Contributed by Margaret L. Edwards
More history can be found on Col. William
Grayson in a book titled:
William Grayson- a Political Biography of Virginia's First United States
Senator by James E. DuPriest Jr.
Born in Dumfries, Va., in 1736, William was the third son of an Immigrant Scottish merchant. Benjamin, Williams' father, was born in Dumfries, Scotland and then came to settle in Prince William County. In fact, becoming one of the first merchants to settle on Quantico Creek. Williams' mother, Susannah, was the aunt of James Monroe.
As one might suspect, given these backgrounds, the Graysons had social ties to some of the most influential and wealthy families of the day. these ties did much to launch William Grayson into a prominent community leader. Physically, Grayson was over six feet tall and weighed two hundred fifty pounds. He had a large head with a broad and high forehead. He had black hair, black, deep set eyes, a large, curved nose, a well formed mouth which displayed normal white teeth which remained healthy throughout his life, and a fine complexion. He was sociable in his disposition and exceedingly agreeable and impressive in conversation.
He graduated at the College of Philadelphia, and studied law at the temple in London County, Virginia. November 11, 1774, he was chosen as theCaptain of the company formed in Prince William County, Virgina during the Revolution. On one occasion in April,1775, Lord Dunmore was removed of powder from the public Magazine at Williamsburg and of Patrick Henry extorting from him its value in money, a meeting was held at Dumfries, at which Capt. Grayson was the leader, which passed resolutions of thanks to Mr.Henry for his spiritel and patriotic conduct. During this time a proposal was sent to Capt. Grayson by the Independent Company of Spottsylvania County, for the Companies to join together, and to procede to Williamsburg. Captain Grayson uniting with Mr. Lee, an officer and member of the Company, immediately submitted the question to the field officer of the Independent Companies as follows:
April 22, 1775.
We have just received a letter from the officers of the Independent Company of Spottsylvania, which is here with enclosed. We immediately called together this Company, and the vote put whether they would march to Williamsburg for the purpose mentioned in that letter, which was carried unanimously.
We have nothing more to add but that we are well assured you may depend on them for that or any other service which respects the liberties of America. We expect your answer and determination by Mr. Davess.
We have the honor to be
Your obt Sevts.
By order of the Company William Grayson,
to Col. Geo. Washington
The day after Gen. Washington received from Congress his commission appointing him Commander in Chief of all the forces raised or to be raised in the American Colonies. It was said that Mt. Vernon and Dumfries were close enough for visiting often between Genl. Washington and Rev. Spence Grayson and Col. Wm. Grayson well at their respective houses as at others in the neighborhood. In Genl. Washington's diary Col. Grayson is frequently mentioned as a guest at Mt.Vernon, and as partaking with Genl. Washington in his favorite recreation of hunting. This may account in part for the maner in which Col. Grayson makes his first appearance on the theatre of the Revolution.
Aug. 24, 1776
Headqtrs New York
The General Washington has appointed William Grayson one of his Aids de Camp. He is to be obeyed and respected accordingly.
The battle of long Island was then impending and was fought three days after the date of this order. Col. Wm. Grayson crossed over to Brooklyn with General Washington while the action was going on and was employed by him with others after it ceased in reconnoitering along the line of the East river to enable him to effect a safe retreat from the immediate front of the victorious enemy. There are always in every Army buoyant and irrepressiable minds to sustain and cheer, either from policy or temperament, the spirit of their associates droop in from disasters, or exhausted from action and fatigue. Col. Wm. Grayson was firm. Col. Wm. Grayson was in the battle of White Plains and traditior states commanded a column. He was a aid de Camp to Genl. Washington from Oct. 3, to Dec. 15, 1776.
After the adoption of the Constitution of the United States Col. Wm .Grayson was elected as one of the two first Senators from Virginia -Richard Henry Lee being the other. In Congress Wm. Grayson had an opportunity to watch the working of things, and recognized the contradictions involved in a union of States so diverse as the Northern and Southern States. When the first tariff Law was passed, he noticed its tendency to advance the interests of the commercial States, and predicted that the South would prove "the milch cow of the Union"-a prediction more than verified by subsequent events. Wm. Grayson did not live long after the close of the session September 29, 1789, He went home in a low state of health and died at Dumfries March12, 1790, at the age of sixty-four, and was interred in the family vault at "Belle Air." He was regarded as a man of the first order of talent, and was a leader of men.
This article was published in May, 1996 newsletter.
Sources: William Grayson -An Overview of the life of one of Virginia's First United States Senators Marilyn Nehring
Born in dumfries, Virginia in 1736, William was the third son of an immigrant Scottish merchant. Benjamin, Williams' father, was born in Dumfries, Scotland and then came to settle in Prince William County. In fact, becoming one of the first merchants to settle on Quantico Creek. Williams' mother, Susannah, was the aunt of James Monroe.
As one might suspect, given these backgrounds, the Grayson had social ties to some of the most influential and wealthy families of the day. These ties did much to launch William Grayson into a prominent community leader. Physically, Grayson was over six feet tall and weighed two hundred fifty pounds. He had a large head with a broad and high forehead. He had black hair, black, deep set eyes, a large, curved nose, a well formed mouth which displayed normal whit teeth which remained healthy throughout his life, and a fine complexion.
Upon his father's death, 16 year old William inherited approximately 2800 acres, divided between Prince William and Loudoun counties, 20 slaves, a share of his fathers large personal estate, and 500 pounds in cash. Reportedly Grayson's holdings were one fourth or one fifth larger than that of George Washington. While Washington took on many jobs to add wealth to his estate and was a penny pincher, Grayson seemed to have no compunction about spending money. account records show he once spent 8 pounds on horse races, raffles, and at ordinaries in Alexandria, Dumfries, and Colchester.
