William Byrd II and the 1728 NC/VA Survey

On March 5, 1728, delegates from North Carolina and Virginia met to survey the border between the two colonies.

Virginia and Carolina’s early settlers intermingled in the early colonial period, as colonists trickled south in search of good land to grow crops and establish homesteads. Explorer John Lawson began surveying a boundary between Carolina and Virginia, but was unable to complete the task.

The border remained vague until 1728, when the survey, led by Virginian William Byrd II of Westover, was conducted. The group defined the line from the coast to about 240 miles inland in what is now Stokes County. The survey was completed in 1749 when Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter, began in Stokes County and finished the line in what is now Ashe County. The borders were often disputed and additional surveys were called to settle claims.

Generally speaking, surveyor’s reports are mundane, but Byrd penned a journal of the expedition with exceptional literary merit.  It was widely published in two forms, candidly chronicling the people and places on both sides of the line. Both versions of Byrd’s account are entertaining, and offer a rare and humorous glimpse into life and travel in colonial America.

Related Topics: