John Tayloe II

Colonel John Tayloe II (28 May 1721 – 18 April 1779) was a planter and politician, among the richest planters in colonial Virginia.[1] He served in public office including the Virginia Governor's Council, also known as the Virginia Council of State.[2]

John Tayloe II
John Tayloe II.jpg
Born(1721-05-28)May 28, 1721
Old House, Richmond County, Virginia
DiedApril 18, 1779(1779-04-18) (aged 57)
Resting placeMount Airy, Richmond County, Virginia
OccupationPlanter, Agent
Known forVirginia Planter, Builder of Mount Airy, Owner Neabsco Iron Works, Founder American Thoroughbred Horse Racing

He has been described as a "model Virginia planter, planting tobacco, wheat and corn and raising livestock", what were known as mixed crops.[3] A fifth-generation planter from the Tayloe Family, he took over the management of the Neabsco Iron Works during the 1740s, likely after his father's death in 1747.

Later Tayloe built Mount Airy, the Neo-Palladian villa overlooking the Rappahannock River. It is still held and occupied by the Tayloe family in the 21st century. Tayloe, his father and namesake son were said to exemplify gentry entrepreneurship.[4]

Early yearsEdit

Mount Airy Plantation House, Virginia

Tayloe was born in Richmond County at Old House, located along the Rappahannock River,[5] two miles west of Mount Airy. The latter plantation had been purchased by his grandfather, who called it 'Tayloe's Quarter'.

Tayloe built a new and grand residence there, Mount Airy. Tayloe was born to John Tayloe I (1688–1747) and Elizabeth Gwynn, daughter of David Gwynn and Katherine Griffin. He had an elder brother, William Tayloe (1716–1726), who died at age 9; a twin sister Elizabeth; and younger sister Ann Corbin Tayloe, born 25 August 1723.[6]


In 1744, at the age of 23, Tayloe was a signatory of the Treaty of Lancaster, made with the Iroquois of the Six Nations. It was an effort to reduce warfare in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, where Iroquois warriors had been attacking local, less powerful tribes. After Tayloe's father died in 1747, the young man inherited an immense fortune, including 20,000 acres (8,100 ha) and 320 enslaved Africans and African Americans.

In 1748 he began building the mansion "Mount Airy," on a hilltop on the north bank of the Rappahannock River in Richmond County, in the Northern Neck of Virginia. He had inherited the plantation from his father, and it was formerly known as "Tayloe's Quarter." [7] The new mansion was to be constructed on a different site and built from stone. This was unusual, as suitable stone was generally not available in the coastal Tidewater region of Virginia, and skilled stonecutters were rare.

A large deposit of hard gray sandstone was found on the plantation, and it was quarried for the mansion's walls. For window frames and the central pavilions on the entry, which frame the front doors and 2nd-story windows, Tayloe purchased Aquia Creek sandstone. This was similar to the stone later used for construction of the U.S. Capitol and the White House, and in the Octagon House.

Construction of Mount Airy took 10 years. In 1756, Tayloe bought the Occoquan Ironworks company, eventually running it together with the Neabsco Ironworks as one business.[8] The Neabsco Iron Works (alternates: Neabsco Company; Neabsco Iron Foundry) was located in Woodbridge, Virginia. It was situated on 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) by the Neabsco Creek.[3]

After abandoning the Bristol Iron Works,[9] his father John Tayloe I had established the Neabsco Iron Foundry around 1737. The business was developed as an antebellum industrial plantation. Its activities included farming, leatherworking, milling, shipbuilding, shoemaking, and smithing. It also supplied raw materials for weaponry during the American Revolution.[10]

In 1758 Tayloe completed construction of Mount Airy. It introduced a new colonial style, "the first authentic version of what can properly be called colonial Georgian architecture." This style for Virginia colonial estates "proclaimed dominion over its land... a manorial entity intended for a long succession of eldest sons." Mount Airy is the first dated example in this country of a broad center hall free of stairs which was used as a sitting room. It was the first house in the colony to use curved walls to enclose the "dependency connectors," or passages to the east and west outbuildings (the west dependency being the kitchen and the east the building in which the family had been living.) It was also among the first to install the "Palladian" window, a central arched opening rising above rectangular side openings.[11]

There is a portico in front and one behind. The front portico opens on a terrace, cut from the rolling lawn by a balustrade of red sandstone. Marble steps lead from the lawn to the terrace and from the terrace to the portico. From the portico is an entry to a baronial hall, running entirely through the house. On the right is a small hall from which a stairway runs, and opening upon it and the main hall is the great dining room. On the left there is a large drawing room. Going transversely from the big hall to the end of the house is another narrower hall in which is another stairway. Across this hall to the back of the house is the library and a sitting room. The 2nd story consists of beautiful, airy bedrooms. From the middle mansion on each side run corridors of glass to two brick houses containing 4 rooms. From the back of the house runs a green sunken bowling alley; one each side are beautiful trees and the gardens. The front lawn contains a collection of hollies, cedars and other evergreens.[12]

In 1759 Tayloe bought what is still identified as the Tayloe House at Williamsburg, Virginia, on Nicholson Street, for use as his winter residence during sessions of the King's Council. He paid James Carter, a surgeon and apothecary, 600 pounds for the newly built house, a large amount in those days for a frame house, and triple what it had cost Carter. The house was restored in 1950.

