Gov. Alexander Spotswood

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Alexander Spotswood, Colonial Lieutenant Governor of Virginia

Also Known As: "Major General Alexander Spotswood", "Lt. General Spotswood"
Birthplace: Tangier, Tanger-Tétouan, Morocco
Death: June 07, 1740 (63)
Annapolis, Anne Arundel, MD, United States
Place of Burial: York County, Virginia, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. Robert Spotswood and Catherine Spottiswoode
Husband of Butler Thompson
Father of Anne B Spotswood Morgan; Colonel John Maxwell Spotswood, I; Anne Catherine Moore (Spotswood); Capt Robert Spotswood; Dorothea Dandridge and 1 other
Brother of Robert Spottiswoode
Half brother of Major General Roger Elliott

Occupation: Politician
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Gov. Alexander Spotswood

Find A Grave Memorial# 17413275


Alexander Spotswood was born in the Tangier Garrison, Morocco, Africa about 1676 to Catharine Maxwell (c. 1638 - December 1709) and her second husband, Dr Robert Spottiswoode (17 September 1637 - 1680), the Chirurgeon (surgeon) to the Garrison.

Through his father, Alexander was a grandson of Judge Robert Spottiswoode (1596–1646), a great-grandson of Archbishop John Spottiswoode (1565–1639), and a descendant of King Robert II of Scotland through the 2nd Earls of Crawford). Alexander's older half-brother (by his mother's first marriage to George Elliott) was Roger Elliott (c. 1655 - 15 May 1714), who became one of the first Governors of Gibraltar. Following the death of Robert Spotswood, his mother married thirdly, Reverend Dr. George Mercer, the Garrison's Schoolmaster.

Military life

On 20 May 1693, Alexander became an Ensign in the Earl of Bath's Regiment of Foot. He was commissioned in 1698, and promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1703. He was appointed Quartermaster-General of the Duke of Marlborough's army the same year, and was wounded at the Battle of Blenheim the following year.

Colonial Life

In 1710, Alexander was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, under the nominal governorship of George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney. He was the first to occupy the new Governors Mansion, which many citizens thought overly extravagant (its 20th-century reconstruction is now one of the principal landmarks in Colonial Williamsburg). A Tobacco Act requiring the inspection of all tobacco intended for export or for use as legal tender was passed in 1713. The next year, he founded the First Germanna Colony, and regulated trade with native Americans at another of his pet projects, Fort Christanna. In 1715, he bought 3229 acres (13 km²) at Germanna.

In 1716, he led the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition up the Rappahannock River valley and across the Blue Ridge Mountains at Swift Run Gap into the Shenandoah Valley to expedite settlement. In 1716, Governor Spotswood made the 1st complete discovery of a passage over the Blue Ridge mountains. Upon his return, he presented each of the gentlemen, who accompanied him, with a golden horse shoe. Some of these were set with precious stones, representing the heads of horse-shoe nails. The horse-shoe had inscribed, on one side of it, the motto : jSw juvat transcendere monies.

A novel entitled : The Kniglit of the Golden Horse-Shoe, by Dr. Wm. A. Caruthers, of Virginia, derives its name and its subject from this exploit of the governor.

The following year saw the foundation of the Second Germanna Colony and the Repeal of regulation of trade with native Americans. A Third Germanna Colony followed in 1719, and Germanna was made the seat of Spotsylvania County the following year.

Between 1716 and 1720, Spotswood built the Tubal Works. It had a cold blast-charcoal blast furnace which produced pig iron, and probably a finery forge. (It is the site of the 19th-century Scotts Ironworks). It operated for about 40 years and was possibly the first successful ironworks in the colonies (although Tinton Falls, NJ- late 17th century is another candidate). Pig iron from Tubal is in the collections of the Fredericksburg (Virginia) Area Museum and the NPS (Spotsylvania Courthouse). Tubal Works iron was exported to England by 1723.[2] In May of the same year, Gov. Drysdale reported to the Lords of Trade that Spotswood was selling "backs and frames for Chumnies, Potts, doggs, frying, stewing, and backing panns" at auction in Williamsburg.

