It was way back in 1754 that Patrick Henry met the love of his life Sarah Shelton, and swept her off her feet. They got married in the same year, and very soon moved into a plush, beautiful and abundant farmhouse situated in rural Virginia. Owing to the reduced productivity of the farmland caused due to excessive tobacco cultivation, Henry Patrick finally had to sell off this property and move into a new cottage in the suburbs. Nevertheless, the couple led a blissful life with all the materialistic comforts they could ever need, and over the course of 20 years, they had six children together. Henry and Sarah seemed to be destined to joyfully grow old together, but fate had a tragic end in store for them.
Thinking way ahead of his time….
In 1774, Patrick Henry’s wife Sarah developed an unexplainable mental illness. Not only did she suffer from delusions and hallucinations, but also displayed violent seizures that attacked herself and others around her. Many considered it as the wrath of the devil, while others advised Henry to get her permanently housed in the city public hospital. But looking at the filthy and dreary conditions of the chamber where Sarah was to be housed, and the fact that she would be chained by one leg like an animal, Patrick decided that he would tend to Sarah himself at home and not leave her in such a place when she needed him the most. So he set up a private chamber with all the facilities in the attic of their house, and appointed a permanent caretaker to tend to her round the clock. It was owing to his love, affection and progressive thinking that kept Sarah alive for much longer than expected. During a time when there was a great amount of suspicion, apathy, distrust and hatred towards metal patients, his broad-mindedness, compassion and rational thinking, made him stand apart from the rest. Therefore in many ways, not only in the social sphere but also in his professional life, Patrick Henry can be considered as a visionary who thought ahead of his time!
Moving on after the tragedy
When the love of his life died, Henry was only 40 years of age and had six young children to look after. It therefore became evident to him that a second marriage was the only option left for him and his children to ensure a harmonious life. Two years after his first wife’s demise, Henry got married to Dorothea and not only lived up to the responsibilities of his family to the fullest, but also birthed another 11 children. Well, you would think that he was on some birthing spree or wanted to set a world record of sorts, but the fact is that having 10 to 20 children was very common in those days. So it was the so-called aborigines or native folks from Asia and Africa (whom Winston Churchill condescendingly commented about ‘breeding like rabbits’) but even the Caucasians who bred without any limits!