|Historic structure at Greenfield, 2006|
|Historic Structure at Greenfield, 2006|
BRIEF HISTORY OF GREENFIELD (And the Lewis and Clark Connection)
The Preston Family home in Botetourt County, VA, (now (2016) called The Botetourt Center at Greenfield), is an example of one of Botetourt's long-ago plantations. Originally named Greenfield by Colonel William Preston, the remaining 900-acre property is now a multi-use area consisting of industrial sites, an elementary school, and recreational facilities.
William Preston, Sr., (1729-1783), the original founder of Greenfield, played a crucial role in surveying and developing the colonies going westward. Preston exerted great influence in the colonial affairs of his time, ran two large plantations (Greenfield in Botetourt and Smithfield in Montgomery County), and founded a dynasty whose progeny would supply leaders for the South for nearly a century. He served in the Virginia House of Burgesses and was a Colonel in the militia during the American Revolutionary War. He was one of the thirteen signers of the Fincastle Resolutions, a predecessor to the United States Declaration of Independence. He also was a founding trustee of Liberty Hall (later Washington and Lee University), when it was made into a college in 1776.
His son, William Preston, Jr. (Billy) was born in 1770, one of six children born at Greenfield. Billy joined the Botetourt County militia at age 18. From 1791 – 1796 he served in various positions, including captain in the United States Army. By 1796, he had been assigned to the 4th. U.S. Regiment of Infantry where he met and served with Meriwether Lewis & William Clark. They became best friends, and this friendship brought Lewis and Clark to Botetourt County.
The following is a chronology of some of the documented relationships and public events the explorers experienced in Botetourt:
1798 - Billy Preston resigns his Army Commission, returns to Botetourt where he served as a Major in the local Virginia Militia.
March, 1802- Billy Preston marries Caroline Hancock of Fincastle. December 1806 –William Clark returned to Botetourt County after the Expedition.
January 8, 1807 – Citizens give Clark a “Welcome Home” Address & Clark Responds
November 1807 – Meriwether Lewis visits Fincastle for a hoped for social encounter with Letitia Breckinridge. Unfortunately, Letitia looked elsewhere and six months later married a man from Richmond.
January 5, 1808 – William Clark & Judith Hancock were married in Fincastle. Billy Preston assisted in obtaining the marriage certificate by pledging the required $ 150.00 marriage bond. William Clark and Billy Preston have now become brothers-in-laws.
Summer 1808 – Billy Preston wrote a letter to Meriwether Lewis informing him of the marriage of Letitia Breckinridge. Meriwether responded, expressing his heartfelt hurt over the rejection.
There can be no doubt about the strong connection between the Preston Family at Greenfield, and in particular, the relationship between Billy Preston and Meriwether Lewis & William Clark. In William Clark’s detailed description of his 1809 journey eastward from St. Louis, his “Memorandum Book, 1809” provides these travel accounts: “November 12, Col John Preston breakfast, $ 4.25, Abbington; November 19, At Major Prestons.” (Billy and Caroline Hancock Preston's home).
Other descendants of William Preston, Sr. also played a large role in the establishment of early America. Prestons' son James Patton Preston was governor of Virginia from 1816–1819 and he helped charter the University of Virginia. Grandson William Ballard Preston was a Congressman, Secretary of the Navy under Zachary Taylor, and later a Senator from the Confederate States of America. William Ballard Preston also offered the Ordinance of Secession to the Virginia Legislature that resulted in Virginia joining the Confederacy, and he co-founded a small Methodist college, the Preston and Olin Institute, which became what is today Virginia Tech.
The legacy of leadership and patriotism left by William Preston is very long and storied and makes him a true American hero.
The original manor home of Greenfield burned in 1959. Botetourt County purchased the land in 1995.
Sources: The Fincastle Herald, February 2016 (answers to FAQs by Friends of Greenfield Preston Plantation)