Page 3 of 10
This is a Williamsburg
story about sex, drugs, and violence. Poor George Wythe did the best he could his entire life. He tutored Thomas Jefferson. He signed the Declaration of Independence. He freed his slaves in 1787 and became a dedicated abolitionist. After the death of his wife, Wythe moved to Richmond with his housemaid and cook, Lydia Broadnax. A mixed-race youth, Michael Brown, later joined the Wythe household along with Wythe’s grand nephew, George Wythe Sweeney (cough Sweeney Todd cough). The wrinkles started setting in and Wythe Sr. began writing his will, which included one of his freed slaves, Broadnax, and Brown. Soon after, they all became mysteriously and violently ill. Both Wythe and Broadnax accused Sweeney of poisoning their coffee with arsenic, and Wythe removed him from his will. Brown and Wythe died shortly after, and though Broadnax survived the poisoning, Virginia race laws prohibited her from testifying at Sweeney’s trial. Some believe that Broadnax was Wythe’s concubine. Some believe Brown their son. But there has never been any solid evidence to prove either of these theories and so, we shall never know.