William Byrd III

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William Byrd III
Born William Byrd III
(1728-09-06)September 6, 1728
Charles City, Virginia
Died January 1 or January 2, 1777
Charles City, Viirginia
Cause of death
Suicide
Resting place
Old Westover Church cemetery
Residence Westover Plantation
Ethnicity English American
Education Westminster School, Middle Temple
Occupation Planter, Soldier, Member of the Virginia House of Burgesses
Religion Anglicanism
Spouse(s) Eliza Carter 1st
Mary Willing 2nd
Children Maria Horsmanden Byrd, Evelyn Taylor Byrd, Charles Willing Byrd, Abby Byrd, Anne Willing Byrd, William Boyd Byrd, Charles Willing Byrd, Dorothy Byrd, Jane Byrd and Richard Willing Byrd
Parents William Byrd II, Maria Taylor

William Byrd III (September 6, 1728 – January 1 or January 2, 1777) was the son of William Byrd II and the grandson of William Byrd I. He inherited his family's estate of approximately 179,000 acres of land in Virginia and continued their planter prestige as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses.

He chose to fight in the French and Indian War rather than spend much time in Richmond. In 1756 he was colonel of the Second Virginia Regiment.

William Byrd III had a reputation as a notorious gambler. He initiated what was said to have been the first major horse race in the New World, involving other planters Samuel Ogle, John Tayloe II, Francis Thornton, and Benjamin Tasker, Jr.

Byrd III eventually fathered five children by his first wife (Eliza Carter, m. 1748, d. 1760), and fathered ten more by his second wife, Mary Willing, daughter of Charles Willing of Philadelphia. After he squandered the Byrd fortune on building his magnificent mansion at Westover, gambling, and bad investments, Byrd III parceled up much of the land he had inherited from his father and sold it off to raise money to pay his debts. He also sold the enslaved African laborers who had worked on his estate. Although his sale of land and slaves generated a huge sum it still was not enough to pay off his creditors. Later, Byrd resorted to a lottery, the prizes of which would come from his estate at the falls of the James, however the lottery failed to generate sufficient revenue.

Despondent and nearly broke, Byrd III committed suicide on January 1 or 2, 1777. He was buried in the cemetery at the old Westover Church.

The 10 children of his second marriage (to Mary Willing) were: Maria Horsmanden Byrd, Evelyn Taylor Byrd, Charles Willing Byrd (died as child), Abby Byrd, Anne Willing Byrd, William Boyd Byrd, Charles Willing Byrd, Dorothy Byrd (died as child), Jane Byrd and Richard Willing Byrd.

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