John Tayloe III
Hon. John Tayloe III (September 1770 – March 23, 1828), of Richmond County, Virginia, was prominent in business, government, and social circles. A highly successful plantation owner, he took an active part in public affairs and was considered the "Wealthiest man of his day". A military officer, he also served in the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate of Virginia for nine years. The Tayloe family of Richmond County, including John Tayloe III, his father, John Tayloe II, and grandfather, John Tayloe I, exemplified gentry entrepreneurship.
Tayloe was born September 2, or September 13, 1770. He was the son of John Tayloe II, and Rebecca Plater Tayloe; his paternal grandfather was John Tayloe I. Of the nine children in the family, a twin brother did not survive more than a few days, and two sisters died while babies. All of his remaining siblings were girls. Before going away to school in England, Tayloe learned patriotism from his father. He was educated at Eton and Oxford.
After returning home from England, he was ready to administer his estate for the benefit of the country as well as his own family. As he was the only surviving son, after his father's death in 1779, Tayloe was named in his father's will to receive most of his father's slaves, personal property, land and business interests. When his inheritance was turned over to him, the income was US$60,000; within a few years, he increased this to US$75,000. His father's iron- and ship-building interests were conserved and enlarged by Tayloe. His master shipbuilder at Occoquan was his slave, Reuben. Of Tayloe's other slaves, he reportedly sold 50 of them, mostly young girls, during the period of 1809 through 1828. In addition to shipbuilding at Neabsco Iron Works, Tayloe had other dealings in Prince William County, Virginia. In 1814, he purchased lots in Occoquan, and on the one that fronted Mill Street, he built the Occoquan Hotel. He served as a county postmaster for a time, and his stagecoach lines stopped in Occoquan, giving passengers a chance to disembark here.
During his residence at his summer home, "Mount Airy", the mansion was enlarged, having originally been built by his father. Among his guests were men of the American Revolution. Tayloe was a member of the Federalist Party, and he was a personal friend of General George Washington. He built the Octagon House in Washington, D. C. in 1799, residing there in the winter. The Octagon was the first house to be completed in the Washington area. It was designed by Dr. William Thornton, the first architect of the U.S. Capitol.
As Captain of Dragoons, he went to Western Pennsylvania, to help put down the Whiskey Rebellion. In 1799, he was appointed Major of Light Dragoons, U. S. A. by President John Adams. When General Washington wrote to Tayloe a warm letter of congratulation, Tayloe hesitated to accept the commission as he had just been elected as a Federalist to the Virginia Senate, and he feared, as he wrote to Washington, that if he resigned his seat, the place would be filled by an opponent of the administration. On February 12, 1799, Washington replied that he was inclined to believe his civil service would be more important than military service. Tayloe served in the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, as Delegate and Senator. On the breaking out of the War of 1812, Tayloe was made commander of the cavalry of the District of Columbia, and saw active service.
He married Ann Ogle (1775–1855) in 1792. She was the daughter of Provincial Maryland Governor Benjamin Ogle and Henrietta Margaret (Hill) Ogle, of "Belair", and granddaughter of Samuel Ogle, Proprietary Governor of Maryland. The Tayloes raised a family of 15 children: sons Benjamin, Edward, Charles, William Henry, John, Henry Augustine, George, Lloyd, Robert Carter; daughters Henrietta, Catherine, Rebecca, Ann, Virginia, Ann Ogle, Elizabeth.
Two of Tayloe's daughters, notoriously bad at navigating staircases, died in suspicious circumstances at Octagon House and are said to haunt it to this day. The first allegedly died before the War of 1812. Colonel Tayloe and his daughter quarrelled on the second floor landing over the girl's romance with a British officer stationed in the city. When the daughter turned in anger to go down the stairs, she fell down the stairs (or over the railing; stories differ) and died. Her spectre is allegedly seen crumpled at the bottom of the steps or on the stairs near the second floor landing, and sometimes exhibits itself as the light of a candle moving up the staircase. The other death, stories claim, occurred in 1817 or shortly thereafter. Another of Colonel Tayloe's daughters eloped with a young man, incurring her father's wrath. When she returned home to reconcile with her father, they argued on the third-floor landing. This daughter, too, fell to her death down the stairs (or over the railing), and her shade is alleged to haunt the third floor landing and stairs between the second and third floors.
Tayloe's interests included American horse racing, being a leader in this sport during the period of 1791–1806. Like his father, Tayloe he was a successful horseman, and owned such celebrated racehorses as Belair, Grey Diomede, and others.
The memorial by one of his sons, Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, says that "his manners were refined and elegant. He was distinguished for his nice sense of honor, and a scrupulous regard to his word at all times. His wife was esteemed for sincerity and kindness of heart, graceful and dignified manners, and true and unaffected piety."
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