Colonel William Byrd II
William Byrd II was born in Henrico County, Virginia in 1674. His parents emigrated to Virginia from England sometime before 1670. When Byrd was seven years old, his parents sent him to England to be educated. He remained there for fifteen years. He had a classical education but then was sent to his father's London business agents to learn about the global commerce in Indian trade and tobacco. Afterwards, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in London.
In his early twenties, Byrd returned to Virginia. He became a very successful planter. At the age of twenty-two he was elected to the House of Burgessess. Later he commanded militias of Charles City County and Henrico County, as well as led surveying expeditions in Virginia's Northern Neck, along the Virginia - North Carolina border, and the area that would become Richmond.
Today, William Byrd is best known as a writer. His diaries from the surveying expedition along the Virginia and North Carolina border read as part travel writing and part novel. There were two versions of the surveying journal. One was apparently intended for print (The History of the Dividing Line) and one for circulation among his friends (The Secret History of the Dividing Line). In both he offered sensitive depictions of the Virginia and North Carolina Indians; described the natural and social features of the land, from the Atlantic shore westward; and a satirical look at the differences between native Virginians and Carolinians.
Danville Historical Society P.O. Box 6 Danville, VA 24543-0006