Robert Beverley Jr.

Robert Beverley Jr. (c.1667—April 21, 1722) was a historian of early colonial Virginia, as well as a planter and politician.[1]

Robert Beverley Jr.
Member of the House of Burgesses for Jamestown
In office
Preceded byLewis Burwell
Succeeded byNathaniel Burwell
Member of the House of Burgesses for King and Queen County
In office
Serving with George Braxton
Preceded byJohn Baylor
Succeeded byRichard Johnson
Personal details
Born1667 (1667)
Jamestown, Colony of Virginia, British America
DiedApril 21, 1722(1722-04-21) (aged 54–55)
King and Queen County, Colony of Virginia, British America
Ursula Byrd
(m. 1697)
ChildrenWilliam Beverley
RelativesRobert Beverley(father); Peter Beverley (brother)
Known forHistory and Present State of Virginia

Early and family lifeEdit

Beverley was born in Jamestown, the second of three sons of the widow Mary Keeble and her second husband, Major Robert Beverley. Major Beverley had emigrated to the Virginia colony from Hull in Yorkshire, England and became the Clerk of the House of Burgesses, in which several of his descendants would serve. Thus, Major Beverley founded one of the First Families of Virginia during the colonial era. The Beverley household also included an elder half-brother Peter Beverley (who would not only serve in the House of Burgesses but became its speaker and the colony's Treasurer), several full brothers and at least two daughters. His father and elder full brother both died before this Robert Beverley reached legal age, so when he did in 1690, Robert Beverley succeeded his half-brother Peter as the guardian of his full brother John Beverley. Virginia at the time having no public schools and limited educational options other than private tutors, Robert Beverley was educated in England, possibly at Beverley Grammar School in Yorkshire.[1][2]

Jamestown official and politicianEdit

Beverley followed the career paths of his father and half-brother, securing influence with a series of public offices of increasing responsibility, as well as securing plantations and eventually becoming a Burgess in his own right. In 1688, the year following his father's death, Beverley worked as a copyist in Jamestown, assisting the colony's secretary as well as becoming a deputy clerk of the surrounding James City County. However, when Governor Francis Nicholson ousted William Edwards as the chief clerk of the General Court and the colony's secretary, Beverley probably also lost his position. However, in the summer of 1692, his uncle Christopher Robinson became the colony's secretary and appointed his nephew as clerk of King and Queen County nearby. Although Christopher Robinson died the next year, his successor was Ralph Wormeley, a planter in Middlesex County and friend of the Robinson family. Wormeley appointed Peter Beverley as the Chief Clerk of the General Court and the colony's secretary, so Robert began working for his half-brother, who had also succeeded their father as Clerk for the House of Burgesses. Robert became clerk to the Committee of Public Claims in March 1693. In May 1693 Robert filled in for his brother as clerk of the General Court, and in October 1693 succeeded Peter Beverley as clerk of the General Court, as well as the colony's secretary and clerk of James City County. He also substituted for James Sherlock as clerk for the Governor's Council and as clerk of the General Assembly for the 1696 term. In June 1697, Beverley became clerk of the court of Vice-Admiralty. When fire destroyed the statehouse at Jamestown on October 20, 1698, Peter and Robert Beverley salvaged many valuable papers, but Robert resigned as chief clerk about a month later.[1]

In 1699, citizens of Jamestown elected Beverley to represent them in the House of Burgesses, and re-elected him in 1700. In 1699, Beverley also was appointed to the committee to revise the colony's laws. Meanwhile, Beverley had purchased land in Jamestown and nearby Elizabeth City County. He was appointed to the Elizabeth City County court on December 27, 1700, but that body (which also held administrative powers over the county) soon found itself in litigation, and the General Court decided adversely to it, so Beverley appealed to the Privy Council and set sail for England to prosecute the case in 1703. However, Francis Nicholson returned to the colony as its governor, and not only removed him as clerk of the House of Burgesses, but engineered his removal as clerk of King and Queen County.[1]

Westward adventure and literary careerEdit

Beverley's most notable work is his History and Present State of Virginia, published originally in London in 1705 (while Beverley was in London prosecuting the Elizabeth City County land case, which he lost, but which also gave him access to government records in London). It documents the history of early life in the Virginia colony.[3] Three French-language editions were published between 1707 and 1718, which one historian believes were distributed as promotional literature to encourage emigration.[1] The treatise reflected his father's loyalty to former governor Sir William Berkeley, and was critical of Nicholson, and so might have helped Nicholson's recall at about the same time as the treatise's publication.[1]

