Byrd’s Lottery: Beseeching Payment Continued beyond the Ledgers

Gianna Borawski / University of Central Florida / Fall 2013

Thomas Lawson purchased six lottery tickets on behalf of various people.

Despite eager participation and so much public attention for Colonel Byrd’s Lottery, it failed to remedy Byrd’s debts even though Thomas Lawson purchased six tickets!   Perhaps this failure lent itself to the fact that ticket purchasers did not actually have to pay for the ticket until the day of the drawing, as noted previously.  If you had a ticket that lost, would you go out of your way to go back and pay for it?

After the drawing of the lottery on November 2, 1768, Byrd and his trustees took out advertisements in the Virginia Gazette again, two weeks in a row, on November 10th and November 17th.  This time, Byrd identifies the trustees to whom to pay for unpaid tickets in the lottery.  The trustees go on to note their disappointment that “very little money” had “been received at the time of drawing Col. Byrd’s Lottery” and entreat ticket purchasers to pay for their ticket by December “at the court of Oyer and Terminer”.[1] These debts to Colonel Byrd were not remedied either, it seems.  The Virginia Gazette continues to show advertisements taken out by Byrd and his trustees politely beseeching people to pay up.  On May 25, 1769, Byrd and his trustees resorted to threatening the purchasers by “putting the bonds in suit if they are not discharged at the Oyer and Terminer court”.[2] These threats, however, seemed to threaten no one, as debts (both ticket purchasers’ and Byrd’s) remained unpaid.

An advertisement requesting payment for tickets in the Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), November 1768. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

On September 14, 1769, nearly a year after Thomas Lawson bought his lottery ticket for John Riddell from the Dumfries Store, Byrd advertised again in the Virginia Gazette entreating the sellers of the lottery tickets to “immediately send the bonds” to his colleague to finally “collect the money due on them”.[3] Whether the overall lack of payment was on behalf of ticket purchasers, ticket vendors, or both, Byrd does not make clear.

Colonel William Byrd III died entrenched in debt at the age of forty-eight in early January, 1777.[4]  He committed suicide by shooting himself with a dueling pistol.[5] Byrd was “thoroughly unhappy” in the years before his death, and wrote a will on July 6, 1774, in which he bequeaths the remainder of the estate to his wife.  He mentions that his estate is embedded in debt due to his “own folly & inattention to accounts, thro’ carelessness… is still greatly incumbered [sic] with debts, which imbitters [sic] every moment of my life.”[6]  Byrd goes on to will that slaves and even furniture be sold to pay off some of his debts.  In his will, Byrd also mentioned his lottery.  He asked that everyone who owed him money, including the “managers and adventurers in the Lottery… be immediately sued for & collected & applied to” his remaining debts.[7]

Byrd’s wife made a final attempt to remedy the cost of the lottery on August 8, 1777, in a notice on the front page of the Virginia Gazette, rather than at the end in the “Advertisements” section.  This article began with the trustees stating that they would like “to settle the affairs of the late Col. Byrd” and asks that anyone who still needs to be paid their debt “make them known.”[8] While this seems like Byrd’s affairs were finally in order, she ends the notice stating: “It appearing, from col. Byrd’s books, that very large sums are due to him for his lottery tickets, and on other accounts it will be taken particularly kind of his debtors to be speedy in making payment.”[9] This ironic final notice displays the efforts Mary Byrd and Byrd’s trustees made to remedy William Byrd III’s debts even after he had given up on them and himself.  Sorry to say that his poor business skills, lavish lifestyle, and gambling habits got the best of him – and his beloved estate.

Mary Byrd entreats those who owe money to her husband's estate to pay it promptly, especially those still owing money for lottery tickets. Virginia Gazette (P), August 1777. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

[1] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, November 10, 1768, 2,, accessed November 7, 2013; Virginia Gazette, Rind, November 17, 1768, 3,, accessed November 7, 2013.

[2] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, May 25, 1769, 3,, accessed November 7, 2013.

[3] Virginia Gazette, Rind, September 14, 1769, 3,, accessed November 7, 2013

[4] “William Byrd III,” The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site, accessed November 4, 2013,

[5] Lily Richards, “Archaeological Excavation of the William Byrd III House,” Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library, October 1999, accessed November 4, 2013,

[6] William Byrd III, “Letters of the Byrd Family (Continued,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 38, no. 1 (January 1930): 59-60. Accessed November 4, 2013.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Virginia Gazette, Purdie, August 8, 1777, 1,, accessed November 7, 2013.

[9] Ibid.

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The Honorable Colonel William Byrd’s Lottery: How It Came About

Gianna Borawski / University of Central Florida / Fall 2013

Among the many interesting things I came across in my transcriptions of the ledgers from the account of the Dumfries Store, a purchase of a lottery ticket captured my attention.  On September 30, 1768, the Dumfries Store account reads, “To Thomas Lawson for 1 Ticket for J. [John] Riddell in Colo [Colonel] Byrds Lottery” for five pounds.  This unusual purchase prompted me to research Colonel Byrd and the nature of his lottery.