Tayloe was renowned for his hospitality at both residences. At Mt. Airy he had created a band for guest entertainment, composed of house slaves, whom he had instructed in music.[7] Lord Dunmore, Royal Governor of Virginia, visited Mt. Airy in the years before the rebellion. The Tayloes were in the same circles as the Lees, Jeffersons, Madisons, Adams and Washingtons.

During the American Revolution, Tayloe supplied the Virginia Navy with "Cannonball, Plant, and Pigg iron".[5] He served in public office as a member of the county court and he sat on the Virginia Council of State.[5] He held approximately 250 slaves.[13] He was an influential member of the King's Council, under Lord Dunmore, and of the first Republic Council, under Governor Patrick Henry.[14] Tayloe was elected as a member of the House of Burgesses of Virginia in 1774.[15]

Tayloe owned more than 20,000 acres (8,100 ha) on the Northern Neck, and land on the opposite side of the Rappahannock River in Essex County, Virginia, in addition to lands along the Potomac River in Virginia and Maryland.

His plantation was supported by a variety of farms (Forkland, Gwinfield, Hopyard, Marshe, Menokin, and Old House) in three counties (Richmond, Essex, and King George). Other plantations were in Stafford County and in southern Maryland.[16]

In 1751, Tayloe acquired Menokin Tract, adjacent to Mount Airy. After his daughter Rebecca married Francis Lightfoot Lee, Tayloe built the plantation house of Menokin in 1769 for his son-in-law.[2] In 1765, he was taxed for 8,942 acres (3,619 ha) of land in Loudoun County.

Horse RacingEdit

John Tayloe II, and subsequently his sons John Tayloe III and William Henry Tayloe, operated Mount Airy as a successful thoroughbred horse stud farm. John Tayloe II owned Hero, Juniper, Single Peeper, Yorick, Traveller, Nonpareil, and imported Jenny Cameron, Jolly Roger and Childers (by Flying Childers) from England to Virginia. In December 1752, at Gloucester, his horse Selima beat Col William Byrd's "Trial", Col Tayloe's "Jenny Cameron" and "Childers", and Col Thornton's "Unnamed". It was a sweepstakes for a purse of 500 pistoles, four mile heats. This race marks the beginning of the competition between Maryland and Virginia in the annals of thoroughbreds and racing.

River Facade of Mount Airy, Richmond Co, Virginia

In April 1766, Col Tayloe's "Traveller" won with ease, beating Col Lewis Burwell III's "John Dismal" and Francis Whiting's "Janus." In October Col Tayloe's "Hero" won the purse, beating Col William Byrd's "Trial" and "Valiant," and Richard Henry Lee's "Mark Anthony." In November, at Chestertown, Maryland, a purse of 100 pistoles was competed for by the two most celebrated horses on the turf, Col Tayloe's Virginia horse "Yorick" and Sam Galloway of Tulip Hill's Maryland horse "Selim" (out of Selima).

In May 1767, Col Tayloe won the "50 Pistoles Purse" with his horse Traveller near Annapolis against: "Trial" owned by Bullen, "Regulus" Calvert, and "Ranger" (Dr. Hamilton). In the spring of 1769, Capt Littleberry Hardyman again won the purse with "Mark Anthony," beating John Tayloe's "Nonpareil" and Nathaniel Wlthoe's "Fanny Murray." In the fall of 1774, at Fredericksburg, John Tayloe's "Single Peeper" won the 50 Pound Purse, beating Benjamin Grymes' "Miss Spot," Walker Tailaferro's "Valiant," Spotswood's "Fearnaught," Charles Jones' "Regulus," Procter's "Jenny Bottom," Robert Slaughter's "Ariel", and Peter Presley' Thornton's "Ariel."

Personal lifeEdit

Rebecca Plater Tayloe and Mary Tayloe

He married Rebecca Plater, sister of George Plater, at the house of Ralph Wormly, Esq., in Middlesex County, Virginia. They had eleven children together, two of whom died in infancy; their only son was their tenth child, John Tayloe III.[citation needed]

Elizabeth Tayloe (1750-1825) married Edward Lloyd IV of Wye House and Chase-Lloyd House. They were the parents of Elizabeth Lloyd Harwood; Maryland governor Edward Lloyd; Maria Lloyd; Rebecca Lloyd; and Mary Tayloe Key, wife of Francis Scott Key.[17]

Rebecca Plater Tayloe (1752-1797) married Francis Lightfoot Lee, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and resided at Menokin, a plantation given to them by John Tayloe II.[citation needed]

Ann Corbin Tayloe II (1753-1853) married Thomas Lomax, to whom she bore John Tayloe Lomax.[citation needed]

Eleanor Tayloe (1756-1815) married Ralph Wormeley V and resided at Rosegill.[citation needed]

