refreshment and lodging for the Justices and visitors to the monthly courts and also to such travelers who might go through the county on the roads from Richmond to Charlottesville. This, however, was not the only function of the establishment. It served as a gathering place for persons on scores of duties or pleasure bent. Legal notices and newspapers were on file, mail was distributed and the tap room was a clearinghouse for news and gossip. The tavern carried a small stock of necessities which could be purchased. It is to be hoped that Mr. Jouett and his successors served their customers with a more substantial and cleanly fare than that which prevailed in 1782, when the Marquis de Chastellux made his pilgrimage through Louisa Courthouse on his way to visit Mr. Jefferson at Monticello.
In his account of his trip, he records that on 17 April, 1782, while traveling from Willis' Ordinary, which was located in the vicinity of where Bumpass or Buckner are today, he still had about twenty seven or eight miles to ride to the only tavern where it was possible to stay before reaching Mr. Jefferson’s; this being Boswell’s Tavern. He had been strongly advised by M. de Rochambeau, who had traveled the same road two months before, not to sleep at the tavern at Louisa Courthouse, it being the worst lodging he had found in America. However, in his curiosity to see the place and using the pretense of inquiring for the road, Chastellux went in and saw that there was no other lodging for travelers than the landlord's own room. The landlord, Major Thomas Johnson, was a man of enormous girth - to the extent that he was confined to an armchair in which he lived, slept, and ate, unable to arise. Rochambeau described the place as the dirtiest, most shocking, most stinking barracks he had ever seen and that the Major lived with a wretched woman who wasted his property and left him to die of uncleanness and misery. This was the same Major Johnson who opposed the removal of the courthouse to another site in 1787, no doubt due to the fact that he, as a Justice would be unable to attend court on account of his highly inflated condition.
On the night of June 3-4, 1781, Captain Jack Jouett, Jr. made his historic 40 mile ride by horseback from a tavern near the village of Cuckoo in Louisa County to Monticello to warn Governor Thomas Jefferson and members of the Virginia Legislature of approach of the British Colonel, Banastre Tarleton and his dragoons, who had been assigned the task of capturing the patriots.
Pulitzer prize winner Virginius Dabney, in an essay for the 1966 summer issues of the Iron Worker, said, in part, “…... Jack Jouett’s arduous and dangerous nocturnal dash, much longer and more difficult than Revere’s, has never been the subject of a ballad remotely comparable in popular appeal to Paul Revere’s Ride. This is the primary reason why his name is almost completely unknown beyond the borders of his native Virginia….”
Captain Jack later moved to Kentucky, served three terms in the Kentucky Legislature, and helped it to attain statehood. His son, Matthew Harris Jouett, was probably named for Jack’s grandfather, Matthew, who owned the tavern at Cuckoo. The young Matthew received his law degree but preferred to be an artist. He studied under Gilbert Stuart in Boston and was described, when he died at age 40, as “an artist of rare genius and of considerable celebrity.”