ENTRY

Cary, Miles (d. 1709)

SUMMARY

Miles Cary was a commander of the militia, justice of the peace, and member of the House of Burgesses, serving intermittently from 1682 until 1706. Born in Warwick County and educated in England, he was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1682 and 1684. Reelected in 1688, he served until 1706 with the exception of several assemblies. He became one of the most influential members of the General Assembly through service on important committees. Cary held other important administrative posts including clerk of the General Court, register of the Virginia Court of Vice Admiralty, and surveyor general of Virginia. A founding trustee of the College of William and Mary, he served on its board probably until his death and was rector for a pair of one-year terms beginning in 1695 and in 1704. He controlled nearly 2,000 acres of land in Warwick County, where he was one of the wealthiest and most influential citizens. He died in 1709, probably at his plantation in Warwick County.

Cary was the son of Miles Cary, a member of the governor’s Council, and Anne Taylor Cary. He was born probably in the mid-1650s at his father’s Warwick County plantation. At the time of his father’s death, Cary was in England, where he remained to complete his education, as his father’s will directed. Sometime during the 1680s Cary married Mary Milner, daughter of Thomas Milner, who was clerk of the House of Burgesses in 1682 and 1684 and Speaker from 1691 to 1693. They had no children before she died on October 27, 1700. In the spring of 1702 Cary married Mary Wilson Roscow, widow of William Roscow, of Warwick County, who had at least three sons from her first marriage. Cary and his rival in the courtship, a violent-tempered captain of an English warship, nearly fought a duel. Cary’s second marriage produced two daughters and two sons.

Cary was a captain in the militia and a justice of the peace for Warwick County by October 21, 1680, but the fragmentary surviving county records do not contain the dates of his appointments. He remained on the county court as late as June 1705 and probably until his death. On June 3, 1699, he became commander of the county militia with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Speaker's Chair

Cary was elected to the House of Burgesses in November 1682 and again in 1684. Reelected in 1688, he served until 1706 with the exception of the 1695 and 1696 assemblies, to which he failed to win election, and the first part of the autumn session in 1693, which he missed. He became one of the most influential members of the General Assembly. After serving on the Committee of Propositions and Grievances during several sessions and on the Committee for Elections and Privileges in 1691 and 1692, Cary became chair of the latter in the spring of 1693 and that same year chair of the even more important Committee for Public Claims and of the Committee for Proportioning the Public Levy, committees that oversaw most of the important legislation and public spending. He retained the chairs of the Committee for Public Claims and for Proportioning the Public Levy throughout most of the remainder of his tenure in the assembly and from 1699 to 1706 frequently presided when the House resolved itself into a committee of the whole. During those years, only the Speaker wielded more power in the House of Burgesses.

Cary was the senior burgess on a joint committee that from 1699 to 1705 worked on a complete revisal of the colony’s laws, and he was also the senior burgess on a joint subcommittee that oversaw construction of the new Capitol in Williamsburg. His elder brother Henry Cary was in charge of that construction. In 1699 and again in 1700 Cary may have been a candidate for Speaker, but the House journals do not identify the unsuccessful burgesses who were nominated for that office.

In addition to being one of the most powerful men in the assembly, Cary acquired other influential and lucrative posts. From October 29, 1691, until December 1692 he was clerk of the General Court. In the autumn of the latter year he traveled to New York to represent Virginia at an intercolonial conference concerning defense against the French. Cary was register of the Virginia Court of Vice Admiralty from early in 1698 until December 27, 1700, and on June 8, 1699, the governor and Council appointed him naval officer, a customs official, for the York River district. He held that office until his death, when the Council took special care in appointing a successor to what its members recognized was “a place of so Considerable a profite.”

The Bodleian Plate

  • Engraved Copperplate of Colonial-Era Williamsburg
    Engraved Copperplate of Colonial-Era Williamsburg

    An original mid-eighteenth-century engraved copperplate depicts Virginia flora, fauna, and Indian life, as well as the College of William and Mary and government buildings in colonial-era Williamsburg. Part of the vast collection at the Bodleian Library at Oxford University, the plate lay unlisted and forgotten for about 150 years. Once discovered, the plate was recognized as including the most important visual record of early Williamsburg. The so-called Bodleian Plate emerged as the "cornerstone of the restoration" of Colonial Williamsburg that began in 1929, according to Margaret Pritchard, the foundation's curator of prints, maps, and wallpapers. The librarians at Bodleian, aware of the importance of the plate in restoring the original capital, presented the artifact to John D. Rockefeller in 1938.

    Pritchard believes that the Bodleian Plate was one of a series of copperplates created to illustrate The History of the Dividing Line, an account by Virginia planter William Byrd II of the expedition he led in 1728–1729 to establish the boundary between Carolina and Virginia. Byrd's interest in architecture, his unabashed boosterism, and his concern about the widespread notion of the capital being a backwater, probably led him to have the artist include these impressive Williamsburg structures. Shown on the top row are three buildings at the College of William and Mary—the Bafferton, the Wren Building, and the President's House; shown on the row beneath it are the Capitol as it appeared before the fire of 1747, another view of the Wren Building, and the Governor's Palace.

