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.

Beverley was the only child of Robert Beverley and Ursula Byrd Beverley. He was born late in 1695 or early in 1696, probably in Jamestown where his father then lived and where his mother died within two years of his birth. Beverley was educated in England. He probably accompanied his father to England in the summer of 1703 and returned to Virginia in the spring of 1711.

Standing Screen

On March 19, 1717, twenty-one-year-old William Beverley took the oaths of office as clerk of Essex County. He held the lucrative clerkship until April 1745, although for much of the time he hired deputies to do the work. For a time after his father’s death in April 1722 he resided at his father’s Beverley Park in nearby King and Queen County, but after his marriage two or three years later to Elizabeth Bland he took up permanent residence in Essex County. Beverley had at least two sons, one of whom died in infancy, and at least three daughters, and in 1750 he took his son Robert Beverley to England to be educated. The four children who lived to adulthood married into wealthy families, and under the terms of his will each of the daughters received marriage settlements and bequests worth about £1,500.

Beverley inherited more than 19,000 acres of land. He was temporarily short of cash in 1722 and disposed of his father’s share in an ironworks that required an expenditure of money, but he soon patented another 12,000 acres. Beverley planted tobacco on his eastern plantations, owned a tavern license for a time in Caroline County, and became one of the wealthiest men of his generation through the acquisition of large tracts of western land. He traveled to the Shenandoah Valley as early as 1729, and in 1736 he received a grant of almost 120,000 acres in what became Augusta County. In association with James Patton, of Ulster, he helped bring Irish and Scots-Irish immigrants to Virginia and rented or sold land to them. By 1756 Beverley had sold 80,455 acres to new settlers. In 1743 he requested a grant of 20,000 acres from the Fairfax family, and two years later in partnership with his relatives, the politically powerful Robinson family, of King and Queen County, he became part owner of 100,000 acres on the Greenbrier River. Beverley played a key role in the settlement of the Valley of Virginia, and the portion of Augusta County where his initial grant lay is still known as Beverley Manor. A partial inventory of his property taken in 1745 showed that he then had 119 tenants in at least five counties and sixty-one slaves at four of his plantations.

John Robinson

Beverley represented Orange County in the House of Burgesses from 1736 to 1740 and sat for Essex County from 1742 to 1749. He was a leader in the powerful legislative faction dominated by Speaker John Robinson. As early as 1741 Beverley began seeking appointment to the governor’s Council, and he also made it known that he was willing to pay as much as £2,000 to purchase the powerful and profitable office of secretary of the colony. In the spring of 1750 the Privy Council approved his appointment to succeed the deceased John Custis on the governor’s Council, but Beverley did not take his seat until April 30, 1752, after he returned from England. He went back to England in the summer of 1753 and stayed for more than a year to recover his health and settle his private affairs.

Beverley resumed his seat on the Council in May 1755. He wrote his will at the beginning of December 1755 and bequeathed the bulk of his huge estate to his only surviving son. Beverley died, probably at his home in Essex County, on February 28, 1756.

ca. 1696
William Beverley is born, probably in Jamestown.
William Beverley likely accompanies his father to England.
March 19, 1717—April 1745
William Beverley serves as clerk of Essex County.
William Beverley receives a grant of almost 120,000 acres in what will become Augusta County.
William Beverley represents Orange County in the House of Burgesses.
William Beverley represents Essex County in the House of Burgesses.
William Beverley requests a grant of 20,000 acres from the Fairfax family.
William Beverley, in partnership with the powerful Robinson family, becomes part owner of 100,000 acres on the Greenbrier River.
The Privy Council approves William Beverley's appointment to the governor's Council.
April 30, 1752
William Beverley takes his seat on the governor's Council.
Summer 1753
William Beverley travels to England and stays for more than a year.
May 1755
William Beverley resumes his seat on the governor's Council after an extended stay in England.
December 1755
William Beverley writes his will.
February 28, 1756
William Beverley dies, probably at his home in Essex County.
  • Evans, Emory G. “Beverley, William.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 1, edited by John T. Kneebone, et al., 477–478. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 1998.
APA Citation:
Evans, Emory & Dictionary of Virginia Biography. William Beverley (ca. 1696–1756). (2020, December 07). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/beverley-william-ca-1696-1756.
MLA Citation:
Evans, Emory, and Dictionary of Virginia Biography. "William Beverley (ca. 1696–1756)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (07 Dec. 2020). Web. 20 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2021, December 22
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.