William Byrd I

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William Evelyn Byrd I
Born William Evelyn Bird"
Shadwell, London, England
Died 4 December 1704
Westover, Charles City County, Virginia, British America
Ethnicity English
Religion Anglicanism
Spouse(s) Mary Horsmanden Filmer
Children William Byrd II, Susan, Ursula, Mary and Maurice
Parent(s) John Bird, Grace Stegge

William Byrd I (1652 – 4 December 1704) was a native of Shadwell, London, England. His father, John Bird (c. 1620-1677) was a London goldsmith with ancestral roots in Cheshire, England. Byrd was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1677.[1]

Personal life[edit]

On the invitation of his maternal uncle, Thomas Stegge, Jr., in March 1669, William Evelyn Bird immigrated to Virginia. After arrival, he changed his surname spelling to Byrd. On October 27, 1673, he was granted 1,200 acres (5 km2) on the James River. Byrd became a well-connected fur trader in the Richmond, Virginia area. Byrd's land became (after his death) the site of modern day Richmond, Virginia. About 1673, he married a 21-year-old widow named Mary Horsmanden Filmer, a native of Lenham, England.[1] Mary's father had spent time in Virginia as a Cavalier fleeing Cromwell, and her former husband Samuel Filmer (third son of Tory author Robert Filmer) descended from the sister of Samuel Argall, governor of Virginia.[2] William Byrd I and his wife would become the parents of two sons, including William Byrd II, and three daughters.

Their daughter, Ursula married Robert Beverley, Jr., Major Robert Beverley's son. They had five children including William Beverley (1696–1756). Colonel William Beverley married Richard Bland's daughter, Elizabeth Bland. They had four children. Their son, Robert married Maria Carter on February 3, 1763. Her parents were Landon Carter and Maria Byrd.


In 1676, Byrd was a sympathizer of Nathaniel Bacon in Bacon's Rebellion, and took an active part in the rebellion, first by helping persuade Bacon to take unlawful command of a militia and lead it against the Indians. He also rode with Bacon after the rebellion began and was involved in the sack of Warner Hall, confiscating goods amounting to £845, or the equivalent of what 40 slaves or servants would produce in a year. (Rice, 2012, p. 98.) He later allied himself with the Governor and became a prominent citizen.

Also in 1676, Byrd established the James River Fort on the south bank of the James River in what is now known as the Manchester District of Richmond. He was active in Virginia politics, serving many years on the Virginia Governor's Council.

In 1688, Theodorick Bland Jr. and his brother Richard conveyed 1,200 acres of their Westover Plantation property to William Byrd I in 1688 for 300L and 10,000 pounds of tobacco and cask.[3] Byrd's grandson built a Georgian mansion there in the 1750s.

Byrd died on 4 Dec 1704, at his plantation home of Westover, in Charles City County, Virginia. He is buried near the original site of the Westover Church.[4]

Further reading[edit]

  • Rice, James D. (2012). Tales from a Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press.


  1. ^ a b Quitt, Martin H. "William Byrd (ca. 1652–1704)". Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  2. ^ Withington, Lothrop (1998). Virginia Gleanings in England. Genealogical Publishing Com. pp. 199–200. ISBN 0806308699. Retrieved 15 July 2015. 
  3. ^ Tyler, Lyon G. (January 1896). "Title of Westover". William and Mary College Quarterly Historical Magazine 4 (3): 151–155. Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
  4. ^ "Westover". Virginia's James River Plantations. jamesriverplantations.org. 1996. Retrieved December 9, 2010. 

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