The Dumfries Store Account at the Colchester Store showing the lottery ticket purchase, September 30, 1768.

William Byrd III was born in 1728 to Colonel William Byrd II and Marion (Taylor) Byrd.  He was born into a wealthy colonial family, studied law in London, and married into another wealthy, local family, the Carters, when he was twenty years old.  With his first marriage, Byrd assumed responsibility of a massive estate and as such also assumed the role of an upper class Virginian.  Byrd proved to be ill suited for this task and fell into horrible debt.[1]  In Samuel Mordecai’s Virginia, Especially Richmond, In By-Gone Days, Mordecai says Byrd was “as industrious in losing a fortune, as his father had been in making one”.[2]

Unable to live within his income, he and his family still lived luxuriously and lavishly.  In addition to excessive spending, Byrd was also a gambler.[3]  Even as his debts increased, Byrd “continued to indulge both himself and his family… he also continued to frequent the gambling tables in taverns along Duke of Gloucester Street [in Williamsburg, Virginia], losing large amounts of money at frequent intervals.”[4]  Byrd noticed that his debt was building exponentially and made several attempts to remedy his financial affairs (none of which involved living less luxuriously, however).

Part of William Byrd III's estate, Westover Plantation. Photo courtesy of Stephen Lea.

As early as 1756, Byrd transferred his estate into the hands of seven trustees.  Even after the trustees sold off £40,000 worth of his estate, it was still not nearly enough to pay off Byrd’s debts.  Byrd also attempted to augment his income by producing tobacco, operating a lead mine, operating an iron forge, selling more of his land, and remaining an active member of public affairs.[5]  None of these combined endeavors, however, proved to aid his dire financial situation.

In the eighteenth century, lotteries were a common way of “disposing of property of various kinds and raising money for sundry purposes” and satisfying “private debts”.[6] In November, 1768, Byrd “held the Great Richmond Lottery” selling tickets to raffle off properties within his estate.[7]  Byrd’s lottery was featured in the Virginia Gazette many times leading up to the 1768 drawing, with advertisements as early as July, 1767, for “a scheme, for disposing of, by way of lottery, the land and tenements under-mentioned”.[8]

An advertisement in the Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon) for William Byrd III’s lottery, July 1767. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

In May 1768, Byrd again advertised the lottery by announcing the date of the drawing to be November 2nd and asking that all purchasers have paid for their ticket by that time.  The advertisement goes on to note that if “money cannot be procured, the notes of responsible merchants will be sufficient”.[9] Most notable when considering the September 30, 1768, purchase of the lottery ticket at the Dumfries Store, Byrd advertised his lottery again on September 22, 1768.[10] Perhaps this very advertisement prompted Thomas Lawson to pay for John Riddell’s purchase of the ticket at the Dumfries Store.

In September 1768, Byrd again advertised in the Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon) for his upcoming lottery. Courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


[1] “William Byrd III,” The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site, accessed November 4, 2013,

[2] Samuel Mordecai, Virginia, Especially Richmond, In By-Gone Days (University of Michigan, 1860), 21, accessed November 4, 2013,

[3] “William Byrd III”

[4] Lily Richards, “Archaeological Excavation of the William Byrd III House,” Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library, October 1999, accessed November 4, 2013,

[5] “William Byrd III”

[6] Mary Newton Stanard, Colonial Virginia: Its People and Customs (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1917), 151-152, accessed November 4, 2013,; Gaye Wilson, “Monticello Was Among the Prizes in a Lottery for a Ruined Jefferson’s Relief,” The Colonial Williamsburg Official History & Citizenship Site, 2010, accessed November 4, 2013,

[7] Richards, “Archaeological Excavation”

[8] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, July 23, 1767, 4,, accessed November 7, 2013.

[9] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, May 5, 1768, 2,, accessed November 7, 2013

[10] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, September 22, 1768, 2,, accessed November 7, 2013.

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Buying for Family and Friends

Jessica Carmine / Fall 2013 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

The Mount Vernon Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project has thousands of ledger pages recording transactions made at Alexander Henderson’s stores in Alexandria and Colchester. In the ledgers, all sorts of items can be seen purchased by account holders around Virginia. They would sell the tobacco they harvested (or other items) for the products available at Henderson’s stores or in exchange for money or a little of both.  When reading through the ledgers, there are many common things purchased, for instance sugar or shoes.  There are also instances of account holders purchasing items specifically for family or family members purchasing on the account.   I went looking through the 1767/1768 ledger for all these different kinds of references.

In the ledger, there are over 50 pages (out of over 280) that detail entries with purchases made on behalf of or by family members.  Usually purchases made by another person are written as ‘per wife’, ‘per daughter’, etc. Other times it is ‘for’, and sometimes, ‘by your’.  In the ledger, there tends to be more entries that detail items bought for/by wives, sons, and daughters.  Every entry is unique, but there are some common objects found.