Around 1732 at Massaponax, Spotswood built what may have been the first purpose-built foundry in the British North American Colonies. This was a double-air furnace (usually used to make cannon) and was used to recast pig iron produced at Tubal into final shapes (kettles, andirons, firebacks, etc. and possibly cannon). Neither of Spotswood's iron operations were at Germanna. Spotswood was not, as is commonly believed, involved in the Fredericksville Furnace.[3]

In the fall of 1718, Spotswood engaged in a clandestine expedition by privately hiring two sloops, Jane and Ranger, and a number of Royal Navy men to seek out the pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach). On 18 November 1718, Lt. Robert Maynard sailed from Hampton, Virginia to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. On 22 November 1718, Maynard and his men defeated Blackbeard and the pirates. On 24 November 1718, two days after Blackbeard's death, Spotswood issued a proclamation at the Assembly in Williamsburg offering reward for any who brought Teach and the other pirates to justice.

Spotswood worked to make a Treaty with the Iroquois through their meeting in Albany, New York during 1721. It was an attempt to end the raids between the Iroquois and Catawba that endangered settlers in the Shenandoah Valley. The Iroquois agreed to stay north of the Potomac and west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The agreement was renewed the next year.

Spotswood completed the Governor's palace in 1722, when he was recalled from the lieutenant governorship and replaced by Hugh Drysdale. Throughout his career, Spotswood had maintained an adversarial relationship with the Virginia Council, especially its most prominent member, James Blair. As the Bishop of London's representative in the colony, the President of the College of William and Mary, and a councilman in Virginia's highest legislative body, Blair was arguably the most powerful man in the colony. He successfully orchestrated the recall of three royally appointed governors, including Alexander Spotswood. The latter entered private life with 80,000 acres (324 km²) in Spotsylvania and three iron furnaces.

Returning to London, Spotswood married Elizabeth Butler Brayne in 1724, but was back at the 'Enchanted Castle', Germanna, by 1729. He served as Deputy Postmaster General from 1730 to 1739, and died on 7 June 1740 at Annapolis, Maryland.


In 1724, Alexander married Elizabeth Butler Brayne (known as Butler Brayne) in London and had four children by her:

John M. Spotswood (1725 - 6 May 1756) married in 1745 Mary West Dandridge {a cousin of Martha Washington}, daughter of William Dandridge, Esq., of Elson Green, King William Co., Va, a Captain in the British Navy. Colonel John Spotswood is buried in the Memorial Garden adjoining the Germanna Foundation Visitor Center. His son Brig. Gen. Alexander Spotswood of the 2nd Virginia Regiment married to Elizabeth Washington - a daughter of Augustine Washington, Jr, President George Washington's older half-brother - a niece of George Washington.

Anne Catherine Spotswood (1728 - c. 1802) married Col. Bernard Moore, Esq., of Chelsea, King William Co., Va, a gentleman seventh in descent from Sir Thomas More, of Chelsea, England, the author of Utopia, and became an ancestor of Robert E. Lee [1] and Helen Keller.

Dorothea Spotswood (c.1729 - 23 Sep 1773) married in 1747 Mary Dandridge's brother, Col. Nathaniel West Dandridge, who was a first cousin of Martha Washington, a son of William Dandridge, Esq., of Elson Green, King William Co., Va, a Captain in the British Navy, a direct descendant of Governor John West, and an ancestor of Edith Wilson. Their daughter, Dorothea Spottswood Dandridge, married Patrick Henry, and they had 11 children. Their son, Nathaniel West Dandridge II married Sallie Watson, and their daughter Martha Hale Dandridge married her cousin William Winston Fontaine, grandson of Patrick Henry.

Robert Spotswood (c.1732 - 1758), who was a subaltern officer under Washington. In 1758, while with a scouting party, he was killed near Fort du Quesne.


