William George Fairfax (1691 - 1757) MP

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Colonel William Fairfax, Esq's Geni Profile

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Birthplace: Newton Kyme, Yorkshire, England
Death: Died in of Belvoir, Fairfax, VA
Managed by: Seth Wheatley, III
Last Updated:

About William George Fairfax

William Fairfax (1691–1757) was the builder of the Belvoir estate and plantation in northern colonial Virginia. He was the son of Henry Fairfax (d.1708) and a grandson of Henry Fairfax, 4th Lord Fairfax of Cameron.

He arrived in the Virginia colony in the late 1730s from Marblehead, Massachusetts, where he had served as Collector of Customs for the Crown, after having earlier served as a Customs agent in Barbados and as Chief Justice of the Bahamas under Woodes Rogers and governor of the Bahamas after Rogers' departure. He married Sarah Walker (c. 1700 - January 21, 1731), the daughter of Thomas Walker and his wife Sarah, a free black. Walker was a former Justice of the Vice admiralty court and acting deputy governor of the Bahamas, and served as a fellow Justice with Fairfax in the Bahamas. Sarah gave him a son, George William Fairfax who married Sally Cary, and a daughter, Anne, who married George Washington's brother Lawrence.

William was the cousin of Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, proprietor of the massive Northern Neck land grant. Lord Fairfax lived in England, in Leeds Castle and utilized a succession of land agents to manage his vast Virginia property. Upon reading the 1732 obituary of his last resident agent, Robert "King" Carter, and learning of the vast personal wealth Carter had amassed, Lord Fairfax decided to place a trusted member of the family in charge of the 5-million-acre (20,000 km2) Northern Neck proprietary, and arranged for William to be transferred from Massachusetts to Virginia, taking the job as that colony's customs collector for the Potomac River.

From 1738 to 1741, Fairfax and his second wife Deborah Clarke lived along the lower Potomac, while he picked out a site for a home overlooking the Potomac, adjacent to the Washington family's "Mount Vernon" estate. Together they had two children, Thomas and Bryan.

Fairfax's elegant two-story, brick manor home was completed in 1741 and named Belvoir Manor. He and his family would live there for the next 32 years. Eldest son George inherited the home in 1757, but, in 1773, sailed to England on business, never to return. George Fairfax wrote back to ask his good friend and neighbor George Washington to look after the estate and put it up for rent. Historic documents and archeological remains found at Belvoir Manor both attest to the elegant lifestyle enjoyed by the Fairfax family. The mansion itself, described in a 1774 rental notice, was spacious and well-appointed. Its furnishings consisted of "tables, chairs, and every other necessary article ... very elegant." Ceramics imported from Europe and the Orient graced its tables. The unoccupied manor home was destroyed by fire in 1783.

Prominent citizens of the colony, including George Washington, visited frequently, and Thomas Fairfax, 6th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, the first member of the British nobility to reside in the colonies, lived at Belvoir briefly, in 1747, before he moved to the Shenandoah Valley and took up residence at Greenway Court. Despite the grandeur of their surroundings and the refinement of their furnishings, planters like the Masons, McCartys, Washingtons, and Fairfaxes did not lead indolent lives. Conscious of their civic duty, they were the political, social, economic, and religious leaders of their immediate neighborhood and of the colony at large. William Fairfax was a case in point. As President of the Governor's Council in Williamsburg, he held a position equivalent to today's Lieutenant Governor; in this position, he represented the colony at an important conference with the Iroquois Indians in 1753. As the senior colonial official in Fairfax County, William Fairfax was, nominally, in command of the county's militia contingent and, as such, was entitled to be called a Virginia colonel. This county rank was largely honorary and carried no pay or benefits, and did not extend to a higher echelon. Formally, the entire Virginia colonial militia fell under command of the resident governor, as colonel, while day-to-day command of the militia was exercised by the adjutant (at the rank of major). However, down at the county-level, all of the local militia officers would adopt a separate colonel-major-captain-lieutenant rank structure for use at the local level. In 1741, William Fairfax was elected a member of the House of Burgesses. It was he who introduced the bill that created Fairfax County as a separate political jurisdiction in 1742 (carved out of the northern portion of Prince William County), and he subsequently served as presiding Justice of the County Court, and as County Lieutenant, the county's chief law-enforcement officer. At the same time, he managed his own large properties throughout Fairfax County and served as the land agent for his cousin, Lord Fairfax. George William Fairfax, William's son and heir and a close personal friend of George Washington's, continued his father's tradition of public service. He retained the management of the Northern Neck estate until his death, in 1757. In his will, he left Belvoir, and his plantation of Springfield containing 1,400 acres (5.7 km2), to his eldest son George William Fairfax. He left his plantation Towlston Grange, with 5,500 acres (22 km2), to his youngest son Bryan Fairfax; he left land in Culpeper County of 3,250 acres (13.2 km2) and 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) to his daughter Hannah. William's eldest daughter, Anne (then aged 15), was hastily married to Lawrence Washington in June 1743. Lawrence (aged 25) had recently returned to Virginia from two years at war in the Caribbean, where he had served, with distinction, as a senior company officer in the American Regiment, under Admiral Edward Vernon, as "Captain of the Soldiers acting as Marines", onboard the admiral's flagship HMS Princess Caroline (80 guns). Surviving court documents suggest Lawrence may have been staying with the Fairfax family at Belvoir in the spring of 1743, awaiting the completion of his new home at nearby Little Hunting Creek, which he named "Mount Vernon". Upon his return from war at the end of 1742, he was appointed adjutant (commander) of the Virginia militia, at the colonial rank of major. In the spring of 1743, the young Anne disclosed to her parents that she had been sexually molested by the county's parish priest, Charles Green, of Truro Parish. William had two other sons who died in combat while serving the Crown: Thomas was killed in action on 25 June 1746 against the French Navy off the coast of India, aged about 15, while serving as a newly enrolled midshipman in the Royal Navy aboard HMS Harwich (50 guns); and Lieutenant William Henry "Billy" Fairfax died of wounds received during the British Army's capture of Quebec in fall 1759.

William Fairfax (1691–1757) was the builder of the Belvoir estate and plantation in northern colonial Virginia. More here: http://bit.ly/fNkMyg.

President of the Virginia Council

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Colonel William Fairfax, Esq's Timeline

1691
1691
Newton Kyme, Yorkshire, England
1724
1724
Age 33
Bahamas
1725
1725
Age 34
1728
September 17, 1728
Age 37
Fairfax City, Fairfax, Virginia
1729
1729
Age 38
1729
Age 38
Probably Belvoir, Fairfax County, Province of Virginia
1731
1731
Age 40
1739
1739
Age 48
1740
1740
Age 49
Virginia Colony
1757
1757
Age 66
of Belvoir, Fairfax, VA