William Byrd III
|William Byrd III|
|Born||William Byrd III
September 6, 1728
Charles City, Virginia
|Died||January 1 or January 2, 1777
Charles City, Virginia
|Cause of death||Suicide|
|Resting place||Old Westover Church cemetery|
|Education||Westminster School, Middle Temple|
|Occupation||Planter, Soldier, Member of the Virginia House of Burgesses|
|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|
|Parent(s)||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.
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 a magnificent mansion at Westover Plantation, 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, Belvidere, at the falls of the James River. However the lottery failed to generate sufficient revenue.
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.