3. John BLAIR
James Blair of Virginia, by Parke Rouse, Jr; Univ. of NorthCarolina
Virginia Historical Magazine; Vol. 32; p. 386
William and Mary Quarterly; Vol. 17; p. 226
(Research):John Blair Sr. 1687-1771
This direct ancestor of the Davis family was born either in Scotland or in Williamsburg, Va., and grew up in Williamsburg where his father, Dr. Archibald Blair,operated an apothecary shop. John graduated from William and Mary College about 1707.
As Dr. Blair's eldest son, John was chosen to lay the cornerstone when the Virginia capitol was begun in 1699(some say 1701). He again laid the cornerstone for the second capitol in 1752 (some say 1754) after the original building had burned to the ground. John married Mary Monro (born 1708, died circa 1768), who was the daughter of the Reverend John and Christina Monro of St. John's Parish,King William County. They had ten children.
An important merchant and political leader of colonial Virginia, John served as Deputy Auditor General from 1728 to 1771; Naval officer; Member from 1736 to 1740 of theHouse of Burgesses; and a visitor (some say President) of William and Mary College. He was also President briefly of the Virginia Governor's Council, and became acting Governor briefly in 1758 and again in 1768. During his first termin office an act was passed increasing the forces in the colony's pay to 2,000 men, and 32,000 pounds in Treasury notes were issued to fund an increase in colonial defenses.
Blair's second term in office saw the House of Burgesses under its speaker, Peyton Randolph, consider the Indian affairs issue as well as join several northern colonies in asserting its equal status with Parliament, and in issuing firm protests to the British king and Parliament against taxation.
Blair was also owner of the Raleigh Tavern, a famous meeting place for patriotic legislators. In 1769 the Houseof Burgesses, which had been dissolved as punishment for its rebellious actions, re-convened at the Tavern and adopted the Non-Importation Agreement in protest against British taxes, a document which John Blair Jr. was the first to sign. Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other patriots met again at the Tavern in 1773 to develop committees of correspondence with the other colonies;auctions and balls were also held there. John was fond of gambling at cards and once lost 17 pounds in an evening.After restoration, the Tavern continues to operate today as a gracious and nationally renowned colonial-style restaurant.
U.S. chief Justice John Marshall is thought to have resided in the John Blair house while a young law student with George Wythe in Williamsburg. This house was built in 1747.
Note: One source suggests that John Blair did not own the Raleigh Tavern but only sold the lot that someone else later built the Tavern on.
Winfield Barber (1990)
Bibliography for Blair Family Articles
1. Brock, Dr. R. A. , Virginia and Virginians, Spartanburg,The Reprint Co. 1973 (original published 1888) Vol 1, pp.42-43 (James Blair) and pp. 52-54 (John Blair Sr.) fromLibrary of Congress Local History and Genealogy Room. 2.Bruce, Philip Alexander, The Virginia Plutarch, ChapelHill: University of NC Press, 1929. Found inFredericksburg, Va. public library.
3. Brydon, George Maclaren, DD., Virginia's Mother Church,Virginia Historical Society, 1947. Found in Fredericksburgpublic library.
4. Kail, Jerry, Who was Who during the American Revolution,New York: Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1976, pp. 438-439. Found inLibrary of Congress Local History and Genealogy Room.
5. Raimo, John W., Biographical Dictionary of AmericanColonial and Revolutionary Governors, Westport: MecklerBooks, 1980. Found in Alexandria, Va. public library.
6. Roller, David and Robert Twyman, The Encyclopedia ofSouthern History, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UniversityPress, 1979, p. 126. Found in Alexandria public library.
7. Middlekauff, Robert, The Glorious Cause, New York:Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 161. Found in Oxon Hill,Md. public library.
8. Whitney, David C., Founders of Freedom in America,Chicago, J. G. Ferguson Publishing Co., 1965. Found inAlexandria, Va. public library.
9. Rouse, Parke Jr., James Blair of Virginia, Chapel Hill:University of NC Press, 1971. Found in Fredericksburgpublic library.
10. Wilstach, Paul, Tidewater Virginia, Indianapolis:Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1929. Found in Alexandria, Va. PublicLibrary.
11. Webster's American Biographies, Springfield, Mass: G &C Merriam Co. , 1974. Found in Oxon Hill, Md. publiclibrary.
12. Virginia: A Guide to the Old Dominion, New York: OxfordUniversity Press, 1940, reprinted 1976. Found inAlexandria, Va. public library.
13. The National Cyclopedia of American Biography, Clifton,NJ: James T. White & Co. 1984. Vol. 1, p. 23 (John Blair,Jr.). Vol. 13, p. 390 (John Blair, Sr.). Found in Libraryof Congress.
