William Byrd: Father of Richmond

The city of Richmond was founded in 1737 by William Byrd, II, who is known as the Father of Richmond.

Byrd, who was also a Colonel, had inherited the land on both sides of the James River from his father (who died when William was only 30) and helped build the city  with his friend, William Mayo, who made a map of Richmond and the first lots were sold. There were only 250 people living in Richmond when it became a town in 1742. Here is an old ad that was run in The Virginia Gazette, April 22, 1737, 4.


THIS is to give Notice, That on the North Side of James River, near the Uppermost Landing, and a little below the Falls, is lately laid off by Major Mayo, a Town, called Richmond, with Streets 65 Feet wide, in a pleasant and healthy Situation, and well supply’d with Springs of good Water. It lies near the Publick Warehouse at Shoccoe‘s, and in the midst of great Quantities of Grain, and all kind of Provisions. The Lots will be granted in Fee Simple, on Condition only of building a House in Three Years Time, of 24 by 16 Feet, fronting within 5 Feet of the Street. The Lots to be rated according to the Convenience of their Situation, and to be sold after this April General Court, by me,

William Byrd.

byrd house

The Byrd House

William’s nickname was the Black Swan, which is perhaps an allusion to birds that he introduced at Westover. He was a lover of books and gathered together in his new home one of the largest libraries in the colonies – over 3600 volumes – of which he was inordinately proud. It contained Bibles in Dutch, Hebrew, Greek and Latin all of which he could read – a mark of his scholarship.


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