ENTRY

Burwell, Nathaniel (1750–1814)

SUMMARY

Nathaniel Burwell was appointed to the James City County Court, served in the county militia, represented James City County in the House of Delegates (1778–1779), and was elected to the Convention of 1788 to consider the proposed constitution of the United States. The son of Carter Burwell, Nathaniel Burwell spent part of his adulthood at Carter’s Grove plantation in James City County. He was a major landholder in the region, owning small industrial operations such as an iron forge and two gristmills. Later he built Carter Hall in what became Clarke County.

Botetourt Medal Awarded to Nathaniel Burwell (1750–1814)

Botetourt Medal
Botetourt Medal, Obverse Side
Botetourt Medal
Botetourt Medal, Reverse Side
Burwell was born on April 15, 1750, an Easter Sunday, at Carter’s Grove plantation in James City County, the son of Carter Burwell and Lucy Ludwell Grymes Burwell. He attended the College of William and Mary, beginning in the grammar school, and continued to study past his twenty-second birthday. In July 1772 he received the college’s Botetourt Medal for scholarship. His father died when Burwell was six, and when he came of age in 1771 he inherited control of a large landed estate in Tidewater Virginia and in the lower Shenandoah Valley, including his father’s Carter’s Grove plantation and mansion in James City County. On November 28, 1772, Burwell married his cousin Susanna Grymes, of Middlesex County. They had seven sons and one daughter before her death on July 24, 1788.

Carter's Grove

During Burwell’s management of Carter’s Grove the plantation prospered, and he also moved some of his slaves to his Frederick County property and improved production there during the 1770s and 1780s. As the proprietor of a major plantation and a member of a leading family he succeeded to the offices appropriate to his station. Burwell was appointed to the James City County Court on November 6, 1772, was a colonel in the militia by 1774, and served on the James City County Committee that same year. On November 27, 1776, he became county lieutenant, the commander of the county’s militia. Burwell represented James City County in the House of Delegates in 1778 and 1779 and served on the Committee of Propositions and Grievances during both years and on the Committee of Religion in 1779. He was elected again in 1782 and served on the Committee of Propositions and Grievances during the short session in May but missed the poorly attended October session. Burwell was also one of the directors of the Public Hospital in Williamsburg.

In 1788 Burwell was one of two men elected to represent James City County in a convention called to consider the proposed constitution of the United States. He did not take an active part in the debates, but his opinions were well known. Burwell voted against insisting on amendments prior to ratification and against reducing the taxing power of Congress, and on June 25, 1788, he voted to ratify the Constitution.

Robert "King" Carter

Burwell’s wife died scarcely a month after the convention adjourned, and on January 24, 1789, he married Lucy Page Baylor, widow of George Baylor (1752–1784). They had five sons and three daughters. Burwell transferred his seat from James City County to Frederick County not long after his second marriage. By 1790 he owned approximately 8,000 acres of land in the lower Shenandoah Valley. Burwell lived in the portion of Frederick County that in 1836, after his death, became Clarke County. During the 1790s he constructed Carter Hall, one of the largest and most elegant stone mansions in that part of Virginia. Burwell named it in honor of his great-grandfather, Robert “King” Carter (d. 1732), from whom the family had inherited the land. Burwell established a ferry on the Shenandoah River, erected two gristmills, two distilleries, a cooper’s shop, an iron forge, a sawmill, and a tannery, and built a school for his children and other local students. Burwell also had a passion for breeding fine horses.

Nathaniel Burwell died at Carter Hall on March 29, 1814, and was buried nearby in the Old Chapel cemetery.

MAP
TIMELINE
April 15, 1750
Nathaniel Burwell is born at Carter's Grove plantation in James City County to Carter Burwell and Lucy Grymes Burwell.
1771
Having come of age, Nathaniel Burwell inherits control of a large landed estate in Tidewater Virginia and in the lower Shenandoah Valley, including his father's Carter's Grove plantation and mansion in James City County.
July 1772
Nathaniel Burwell, a student at the College of William and Mary, receives the college's Botetourt Medal for scholarship.
November 6, 1772
Nathaniel Burwell is appointed to the James City County Court.
November 28, 1772
Nathaniel Burwell marries Susanna Grymes, of Middlesex County. They will have seven sons and one daughter.
1774
Nathaniel Burwell becomes a colonel in the militia and serves on the James City County Committee.
November 27, 1776
Nathaniel Burwell becomes county lieutenant, meaning that he is the commander of James City County's militia.
1778—1779
Nathaniel Burwell represents James City County in the House of Delegates.
1782
Nathaniel Burwell is elected to represent James City County in the House of Delegates.
1788
Nathaniel Burwell is one of two men elected to represent James City County in the Convention of 1788.
June 25, 1788
After intense debate among the delegates to the Virginia Convention, the U.S. Constitution is ratified by an 89 to 79 vote—due in part to a promise by the Federalists to consider amendments after ratification. Patrick Henry pushes for a federal Bill of Rights.
July 24, 1788
Susanna Grymes Burwell dies.
January 24, 1789
Nathaniel Burwell marries Lucy Page Baylor, widow of George Baylor. They have five sons and three daughters.
1790
By this time Nathaniel Burwell owns approximately 8,000 acres in the lower Shenandoah Valley.
1790s
Nathaniel Burwell constructs a stone mansion he names Carter Hall, in part to honor his great-grandfather, Robert "King" Carter.
March 29, 1814
Nathaniel Burwell dies at Carter Hall. He is buried nearby in the Old Chapel cemetery.
FURTHER READING
  • Brown, Stuart E., Jr. “Burwell, Nathaniel.” In the Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 2, edited by Sara B. Bearss, et al., 437–438. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2001.
  • Kukla, Jon. “A Spectrum of Sentiments: Virginia’s Federalists, Antifederalists, and ‘Federalists Who are for Amendments,’ 1787–1788.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 96, no. 3 (July 1988): 277–297.
  • Stephenson, Mary A. Carter’s Grove Plantation: A History. Williamsburg, Virginia: Sealantic Fund, Incorporated, 1964.
  • Walsh, Lorena S. From Calabar to Carter’s Grove: The History of a Virginia Slave Community. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Brown, Stuart. Burwell, Nathaniel (1750–1814). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/burwell-nathaniel-1750-1814.
MLA Citation:
Brown, Stuart. "Burwell, Nathaniel (1750–1814)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 07 May. 2021
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