Thomas Lee Shippen (1765-1798)

"Tommy" Shippen, of "Farley" Bucks Co., Pennsylvania

Associated Houses



He was born at Philadelphia where his great-great grandfather, Edward Shippen, had served as the first elected Mayor and President of the Governor's Council. He was named for his maternal grandfather, Thomas Lee, of Stratford Hall, Governor & President of the Council of Virginia; and, his only sibling, Anne, was married to Lt.-Col. Henry Beekman Livingston of Clermont Manor, New York.

He was educated at Needwood Forest Academy in Fredrick Town, Maryland, and after graduating took a tour of Virginia with his cousins, the Lees. While there he studied law with George Wythe in consequence of which his father sent him to continue his legal studies at the Inner Temple in London. Despite his preference to, "go out into society, to travel, and to chase women," he completed his studies and returned to Philadelphia.

Although possessed of a mind well suited to law, the idea of it as a career bored him. In 1790, he undertook another tour of Virginia with the Lees and at the "Nesting Plantation" met and fell in love with the seventeen year old widow Betsy Farley, a grand-daughter of William Byrd III of Westover and heiress to 26,000-acres in North Carolina. They were married at Nesting in 1791 and her wealth negated him from having to pursue a career.

As a wedding present, his father bought the couple a small estate 17-miles from Philadelphia that he named Farley for his wife whose private income allowed them to live there. Guests and servants often saw the house swell to over 30-people, but their happiness was not to last long as almost immediately Tommy's health took a rapid turn for the worse. Dosed up with opium that his wife rubbed into his buttocks with hog's oil - "the most degrading situation" he lamented - he passed his days in a green silk dressing gown pouring through his 800-volume library at Farley. Having travelled to Charleston for his health, he died there of tuberculosis in 1798, survived by his wife and two sons. His widow remarried George Izard who moved into Farley and with whom she had three sons.
Contributed by Mark Meredith on 28/04/2021 and last updated on 10/12/2021.