Beverley returned to Virginia and became a tobacco planter in King and Queen County, living on the plantation he called "Beverley Park." However, his experiments in viticulture were not successful Beverly also in 1719 acquired a large interest in an iron foundry. When Alexander Spotswood became the colony's governor (technically lieutenant governor to an Englishman) Beverley cultivated a relationship with him. He probably accompanied Spotswood in 1716 on his "Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition" to the Shenandoah Valley. Journalist John Fontaine records that on the return trip, both Beverley and his horse fell, and rolled to the bottom of a hill, but without serious injury to either. However, when Beverley published a revised edition of his History in 1722, he continued it only to 1710, so there is no known account by Beverley of this event.[4] Beverley also completed the revision of the colony's laws, published in 1720 as 'An Abridgement of the Publick Laws of Virginia, In Force and Use, June 10, 1720' and dedicated the volume to Spotswood. It was published by Beverley's London publisher in 1722, after Beverley added abridgements of the acts of the assembly during its November to December 1720 session (in which Beverley represented King and Queen County). The publisher also published a second edition of Beverley's 'History', which removed some critical remarks about Virginia customs as well as about former Governor Nicholson, as well as brought the volume up to date.[1]

Concerning slavery, in the 1722 re-edition, Beverley says that whilst both black males and females were likely to work in fields, white women were not.[5]

Death and legacyEdit

On April 21, 1722, Beverley died at Beverley Park, his estate in King and Queen County, Virginia. He was buried at the Jamestown Church cemetery. Beverley probably helped his son become clerk of Essex County, and bequeathed a large estate to him.[1] However, there is no evidence that he ever saw the second edition of his 'History' or the first edition of his 'Abridgement.'

Personal life and descendantsEdit

This younger Robert Beverley married Ursula Byrd, the daughter of Burgess and prominent planter William Byrd I and his wife Mary Byrd (the heiress of former Charles City County burgess Warham Horsmanden) in 1697.[2] Their only child, Colonel William Beverley (1698–1756) would also serve in the House of Burgesses, as well as married Elizabeth Bland, daughter of planter, lawyer and burgess Richard Bland. William and Elizabeth Beverley had four children. Their son, Robert married Maria Carter, the granddaughter of the powerful Speaker of the HOuse of Burgesses Robert Carter, on February 3, 1763. Her parents were Landon Carter and Maria Byrd. Blandfield at Caret, Virginia was built for William Beverley about 1750. The house is one of the largest colonial plantation mansions in Virginia, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1969.[6][7]

Robert and Maria's daughters, Maria (1764–1824) and Lucy (1771–1854) married grandsons of powerful planter and burgess Richard Randolph. They were lineal descendants of Pocahontas.[8] Maria Beverley married Richard Randolph III (1757-1799) on December 1, 1785 and Lucy Beverley married Brett Randolph (1766-1828) on November 21, 1789. Lucy and Brett Randolph had ten children, all of whom moved to Oakleigh plantation in Greensboro, Alabama.

Robert's brother John Beverley (1635-1737) and his wife Margaret Early (1689-1738) begot a son in Bertie County, North Carolina. This John Beverly II (1708-1765) and his wife Margaret Williams resided in Orange County, North Carolina. Their son John Beverly III (1755-1843) and his wife Frances Morris begot a son named James Franklin Beverly (1798-1870) in Wadesboro, North Carolina. James and his wife Penelope Boswell had a son named Christopher Columbus "Tip" Beverly (1824-1896). The whole Beverly family moved to Shiloh, Marengo County, Alabama except Christopher. He and his family settled in Campbell, Alabama.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Hemphill, John (1998). "Robert Beverley (ca. 1740–1800)". In Tartar, Brent (ed.). Dictionary of Virginia Biography. Vol. I. Richmond, Virginia: The Library of Virginia. pp. 473–474.
  2. ^ a b Stanard, W.G. (1895). "Major Robert Beverley and His Descendants". In Bruce, Philip A. (ed.). The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. Vol. III. Richmond, Virginia: The Virginia Historical Society. pp. 169–172.
  3. ^ Ruggles, Jeffrey; Dictionary of Virginia Biography (8 January 2015). "Beverley, Robert (d. 1722)". Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  4. ^ John Gwathmey, 1937, Twelve Virginia Counties p. 407-409.
  5. ^ Peter Kolchin, "American Slavery", Penguin History, paperback edition, p. 51
  6. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  7. ^ Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission Staff (n.d.). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: Blandfield" (PDF). Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
  8. ^ "Laying Claim to Pocahontas". The Washington Post. 9 July 1995. Retrieved 23 October 2021.

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