William T. Sutherlin

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Portrait of William T. Sutherlin

William Thomas Sutherlin (1822 – 1893) was a 19th Century tobacco entrepreneur most famous for opening his Danville, Virginia, home to the President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet during the week before Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Courthouse (April 3 – April 10, 1865).

Before the Civil War, Sutherlin operated the second largest tobacco factory in the state of Virginia and was the first Virginian to apply steam power to hydraulic tobacco presses. Sutherlin also founded and served as the first president of the Bank of Danville. In 1855, Sutherlin was elected as Danville's mayor and served for 6 years in this capacity.

Sutherlin resigned as mayor after he was elected to be a delegate to the Virginia Convention of 1861, which was to take up the issue of secession. Sutherlin was opposed to secession until Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12, 1861.

Because of Sutherlin's poor health, he was unable to serve actively, however he was appointed Quartermaster of Danville and rose to the rank of major. His duties included oversight of food, medicine, and arms supply as Danville served as a primary supply depot and arsenal of the Confederacy. Major Sutherlin also allowed his tobacco factory to be used as a prison for captured Union soldiers.

William T. Sutherlin Mansion, Danville, Virginia. Built for Sutherlin in 1859, the home became famous as the temporary residence of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America

The Union invasion of Richmond, Virginia, on April 3, 1865, forced Confederate President Jefferson Davis to flee south on the Richmond and Danville Railroad for Danville. Sutherlin opened his home to the beleaguered executive and his cabinet. It was here where Davis would pen his last official proclamation as President of the Confederacy.

After the war, Sutherlin continued to farm on a large scale and pursue business ventures. In 1871 he was elected to the Virginia General Assembly where he served for two years.

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