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Alexander Spotswood
Alexander Spotswood by Charles Bridges (Colonial Williamsburg copy).jpg
Portrait (1736) by Charles Bridges. Collection of Colonial Williamsburg
Born c. 1676
English Tangier, Morocco
Died June 7, 1740(1740-06-07) (aged 64)
Annapolis, Ann Arundel, Maryland
Residence Governor's Palace, Williamsburg, Colony of Virginia
Spouse(s) Butler Brayne (m. 172540)
  • John M. Spotswood
  • Anne Catherine Spotswood
  • Dorothea Spotswood
  • Robert Spotswood
  • Robert Spottiswoode and
  • Catharine Maxwell
Assinatura de Spotswood.jpg

Alexander Spotswood (c. 1676 – 6 June 1740) was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army and a noted Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. He is noted in Virginia and American history for a number of his projects as Governor, including his exploring beyond the Blue Ridge Mountains, his establishing what was perhaps the first colonial iron works, and his negotiating the Treaty of Albany with the Iroquois Nations of New York.


Early life[edit]

Alexander Spotswood was born in the Colony of Tangier, Morocco, about 1676 to Catharine (née Maxwell, c. 1638 - December 1709) and her second husband, Dr. Robert Spottiswoode (17 September 1637 - 1680), the Chirurgeon (Surgeon) to the Tangier Garrison.

Through his father, Alexander was a grandson of Judge Robert Spottiswoode (1596–1646), a great-grandson of Archbishop John Spottiswoode (1565–1639), and a descendant of King Robert II of Scotland through the 2nd Earls of Crawford.[1] Alexander's older half-brother (by his mother's first marriage to George Elliott) was Roger Elliott (c. 1655 - 15 May 1714), who became one of the first Governors of Gibraltar. Following the death of Robert Spotswood, his mother married thirdly, Reverend Dr. George Mercer, the Garrison's Schoolmaster.

On 20 May 1693, Alexander became an Ensign in the Earl of Bath's Regiment of Foot. He was commissioned in 1698, and promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel in 1703. He was appointed Quartermaster-General of the Duke of Marlborough's army the same year, and was wounded at the Battle of Blenheim the following year.

Lieutenant Governor of Virginia[edit]

In 1710, Alexander was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, under the nominal governorship of George Hamilton, 1st Earl of Orkney. He was the first to occupy the new Governors Mansion, which many citizens thought overly extravagant (its 20th-century reconstruction is now one of the principal landmarks in Colonial Williamsburg). in 1711, he intervened in Cary's Rebellion in North Carolina, sending a contingent of Royal Marines from the Chesapeake to put down the rebellion. A Tobacco Act requiring the inspection of all tobacco intended for export or for use as legal tender was passed in 1713. The next year, he founded the First Germanna Colony, and regulated trade with native Americans at another of his pet projects, Fort Christanna. In 1715, he bought 3229 acres (13 km²) at Germanna.

In 1716 he led the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition up the Rappahannock River valley and across the Blue Ridge Mountains at Swift Run Gap into the Shenandoah Valley to expedite settlement. The following year saw the foundation of the Second Germanna Colony and the Repeal of regulation of trade with native Americans. A Third Germanna Colony followed in 1719, and Germanna was made the seat of Spotsylvania County the following year.

Between 1716 and 1720, Spotswood built the Tubal Works. It had a cold blast-charcoal blast furnace which produced pig iron, and probably a finery forge. (It is the site of the 19th-century Scotts Ironworks). It operated for about 40 years. Pig iron from Tubal is in the collections of the Fredericksburg Area Museum and the NPS (Spotsylvania Courthouse). Tubal Works iron was exported to England by 1723.[2] In May of the same year, Gov. Drysdale reported to the Lords of Trade that Spotswood was selling "backs and frames for Chumnies, Potts, doggs, frying, stewing, and backing panns" at auction in Williamsburg.

Around 1732 at Massaponax, Spotswood built what may have been the first purpose-built foundry in the British North American Colonies. This was a double-air furnace (usually used to make cannon) and was used to recast pig iron produced at Tubal into final shapes (kettles, andirons, firebacks, etc. and possibly cannon). Neither of Spotswood's iron operations were at Germanna. Spotswood was not, as is commonly believed, involved in the Fredericksville Furnace.[3]

In the fall of 1718, Spotswood engaged in a clandestine expedition by privately hiring two sloops, Jane and Ranger, and a number of Royal Navy men to seek out the pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach). On 18 November 1718, Lt. Robert Maynard sailed from Hampton, Virginia to Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina. On 22 November 1718, Maynard and his men defeated Blackbeard and the pirates. On 24 November 1718, two days after Blackbeard's death, Spotswood issued a proclamation at the Assembly in Williamsburg offering reward for any who brought Teach and the other pirates to justice.

Spotswood worked to make a Treaty with the Iroquois through their meeting in Albany, New York during 1721. It was an attempt to end the raids between the Iroquois and Catawba that endangered settlers in the Shenandoah Valley. The Iroquois agreed to stay north of the Potomac and west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The agreement was renewed the next year.

Spotswood completed the Governor's palace in 1722, when he was recalled from the lieutenant governorship and replaced by Hugh Drysdale. Throughout his career, Spotswood had maintained an adversarial relationship with the Virginia Council, especially its most prominent member, James Blair. As the Bishop of London's representative in the colony, the President of the College of William and Mary, and a councilman in Virginia's highest legislative body, Blair was arguably the most powerful man in the colony. He successfully orchestrated the recall of three royally appointed governors, including Alexander Spotswood.