The Ancestry Of Robert E. Lee Virginia letters of Isaac Hobhouse Virginia Mag Vol 66 July 1958, #3. Historical and Genealogical Notes, The William and Mary Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 2, October 1896, Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture, Will PRO - PROB 1/13; Official Letters (ed. by R. A. Brock, 2 vol., 1882–85); "CARRIED ON AT A VERY GREAT EXPENSE AND NEVER PRODUCED ANY PROFIT" THE ALBEMARLE IRON WORKS (1770–72) by James H. Brothers IV (2002) unpublished MA for the Anthropology Department of The College of William and Mary. Biographies by Walter Havighurst (1968) and L. Dodson (1932, repr. 1969).

The Enchanted Castle

Alexander Spotswood's Enchanted Castle was not, in fact, a castle. This name was applied to his home by William Byrd II, who visited in 1732. The Germanna Foundation suggests that the Spotswoods themselves called it "Porto Bella." Nor was it a rugged wilderness outpost on the edge of civilization on the Virginia frontier. In reality, the Spotswood's home was an early Georgian manor located in what was then the county seat of Spottsylvania County and close by Spotswood's iron works at Tubal Furnace. It was Spotswood's family home supported by a large staff.

The Spotswood family home also served double purpose as a civic building for Spotsylvania County. The county clerk's office was located in the house, and it is suggested that the court itself met in Spotswood's parlor, although most think it was held in a single room building located on the grounds (Mansfield, 44).

In late September of 1732 William Byrd II visited Spotswood at his home in order to view the nearby mining endeavors. He kept a diary during this trip, giving us a snapshot of what life was like in the Spotswood household. It is Byrd who gave the house the name it is known by today, calling it "The enchanted Castle" although whether he meant this as a compliment or not is hard to tell, given his rather irreverant style of writing. Byrd's diary does not give us much information about the appearance of the house, it provides a snapshot of the daily life of its occupants and what was in their thoughts at the time. Amusing anecdotes related in this narrative include the dispair that Spotswood's unmarried sister-in-law felt at the prospects of being able to find a suitable husband on the frontier, dogs with faulty housetraining, and deer kept as family pets.

Why did Byrd refer to this building as the Enchanted Castle?

Life at the Enchanted Castle

The enchanted castle was the home of Alexander Spotswood, his wife, children, sister-in-law, and numerous servants. However, we know surprisingly little of any of these people.

Spottswood was married to Anne Butler Brayne, whose unmarried sister, Dorothea Brayne, lived with them at Germanna. Very little is actually known about these two women beyond their names, and even that is much is sometimes cause for confusion. As recorded in his diary, William Byrd enjoyed teasing Dorothea, whom he called "Miss Theky" for unknown reasons. This monnicker caused later confusion as to the identity of Mrs. Spottswood and her sister. One late 19th century historian went so far as to claim they were part of the German settlement.

"The relations between the governor and the German colonists were of the best kind. They called Virginia in his honor: 'Spottsylvania' -- and he was at home with them. He was so much charmed by this laborious and peaceable people that he married a young German lady by the nake of "Theke" and born in Hanover." (Schuricht,68) History of the German Element in Virginia, Vol. 1, 1898)

The error of this 19th century historian shows us how the concentration of history on great men can lead to all sorts of fanciful stories being told about their less well documented wives and families.

The Spotswoods had four children. The two oldest, John and Anna Katherine, were born in England, in 1725 and 1728. Another daughter, named Dorothy after her aunt, was born in Virginia in 1731. The youngest, Robert, was born in 1733, a year after Byrd's visit. That same year "Miss Theky" married a Mr. Elliott Benger and moved from Germanna.

There were many servants needed to keep the large house running smoothly. When William Byrd left Germanna to continue his travels, he gave a pistole to be distributed among the servants. A pistole was a $4 spanish coin worth a singificant ammount in this time.

The End of the Enchanted Castle

Alexander Spotswood died in 1740, a year after he had offered Germanna up for lease. His widow remained at Germanna until remarrying to John Thompson, a minister, who built the house Salubria for her. Shortly after this, although the exact date is not known, Spotswood's "Enchanted Castle" burned. Subsequent families who owned the land burned the ruins and salvaged building materials from the remains for their own construction.

