About Mary Shippen Byrd (Willing)
Mary Willing Byrd (September 10, 1740 – March 1814) was the second wife of Colonel William Byrd III, a colonial American military officer at the time of the American Revolution and son of the founder of Richmond, Virginia. Her father, Charles Willing, was the mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1748 to 1754, and her great-grandfather, Edward Shippen, was the second mayor of Philadelphia from 1701 to 1703.
After her husband committed suicide in January 1777, leaving considerable debts, she managed his plantations, including Westover Plantation, in Charles City County.
Although Byrd had many ties to the British and Loyalists during the American Revolution, she tried to remain neutral and to preserve her children's inheritance. After trying to recover property that had been seized by the British, she was charged in 1781 with trading with the enemy. Byrd defended herself eloquently in a letter to Governor Thomas Jefferson: "I wish well to all mankind, to America in particular. What am I but an American? All my friends and connexions are in America; my whole property is here—could I wish ill to everything I have an interest in?" Her trial was first postponed and ultimately never held.
Mary Willing Byrd had ten children: Maria Horsmanden Byrd, Evelyn Taylor Byrd, Charles Willing Byrd (died as child), Abby Byrd, Anne Willing Byrd, William Boyd Byrd, Charles Willing Byrd, Dorothy Byrd (died as child), Jane Byrd and Richard Willing Byrd.
The Will of Mrs. Mary Willing Byrd, of Westover, 1813, with a List of the Westover Portraits.
[Mrs. Mary Willing Byrd, whose will is here printed, was born in 1740, and died in 1814. She was the daughter of Charles and Anne (Shippen) Willing, of Philadelphia. She married Janu- ary 29, 1 76 1, Colonel William Byrd, of " Westover," Charles City county, Virginia, being his second wife. His first was Elizabeth Hill daughter of John Carter, of " Shirley." During the Revolution, the British forces were several times at West- over, and as Mrs. Byrd had acquaintances in the English army, and was nearly related to Benedict Arnold's wife, various com- munications passed between her and the enemy, which were at the time thought to be treasonable. Whether Mrs. Byrd ex- ceeded the bounds of friendly intercourse, and if so, to what extent, cannot now be determined. There can be no doubt that many persons at the time thought she was guilty of treasonable correspondence; but she denied, with indignation, the charges against her; and Lossing, in his Field Book of the Revolution, states that it was discovered that she was certainly innocent. In February, 1781, all of Mrs. Byrd's letters and papers were seized by the American officers. It does not appear that any decisive action was taken in her case. The Cal. of Va. State Papers, I, 599; and II, 312, contain letters from Mrs. Byrd in regard to her case. Arthur Lee, in a letter to Colonel Bland, March 21st, 1 78 1, says: " In this situation it need not surprise you that Ar- nold, with a handful of bad troops, should march about the country, take and destroy what he pleased, feast with his tory friends, settle a regular Correspondence with them, which he carried on for some time in vessels sent up the river and unno- ticed, till one happening to run aground, discovered Mrs Byrd's correspondence, which, however, will produce neither good to us nor injury to her. I have reason to think she will not be tried at all, because care having been taken to keep the witnesses out of the way." ( Campbell' s History of Virginia, p. 711.)
Chastellux, writing of a visit in the year 1782, says: " That [the residence], of Mrs. Bird, to which I was going, surpasses them all in the magnificence of the buildings, the beauty of its sit- uation, and the pleasures of society.