Later life[edit]

The latter entered private life with 80,000 acres (324 km²) in Spotsylvania and three iron furnaces.

Returning to London, Spotswood married Butler Brayne in March 1724/1725, but was back at the 'Enchanted Castle', Germanna, by 1729. He served as Deputy Postmaster General from 1730 to 1739, and died on 7 June 1740 at Annapolis, Maryland.


Martha Hale Dandridge, great-granddaughter of Alexander Spotswood and wife of William Winston Fontaine, grandson of Virginia governor and patriot Patrick Henry

On 11 March 1724/1725 at St Marylebone Parish Church, London, Spotswood married Anne Butler Brayne (known as Butler Brayne) and had four children by her:

  1. John Spotswood (1725 – 6 May 1756), who married in 1745 Mary Dandridge (a cousin of Martha Washington), daughter of William Dandridge, Esq., of Elsing Green, King William Co., Va, a Captain in the British Navy. Colonel John Spotswood is buried in the Memorial Garden adjoining the Germanna Foundation Visitor Center. His son Brig. Gen. Alexander Spotswood of the 2nd Virginia Regiment married to Elizabeth Washington - a daughter of Augustine Washington, Jr, President George Washington's older half-brother – a niece of George Washington.
  2. Anne Catherine Spotswood (1728[4]c. 1802), who married Col. Bernard Moore, Esq., of Chelsea, King William Co., Va, a gentleman seventh in descent from Sir Thomas More, of Chelsea, England, the author of Utopia, and was an ancestor of Robert E. Lee [1] and Helen Keller.
  3. Dorothea Spotswood (c. 1729 – 23 Sep 1773), who married in 1747 Col. Nathaniel West Dandridge. He was Mary Dandridge's brother and a son of William Dandridge, Esq., of Elsing Green, King William Co., Va. Their daughter, Dorothea Spottswood Dandridge, married Patrick Henry, and they had 11 children. Their son, Nathaniel West Dandridge II married Sallie Watson, and their daughter Martha Hale Dandridge married her cousin William Winston Fontaine, grandson of Patrick Henry.[5]
  4. Robert Spotswood (c. 1732 – 1758), who was a subaltern officer under Washington. In 1758, while with a scouting party, he was killed near Fort Duquesne.


  • Will PRO - PROB 1/13;
  • Official Letters (ed. by R. A. Brock, 2 vol., 1882–85);
  • "CARRIED ON AT A VERY GREAT EXPENSE AND NEVER PRODUCED ANY PROFIT" THE ALBEMARLE IRON WORKS (1770–72) by James H. Brothers IV (2002) unpublished MA for the Anthropology Department of The College of William and Mary.
  • Biographies by Walter Havighurst (1968) and L. Dodson (1932, repr. 1969).

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

For additional information on the early US Iron Industry see American Iron 1607-1900 by Robert Gordon, The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Spotswood — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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63 news items

BBC History Magazine (blog)

BBC History Magazine (blog)
Tue, 01 Dec 2015 04:00:00 -0800

Alexander Spotswood, Governor of Virginia, was not amused at the thought of partying pirates living next door. He decided to take pre-emptive action to protect his citizens, just in case the pirates decided to go on the rampage. Although Carolina was ...

The Daily Progress

The Daily Progress
Sat, 01 Aug 2015 11:45:00 -0700

Alexander Spotswood selected the name "Germanna" to represent the German settlers who arrived in 1714 and the British queen, Anne. Iron workers and miners from Siegerland comprised the first wave of settlers, about 40 people who arrived by ship near ...
The Daily Progress
Thu, 03 Sep 2015 04:15:00 -0700

A record of local culture is also represented in the partially reconstructed 1733 “cube” patent house originally built on land leased by Alexander Spotswood. There are also fine examples of evolving modes of transportation: a lady's side-saddle ...

West Virginia MetroNews

West Virginia MetroNews
Fri, 01 May 2015 08:33:45 -0700

The Golden Horseshoe gets its origin from the early colony of Virginia when Gov. Alexander Spotswood saw the need for exploration of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains, which later became the State of West Virginia. Spotswood gave each member of ...


Tue, 01 Sep 2015 11:35:30 -0700

a county that stretched past the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was named for Alexander Spotswood, lieutenant governor of the colony from 1710–1720. 1728. The city of Fredericksburg was formed from the county. Spotsylvania's many historic places include the ...

The Daily Progress

The Daily Progress
Thu, 30 Jul 2015 03:30:00 -0700

Alexander Spotswood. The name represents the German settlers who arrived in 1714 and the British Queen, Anne. The first wave of German settlers consisted of iron workers and miners from the Siegerland area of Germany. About 40 people arrived on the ...

NBC4 Washington

NBC4 Washington
Thu, 07 May 2015 13:15:00 -0700

Alexander Spotswood (1710-1722). Visitors can join Blackbeard's funeral procession and share in the treasure chest booty. And it wouldn't be a pirate party without ships. This year's festival welcomes three tall ships, MEKA II, Bonny Rover and Serenity.


Thu, 19 Nov 2015 19:10:15 -0800

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