The Memory of the Enchanted Castle

During the Civil War soldiers called the house situated on the site The Enchanted Castle. There is much to be uncovered in the absence of reality. For example, in The History of Orange County (1907), W.W. Scott assumes that the Civil War soldiers who talked about organizing a military hospital in the “Enchanted Castle,” were talking about the original structure built by Alexander Spotswood one hundred years earlier. The chances that this structure still stood in 1864 are miniscule, yet Scott does not question their beliefs. Why? Because it is in the myth, he made an assumption based on myth. Obviously they were mistaken but still shows how the myth becomes a part of history.

Sources: Herrmann Schuricht, History of The German Element in Virginia, Vol. 1. (Baltimore: Theo. Kroh & Sons, Printers, 1898)

James Roger Mansfield, A History of Early Spotsylvania. (Orange, Virginia: Green Publishers, Inc., 1977)


The history of Germanna is inextricably intertwined with the history of America. Colonial Virginia sprouted the spirit of freedom with the Germanna immigrants playing an important role. In the classic history text, The Stamp Act Crisis: Prologue to Revolution by Edmund S. Morgan and Helen M. Morgan, the book begins with an account of Governor Alexander Spotswood and the Germanna area. The excerpt below is but one sample of the role of Germanna in our history as a people:


THE PLACE WAS something out of a fairy tale, a ghost town in the wilderness, empty houses lining the street on one side, savage plants creeping toward them to recover their domain, and on the other side—an enchanted castle, where a gentleman lived with his wife and her young sister. They might have been king, queen, and princess, and the two tame deer which wandered about the house were doubtless a lordand lady transformed by some magic into their present shape. There was a rich meadow, surrounded on three sides by a winding river, and shady lanes which led past a marble fountain, and a covered bower where the princess satand bewailed the suitor who did not come.

This was Germanna, on the Rapidan River in Spotsylvania; the king was Colonel Alexander Spotswood, former Governor of Virginia, and the queen was the wife whom he had brought from London to live in this improbable paradise. The empty houses had once been the homes of the German settlers whom Spotswood had planted there but who had since deserted him. In September,173a, the place was visited by a traveller who, like the Spotswoods, would have looked more at home on Regent Street than on the frontier of Virginia. William Byrd had come to consult with the Colonel about iron-mining,but he had a gift for recording scenes and conversations, and in his journal he snatched the whole episode out of time and left it to us, complete with Spotswood's oracular pronouncements not only on iron-mining, but also on tar-burning, hemp, the Spaniards, the post office, and British politics. In this fantastic setting, so far from the civilized world, far it might seem from the world at all . . .

[Byrd then described how Spotswood on the banks of the Rapidan River in 1732 predicted great difficulty if England were to attempt to compel the American colonists to do things against their will.]

Spotswood's prophecy need not be ascribed to second sight, for he had been Governor of Virginia, and he knew from bitter experience how jealously a colonial assembly guarded its right to levy taxes. In 1715 the House of Burgesses had refused to grant the supplies necessary for defense against the Indians, because they thought that he had called some of their prerogatives in question. He had denounced them and finally dissolved them, but he had not beaten them. And he knew that any attempt by Parliament to beat them would have met with doubled resistance.

(Emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

1710-1723 Gov of Virginia, Postmaster General of the American Colonies and Governor of Virginia, Royal Govenor of Virginia, Royal Governor of Virginia, Williamsburg, Lt. Gov. Cmdr. in Chief of the VA Colony 1710-1723

Governor Spotswood was the great-grandson of John Spotswood , Archbishop of St. Andrew's and author of the History of the Church of Scotland . His grandfather was Robert Spotswood , Lord President of the College of Justice, and author of the "Practicks of the Laws of Scotland ," who was one of the eight eminent lawyers executed by the Parliament of Scotland , which (according to Sir Walter Scott ) consisted wholly of Covenanters.

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Gov. Alexander Spotswood's Timeline

December 12, 1676
Tangier, Tanger-Tétouan, Morocco
Henrico County, Virginia
December 26, 1725
Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania County, Virginia, Colonial America
October 19, 1728
Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Virginia
Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, Virginia, United States