Some of the more frequently purchased items are nails for sons, and various textiles for wives and daughters. When the account holder’s child makes a purchase, it is generally stated as ‘per son’ or ‘per daughter’ with occasionally a more specific name attached, for instance ‘per son William’. Potentially the reason for the name added happens when there is more than one son or daughter and there is a need to differentiate between them.  In some accounts, multiple sons’ names are mentioned.

Both William Skinner's wife and daughter made purchases against his account at the Colchester store.

One of the more interesting entries is from William Skinner, where items were purchased for both his wife and his daughter. The items purchased were sugar and cups/saucers for his wife, and sugar, brandy, sheeting, and hardens for his daughter.  Another rather unusual entry comes from William Hancock who purchased nails, linen, a bridle, and women’s shoes for his son. Most likely the shoes were purchased on behalf of the son’s

William Hancock's son makes a purchase on his father's account.

wife, and this is interesting to take into consideration when analyzing how products are bought and dispersed. Not only to immediate family, but perhaps friends outside of the family as is evidenced by the giving of products to specific people, for instance when John Martin purchased several items for Sarah Simpson and Miss Stapleton.

John Martin's Colchester store account in which unrelated people make purchases.

In general, the account holders in the ledgers are men but there are a few women.  Of those few women, they do make purchases on behalf of other people too. For instance, Mrs. Margaret Hampton bought one bottle of Turlington’s Balsam for her daughter and hardens, copperas, pins, and molasses for her son, plus several different kinds of fabric and blue thread for her granddaughter. This example is the only one I found when looking for purchases made on behalf of/for a grandchild.  In addition, Mrs. Hampton also made purchases for ‘John’ – who John was will take additional research, was he her son or another person all together?

Mrs Margaret Hampton's children made purchases on her Colchester store account.

Miss Sally Wade made more purchases for others than for herself.  She bought a hat and coverlet for her sister. Purchases for sisters are much more unusual than purchases for sons or daughters. I found only two folios from 1767/1768 with entries mentioning purchases made for sisters.   In addition, her account paid for purchases by William Mills, Augustus Darrell, and [Grant?] Dorrell.  I look forward to learning more about what the ledgers will tell us about Miss Wade’s relationship to these men.

Miss Sally Wade's account with the Colchester store has numerous people making purchases, including her sister.

The more rare entries also include purchases made on behalf of granddaughters, mothers and fathers.  In addition, the purchase for the granddaughter mentioned above, I found only two entries for purchases on behalf of a mother and four for a father.  All the entries are similar in nature, with the mothers receiving textiles and the fathers getting farming items like hilling hoes.

Every entry is different from items purchased, to the quantity, price and who it was for. While on the outside these ledgers can be fairly dry, by looking through them you can understand patterns of purchases and the different values of items. It can be discovered what items were used in the 18th century and by whom, the results of which can be surprising.

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Burkitt (Part 2): What Expensive Books Have to Do with American Independence

Lena Denis / Fall 2013 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

William Burkitt’s Expository Notes volumes had a colorful publishing history in the United States, as the previous post showed, but that was not all that was interesting about them. Besides the physical complexity of the book trade that Burkitt’s commentary illustrates, it is worth noting a more political reason that book printing in the colonies could be complicated. Returning to Bell’s advertisement in the Virginia Gazette, you may have noticed that he tells his would-be subscribers to buy locally produced books for the sake of patriotism.

Robert Bell's advertisment in Rind's edition of the Virginia Gazette, September 26, 1771. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Furthermore, he means patriotism towards the American colonies, rather than towards Great Britain. To get an idea of the context for this remark, look at this page from a different issue of the Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), published several years earlier in 1766.

Articles and letters regarding the Stamp Act, Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), April 11, 1766. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

You probably noticed that most of the page is devoted to an unusually lengthy article that begins on the previous page, detailing the resolution in British Parliament over the hated Stamp Act. This act, passed by Parliament in 1765, stated that American colonists had to pay a tax for every sheet of paper they used, most of which came from Britain at the time. (Remember how long Burkitt’s Expository Notes was and think about how expensive printing it would become with a tax on each sheet of paper.) The reason given by Parliament was that the revenue collected through the act could pay for British troops protecting the American frontier. American colonists responded in an uproar, indignant that Britain would levy a tax on its colonists to raise money without their representation.[1]  Sound familiar? This argument would come up over and over again in the following years as Americans turned toward independence.

As it happens, the Stamp Act was repealed in March, 1766. This above page of the Virginia Gazette from April, 1766, shows that the news had not reached Virginia newspapers yet, because the letters and transcripts they were printing were mostly from January of that year. With that in mind, note the reference at the end of the article to the Sons of Liberty, who were taking action in neighboring Maryland “to consider of the most proper steps to be taken to prevent the execution of the Stamp Act, should it not be repealed.” War was still a few years away, but the colonists in 1766 were already making it clear that they would no longer accept decisions made by British politicians that they disagreed with. Though the repeal of the act made whatever the Maryland Sons of Liberty had planned unnecessary, evidently the mindset of many American colonists had already switched to defiance. By 1771, Robert Bell, willing to have his views about American patriotism published and widely read in a newspaper ad, seems to have been an everyday figure for whom this was the case.

The person who would probably have been most surprised at all these developments might have been William Burkitt himself, if he had lived to see them happen. He had died almost a century previously, an Englishman writing for a devoutly Anglican audience loyal to the Church of England. It seems doubtful that he could ever have imagined that his lengthy commentary would be popular with revolutionaries and anti-monarchists a century later, leading some of them into bankruptcy in the attempt to spread his words. Burkitt’s Expository Notes tells us a larger story than that of its own contents, as important as they were to early Americans. It also reveals the nuances of the trans-Atlantic book printing trade in the 18th century. More generally, you could say that placing it back in its historical context shows us how access to the written word could feed political movements, not only in terms of ideas spreading quickly, but even – in more literal terms – with something as simple as the cost of a sheet of paper.

A catalog of books available for sale at the Printing Office in Williamsburg in 1773 - note the first item listed. Consider how expensive printing these books would have been with the Stamp Act still in place. Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), June 10, 1773. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

[1] “A Summary of the 1765 Stamp Act,” Colonial Williamsburg, accessed February 9, 2014,

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Burkitt: Expensive Books & 18th-Century Publishing

Lena Denis / Fall 2013 Glassford & Henderson E-Tern

One day when I was transcribing the debit account of a man named William Turner from Loudoun, Virginia, I stopped short at the price of one of his purchases. Most items he bought, ranging from fine fabrics to metal tools, cost less than 10 shillings. The nicest fabrics he bought came in at just under  20 shillings. With that in mind, take note of the last item on his list:

You can see that on June 26, 1769, Turner bought “2 good penknives” for 3 shillings. The next item, “1 Burkitt on the new Testament,” is listed at 52/6, a whopping 52 shillings and 6 pence. Since there are 20 shillings to a pound, this single item, in an economic environment in which most items did not cost more than 10 shillings, cost William Turner 2 pounds, 12 shillings and 6 pence. With books showing up only occasionally in the ledgers, what book could possibly be worth that much money?

In this excerpt of Turner's account, take note of the purchase price of the final item on June 26, 1769.

After doing some research, I determined that the description “Burkitt on the new Testament” referred to a massive, two-volume work fully-entitled Expository Notes, with Practical Observations on the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Wherein the Whole of the Sacred Text is Recited, the Sense Explained, and the Instructive Example of the blessed Jesus, and his Apostles, to our Imitation Recommended. The author was William Burkitt (1650-1703), an “evangelical churchman” and commentator from Suffolk, England. According to the Dictionary of National Biography produced in Britain in the early 19th century, this was Burkitt’s crowning achievement and an extremely popular work, published in numerous editions in England.[1] It was universally lauded and widely read even in the colonies. In a study of what South Carolina residents were reading in the 18th century, Walter B. Edgar showed that Burkitt’s commentary was the most popular religious book in a survey of 2,314 inventoried libraries.[2] The most recent edition available in 1769, perhaps the one Turner bought, was published in 1765. At more than 700 pages long, sheer size was a large part of its costliness, as it must have taken a long time to produce such enormous tomes. Another factor was the location of the printing press, and the cost of exporting already expensive books. As we will see, not only did location of presses contribute to the expense of books, but it also would ultimately play a role in the war for American independence from Britain.

William Turner would not have been able to buy an edition of Burkitt’s Notes produced on American soil, because it would have bankrupted any American printer who tried. The principle reason that it would have been too expensive was its size. In 1760s America, print sellers had just gotten to the point at which they could comfortably sell small items like pamphlets and newspapers without going into debt.[3] Anything larger had to come from London, where printing was a huge business that employed dozens of people at any press. Even then, books would take such a long time to produce that booksellers typically had to sell their wares via subscription. When it started to become economically viable to print books in America, booksellers did the same thing, including in Virginia. Not only did production time dictate the necessity of setting up subscriptions for books, but even with well-funded subscribers it was very difficult for publishers to make a profit from selling especially large books, due to the limitations of the relatively small-scale printing presses of America.[4] Here is an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette, a notable colonial newspaper begun in 1736 by the printer William Parks, who had been born in England but moved to the colonies and made it a mission to establish colonial newspapers that could be political as well as informative.[5] The advertisement dates from September 26, 1771, two years and a few months after Turner bought his copy of Burkitt in Colchester.

Robert Bell's advertisment in Rind's edition of the Virginia Gazette, September 26, 1771. Courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

This notice advertises for books produced by an American publisher, Robert Bell, on American soil and with American paper. Bell outlines how much buyers would save by subscribing to his books rather than purchasing ones made in Britain.

