Sarah Parks Henry

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Sarah Parks Henry (Shelton)

Also Known As: "Sallie Henry"
Birthplace: Rural Plains, Hanover, Virginia, USA
Death: Died in Scotchtown Plantation, Hanover County, Virginia
Immediate Family:

Daughter of John Shelton and Eleanor (Elizabeth) Shelton
Wife of Patrick Henry and Patrick Henry, Sr.
Mother of Martha Fontaine; Capt. John Henry; William Billy Henry; Anne Henry; Elizabeth "Betsey" Aylett and 10 others
Sister of Richard Shelton; John Skelton, Jr.; James Shelton; William Shelton, II; William Shelton and 9 others
Half sister of John III Shelton

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Sarah Parks Henry

In 1754 Patrick Henry married Sarah Shelton, reportedly in the parlor of her family house, Rural Plains. (It also became known as Shelton House.)

As a wedding gift, her father gave the couple six slaves and the 300-acre (1.2 km2) Pine Slash Farm near Mechanicsville. With his marriage, he became a slaveholder and landowner. Henry worked with his slaves on the land because it was a small property; it was exhausted from tobacco cultivation and he could not gain profitable yields. After the main house burned, the couple moved for a short time with their two children into the 20 by 60 foot Honeymoon Cottage, a one-story building with attic. They later moved to the Hanover Tavern, owned by Sarah's father. They sold Pine Slash Plantation in 1764, after Henry started working as a lawyer.[4]

The Henrys had six children together, one of whom married a brother of the poet Thomas Campbell. In 1771 the family moved to Scotchtown Plantation, also in Hanover County. Sarah became mentally ill and died there in 1775.

Sarah's illness

In 1771 Henry and his wife Sarah moved into their Scotchtown plantation in Hanover County, along with their children: Martha ("Patsy"), Anne, Elizabeth ("Betsy"), John, William, and Edmund ("Neddy"). Sarah "started to manifest disturbing behaviors which could not at that time be diagnosed or treated. ...her mental condition deteriorated rapidly, and when she became dangerous to herself and others, she was clothed in a 'Quaker shirt,' an early form of strait jacket."[8]

Following the general practice of the time, Henry's friends and his physician, Dr. Thomas Hinde, recommended she be moved to the public hospital in Williamsburg. But, after inspecting the facilities, Henry "saw that if he agreed, his wife would be locked into a windowless brick cell containing only a filthy mattress on the floor and a chamber pot. There she would be chained to the wall with a leg iron. Appalled by what he saw, he instead prepared a private, two-room apartment for her in the basement of Scotchtown. Each room had a window, providing light, air circulation, and a pleasant view of the grounds. The apartment also had a fireplace, which provided good heat in the winter, and a comfortable bed to sleep in."[8]

Henry (or a domestic slave when he was away on business) took care of Sarah and "watched over her, fed her, bathed her, clothed her, and prevented her from harming herself."[8] Sarah died in the spring of 1775. "Because of her illness – then thought to have been caused by being 'possessed by the devil' – she was denied a religious funeral service or a Christian burial. Her grieving husband, 'bowed down and bleeding under the heaviest sorrows and personal distresses,' buried her thirty feet from the home they shared and planted a lilac tree next to her grave to remember her. The tree still stands there, a few steps from the door to her basement."[8]

Scotchtown is a National Historic Landmark.


  • 8. Richard N. Côté (2005). Strength and Honor: The Life of Dolley Madison. Corinthian Books. pp. 47–48.


  1. Red Hill - Patrick Henry National Memorial
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Sarah Parks Henry's Timeline

Rural Plains, Hanover, Virginia, USA
June 10, 1755
Age 17
Fork, Hanover, VA, USA
June 1755
Age 17
Pine Slash, Hanover County, Province of Virginia
Age 18
Hanover , Virginia
Age 19
Fork, Hanover, VA, USA
February 21, 1763
Age 25
Hanover, VA, USA
Age 25
Fork, Hanover County, Virginia
July 19, 1767
Age 29
Hanover, VA, USA
July 19, 1767
Age 29
Roundabout, Louisa County, Virginia