Early Colonial Settlers of Southern Maryland and Virginia's Northern Neck Counties

George William Gov. Smith

Male 1762 - 1811  (49 years)


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  • Name George William Gov. Smith 
    Born 1762  Marigold, Essex County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Gender Male 
    Died 26 Dec 1811  Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Buried Richmond Theatre fire Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Person ID I068074  Tree1
    Last Modified 19 Oct 2020 

    Father Meriwether Smith,   b. 1730, Bathurst, Piscataway Creek, Essex County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Jan 1794, Marigold, Essex County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 64 years) 
    Mother Alice Corbin Lee,   b. Abt 1734, Prince George's County, Maryland Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 1769, Essex County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 35 years) 
    Married 1760  Essex County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Family ID F17842  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 1 Sarah Adams,   b. 14 Jan 1766, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Sep 1806, Essex County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 40 years) 
    Married 7 Feb 1793  Richmond, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Children 
     1. Richard Lee Smith,   b. 2 Apr 1794, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Columbia, Adair County, Kentucky Find all individuals with events at this location
     2. George William Smith,   b. 14 Sep 1795, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 30 Sep 1823, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 28 years)
     3. Elizabeth Griffin Smith,   b. 24 Oct 1798, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 26 Jul 1802, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 3 years)
     4. Sarah Adams Smith,   b. 7 Mar 1801, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aug 1802, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 1 years)
     5. John Adams Smith,   b. 12 May 1802, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. 24 Jul 1864, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 62 years)
     6. Phillip Francis Samuel Smith,   b. 22 May 1805, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Aug 1805, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age 0 years)
     7. Thomas Smith,   b. 8 Sep 1806, Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location
    Last Modified 19 Oct 2020 
    Family ID F30722  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family 2 Jane Read,   b. Abt 1770, Hanover County, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location,   d. Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Married Abt 1807  Richmond City, Virginia Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Last Modified 19 Oct 2020 
    Family ID F30723  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • died in a theater fire in Richmond, Virginia.
      ===
      William and Mary College quarterly historical magazine; v. 25 - 1917
      BATHURST, A COLONIAL RESIDENCE

      The editors are indebted to Judge Lewis H. Jones, of Louisville, Kentucky, for the photogravure of "Bathurst," which appears as the frontispiece of this number. "Bathurst" was built by Francis Meriwether, the old clerk of Essex Co., circa 1692, and received its name from his marriage with Mary Bathurst, daughter of Lancelot Bathurst, of Essex County, Virginia, son of Sir Edward Bathurst of Gloucestershire, England, and his second wife, Susan Rich. Upon the death of Francis Meriwether's widow in 1740, the land was divided among his heirs, and the "Bathurst" tract fell to the wife of Theodorick Bland. Bland sold it to Francis Smith who married Lucy, a daughter of Francis Meriwether. From them it descended to their son Meriwether Smith, first member of Congress from that district, patriot, etc. From him it passed to his son, George William Smith, who became governor of Virginia, lost his life in the burning of the Richmond theatre, who early sold "Bathurst" to Major Thomas Ap Thomas Jones, whose mother was daughter of Mary, another daughter of Francis Meriwether, and her husband James Skelton. From them it descended to their only son, Thomas Ap Thomas Jones, the grandfather of Judge Lewis H. Jones, who sold it for 3950 in 1800, and moved to Kentucky.
      ===
      Essex County, Virginia Historical Society, Bulletin 26, May 1985
      Virginia Governors from Essex County
      by E. Lee Shepard *
      George William Smith (1762-1811)