Even so, the first edition of William Burkitt’s Notesto be produced in America would not come for another 20 years. Making anything hundreds of pages long was an enormous risk, even after the colonies achieved independence. The first successful print run of Burkitt’s commentary in America was not until 1794, in New Haven, Connecticut.[6]

In 1794, the first American printing of William Burkitt's Expository Notes... was printed in New Haven, Connecticut. Image courtesy of Hathi Trust Digital Library.

However, even after this first native success, the risk was not over. Would-be publishers Dunning and Hyer, who traveled between New York and Philadelphia, learned this the hard way while trying to print Burkitt’s book in 1796. Even selling subscriptions and printing sections in parts, they only managed to print one volume before the entire venture failed. The pages that Dunning and Hyer printed were eventually reused for later editions, as discovered by the Library Company of Philadelphia when they researched one of their holdings of Burkitt’s work.[7] It seems like a sad end for Dunning and Hyer’s venture, but it was notable that such risks were taken for Burkitt’s book. This attempt, along with the expense of William Turner’s account, shows us that it must have been a precious object to many Americans. Here ends the story of how Burkitt’s work made it across the ocean into American homes, but there’s another story to be told in the next post, about the how the book trade got embroiled in the struggle for American independence from Great Britain.

[1] Leslie Stephen [and Sidney Lee], eds., Dictionary of National Biography [New York: Macmillan, Smith, Elder & Co., 1886], accessed February 9, 2014,

[2] William B. Edgar, “Some Popular Books in Colonial South Carolina,” The South Carolina Historical Magazine 72 (July 1971): 174.

[3] William S. Reese, “The First Hundred Years of Printing in British North America: Printers and Collectors,” William Reese Company, accessed February 9, 2014,

[4] Reese, Ibid.

[5] Patricia Ann Carlson, “William Parks, Colonial Printer, to Dr. Charles Carroll,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 86 (1978): 408.

[6] OCLC WorldCat, accessed February 9, 2014,

[7] The Annual Report of the Library Company of Philadelphia for the Year 1990, accessed February 9, 2014,

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Spotlight On: Volunteer Kevin Gushman

Molly Kerr / Digital Humanities Program Manager

Kevin Gushman began transcribing in 2012.  I’ve enjoyed working with her because of her background in words and she has helped me find the definitions to some of the more obscure ones.  Working electronically means you don’t always get a sense of who someone is:  I have especially enjoyed Kevin’s sense of humor as it shines brightly in all her correspondence and she is a pleasure to work with! 

When I asked her to answer a few questions about her experience volunteering with us, here are her responses.

What interested you in the Glassford & Henderson Transcription Project?  How did you hear about it?  Why did you want to be involved? 

I’ve been a member of the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Archaeological Society of Virginia for several years and have volunteered in the lab.  The transcription project was announced in a meeting of the NVC-ASV and I thought it sounded really interesting and a lot of fun.

What is your background?  How has this project been different from or complimentary to what you have done (do) as your career? 

I taught middle school reading for 5 years and high school English and Latin for 30 years and retired in July 2012.  I still meet weekly with a group which translates the works of Latin authors and read them aloud “as though they were English”.  Sometimes we find that work very easy and other times it is almost impossible.  That’s how I would describe transcription and teaching as well.

What has been the most challenging part about transcribing?

Adjusting to the different alphabets and to the different patterns of the storekeepers.

What has been the most interesting thing you have learned? 

I’ve always loved Mt. Vernon and reading these ledgers has increased that love and when the ASV meetings feature updates on the dig at Colchester, I can really see the buckles, “potts”, and pewter that are in the ledgers.

Do you have a favorite account?  Whose was it?  Why did you like it? 

I like the Alexander Henderson pages because his were the first ones that finally made sense to me and because he was so young to have this much responsibility.

Alexander Henderson’s expenses/debits from his Colchester Store account for 1765/1766

Alexander Henderson's income/credits from his Colchester Store account for 1765/1766








When you tell people what you are doing, what do you like to share about the project?  What has been the reaction? 

Most of my friends know that I love crossword and jigsaw puzzles and they all think that Latin is just one big puzzle so they see this as another way for me to enjoy puzzles and to visit the history of the 1700s.

Would you recommend the project to other people?  Why?

Yes, but I would warn them that they will get hooked on the ledgers and start thinking of these shoppers as old friends.

Anything else you would like to share…?

I couldn’t have done one thing on this project without Molly Kerr’s eternal patience and wisdom.  This is a huge effort involving many people and it takes someone who is patient and understands that we transcribers don’t think in terms of shillings, silver, gold or tobacco weights when we go shopping!