  • Print Made from Bodleian Copperplate
    Print Made from Bodleian Copperplate

    A modern print made from a mid-eighteenth-century copperplate known as the Bodleian Plate depicts Virginia flora, fauna, and Indian life, as well as the College of William and Mary and government buildings in colonial-era Williamsburg. Margaret Pritchard, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's curator of prints, maps, and wallpapers, believes that the Bodleian Plate was one of a series of copperplates created to illustrate The History of the Dividing Line, an account by Virginia planter William Byrd II of the expedition he led in 1728–1729 to establish the boundary between Carolina and Virginia. Byrd's interest in architecture, his unabashed boosterism, and his concern about the widespread notion of the capital being a backwater, probably led him to have the artist include these impressive Williamsburg structures. Shown on the top row are three buildings at the College of William and Mary—the Bafferton, the Wren Building, and the President's House; shown on the row beneath it are the Capitol as it appeared before the fire of 1747, another view of the Wren Building, and the Governor's Palace.

A founding trustee of the College of William and Mary, Cary served on its board probably until his death and was rector for one-year terms beginning in 1695 and in 1704. The college’s trustees controlled the office of surveyor general of Virginia, to which they appointed Cary in February 1699. He held that lucrative office until his death and for part of the time was also surveyor of Gloucester and York counties. In November 1708 the lieutenant governor included Cary’s name on a list of a dozen men qualified to fill vacancies on the governor’s Council.

Cary had public interests in Elizabeth City and York counties, but he lived in Warwick County, where he eventually controlled nearly 2,000 acres of land and was one of the county’s wealthiest and most influential citizens. Cary died, probably at his plantation in Warwick County, on February 17, 1709, and was buried in the family cemetery there. His widow later married Archibald Blair, a prominent Williamsburg physician and merchant.

MAP
TIMELINE
ca. Mid-1650s
Miles Cary is born, probably in Warwick County. He is the son of Miles Cary and Anne Taylor Cary.
1680s
Miles Cary and Mary Milner marry.
October 21, 1680
By this date Miles Cary has become a justice of the peace for Warwick County. He will remain on the county court probably until his death.
November 1682
Miles Cary, of Warwick County, is elected to the House of Burgesses.
November 1684
Miles Cary, of Warwick County, is elected to the House of Burgesses.
1688
Miles Cary, of Warwick County, is elected to the House of Burgesses. He will serve until 1706, with the exception of two and parts of a third assembly.
October 29, 1691—December 1692
Miles Cary serves as clerk of the General Court.
Autumn 1692
Miles Cary joins a delegation of Virginia officials in New York for an intercolonial conference concerning defense against the French.
Spring 1693
Miles Cary becomes chair of the Committees for Elections and Privileges and for Public Claims in the House of Burgesses.
1695
Miles Cary serves a one-year term as rector of the College of William and Mary.
1698—December 27, 1700
Miles Cary serves as register of the Virginia Court of Vice Admiralty.
1699—1705
Miles Cary is the senior burgess on a joint committee of the General Assembly to revise the colony's laws.
February 1699
Trustees of the College of William and Mary appoint Miles Cary surveyor general of Virginia. He will hold the office until his death.
June 3, 1699
Miles Cary becomes commander of the Warwick County militia with the rank of lieutenant colonel.
June 8, 1699
The governor and Council appoint Miles Cary naval officer, a customs official, for the York River district. He will hold the office until his death.
October 27, 1700
Mary Milner Cary, the wife of Miles Cary, dies.
Spring 1702
Miles Cary and Mary Wilson Roscow marry. They will have four children.
1704
Miles Cary serves a one-year term as rector of the College of William and Mary.
November 1708
The lieutenant governor includes Miles Cary's name on a list of a dozen men qualified to fill vacancies on the governor's Council.
February 17, 1709
Miles Cary dies, probably at his plantation in Warwick County. He is buried in the family cemetery there.
FURTHER READING
  • Bergstrom, Peter V. “Miles Cary (d. 1709).” In The Dictionary of Virginia Biography, Vol. 3, edited by Sara B. Bearss et al., 112–113. Richmond: Library of Virginia, 2006.
  • Harrison, Fairfax. The Virginia Carys: An Essay in Genealogy. New York: The De Vinne Press, 1919.
  • Harrison, Fairfax. The Devon Carys. Vol. 2. New York: The De Vinne Press, 1920.
CITE THIS ENTRY
APA Citation:
Bergstrom, Peter. Cary, Miles (d. 1709). (2021, February 12). In Encyclopedia Virginia. https://encyclopediavirginia.org/entries/cary-miles-d-1709.
MLA Citation:
Bergstrom, Peter. "Cary, Miles (d. 1709)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (12 Feb. 2021). Web. 04 Aug. 2021
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