      The third Virginia governor from Essex County was born in 1762. Son of Meriwether Smith (1730-1794), Revolutionary leader and Continental Congressman, and his first wife, Alice Lee of Maryland, Smith grew to maturity at "Bathurst," the famous Essex County plantation. Built by his great-grandparents Francis Meriwether and Lady Mary (Bathurst) Meriwether, the home lay two miles below Tappahannock on Piscataway Creek. It descended through Meriwether's daughter Lucy, wife of Francis Smith, to her son Congressman Smith, and finally became the residence of George William Smith.
      Smith trained as a lawyer, travelling the Essex circuit with the likes of Alexander Campbell, Francis T. Brooke and John Warden. Like so many young attorneys of the day, he aspired to a seat in the legislature, winning election to the House of Delegates from Essex in 1790. He served four sessions, 1790-1794, but apparently decided as early as 1793 to seek his fortune in the Commonwealth's capital. Certainly influential in that move was his marriage in the same year to Sarah Adams (1766-1806), daughter of prominent Richmonder Richard Adams. He sold "Bathurst" to Thomas Jones in 1795 and removed to the banks of the James River.
      Commencing his practice in the local courts of Richmond and the surrounding counties, Smith gradually moved upward in the legal hierarchy. He qualified to practice before the state's highest court in April 1797. Contemporaries claimed he took "a leading position at the bar." Certainly he rose rapidly to prominence, for by 1801 he returned to the legislature, this time a delegate from Richmond City. He lost a contested election to John H. Foushee in 1807, but in the same year was elected to the Council of State, the governor's advisory body.
      Smith was one of the first to build a home on the prominent bluff of Libby Hill in Richmond. His home at Twenty-seventh and Franklin streets after his death became the residence of Scottish merchant and entrepreneur David Ross. He joined a company of light infantry, the Richmond Republican Blues, as captain in 1805. By 1809 he had risen to the rank of colonel of the 19th Infantry Regiment of Virginia Militia. In 1808, following the death of his first wife, Smith married Lucy Franklin Read, daughter of Dr. John Koyall Read (1746-1805) of Hanover Town and Norfolk and widow of Richmond Examiner editor Meriwether Jones. As lawyer, militia officer and councillor, George W. Smith occupied a prestigious niche in the life of the capital city.
      1811 proved to be the most eventful, though ill-fated year of Smith's life. In mid January the councillor acted for several days as governor following the resignation of John Tyler, Sr. Tyler had accepted appointment as judge
      of the U.S. District Court at Richmond. Smith then stood for election to the governor's office, but opponent James
      Monroe defeated him handily. Three months later he suddenly found himself in the chief executive's chair again by virtue of his status as president of the Council of State. Monroe resigned to accept the post of secretary of
      state in President Madison's cabinet. The move precipitated a mild constitutional crisis, as the Council
      debated whether to call the Assembly back into session or to interpret the state constitution as allowing the council president to assume the powers of the chief executive until the legislature would normally reconvene and elect a successor. The Council opted for this latter approach, and Smith took great pains to justify this action to the Assembly in December 1811. That body certified its approval by voting Smith into the governor's office, albeit
      by only a three-vote margin over candidate James Barbour.
      During Smith's brief tenure, Virginia faced a number of crucial issues. Foremost among these was the heightening tensions with Great Britain, which would soon lead to war. Internal defense and the political stance of the federal congress occupied the attention of the Assembly. So, too, did domestic matters. The newly reorganized Supreme Court of Appeals had begun to function and several vacancies had to be filled. Questions continued to be raised in regard to bounty lands set aside for veterans of the Revolutionary War. Smith himself, in his capacity as governor, made reports on the operation of the newly inaugurated literary fund, established to provide for "the education of the poor" in Virginia. It was a busy time, but destined for George William Smith to end quite suddenly and tragically.
      On Decemer 26, a large crowd attended a performance at the Richmond Theatre. A chandelier accidently ignited scenery and led to a disastrous fire. Governor Smith, one of the audience that evening, sought vainly to rescue his young son in the ensuing confusion. The child, however, had already fled the building and Governor Smith perished in the flames unaware of his son's escape. The following morning the death toll stood at 72. Resolutions of sorrow poured into Richmond from across the nation. Richmonders themselves paid lasting tribute to the victims by raising funds to build Monumental Church on the Theatre site. After several days of mourning, the legislature elected consensus candidate James Barbour to succeed as governor the much lamented George William Smith.

      *Mr. Shepard joined the staff of the Virginia Historical Society in Richmond in 1974, after completing graduate studies at the University of Virginia. He currently heads the Department of Archives and Manuscript Acquisitions. He has published articles and reviews in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Journal of Southern History, and American Journal of Legal History.

      Smith: C. W. Coleman, comp., "Genealogy of the Smith Family of Essex County, Virginia," William and Mary Quarterly, series 1, VI (1897-1898), 41-52; W. Asbury Christian, Richmond: Her Past and Present (1912); Charles D. Lowery, James Barbour: A Jefferson-ian Republican (1984); Journal of the House of Delegates of Virginia (1812); W. P. Palmer et al., eds., Calendar of Virginia State Papers (1875-1893). IX-X.

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