" Mrs. Bird is the widow of a Colonel who served in the war of 1756, and was afterwards one of the Council under the Brit- ish Government. His talents, his personal qualities, and his riches, for he possessed an immense territory, rendered him one of the principal personages of the country; but being a spend- trift and a gambler, he left his affairs at his death, in very great disorder. He had four children by his first wife, who were al- ready settled in the world, and has left eight by his second, of whom the widow takes care. She has preserved his beautiful house, situated on James River, a large personal property, a considerable number of slaves, and some plantations, which she has rendered valuable. She is about two and forty, with an agreeable countenance, and great sense. Four of her eight children are daughters, two of whom are near twenty, and thev are all amiable and well educated. Her care and activity have in some measure repaired the effects of her husband's dissipa- tion, and her house is still the most celebrated, and the most agreeable of the neighborhood. She has experienced however fresh misfortunes; three times have the English landed at West- over, under Arnold and Cornwallis ; and though these visits cost her dear, her husband's former attachment to England, where his eldest son is now serving in the army, her relationship to Arnold, whose cousin german she is, and perhaps too, the jeal- ousy of her neighbours, have given birth to suspicions, that war alone was not the object which induced the English always to make their descents at her habitation. She has been accused even of connivance with them, and the government have once put their seal upon her papers; but she has braved the tempest, and defended herself with firmness; and though her affair be not yet terminated, it does not appear as if she was likely to suffer any other inconvenience than that of being disturbed and sus- pected. Her two eldest daughters passed the last winter at Williamsburg, where they were greatly complimented by M. de Rochambeau and tne whole army."]
In the name of God Amen. I Mary Byrd of Westover of the County of Charles city, Virginia, being of sound mind and memory do make this my last will and testament. I resign my soul into the hands of its unerring Creator in full hope of its eternal happiness through the mercy of my God, and the media- tion of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and secondly I desire that my body may be privately buried by the grave of my dear husband.
Item. I give and bequeathe to my daughter Maria Hosman- den Page 1 all my interest in ten shares of the Virginia Bank, to enjoy the interest during her life, and to be equally divided at her death, between my dear 2 Sarah Walker Page, Aby Page and their four brothers.
Item. I give and bequeath to my said daughter M. H. Page the engravings which represent the offering of Abraham and all other engravings she may chuse to have, one excepted, all the furniture in my chamber, except a bed, a mattress, and a small table, chair, and a piece of shell work including the cabinet, my bedstead and curtains (the feather bed and mattress I shall give to Richard, the other three articles I shall give to my G. daugh- ter Evelyn Page 3 ).
Item. I give and bequeath to my said daughter M. H. Page the red damask bed and the bedstead belonging to it with the handsomest Virginia cloth counterpoint not worked and blankets and also the red and white chair covers.
Item. I give to my said daughter M. H. Page the portrait of her honored father, 4 and one of myself, and also one of the Dutches of Montaigne, 5 also two fire screens and six of my longest and best table cloths, and one green chair.
Item. I give and bequeath to my daughter 6 Evelyn Taylor Byrd Harrison my bible and new testament, and my celleret with a green chair, and agreeably to her Sister Ann's wish the por- trait of her Aunt Evelyn. 6a I thank God she and her children are well provided for.
Item. I give and bequeath to my amiable son 7 John Page of Frederick a portrait of his dear 8 wife and myself.
Item. I give and bequeath to my son 9 Thomas Taylor Byrd one of his brother John, 10 and one of himself, and also a green chair for the vise of my very dear daughter his wife.
Item. I give and bequeath to my G. son Benja. Harrison my set of dining tables in the dining room at this time.
Item. I give and bequeath to " Mrs. Braxton the portrait of her father 12 Mr. Charles Carter and also an engraving of a fine head which hangs between two windows in the North East room.
Item. I give and bequeath to my friend Mrs. Ann Lee the picture of a little girl with which she was pleased as a small token of my affection.
Item. I give and bequeathe unto Mrs. Eliz a Randolph the portraits of 13 Col. Peter Randolph & lady.
Item. I give and bequeath to Mrs. Ann Corbin u the picture of her mother Mrs. Maria Beverley 15 as a small testimony of the esteem I feel for her.
Item. I give and bequeath to Miss Elizabeth Royster a negro man named Jack to her and her heirs forever, and for whom I have had a bill of sale recorded. I also give her the bed on which she lies, bedding and the bedstead called Evelyn's, with half a doz: chairs and one walnut dressing table, I also give her one hundred dollars.
Item. If Miss E. Royster should continue to live with me while I remain in this world, it is my wish and desire that my execu- tors pay her three hundred dollars in addition to the above legacy with my best wishes for her happiness.