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The Hidden Treasure of Rokeby

Katherine Bowers / University of Central Florida / Fall 2013

Transcription work can be described as fascinating for a history major.  Being able to work with primary sources such as items original to the 18th century is spectacular, but the most fascinating aspect is being given the opportunity to glimpse into 18th-century humanity.  Observing what an average colonial American from the mid-1700s bought or sold on a monthly basis can help peel away the layers to produce a more personal encounter with the past.  Some lines from the Glassford & Henderson ledgers will allow you to start asking questions about who that person was, their profession, their reputation in the community, and what happened to them.  This curiosity bloomed when I was transcribing Charles Binns’ accounts.

The 'forgd' bill from Charles Binns's Account.

I came across an entry for November 10, 1767, that read, “To Cash paid on the 3d to the Secretary in lieu of a forg’d [forged] Bill sent by you to him £10..0..0”, which immediately sparked my interest.  I came to realize a forged bill could have two very different meanings: either meaning the bill was a counterfeit or that the bill was created through multiple parties.[1]  My initial curiosity quickly led to something far more intriguing than the “forg’d Bill”; I discovered Rokeby.

Rokeby, located in Leesburg, Virginia. Photo courtesy of the Virginia Department of Historic Resources - National Register nomination.

Rokeby, located near Leesburg, Virginia, was built around the 1760s by Charles Binns and was the epitome of a colonial home styled with Georgian features.[2]  He was the first county clerk of Loudoun County, Virginia, and kept all the county archives secured in a vault at Rokeby.[3]  He worked for Loudoun County for 43 years from the comfort of Rokeby and it is speculated he retired due to the new clerk’s offices and archives built in Leesburg.[4]  After Charles Binns retired; his son, Charles Binns Jr., proceeded to become the next county clerk of Loudoun County.[5]  After Binns passed away, another son, William Binns, inherited Rokeby.  Under William Binns’s ownership, Rokeby played host to three of America’s greatest treasures.[6]

Thirty years after the end of the American Revolution, the United States was entangled in another war with the British.  In the fall of 1814, the capitol was under siege.[7]  James Monroe, the Secretary of State, ordered that a clerk, Stephen Pleasington, take three monumentally significant documents out of the capitol.[8]  The plan was originally to store the documents at a mill, but Stephen Pleasington felt it was unsafe and transported them to Rokeby, which was 35 miles away from the danger lurking at the capital.[9]  It is at the vault in Rokeby where the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Articles of Confederation were kept safe during the attack on the nation’s capital.[10]  From my research, it appears this was the only time those documents were ever stored in a private residence.

The vault found in the cellar at Rokeby. Photo courtesy of Steve DeCata and the Mosby Heritage Area Association.

Rokeby has an amazing story, one that seems to have evaded the minds of most Americans. Before transcribing the Glassford & Henderson ledgers, I was unaware that during the War of 1812 a private residence housed America’s greatest treasures. By researching Charles Binns, I not only gained information into his family history but that of the State and Nation. It makes one wonder what other treasures or anecdotes are waiting to be discovered through these documents.

[1] “Forge,”, accessed November 4, 2013,

[2] “National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form,” Virginia Department of Historic Resources, accessed November 4, 2013, Nomination.pdf.

[3] “Brief History,” Loudoun County Circuit Archives, accessed November 2, 2013, Brochure.PDF.

[4] “History of the Archives,” Loudoun County, VA, accessed November 4, 2013,

[5] Stevan F. Meserve, The Civil War in Loudoun County, Virginia: A History of Hard Times (Charleston: The History Press, 2008), 12.

[6] Virginia Department of Historic Resources, “National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form.”

[7] Calder Loth, The Virginia Landmarks Register (University of Virginia, 1999), 275.

[8] Virginia Department of Historic Resources, “National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form.”

[9] Virginia Department of Historic Resources, “National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form.”

[10]Loth, The Virginia Landmarks Register, 275.


“Brief History.” Loudoun County Circuit Archives. Accessed November 4, 2013. Brochure.PDF.

“Forge.” Accessed November 15, 2013.

Henderson, Alexander, et al.  Ledger 1767-1768 Colchester, Virginia, Folio XXXX.  From the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Microfilm Reel 60 (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

“History of the Archives.” Loudoun County, VA. Accessed November 4, 2013.

“Inside Vault at Rokeby.”   Moseby Heritage Area Association, Star Spangled Banner Gallery.  Accessed February 10, 2014.

Loth, Calder. The Virginia Landmarks Register. 4th ed. University of Virginia, 1999.

Meserve, Stevan F. The Civil War in Loudoun County, Virginia: A History of Hard Times. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2008.

“National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form.” Virginia Department of Historic Resources. Accessed November 4, 2013. Nomination.pdf.

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An 18th-Century Love Affair?