After graduating college in 1760, William went on to the study of law. By 1765, he had obtained one of the finest education available for that time. During the years the colonies were beginning to head toward a revolution, Grayson spent much of his time building a successful law practice in Dumfries. Many clients were neighbors and friends as well as prominent clients such as Robert Carter and George Washington. As a lawyer, Grayson had a reputation second to none and was very well respected.
As a concerned and responsible community member, Grayson served as a county committee member and Captain of the local militia, but his real desire was to be in the continental service. Resigning his command in the Virginia forces, he became Washingtons' personal secretary. Two months later he became aide-de-camp to Washington and 5 months later took command of one of the 16 Continental regiments. After a bloody battle at Monmouth, New Jersey that virtually destroyed his entire regiment, Grayson resigned to accept a seat on the Board of War. Buried in paperwork and often involved in the settling of petty disputes among the ranks, Grayson ended his Board job and returned home to Dumfries in 1781.
Apparently his service in Philadelphia agreed with him, upon returning to Dumfries and resuming his law practice Grayson was said to have been the handsomest and most cultured man in the state of Virginia. He was also said to have had a wit that was unsurpassed in its humor. His hospitality was generous and lavish. He was a fox hunter with no superior and no equal. Grayson was a true Scot in every fiber of his being, except in religion. He was a devout member of the Established Church of England, indeed, his brother Spence was a priest, a vestry member of St. George's Parish in Spotslvania County and a member of the old Pohick Church as well as their chosen attorney.
William Grayson spent the next three years, as did many of his contemporaries, acquiring and managing land. It was during this time in Virginia that nearly every ambitious citizen was consumed with the lust for land. As a property owner in Dumfries, Grayson had twelve lots in 1779 numbered 92-103. He wanted to use this land for pasturage, but could not because the property was within the town limits. Grayson filed a petition with the Virginia General Assembly in 1779 requesting that the property be severed from the town. Whether, due to Grayson's war record or the fact that he was so well known and respected, the proprietors in Dumfries signed his petition and the General Assembly passed the act. Not just passed the act, but the assembly deemed the town of Dumfries recent permission to add adjoining land into the town limits would not be applicable to Grayson's property. Though certainly not a poor man, Grayson never qualified as a great land baron.
Grayson married Eleanor Smallwood of Maryland. Her father, Bayne Smallwood, was merchant and planter, her mother was Priscilla Heabard of Virginia, whose family was very well to do. The Grayson had four sons, Frederick, George, Robert, Alfred, and one daughter, Hebe.
1785 saw eleven of the states sending delegations to congress and not to be left behind, Virginia, appointed four men to carry the burden of representing their state: Samuel Hardy, Richard Henry Lee, James Monroe, and William Grayson.
William Grayson and James Monroe were hardly strangers to one another. being cousins, they grew up together, became soldiers together, lawyers together, legislators together in the Virginia House of Delegates, served in the Continental Congress and served at the Virginia convention to ratify the U. S. constitution. If ever two men thought the same, it was these two cousins.
Grayson was deeply involved in some of the most significant legislation of the new nation. but by July 1776, he suffered an intense attack of gout and in September, he went to meet Mrs. Grayson in Philadelphia to relax from business. Meanwhile, in Virginia, Grayson was appointed to serve as trustee for two new towns to be established near Dumfries. The first town, Newport, was to be located at the entrance to Quantico Creek on the Potomac River. The second town, Carborough, to be located on the south side of the entrance to Quantico Creek on the Potomac River. Although neither town materialized, this again indicates Graysons high standing in the community.
After completing a fourth term in Congress Grayson was now suffering severely with gout. He was almost constantly attended to by a negro man, Punch, who used to rub Grayson's feet while he reclined on the bed. The gout now being chronic, Grayson died March 12, 1790. He left and estate valued at 1,111 pounds, 8 shillings. Only one paragraph long, his will states that his estate be divided equally among his children, and that all his slaves, born since America received its Independence, be freed.
Grayson County, Virginia, formed in 1792, was named after William Grayson. The State of Kentucky also named its fifty-fourth county after Grayson in 1810. The Virginia Herald and Fredericksburg Advertiser wrote this epitaph in Grayson's obituary:
"His abilities were equaled by few;
"His integrity surpassed by none."
William Grayson Memorial Bandstand
The bandstand in Merchant Park was erected by the Prince William County Historical Commission in memory of William Grayson, one of Virginia's first senators and illustrious citizen of Dumfries, Virginia. The memorial bandstand was dedicated on July 10, 1976 (American Independence Bicentennial) at the Dumfries Liberty Day celebration by Senator William Scott of Virginia.
The memorial bandstand is equipped with sound and light facilities. There is a concrete apron in front for use as a stage.
Stirred by patriotic fervor, Grayson became involved in revolutionary activity by serving as Captain of the Prince William Independent Company of Cadets and on the Prince William County Committee of Safety.
He fought at the battles of Monmouth, White Plains, Brandywine, and Germantown. The battle of Monmouth is significant. Grayson was called upon to testify, at the court martial of Major General Charles Lee, about the confusion during that battle.
George Washington, destined to become the nation's first president under the Constitution, prevailed upon his long-time friend, Colonel Grayson, to help heal the wounds of the struggle to secure ratification by running for election to the First congress. He was elected as one of Virginia's first senators along with Richard Henry Lee. on November 8, 1788. He served in this capacity until his death. His remains were buried in the family vault at the home of his brother, the Reverend Spence Grayson, near Woodbridge.