Item. I will and bequeath to my son 16 Charles Willing Byrd his man Ned to him and his heirs forever. I also give him my clock, a set of knives and forks with silver hafts, a set of castors, the laddie and one doz. large table spoons, I also give my said son ten portraits, to-wit: •" Mr, Waltho, one of Titian, 18 one of Rubins, 19 one of his G. father Byrd 20 and six of his particular friends, viz': Lord Orrery, 21 Sir Wilfried Lawson, 22 L a Oxford, 23 the marquis of Hallifax, 24 the Duke of Argyle, 25 and Sir Robert Southall, 26 it is my will and desire, that if my said son shall find it inconvenient to carry these portraits to his house, that they shall be equally divided between his two brothers, 2 Richard and 28 William Byrd, and that a handsome silver coffee pot that will hold at least two pints and a half with a tea pot, be purchased and presented to him by them, in lieu thereof.
Item. I give and bequeath to my son Rich'd Willing Byrd, Jack Perry to him and his heirs forever, I also give him a pair of candlesticks, a quart mug, a salver, two salt sellers, with their spoons, and all the table spoons, except one dozen as above mentioned, and two raguel spoons, one marrow spoon, and a skewer, I also give my said son my urn (all these articles are of silver) being the particular desire of his Sister.
Item. I also give my said son nine portraits, to-wit: his hon- ored father's 29 picture at full length, it hangs in the passage; his G. father's 30 that hangs in the South East room below stairs, and the portrait of his first 31 and second 32 wife and five of his particular friends and favorites, vizt: Mrs. Taylor, 83 Lady Betty Southwell, 34 Ld. Egmont, 35 Sir Charles Wager, 3 " and Mr. Brent. 37
Item. I give my said son his choice of a pair of horses if M. W. Nelson does not chuse to have a pair for the use of himself and sisters.
Item. I give and' bequeath to my son William Powl Byrd, Prank, and his wife Fanny, to him and his heirs forever.
Item. I give and bequeath to my said son, W. P. Byrd, a pair of candlesticks, a quart mug, a salver, a fish trowel, two ra- goul spoons, one doz. desert spoons, together with a candlestick which was his G. Grandfathers all of silver.
Item. I likewise give him a pier glass with the family arms painted on it, I also give him two pair of andirons one of them belonging to the dining, and the other to the S. West chamber below stairs. I also give my said son mv best mattress and best English ticken bed, bolster, pillows and bedding.
Item. I give to my said son a pair of my best mules.
Item. I also give him eight portraits, to-wit: One of his G. Father, 38 one of Mr. Dutton, 39 one of Mr. Blaithwhite,' 10 one of Lady Betty Cromwell, 41 one of his Aunt Carter, 42 one of his Aunt Maria Carter, 43 one of Mr. Blunt 44 and one of General Park. 45
Item. I give and bequeath to my G. daughter Mary Willing Nelson, 46 all of my furniture in the North West room below stairs in addition to her own bedstead and curtains, and the pic- ture of her papa, 47 the larger, the new Virginia cloth bed ticken, and the bedding, also the press in the passage up stairs, the best easy chair, the commode, a green chair to work on, a table that holds her petrifaction now standing in the South West room, and her bedstead now in my room.
Item. I give and bequeath to My G. Daughter Evelyn Byrd Page all my furniture in the South West chamber, the pictures, the andirons, and damask bed and bedding. I also give my said G. daughter my work table, chair, belonging to it, a piece of shell work, two birds drawn by myself, and a set of china (green and white, the portraits of her aunt Skipwith, 48 with six chairs of her chusing ; her bed is now making up.
Item. I give and bequeath to my G. daughter Abby Nelson all my furniture that belongs to the North West chamber up stairs. I also give her my wardrobe, and the picture of her uncle William Byrd, the elder, 49 with one of the pier glasses that hangs in the dining room, the tea table in the S. East room below stairs, and her chest of drawers, which belongs to the north west room, and one green chair to work on, and my second best Virginia tick bed, bedding and Mattress.
Item. I give and bequeath to my G daughter Lucy Nel- son, 50 the portrait of my honored mother, 51 as I find it was the particular wish of my lamented daughter, and my worked coun- ter point with the bedsteads and curtains belonging to the S. West room up two pair of stairs, with my press which now stands in the passage, with two low bedsteads and beds to all three bedsteads.