Kyle Messamore / University of Central Florida / Fall 2013

One of my favorite things to do is people watch.  I love letting my imagination run wild creating stories about people and their lives.  Little did I know that it would be possible to people watch while transcribing store ledgers from the 18thcentury.  At first, I did not pay much attention to the lives of the individuals I was transcribing, however, my imagination ran wild when I came across a widowed Mrs. Mason.  What grabbed my attention was when I noted a fellow by the name of Hector Ross depositing £4..3..1 ½ (4 pounds, 3 shillings, and 1 ½ pence) into her account.  My love for dramatics was further fueled when I noted that on the same day Hector Ross made the deposit, Mrs. Mason purchased a pair

Colchester Ledger 1767/1768, Folio 223

Mrs. Mason's Expenses. Ledger 1767-1768 Colchester, Virginia, Folio 223D. From the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Microfilm Reel 60 (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association).

of calamanco pumps.  As if that were not juicy enough, my mind really went wild with this story when 12 days later, Mrs. Mason returned the shoes to the Colchester store!

Colchester Ledger 1767/1768, Folio 223

Mrs. Mason's Credits. Ledger 1767-1768 Colchester, Virginia, Folio 223C. From the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Microfilm Reel 60 (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association).

I immediately composed this rather dramatic story chronicling Mrs. Mason’s life soon after her husband’s passing.  I fantasized that she had found another suitor, but then began to have second thoughts.  After I let my mind run wild for a while, I found myself asking, “Was it plausible for the two to have really had a love affair?”  It was this question combined with the fact that the historical record for women is severely lacking/limited that made me decide to look into Hector Ross.  It just so happens that he shows up quite frequently in the historic record of Virginia because he was a merchant in Colchester.  One with ties to Alexander Henderson and George Washington, whom he was known to have purchased tobacco and Indian corn from.[1]

Aside from the common purchases of tobacco and other crops, Hector Ross was also constantly purchasing and reselling land; some of which still has ties to him today.  Ross once owned 960 acres of what is the present-day Laurel Hill Park in Fairfax County, Virginia.[2]  He sold the 960 acres in two separate transactions to William Lindsay. The first transaction was for 303 acres in 1787, and the second was for 657 acres in 1790.[3]  Another location with ties to Hector Ross is the Fairfax Arms.  The Fairfax Arms was a tavern that operated within the town of Colchester and is now a private residence on the state historic register.  Hector Ross purchased the Fairfax Arms in 1772 from Benjamin Grayson, and a year later sold it to Alexander Henderson who likely ran a postal business out of the building with fellow postmaster (and later purchaser) William Thompson.[4]

Colchester Inn (also known as the Fairfax Arms), Fairfax County, VA. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

As if land and crops were not enough, Hector Ross also purchased and sold slaves.  We see these deals occurring quite frequently with John Ballendine.  John Ballendine was responsible for building a canal in Seneca Falls, New York, and upon completion of this project in May, 1767, he sold 41 slaves to Hector Ross.[5]   It appears that selling his slaves was not enough to make Ballendine debt free to Ross, for on August 30, 1770, Ross advertised in the Virginia Gazette for the sale of seventeen slaves and 400 acres of land that were a “part of the estate of John Ballendine, and sold to satisfy a debt due to Hector Ross.”[6]

Virginia Gazette Advertisement

Hector Ross advertises the sale of slaves in the Virginia Gazette. Virginia Gazette (Purdie & Dixon), August 30, 1770, pp. 4, courtesy of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation..

Clearly, Hector Ross was doing well for himself, so much so that he fell into the gentry class, which means he was expected to hold a position in government.  His name appears on a list of justices and judges of Fairfax County four times as a “Gentleman Justice” (which was the colonial equivalent to a magistrate) between the years of 1762 and 1770. Ross appears next to other prestigious members of the county during the eighteenth century such as George Washington and Alexander Henderson.[7]

With all this information in mind let us go back to my initial question, “Was it possible that Mrs. Mason had a love affair with Hector Ross?”  I would have to say that the odds are extremely unlikely (much to my disappointment).  Hector Ross was first and foremost a merchant; one could even argue he was a workaholic.  I say this because upon his death according to Edith Moore Sprouse, “No mention was made of a family, but Hector Ross seems to have left a spotless reputation behind him.”[8]  This leads me to believe that Hector Ross was strictly a businessman who wanted no distractions, and the only love affair he ever had was with his work.

So, if a love affair did not occur, what then was the relationship between the two?  Chances are that in this credit-based economy, the Masons provided something to Hector Ross, and he was just paying them back shortly after the death of Mrs. Mason’s husband, French Mason.  Just what exactly this something was is not quite clear due to the gaps in the historic record.  The possibilities are quite endless and I encourage you to let your imagination run wild, as I did.  Who knows what you might discover!

[1] “[April 1760],” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed November 19, 2013,

[2] John Milner Associates, INC, “Laurel Hill Cultural Landscape Report.” Fairfax County, pp. 18-19.  Accessed November 19, 2013,

[3] Ibid 18-19.

[4] “National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form.” Virginia Department of Historic Resources, accessed November 19, 2013,

[5] David H. McIntosh, “The Ballendine Canal Colonial America’s First Canal,” pp 17.  Accessed November 19, 2013,

[6] Virginia Gazette, Purdie and Dixon, August 30, 1770  page #4 (accessed November 21, 2013).