Mary Tayloe (1759-1803) married Mann Page, son of Ann Corbin Tayloe I, daughter of John Tayloe I. He was raised at Rosewell plantation with his brother, Virginia governor John Page, but moved to Spotsylvania County and established his own plantation, known as Mannsfield, near Fredericksburg, a near copy of Mount Airy. Their daughter Maria married Lewis Burwell.[citation needed]

Cathrine Griffin Tayloe (1761-1798) married Colonel Landon Carter II of Sabine Hall, great-grandson of Elizabeth Tayloe, sister of John Tayloe I.[citation needed]

Sarah Tayloe (?-?) married Colonel William Augustine Washington, brother of Lawrence Washington.[citation needed]

Jane Tayloe (1774-1816) married Robert Beverley, grandson of William Beverley.[citation needed]

He supported the Episcopal Church.[14]

In his will, Tayloe made provision for the Tayloe Charity Fund to be continued as a legacy forever.[5] It met legal challenges in later years.[18]

See alsoEdit

  • Billy (slave), a slave reportedly owned by Tayloe and who was charged with treason


  1. ^ Croghan Kamoie, Laura. "The Business History of the Virginia Gentry" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 December 2015. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  2. ^ a b Vernacular Architecture Forum (U.S.) (March 2003). Constructing image, identity, and place. Univ. of Tennessee Press. pp. xiii, 6, 17, 19–. ISBN 978-1-57233-219-5. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  3. ^ a b Kamoie, Laura Croghan (2007). Irons in the Fire: the business history of the Tayloe family and Virginia's gentry, 1700–1860. University of Virginia Press. pp. 60, 62–. ISBN 978-0-8139-2637-7. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  4. ^ Kamoie, Laura Croghan (March 2008). "The Business History of the Virginia Gentry". p. 3. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d Barber, Francene; Jett, David; Harhai, Brenda; Richmond County Museum (21 April 2010). Warsaw. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 20, 21–. ISBN 978-0-7385-6776-1. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  6. ^ "Tayloe family". Rootsweb ancestry. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  7. ^ a b Wilkerson, Lyn. Slow Travels-Virginia. Lyn Wilkerson. pp. 126–. ISBN 978-1-4523-3884-2. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  8. ^ Vaver, Anthony (30 June 2011). Bound with an Iron Chain: The Untold Story of How the British Transported 50,000 Convicts to Colonial America. Pickpocket Publishing. pp. 185–. GGKEY:CLAJ3TFBGPJ. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  9. ^ Virginia Writers' Project (1 January 1972). Virginia: a guide to the Old Dominion. North American Book Dist LLC. pp. 345–. ISBN 978-0-403-02195-6. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  10. ^ "Neabsco Iron Works". Historical Marker Database. Retrieved 17 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Genealogy of the Virginia Family of Lomax by one of the Seventh Generation in the Direct Line" (1913) p.22, 48, 49, 65-66, 68, 74. FHL #929.273 L 837l. Cites: (a) Family Bible belonging to Charlotte B. Lomax of Fredericksburg, VA, 1825. (b) Great-grandson W.H. Tayloe, owner of Mt. Airy.
  12. ^ The Octagon, by George McCue (American Institute of Architects Foundation, Washington D.C., 1976) p.3,9-11,18-23.
  13. ^ McCusker, John J.; Morgan, Kenneth (2000). The early modern Atlantic economy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 347–. ISBN 978-0-521-78249-4. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  14. ^ a b Hardy, Stella Pickett (1911). Colonial families of the Southern states of America: a history and genealogy of colonial families who settled in the colonies prior to the revolution (Now in the public domain. ed.). Wright. pp. 500–. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  15. ^ Colonial Dames of America Chapter 1 (Baltimore, Md.) (1910). Ancestral records and portraits: a compilation from the archives of Chapter I, the Colonial Dames of America (Now in the public domain. ed.). The Grafton Press. pp. 359–. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  16. ^ Coclanis, Peter A. (28 February 2005). The Atlantic economy during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: organization, operation, practice, and personnel. Univ of South Carolina Press. pp. 326–. ISBN 978-1-57003-554-8. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  17. ^ Williams, Thomas John Chew; McKinsey, Folger (1 December 1979). History of Frederick County, Maryland. Genealogical Publishing Com. pp. 313–. ISBN 978-0-8063-7973-9. Retrieved 16 October 2011.
  18. ^ Gilmer, Francis Walker; Virginia. Supreme Court of Appeals (1821). "Overseers Of The Poor, of Richmond County v. Tayloe's adm'r.". Reports of cases decided in the Court of Appeals of Virginia: from April 10th 1820, to June 28th 1821 (Now in the public domain. ed.). Published by N. Pollard-Franklin Press. pp. 336–. Retrieved 16 October 2011.

Further readingEdit

  • Francis Barnum Culver, Blooded Horses of the Colonial Days, Printed by the Author, 1922
  • John Harding Peach, On the Banks of the Rappahannock, AuthorHouse, p. 146