Item.. I give and bequeath to my G. daughter Ann Rosalie Nelson, a pier glass which hangs in the dining room, also her choice of two low bedsteads with feather beds and bedding, four green chairs, I confirm the right given her by my daughter to her bedstead curtains, &c. &c. in the S. west chamber, with all it contains, the chest of drawers excepted, which is the property of her sister M. W. Nelson: 1 also give her my silver slop bowl, and tea spoons, and my small table.
Item. It is my will and desire that my executors advertise and sell all that remains of the real and personal estate of my testator agreeably to his last will and testament.
Item. It is my will and request that my executors retain so much from the sales of the personal estate of my testator, as_shall be sufficient to discharge the balance of the debt due me from the estate as settled by the Commissioners, in my administration account, who were appointed by the court of Charles City. I am undoubtedly the first creditor, having paid debts of the first dignity out of — own estate, and such only have I brought into my account with the estate.
Item. I give and bequeath to all my G. sons the interest I have in the Dismal Swamp to be equally divided between them all.
Item. It is my wish that my executors dispose of all my crops that may be on hand or may be growing (when severed from the land) and after reserving the money due me principal and interest from the estate, and other outstanding debts, the balance is to be divided into four equal parts.
Item. I give and bequeath to my daughter Maria Horsman- den Page one fourth of all my property so described.
Item. I give and bequeath to my son Charles Willing Byrd of West Union, Ohio, one fourth of all my property in the hands of my executors.
Item. I give and bequeath to my son Richard Willing Byrd, of Smithfield one fourth of the above named sum.
Item. I give and bequeath to my son William Powel Byrd, of Gloucester the remaining fourth part.
Item. It is my will and desire that a reservation of the church land be made when Westover is sold. I refer my executors to the green book of records.
Item. It is my will and desire that my faithful maid Jenny Harris be emancipated whenever she may chuse it. I give and bequeath to her a small bedstead, bed, bedding and cui tains be- longing to it, and such of my wearing apparel as my children may think proper for her to have, I have the fullest confidence that they will not let her want any of the comforts of life.
Item. And lastly I appoint my sons John Page of Frederick, Richard Willing Byrd of Smithfield, William Page of Frederick and Benjamin Harrison of Berkeley, Charles City, Executors of this my last will and testament, to which I have assigned my hand and affixed my seal this of December one thousand eight hundred and thirteen.
Mary Byrd. [Seal.]
In presence of Dunbar Gordon.
At a court held for Charles City County at the Courthouse the 20 day of April, 1814, the aforementioned last will and testament of Mary Byrd deceased was presented in court and proved by the oath of Dunbar Gordon, and there being no other subscrib- ing witness to the same, Patrick Hendren, Charles Wilson and Edward Folkes were sworn and severally deposed that they are well acquainted with the handwriting of the testatrix and verily believe the said will and the name thereto subscribed to be wholly written by the testatrix own hand, whereupon the said will is ordered to be recorded and at a — other court held for said county as aforesaid the 18 day of August, then next ensueing, on the motion of Richard W. Byrd, one of the executors named in the said will who made oath thereto according to law and together with William P. Byrd, Cary Wilkinson and Patrick Hendren his securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of one hundred thousand dollars conditioned as the law directs, certificate is granted him for obtaining a probat of said will in due form, Liberty being reserved the other executors named in the said will to join in the probat when they shall think fit, and at another court held for said county as aforesaid the 17 day of November, 181 5, on the motion of William Page another of the executors named in the said will who took the oath of an execu- tor, and with Benjamin Harrison and John Page sen r his securities entered into and acknowledged a bond in the penalty of one hundred thousand dollars conditioned as the law directs, certifi- cate is granted the said Page to be joined in the probat of said will.
A copy Teste: J. E. Major, Clerk
of Charles City County Court Va.
'Maria Horsmanden Byrd, born November 26, 1761, married in 1784, John Page, of " Pagebrook," Frederick (now Clarke) county.
