Author: Lynn A. Nelson


Joseph C. Cabell (1778–1856)

Joseph C. Cabell was member of the House of Delegates (1808–1810, 1831–1835) and the Senate of Virginia (1810–1829) and served as president of the James River and Kanawha Company (1835–1846). He also served as rector of the University of Virginia from 1834 to 1836 and again from 1845 to 1856. Born in Amherst County, Cabell studied law, including under St. George Tucker, whose stepdaughter he later married. Rather than practice, he embarked on a political career as a Jeffersonian Republican. He made little mark in the General Assembly, however, until in 1815 his friend Thomas Jefferson tapped him to lead the legislative fight to charter and fund Central College, or what later became the University of Virginia. Cabell successfully argued both for the need of a state university and for its establishment near Charlottesville. After his retirement from the assembly, Cabell leveraged his interest in economic development into leadership of the James River and Kanawha Company, which sought to build a canal between Richmond and the Ohio River. The canal reached only as far as Buchanan, in Botetourt County, and Cabell resigned the company’s presidency in 1846. He died at his plantation in Nelson County a decade later.