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The Southern States of America
Biographies - Alexander Spotswood


SPOTSWOOD, Alexander, colonial governor: b. Tangier, Africa, 1676; d. Annapolis, Md., June 7, 1740. He was the only child of Robert Spotswood and his wife Catherine Elliott. His father was resident physician to the governor and garrison of Tangier. He was descended from an ancestry which went back to the time of Alexander III. of Scotland in 1249, and which was settled at that time in the parish of Gordon and shire of Berwick on the Scotch border. Alexander Spotswood grew up among military surroundings. He served with distinction under the Duke of Marlborough, and was severely wounded at the battle of Blenheim. His military talents and his high courage procured for him the appointment of lieutenant-governor of the colony of Virginia under the Earl of Orkney, the governor and commander-in chief; and in June, 1710, he arrived in Virginia to discharge the duties of his office. His military experience enabled him to subdue the pirates and bucaneers, who at that time infested the Virginia coast, and he quelled the insurrection of the Tuscarora Indians on the Southern border. He sought to develop the mineral resources of the colony, and opened iron mines and constructed a furnace above the Falls of Rappahannock, at Germanna, where he resided. He organized and led an expedition westward to explore the then untraversed Shenandoah Valley, and crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains. On his return he presented to each of his companions a miniature golden horseshoe, engraven with the motto: "Sic juvat transcendere montes." He built the famous "Powderhorn" at Williamsburg, and he established an Indian school at Fort Christiana in Southampton county. In 1730 he became deputy postmaster-general of the American colonies, and he made Benjamin Franklin postmaster of Pennsylvania. His removal was effected by the Virginia clergy in September, 1722. He died at Annapolis, Md., June 7, 1740, when on the eve of embarking with the expedition for Cartagena, and is said to have been buried at "Temple Farm," his country residence near Yorktown, where later Lord Cornwallis signed the articles of his capitulation to General "Washington. Governor Spotswood's administration was wise and beneficient, and he left an enduring fame as one of the greatest and best of the colonial governors. He married, in 1724, Anne Butler Brayne, daughter of Richard Brayne, Esq., of Westminster, England, and from them were descended some of the most prominent and distinguished of the later Virginians. His letters were purchased by the Virginia Historical Society in 1882 and published in their collection as the official letters of Alexander Spotswood, lieutenant-governor of Virginia in 1710-1722 (1882-85).


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