Byrd, William

Byrd, William, 1674–1744, American colonial writer, planter, and government official; son of William Byrd (1652–1704). After being educated in England, he became active in the politics of colonial America. He served as member of the House of Burgesses, as receiver-general of Virginia, as Virginia council member, and as colonial agent in England. Byrd inherited a great estate from his father and ultimately owned over 179,000 acres (72,000 hectares). In 1737 he had the city that was to be Richmond laid out on one of his estates. His service in 1728 as one of the commissioners to survey the North Carolina–Virginia boundary and his many trips into the backwoods provided the material for much of his writings; A History of the Dividing Line, A Journey to the Land of Eden, and A Progress to the Mines were all based on his diaries. Byrd's polished style and crisp wit, in addition to his valuable record of Southern life, have won him a reputation as one of the foremost colonial authors. At his death he left a library of some 4,000 volumes at his Westover estate.

See his diaries and other writings (1941, 1942, 1970); biography by P. Marambaud (1971).

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