Colonel William Lewis of Old Sweet Springs Aka “Civilizer of the Border”

Col. William Lewis of the Sweet Springs was called the “Civilizer of the Border”. He was married to Ann Montgomery in 1754. Ann’s father was the brother of General Montgomery, Ann, wife of Col. William Lewis, died at the “Brick House” near the Sweet Springs in 1808. Col. Lewis died there in 1811.

Augusta County settlement by the Lewis family,

“The elder sons of William Lewis, who then resided at the old fort, were absent with the Northern army. Three sons were at home.

William Lewis was confined to his bed by sickness. His wife called her sons to her to and bade them fly to the defense of their native land.’Go, my children,’ said she, ‘I spare not my youngest, my fair-haired boy-the comfort of my declining years. I devote you all to my country! Keep back the feet of the invader from the soil of Augusta, or see my face no more.’

When this incident was related to General Washington, shortly after its occurrence, he enthusiastically exclaimed, ‘Leave me but a banner to plant upon the mountains of Augusta, and I will rally around me the men who will lift our bleeding country from the dust and set her free.'”


i. MARGARET LEWIS, b. 1756.

ii. JOHN LEWIS, b. 1758.

iii. THOMAS LEWIS, b. 1761; d. 1804. “Thomas Lewis, Major U.S.A. (appointed by Washington) was greatly distinguished for gallantry, and was called the modern Chevalier Bayard, ‘sans peur et snas reproche.’ He killed Dr. Bell, of S.C., in a duel, and never enjoyed peace of mind afterwards. He died, s p, in 1804.

iv. ALEXANDER LEWIS, b. 1763; d. 1797.

v. WILLIAM I. LEWIS, b. 1766; d. 1828, Mount Athos, near Lynchburg; m. ELIZABETH CABELL. “Col. Wm Lewis m Elizabeth Cabell, of Nelson co., Va. He died at his home, Mount Athos, near Lynchburg, in 1828. He was remarkable for his talents and acquirements, and his friends several time sought to make him Governor of Virginia.”

vi. AGATHA LEWIS, b. 1774; d. 1831.

vii. ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY LEWIS, b. 1777; d. 1837.

viii. CHARLES W. LEWIS, b. 1780.


This information was taken from “Virginia/West Virginia Genealogical Data from Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Records” by Patrick G. Wardell, Lt., Col., Ret.

Major William Lewis in Virginia Continental Line; Bounty Land Warrant #1300 issued 8/10/1789; records lost in Washington, D.C., fire; query letter in file states soldier was born 1724 in Ireland, 3rd son of John Lewis & Margaret Lynn, emigrated to America, got medical degree in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, volunteered 1753 in Virginia, wounded at Braddock’s Defeat, was physician in Augusta County, Virginia, commissioned 1776 as Colonel in Virginia Continental Line, moved in 1790 to Smith Springs, Virginia, where he died in 1812, was one of the 4 brothers in Revolutionary War, including Gen. Andrew Lewis of Virginia, & their parents were early settlers in Augusta County, Virginia. F-BLW1300, R1559.

Sweet Springs Resort was first developed in the 1790’s by William Lewis with several log cabins, a courthouse and jail. All were used to house those who came to enjoy the benefits of the springs. William’s son, John, took over the property in 1805 and built the large brick building in 1839.


Taken from “History of Augusta County, Virginia” by J. Lewis Peyton (1882)]

“Col. Wm. Lewis, the Founder’s third son, was born in Ireland about 1724. He was remarkably handsome in the face, perfectly well formed in person, tall, robust and vigorous. Fond of books, his great delight from boyhood was the study of literature and philosophy. He thus shunned public employments, and never would have left his retirement but for the stirring times in which he lived.

“On reaching a proper age, he was entered at a school in Eastern Virginia, the school of Rev. James Waddell, D. D. and after acquiring a liberal education, proceeded to Philadelphia, where he graduated as a doctor of medicine. It was during his sojourn in that city that he formed the acquaintance and won the heart of Ann Montgomery, of Delaware, who afterwards became his wife.

“Returning to Virginia, he would gladly have spent his days in the quiet pursuits of his profession, but the war of 1753-54 coming on, he volunteered for service, and was severely wounded at the battle of Braddock’s defeat. Returning to Augusta, he resumed the practice, and soon became conspicuous for his large intelligence, his professional skill and his influence in the community. In this field he sought to promote good fellowship, to inspire a feeling of compassion among the whites for the aborigines, and to protect the Indians from the injustice of unscrupulous and greedy traders. He urged the erection of schools and churches, and was remarkable for his high regard for all things relating to education and religion.

“Here his life would have been spent but for the Revolution. Imbued with a sense of our wrongs, and a determination to resist the tyranny of Great Britain, he abandoned a second time his peaceful employments in 1776, and accepted a commission as colonel in the old continental line. He was an elder in the Presbyterian church, and his compassionate kindness and many acts of charity drew the eyes of the people upon him, so that he was commonly spoken of as the “Civilizer of the Border.”

“He served in the army until 1781, when he returned to his family in Augusta. Gov. Gilmer, in his ketches, thus speaks of him on page 58: ‘William Lewis, though as powerful in person and brave in spirit as either of his brothers, was less imposed to seek fame by the sacrifice of human life. He was an elder in be Presbyterian church of the old Covenanter sort his son Thomas was an officer in Wayne’s army of high reputation for soldierly conduct.

“Soon after Tom’s return home from the service, he saw some wild ducks on a Monday morning on the Sweet Spring creek. Taking a fowling piece in is hand, he crept along a zig-zag fence until within shooting distance, and was about firing when he felt the sharp pang of a birch applied to his back. Turning suddenly, he saw the uplifted hand of his father, who exclaimed, ‘I’ll teach you not to profane the Sabbath here.’ It is not surprising that the old man was styled the Civilizer of the Border.

William Lewis removed from Augusta to the Sweet Spring, circa 1790, where he died in 1812, revered as a patriarch and honored and beloved as a man and citizen.

“His son, Hon. William I. Lewis, represented Campbell County District a the United States Congress from 1815 to 1817, and his son, Major John Lewis, a distinguished officer of the Revolution, spent the winter of 1777 at Valley Forge with Washington, between whom and Lewis a warm personal friendship existed, and was in many of the battles of the Revolution, Major Lewis died in 1823. He was a man of lofty character and indomitable spirit.”

A few sources:

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