2 Sarah Walker Page married in 1815, Major Thomas Nelson, of Mecklenburg county, Va.
3 Evelyn Page is not named in "The Page Family," among the children of John Page.
4 Colonel William Byrd, of Westover, third of the name. This portrait is owned by Mrs. Bevan, of Hazlewood, Clarke county, a great granddaughter of Mrs. Maria Page.
5 Probably Mary, daughter of John, Duke of Marlborough, and wife of John, second Duke of Montague. Portrait now owned by Mrs. Bevan.
6 Evelyn Taylor Byrd, born October 13, 1766, died ,
daughter of Colonel William and Mrs. Mary Byrd; married Benjamin Harrison, of "Brandon."
6a Evelyn, daughter of Colonel William Byrd, 2d, by his first marriage, died unmarried, November 13, 1737, in her twenty- ninth year. Portrait at Brandon.
7 John Page, of " Pagebrook." Second son of Robert Page, of " Broadneck," Hanover county, was born June 29, 1760, and died September 17, 1838.
8 There is a portrait of a Maria Byrd at Upper Brandon.
9 Thomas Taylor Byrd, born January 17, 1752; married Mary Armistead.
10 John Carter Byrd, born January 27, 1 7 5 1 ; married the widow of William Randolph, of "Wilton," and d. s. p. This portrait is owned by Mr. George H. Byrd, of New York, who also has that of Thomas Taylor Byrd.
11 Mary, daughter of Charles Carter, of " Shirley," born 1763, married George Braxton.
12 Charles Carter, of "Shirley," born 1732, died 1806; mem- ber of the first State Council in 1776. Brother of the first wife of Colonel William Byrd, 3d. This portrait is believed to be owned by a descendant of the Braxton family.
13 Colonel Peter Randolph, of " Chatsworth," Henrico county; member of the Council, and Receiver-General of the customs; married Lucy, daughter of Robert Boiling. Mr. E. C. Mayo, of Richmond, owns portraits of these two persons. A portrait of Mrs. Lucy (Boiling) Randolph, formerly at Chatsworth, is now owned by Mrs. Landonia Minor, of Richmond.
14 Ann, wife of Francis Corbin, and daughter of Robert Bev- erly, of " Blandfield," Essex, and his wife Maria Carter.
15 Maria, daughter of Landon Carter, of " Sabine Hall," Rich- mond county, and wife of Robert Beverley. Her mother was Maria, daughter of Colonel William Byrd, 2d. The present ownership of this portrait is unknown.
16 Charles Willing Byrd, born July 6, 1770, was United States Judge in Ohio; married Sarah Meade.
17 Nathaniel Walthoe was clerk of the General Assembly in 1744, and died April 1772, leaving his sister Henrietta, and his nieces Mary and Martha Hart, all of Great Britain, his heirs. The portrait at Brandon.
18 There is owned in California a Venus from the Westover col- lection, said to be this picture by Titian.
19 Mrs! Bevan, of Clarke county, owns a portrait of a man, from the Westover collection, said to be by Reubens.
20 This was of course Colonel William Byrd, 2d. This por- trait at Brandon.
21 Charles Boyle, fourth Earl of Orrery, who, in the epitaph of William Byrd, 2d, is spoken of as his friend, died in 1731. Por- trait at Brandon.
22 Probably Sir Wilfred Lawson, third baronet, of Brayton, Cumberland, who was Member Parliament for Cockemouth, groom of the bedchamber to George I, and died 1737. Portrait owned by Mrs. Randal, Baltimore.
23 Probably the celebrated statesman, Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford, who died July 1,1717. Present ownership of the por- trait not known.
2 * Probably the eminent statesman, Charles Montague, Earl of Halifax, who died in 17 15. Portrait at Brandon.
25 John, second Duke of Argyle, who died in 1743. He held a prominent position as a statesman and as a soldier, but is now best known as "Jennie Deans' s Duke of Argyle." Portrait at Brandon.
26 Sir Robert Southwell, born 1635, died 1702, was a diplo- matist of note, and was for five years President of the Royal • Society. William Byrd, 2d, was educated under his care and direction. Portrait at Brandon.
27 Richard Willing Byrd, born October, 1774, resided in Isle of Wight county, and was member of the House of Delegates. Died at Westover, October, 1815. He married first, Lucy, daughter of Benjamin Harrison, of " Brandon; " secondly, Emily Wilson.