14. Morton, Richard L., Colonial Virginia, Vol. II, ChapelHill, University of NC Press, 1960. Found in Alexandria,Va. public library.
15. Hemphill, William Edwin, Cavalier Commonwealth, St.Louis: McGraw-Hill, 1963. Found in Alexandria, Va. publiclibrary.
16. Lawrence, Ruth, Burwell, Spotswood, Dandridge, West andAllied Family Histories, New York: National AmericanaPublications, 1943. Found in D.A.R. Library in WashingtonD.C.
LDS Genealogical Library Ancestral File
Will of John Blair; York Co., VA
Colonial Families of the Southern States of America;p. 84
"Bruton Parrish Register"; William and Mary Quarterly;Series 1, Vol. 14
Colonial Virginia, by Morton; Vol. 2; p. 799
William and Mary Quarterly; Vol. V; pp. 278-281
William and Mary Quarterly; Vol. II; p. 82
William and Mary Quarterly; Vol XIII; p. 231
9. John BLAIR Jr. (Judge)
John Blair Jr.
1732 - 1800
A distinguished Virginia lawyer and jurist and long-time friend of George Washington (who was born the same year), John graduated from the local William and Mary College (founded by his great-uncle), then had four years of law study at London's Middle Temple.
Establishing a successful law practice in Williamsburg, he was elected to the House of Burgesses in 1765, where he served until the House's dissolution in 1775. He married the former Jean Balfour and had two daughters. Although initially voting to support the British Stamp Act, in opposition to Patrick Henry"s resolutions, by 1769 he had joined Henry, Washington, and other legislators in signing a non-importation agreement to protest British taxes. He served as an executor of the estate of Lord Botetourt, deceased colonial governor.
In the Virginia patriotic convention of 1776, Blair was on a committee that drew up Virginia's Declaration of Rights and State Constitution. The early Revolutionary years saw him on the executive council that advised Governor Patrick Henry. Blair also served as chief justice of the general court of Virginia, a judge of the state's High Court of Chancery, and a member of its first Court of Appeals, as well as Grand Master of Virginia's Masons. Among the cases he reviewed while on the Court of Appeals was "Commonwealth of Virginia vs. Caton" which established the precedent of judicial review of state legislation. Due to his reputation as a wise and honorable judge and statesman, Blair was elected a member of the state delegation to the 1787 Constitutional convention in Philadelphia. Although his participation in the convention was overshadowed by that of other Virginia delegates, he occasionally spoke out on strongly felt issues such as an opposition to having a strong national president.
At the convention's close Blair joined Washington and Madison as the only three Virginia delegates to sign the final document. While crossing on foot an old bridge over a flooded river en route home to Virginia, Blair and George Washington narrowly escaped accident when one of the carriage horses accompanying them fell through the bridge flooring. Blair subsequently served as delegate to Virginia's constitutional ratification convention, where he argued in favor of the constitution despite the opposition of his old friend, Patrick Henry.
Our ancestor's last appointment was as a justice of the new national Supreme Court in New York from 1790 until 1796, when he resigned due to illness characterized by intermittent lapses of memory and reasoning. Succumbing four years later, he was buried at Bruton Parish Churchyard, Williamsburg.
John's sister, Harrison Blair, married Dr. George Gilmer of Williamsburg.
John's brother, Archibald Blair, was the Secretary of the Patriot Convention of 1776.
Winfield Barber (1990)
12. James BLAIR Dr.
Reverend James Blair, D.D., (1655-1743), also known as "Commissary Blair", whose life spanned seven British royal reigns, was described by a 19th-Century chronicler as "a hale, hearty, red-faced old gentleman, dressed entirely in black velvet, with ruffles...and...silver buckles...and much addicted to taking snuff....lively,...though grave at times." Blair's qualities of thrift, and economy of words, self-reliance, courage, and determination were typically Scottish. He was one of the most enlightened early critics of British rule in Virginia. One historian deemed him "the creator of the healthiest and most extensive intellectual influence that was felt in the Southern...colonies before the Revolution."
James was born in Scotland, the son of the Reverend Robert Blair. After studying Greek at Marischal College, Aberdeen, he received an M.A. in 1673 from the University of Edinburgh, was ordained in 1679, and ministered two years in a local Anglican Church before being suspended by the Scottish parliament in 1681 for refusing to take the test oath of support for the Roman Catholic King James II. He then worked 3 years in the London office of the Master of Rolls, before being sent to Virginia in 1685 as minister to the vast Varina or Henrico Parish. Due to his influence with the Bishop of London, he in 1689 was appointed to the newly-created post of commissary (Bishop's representative) for Virginia and member of the provincial council (the 12-man upper legislative house), where he served for 46 years, skillfully forging a majority through his wife's relatives, the Harrisons, and their kinship with other leading Virginia families. James' duties as commissary were to watch over the conduct of Virginia ministers, call conventions of the clergy when necessary, investigate charges of misconduct brought against clergymen, and work for the general interest of the Anglican Church.