[7] Ross D. Netherton and Ruby Waldeck. “The Fairfax County Courthouse,” accessed November 19, 2013,

[8] Edith Moore Sprouse, Colchester: Colonial Port on the Potomac, (Fairfax County of Comprehensive Planning, 1975), 27-29.


Founders Online. “[April 1760].” National Archives. Accessed November 19, 2013.

Henderson, Alexander. et al.  Ledger 1767-1768 Colchester, Virginia, Folio 223D/C.  From the John Glassford and Company Records, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Washington, D.C. Microfilm Reel 60 (owned by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association).

McIntosh, David H. “The Ballendine Canal Colonial America’s First Canal.” Accessed November 19, 2013.

Milner, John Associates, INC. “Laurel Hill Cultural Landscape Report.” Fairfax County. Accessed November 19, 2013.

Netherton, Ross D. and Ruby Waldeck. “The Fairfax County Courthouse.” Accessed November 19, 2013.

Sprouse, Edith Moore. Colchester: Colonial Port on the Potomac. Fairfax County of Comprehensive Planning, 1975.

Virginia Department of Historic Resources. “National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form.” Accessed November 19, 2013.

Virginia Gazette. Purdie and Dixon. August 30, 1770 page #4. November 21, 2013).

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Spotlight On: Volunteer Nicky Resch

Molly Kerr / Digital Humanities Program Manager

While the documents may be fascinating, the people involved with the project are even more so.  I asked several of our long-time volunteers to tell me a little bit more about themselves and their responses will be intermingled with the other posts in the coming months.  Today’s post features Nicky Resch who got started with the project in 2012 around the same time I did.  I have learned much from Nicky and have appreciated her willingness and flexibility to work with me through the project’s initial growing pains. She transcribes, edits, and has even tried her hand at scanning the microfilm.  Nicky graciously took a few minutes to answer questions about her participation in the project.  Here is what she wrote:

The day I was interviewed in the volunteer office I was given a copy of the Volunteer Newsletter (which has since gone electronic).  I noticed a posting by the archaeology department looking for volunteers to work on a transcription project.  The word “Archaeology” immediately lured me to inquire.  I received my transcription manual and my first few pages of a ledger and I was hooked.  It was challenging and interesting and at first I felt like I was doing a puzzle (and I do like puzzles).

I have my degree in Medical Technology and worked for over 20 years for a large HMO as a Laboratory Supervisor for three labs in Virginia.  I was a math and science person and this was a new world for me.

The most challenging part about transcribing has been learning the different handwriting from the teeny, tiny penmanship to the large scrawl.  Luckily there are only about 3 to 4 different people writing in a ledger so they get to be old friends.

I think the most interesting thing I have learned is all of the different business transactions that took place in the store.  It wasn’t just purchasing merchandise but paying rent, paying officer’s fees, the sheriff and the parish.  The store was a hub for many community business activities.

I don’t believe I have a favorite account but I enjoy working on the account of someone I am familiar with like George Mason or a member of the Washington or Fairfax families.  You feel like you are taking a peek into their private lives.

George Mason Account

George Mason's account from the 1765/1766 ledger

When I tell people about my volunteer work I always talk about how interesting it is and that the store was close to my home, followed by how you work at your own pace, in the comfort of your own home.  I think most people are impressed by what I’m doing.  If they express interest I always recommend they get involved.

I have always felt a sense of attachment to three places – Williamsburg, Mount Vernon and Monticello.  Working on this project that Mount Vernon has adopted seems to strengthen that attachment.

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The Glassford & Henderson Project Continues

Molly Kerr / Digital Humanities Program Manager

When we last left you in October, Dr. Lindsay talked about her students’ involvement in the project as the concluding post to many students’ efforts over the year with the Glassford & Henderson Project.  After taking a few months off from posting, we have essays again to share with you.  This series of posts, once again, will highlight the students and e-terns research, but will also feature a few of the hard-working volunteers working with us “just for fun.”

You may have noticed that the earlier entries don’t entirely focus on the material culture found in the ledgers; they also explored the people and places contained within the ledgers.  The trend continues with the upcoming posts.  One of the most fascinating parts of this project is how something as stale and boring as an annual log of purchases becomes something that provides a snapshot into someone’s life.  Imagine in 200 years what looking at your Mint or Quicken records will say about you.  What will future historians and archaeologists discover about your purchase habits, where you lived, where you traveled, how much money you earned, etc., just from looking at your receipts?

To catch you up on all the students’ work last year, we re-launch this occasional series by sharing with you the student essays not specifically featured on the blog.  Take a moment to read about what the students explored as part of their studies into transcribing and the world of merchants in Colchester, Virginia.

UCF Fall 2012 Posts

UCF Spring 2013 Posts

UCF Summer 2013 Posts

UCF Fall 2013 Posts

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