28 William Powell Byrd, of Gloucester county, married Susan, daughter of Addison Lewis, of Gloucester county.
29 Colonel William Byrd, 3d, of Westover. This is the second portrait of his named, one of the two, is, as has been stated, owned by Mrs. Bevan. The ownership of the other is unknown.
30 Colonel William Byrd, 2d. This is the second portrait of him mentioned. Onwership unknown.
31 Lucy, daughter of Colonel Daniel Parke, Jr. Owned by Mrs. Stewart, of " Brook Hill," Henrico Co., Va.
32 Mary, daughter of Thomas Taylor, of Kensington, England; married Colonel William Byrd, 2d, of Westover; died April 28, 1771. Owned by Mrs. Bevan.
33 Sister or sister-in-law of Mrs. Mary (Taylor) Byrd. Portrait at Brandon.
34 Sir Robert Southwell married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edward Dering, " a very pretty woman," according to Pepys. Ownership of portrait not known. There was at Brandon the portrait of " Mrs. Sutherland."
33 This portrait at Brandon, is, probably correctly called Lord Egmont. No doubt John Percival, first Earl of Egmont (1683- 1748).
36 Sir Charles Wager (1663-1743) a distinguished naval officer of the reign of Anne. Portrait at Brandon.
37 The subject of this portrait cannot be identified, nor is the present ownership known.
38 A third portrait of Colonel William Byrd, 2d. Its where- abouts not known. Perhaps this maybe the picture at Brandon.
39 Owned by Mrs. Randal, Balcimore.
40 Doubtless William Blaithwayt, Auditor General for America. Ownership of portrait not known.
41 Otherwise called, at present, Lady Claypole. Portrait at Brandon. She was daughter of Oliver Cromwell.
42 Anne, daughter William Byrd, 2d, born February 5, 1725, died September 11, 1757, married Charles Carter, of "Cleve." Ownership of portrait not known.
43 Maria Byrd, sister of preceding, born January 26, 1727, died September 29, 1744, married Landon Carter, of "Sabine Hall." Ownership not known.
44 Probably a mistake for " Miss Blunt." There is a portrait at Upper Brandon, said to be of Patty Blount, the friend of Pope.
45 Daniel Parke, Jr. , son of Colonel Daniel Parke, of the Vir- ginia Council, was born 1669 and killed in Antigua in 17 10. Aid to Marlborough at Blenheim, and Governor of the Leeward Is- lands. His daughter Lucy married Colonel William Byrd, 2d.
46 Daughter of Judge William Nelson and his wife Abby,
daughter of Colonel William Byrd. She married Pickens,
of South Carolina.
47 William Nelson, Judge of District Court of Virginia; died in 181 3, age about 59. Ownership of portrait not known.
48 Elizabeth Hill Byrd, born November 29, 1754, married first James Parke Farley; second, Rev. John Dunbar; third, Colonel Henry Skipwith, and died in Williamsburg, August 6, 1819. Ownership of portrait not known.
49 William Byrd, born August 2, 1749, was a lieutenant in the 17th (English) regiment, and died while traveling in France, July, 1771. Portrait at Upper Brandon. Another was at Brandon; but was stolen by Federal Soldiers.
50 Lucy, daughter of Judge William Nelson; married Benja- min Harrison of "Berkeley."
51 Mrs. Ann (Shippen ) Willing, of Philadelphia. Portrait owned by Mrs. Bevan.
In addition to the portraits named in this will there is a portrait of William Byrd, 1st, owned by Mrs. Geo. B. Harrison, Wash- ington, D. C, and a portrait of " Lord Albermarle," at Brandon.
Mary Byrd's Timeline
September 24, 1740
Philadelphia, Pensylvania, American Colonies
November 27, 1761
Wayside, Charles City Co, Virginia
October 13, 1766
Westover, Charles City, Virginia, United States
November 4, 1767
Charles City, Virginia, USA
July 26, 1770
Westover, Charles, Virginia
October 27, 1774
Charles City, Charles, Virginia
March 24, 1814
Charles City, Virginia, USA