Soon after his initial arrival, however, James had a serious confrontation with Virginia's civil authorities when he tried to assert broad powers, proposing the creation of four judicial districts, each with a minister to try and prosecute citizens who swore, committed adultery, or broke the Sabbath. He also proposed punishment of Quakers and religious "Ranters." This reactionary proposal, coming as it did after the 1689 British Toleration Act, was unpopular and the House of Burgesses quietly but firmly rejected it.
At Blair's urging, the Virginia Assembly voted in 1691 to petition the crown to establish a new college, the second one in the American colonies (only Harvard is older). Blair wrote the petition, carried it to the royal couple William and Mary, and secured a charter from them with 2,500 pounds and 20,000 acres for the support of the new college, designed by Sir Christopher Wren. In obtaining this, James had to counter the protestations of British Attorney General Seymour, (who deemed British national defense funding more urgent than a college to train ministers to save Virginia souls, and had remarked, "Damn their souls! Grow tobacco!"). From a bequest left by Robert Boyle, the "father of modern chemistry", Blair obtained funds for the education of Indians, a program which continued until the American Revolution in the college's still-standing Brafferton Hall. On James' return to Virginia, he found the new governor, Sir Edmund Andros, and the Council of State defying the Crown's orders that all "quit-rent" revenues should be earmarked for college construction and clergy salary increases. Saying the money was needed instead for other state business, they suspended James from office. In 1697, at James' urging, Governor Andros was removed by British authorities, and Governor Francis Nicholson reinstated;
Blair was later to quarrel with Nicholson over the latter's refusal to transfer the College's ownership from a Board of Trustees to a Presidency headed by Blair. James also quarreled with Governor Alexander Spotswood (another Davis ancestor) over Spotswood's right to appoint local clergy. James continued during this time his pastoral duties in Jamestown and , after 1710, as rector of Bruton Parish Church, Williamsburg, while serving as President of William and Mary College from 1729 - 1743 seeing it steadily grow. He persuaded the Assembly to appropriate 200 pounds annually from liquor taxes to the College Library fund and after the main campus building burned in 1705, he donated toward its rebuilding, waiving his own salary until 1721. Recruiting faculty members willing to emigrate from the comforts of Britain was another difficult task. James was Acting Governor for 7 (some sources say 13) months in 1741. His difficult task of disciplining the colony's clergy, while representing them before the assembly and in the ruling council, embroiled him in much heated controversy during his later years.
Books Blair authored include the 5 volume "Our Savior's Divine sermon on the Mount" and "The Present State of Virginia and the College." He also assisted in 1727 in compiling "The State of His Majesty's Colony in Virginia" and in 1742 published four volumes of "Sermons and Discourses." On his death, James' estate totaled 10,000 pounds (today's equivalent of 2 million dollars), 1350 acres of land, servants, and a part interest in the general store/apothecary shop operated by his brother , Dr. Archibald Blair, in Williamsburg. Much of his income came from this store. He left 500 pound, his library, and a ministerial scholarship, to the college. James' and his wife Sarah's tombs in Jamestown are separated by a 100 year old sycamore. Legend connects this tree with the curse of her father, Colonel Benjamin Harrison, who opposed their marriage and vowed to separate the couple. Sarah was a spirited woman who had many male admirers in her youth and had broken off one engagement when she met James. It is said that at their wedding vows when asked by the minister is she would obey her husband, she responded "No obey" and when asked a second time she repeated the same thing. Sarah, whose health was somewhat poor, died at 43 with no children.
13. Archibald BLAIR
Secretary of the Patriot Convention of 1776.
Archibald Blair (brother of Reverend James Blair, Commissary of Virginia), was born in Scotland and was a student at the University of Edinburgh in 1685. Emigrating to York county, Va., he erected in the new Capital of Williamsburg in 1702 an apothecary shop, one of the earliest drug stores in America. the store likely also carried clothing and fabrics, hardware, kitchenware, and beverages. It is today restored as a popular tourist stop. In 1705 and 1706 Archibald was a director of Williamsburg, and in 1722 a town Commissioner. In 1716 he was also a justice of the peace for James City county. From 1718 to 1727-28 he was a member of the House of Burgesses for Jamestown and James City County. Archibald died in or before 1735. He married, first, Sarah fowler, widow of Bartholomew fowler, Esquire, King's Attorney-General for the Colony. Their children were: John (the Davis ancestor); James (died about 1773, a member of the James City Council); and Elizabeth, who married in 1728 John Bolling.