Author: Emory G. Evans

who was a professor of Colonial American history at the University of Maryland, College Park. He died in 2009

John Carter (1695 or 1696–1742)

John Carter was secretary of the colony and a member of the governor’s Council. His father, Robert “King” Carter, sent him to England, where he studied law in London, and attended Cambridge. Called to the bar in 1720, Carter was appointed secretary of the colony in June 1722 and he returned to Virginia six months later. As secretary, a lucrative and politically powerful office, Carter was responsible for keeping the colony’s records and appointing all of the county court clerks. Some men, including the lieutenant governor, voiced concerns about the extent of the power of the secretary, but Carter successfully defended his conduct. In 1724 he also became a member of the Council and held both positions until his death. Through marriage and inheritance Carter acquired extensive estates, including Shirley plantation and Corotoman, and became one of Virginia’s wealthiest gentlemen.


William Byrd (1728–1777)

William Byrd, sometimes referred to as William Byrd III of Westover to distinguish him from relatives of the same name, was a planter, soldier, a member of the House of Burgesses (1754–1756), and a member of the governor’s Council (1756–1775). Born at the family estate of Westover, in Charles City County, Byrd studied law in England, where he gambled and began to accumulate debts that would last a lifetime. He wed Elizabeth Carter upon his return, but the marriage was unhappy and she died of a probable suicide in 1760. By then Byrd had been forced to sell off large parts of his estate, Belvidere, to settle debts. He also served in the military during this time, traveling widely and commanding first the 2nd Virginia Regiment and then succeeding George Washington at the head of the 1st. He married a second time, in 1761, and when the American Revolution (1775–1783) began, offered his services to the king. Dunmore’s Proclamation (1775), which offered freedom to slaves who fought for the British, changed his loyalties. Commands were not offered, however, and in January 1777, Byrd killed himself.


William Beverley (ca. 1696–1756)

William Beverley was a member of the House of Burgesses (1736–1740, 1742–1749) and the governor’s Council (1752–1756) and a wealthy landowner who played an important role in bringing Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants to Virginia. Probably born at Jamestown, he was educated in England before returning to Virginia and serving as clerk of Essex County from 1717 until 1745. Beverley inherited land but acquired much more, especially in western Virginia. He helped Irish and Scots-Irish settle in the Shenandoah Valley, earning money off land sales and rents. Through his wealth and the power that came with it, Beverley secured a seat in the House of Burgesses and then, near the end of his life, on the governor’s Council. He died in 1756.


Robert Beverley (bap. 1635–1687)

Robert Beverley, also known as Major Robert Beverley or as Robert Beverley the immigrant, served as clerk of the House of Burgesses from 1677 until his death in 1687 despite attempts by the Privy Council and various royal governors to displace him. Born in England, Beverley moved to Virginia after the death of his first wife. There, he served as surveyor of Middlesex County, justice of the peace, a church vestryman, a major in the militia, and, in 1676, acting attorney general. He became wealthy exporting tobacco and importing other goods, and during Bacon’s Rebellion (1676), stoutly defended his friend the royal governor Sir William Berkeley. In 1677 he was elected clerk of the House but ran afoul of Berkeley’s successor, to whom he refused to turn over the legislative journals. Beverley was arrested in 1682 and confined to jail for two years, charged with conspiring to destroy tobacco in order to inflate the crop’s market price. After his release, he was elected to the House of Burgesses and reelected the House’s clerk. He was accused to altering a bill after it was passed but he died before a trial could be held.