Home > 001560. William Mayo > The Prose Works of William Byrd of Westover

The Prose Works of William Byrd of Westover

Source: William Byrd, The Prose Works of William Byrd of Westover: Narratives of a Colonial Virginian, edited by Louis B. Wright (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1966), page 41.

[page 41]

[The Secret History of the Line]

The Governor and Council of Virginia in the year 1727 received an express order from His Majesty to appoint commissioners who, in conjunction with others to be named by the government of North Carolina, should run the line betwixt the two colonies.  The rule these gentlemen were directed to go by was a paper of proposals formerly agreed on between the two governors, at that time SPOTSWOOD and EDEN.1 It would be a hard thing to say of so wise a man as Mr. SPOTSWOOD thought himself that he was overreached, but it has appeared upon trial that Mr. EDEN was much better informed how the land lay than he.  However, since the King was pleased to agree to these unequal proposals, the government of Virginia was too dutiful to dispute them.  They therefore appointed Steddy2 and Merryman3 commissioners on the part of Virginia to execute that order and Astrolabe4 and Capricorn5 to be the surveyors […]

1 See the Appendix, pp. 322-336.

2 William BYRD.

3 Boyd (William BYRD’s Histories of the Dividing Line betwixt Virginia and North Carolina, edited by William K. Boyd [Raleigh, N.C., 1929]): “Nathaniel HARRISON (1677-1727) of Wakefield, Surry County, member of the House of Burgesses (1699-1706) and of the Council (1713-1727), County Lieutenant of Surry and Prince George in 1715 and after, and Auditor of Virginia in 1724.”

4 William MAYO.  Boyd: MAYO was “a native of Wiltshire, England, who arrived in Virginia about 1723 from the Barbadoes, whither he had migrated prior to 1712.  During 1717-1721 he made a survey of the Barbadoes and also a map, preserved in the library of King’s College.  He was one of the justices of Goochland County and was very active as a surveyor in that county and the colony at large, laying off for BYRD the City of Richmond and aiding in establishing the boundaries of the Northern Neck.  He died in 1744.  Mayo’s River is named for him.  See Brown’s The CABELLs and Their Kin.”

5 John ALLEN.  Boyd: “See ‘Virginia Council Journals,’ Sept. 12, 1727.  (Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. XXXII, p. 242.)  He was probably that John ALLEN of Surry County who married Elizabeth BASSETT, daughter of William BASSETT of the Virginia Council, and sometime a student of William and Mary.  His will was proved in 1741.  See ‘ALLEN Family of Surry County’ in William and Mary College Quarterly, Vol. VIII, p. 110.”

[page 382]

[from A Journey to the Land of Eden Anno 1733]

12.  […] Here ,at Major MUMFORD’s home, Major MAYO met us, well equipped for a march into the woods, bringing a surveyor’s tent that would shelter a small troop.

[page 388]

19.  […] When we got home, we laid the foundation of two large cities: one at Shacco’s, to be called Richmond, and the other at the point of Appomattox River, to be named Petersburg.  These Major MAYO offered to lay out into lots without fee or reward.  The truth of it is, these two places, being the uppermost landing of James and Appomattox rivers, are naturally intended for marts where the traffic of the outer inhabitants must center.  Thus we did not build castles only, but also cities in the air.

20.  Everything being ready for a march, we left Bluestone Castle about ten.  My company consisted of four gentlemen (namely, Major MAYO, Major MUMFORD, Mr. BANISTER, and Mr. JONES) and five woodsmen, Thomas WILSON, Henry MORRIS, Joseph COLSON, Robert BOLLING, and Thomas HOOPER, four Negroes and three Tuscarora Indians.

[page 392]

24.  […] At the distance of four miles we forded both branches of Forked Creek, which lay within one thousand paces from each other.  My horse fell twice under me but, thank God, without any damage either to himself or his rider; and Major MAYO’s baggage horse rolled down a steep hill and ground all his biscuit to rockahominy.

[page 398]

1.  […]  [We] came upon the Dan, which thereabouts makes but narrow low grounds.  We forded it about a mile and a half to the westward of the place where the Irwin runs into it.  When we were over, we determined to ride down the river on that side and for three miles found the high land come close down to it, pretty barren and uneven.

But then on a sudden the scene changed, and we were surprised with an opening of large extent where the Sauro Indians once lived, who had been a considerable nation […] The river is about eighty yards wide, always confined within its lofty banks and rolling down its waters, as sweet as milk and as clear as crystal.  There runs a charming level of more than a mile square that will bring forth like the lands of Egypt, without being overflowed once a year.  There is scarce a shrub in view to intercept your prospect but grass as high as a man on horseback.  Toward the woods there is a gentle ascent till your sight is intercepted by an eminence that overlooks the whole landscape.  This sweet place is bounded to the east by a fine stream called Sauro Creek, which, running out of the Dan and tending westerly, makes the whole a peninsula.

I could not quit this pleasant situation without regret but often faced about to take a parting look at it as far as I could see, and so indeed did all the rest of the company.  But at last we left it quite out of sight and continued our course down the river till where it intersects my back line, which was about five miles below Sauro Town […]

2.  We awaked early from these innocent dreams and took our way

[page 399]

along my back line till we came to the corner of it.  From thence we slanted to the country line and kept down that as far as the next fording place of the river, making in the whole eighteen miles […]

On every rising ground we faced about to take our leave of the mountains, which still showed their towering heads.  The ground was uneven, rising into hills and sinking into valleys great part of the way, but the soil was good, abounding in most places with a greasy black mold.  We took up our quarters on the western bank of the river where we had forded it at our coming up […]

3.  The fine season continuing, we made the most of it by leaving our quarters as soon as possible.  We began to measure and mark the bounds of Major MAYO’s land on the south of the country line.  In order to do this, we marched round the bent of the river, but, he being obliged to make a traverse, we could reach no farther than four miles.

[page 400]

In the distance of about a mile from where we lay, we crossed Cliff Creek, which confined its stream within such high banks that it was difficult to find a passage over.  We kept close to the river, and two miles farther came to Hix’s Creek, where abundance of canes lay dry and prostrate on the ground, having suffered in the late septennial slaughter of that vegetable.

A mile after that we forded another stream, which we called Hatcher Creek, from two Indian traders of that name who used formerly to carry goods to the Sauro Indians […]

The Major took in a pretty deal of rich low ground into his survey, but unhappily left a greater quantity out, which proves the weakness of making entries by guess.

We found the Dan fordable hereabouts in most places […]

4.  I caused the men to use double diligence to assist Major MAYO in fixing the bounds of his land, because he had taken a great deal of pains about mine.  We therefore mounted our horses as soon as we had swallowed our breakfast.  Till that is duly performed, a woodsman makes a conscience of exposing himself to any fatigue.  We proceeded

[page 401]

then in this survey and made an end before night, though most of the company were of opinion the land was hardly worth the trouble.  It seemed most of it before below the character the discoverers had given him of it.

We fixed his eastern corner on Cockade Creek and then continued our march over the hills and far away along the country line two miles farther.  Nor had we stopped there unless a likelihood of rain had obliged us to encamp on an eminence where we were in no danger of being overflowed.

Peter JONES had a smart fit of an ague which shook him severely, though he bore it like a man; but the small Major9 had a small fever and bore it like a child.

9 Probably Major MUMFORD; see the comment on Major MAYO’s disposition on p. 410 […]

[page 404]

8.  After fortifying ourself with a bear breakfast, Major MAYO took what help he thought necessary and began to survey the land with which the commissioners of Carolina had presented him upon this creek.  After running the bounds, the Major was a little disappointed in the goodness of the land, but as it had cost him nothing it could be no bad pennyworth, as his upper tract really was […]

[page 405]

9.  Major MAYO’s survey being no more than half done, we were obliged to amuse ourselves another day in this place.

[page 410]

15.  After our bounteous landlady [Mrs. EMBRY] had cherished us with roast beef and chicken pie, we thankfully took leave.  At the same time we separated from our good friend and fellow traveler, Major MAYO, who steered directly home.  He is certainly a very useful, as well as an agreeable, companion in the woods, being ever cheerful and good-humored under all the little crosses, disasters, and disappointments of that rambling life.

[page 413]


My Plat of 20,000 Acres in N. Carolina.
Survey’d in September 1733, by Mr. MAYO, being
15 Miles long, 3 Broad at the W. End, & one at the Est

William BYRD’s Map of his “Land of Eden,” from the Westover Manuscripts

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