John Minor

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John Minor III


Colonel of the Spotsylvania County militia
In office
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Commonwealth's Attorney for Fredericksburg
In office
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Brigadier General of militia
In office
1804 (?) through the War of 1812
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates
In office
Preceded by
Succeeded by
In office
Preceded by
Succeeded by
In office
Preceded by
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In office
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In office
Preceded by {{{8thofficepreceded}}}
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Personal details
Born May 13, 1761
  Topping Castle, Caroline County, Virginia
Died June 8, 1816
  Masonic graveyard in Fredericksburg, Virginia
Resting place
Residence(s) Hazel Hill, Fredericksburg, Virginia (Topping Castle was retained as a summer home)
Alma mater The College of William and Mary
Profession Lawyer, soldier, and politician
Spouse(s) {{{spouse}}}
Relatives seven children: John (d. 1862), Lewis Willis, Lucius H., Lancelot Byrd, Charles Landon Carter, James Monroe, and Mary Berkeley (famed anti-slavery activist d. 1896).
Known for First to introduce a bill for the emancipation of the slaves
Signature [[File:|left|200px]]

John Minor III (1761 – 1816) was born on May 13, 1761 at the family home, Topping Castle, in Caroline County, Virginia.[1]

While attending the College of William & Mary, fifteen-year-old Minor ran away to join the army and fight in the Revolutionary War. Minor served as a private in Nelson's Light-horse troop, part of Lighthorse Harry Lee's command.[2] After the war, Minor returned to William & Mary and studied law under George Wythe.[3] Upon completing his legal studies, he began a successful practice in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and became known for "his knowledge of law and his magnetic eloquence."[4]

In addition to his successful legal practice, Minor served as Fredericksburg's first Commonwealth's Attorney with a salary of 2,000 pounds of tobacco.[5] He took particular interest in helping young and struggling lawyers, one of whom was Benjamin Botts who served as a lawyer for Aaron Burr alongside John Wickham.[6]

Minor introduced a bill in the Virginia General Assembly in 1782 (and a second bill in 1790) for the emancipation of slaves in America.[7] The first bill provided for "gradual emancipation," and the second bill provided for "transportation and colonization."[8] While both bills were approved, no further action was taken.[9] Minor later freed all his slaves and paid for their return voyage to Liberia.[10]

Minor served as a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses between 1805 and 1807. In an unsuccessful political campaign, he ran for Congress against his friend James Monroe and lost. [11] Minor served as colonel of the Spotsylvania County militia, and was commissioned Brigadier General during the War of 1812. [12] After the war, he returned to his prosperous legal practice.[13]

In 1816, Minor died suddenly of apoplexy while giving a speech in Richmond to the Electoral College. According to Blackford's 1903 biographical account of Minor, there is a ghost story surrounding the circumstances of Minor's death:

He [Minor] died in Richmond, as stated above, about eleven o'clock at night in the State capitol. The same evening there were assembled around the parlor fire at Cleve, in King George county, a number of the members of his wife's family, among them her brother-in-law, Mr. Wm McFarland, a lawyer of talents, but more given to poetry than to law. He had a mind which would now be called "impressionable," and which would make a good "medium." About eleven o'clock he left the room to go to bed, but in a moment returned somewhat alarmed, saying that he had seen General Minor in the gallery up stairs—yet he was sure it was only his ghost. He was laughed at and told it was only his fancy, so he started out again, but returned with the same story, and then the whole party went with him, but not being impressionable, the ghost was not seen. In a few days they learned that the time Mr. McFarland went up stairs was the hour at which General Minor had died in Richmond. Mr. McFarland's fancies ever afterwards were more esteemed. Of course, there was no ghost, nor was there anything supernatural in McFarland's vision. The art of photography and wireless telepathy in the physical world prepares us to believe that on a mind peculiarly sensitive, impressions may be made by physical facts at a distance, to which the common mind is absolutely oblivious.[14]

Minor is buried in the Masonic Cemetery in Frederickburg, Virginia, next to the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library.[15]

Minor married twice. In 1790, Minor married Mary Berkeley, who died only a few months after their marriage. In 1793, Minor married his late wife's cousin, Lucy Landon Carter, with whom he had six sons and one daughter.[16] One daughter, Mary Berkeley Minor, became a prominent female anti-slavery activist and "colonizationist."[17]

See also


  1. Charles M. Blackford, "Four Successive John Minors (Continued)," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Oct., 1902), p. 204, accessed October 14, 2015.
  2. W.W. Blackford, War Years with Jeb Stuart (LSU Press, 1993), 3, accessed October 14, 2015.
  3. Morris L Cohen and Th. Jefferson, "Thomas Jefferson Recommends a Course of Law Study," University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Vol. 119, No. 5 (Apr., 1971), pp. 823-844, 823, accessed October 14, 2015.
  4. Blackford, "Four Successive John Minors (Continued)," 204.
  5. John Taette Goolrick, Historic Fredericksburg: The Story of an Old Town (Whittet & Shepperson, 1922), 26, accessed October 19, 2015; "Brig. Gen. John Minor N-32" by amyb, Fredericksburg, Stafford, Spotsylvania Historical Markers (2008), 246, accessed October 14, 2015.
  6. Dabney Herndon Maury, Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars (C. Scribner's Sons, 1894), 311, accessed October 14, 2015.
  7. Ibid, 2; "Brig. Gen. John Minor N-32."
  8. Charles M. Blackford, "Four Successive John Minors (Concluded)," The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Apr., 1903), pp. 436-440, 436, accessed October 15, 2015.
  9. "Brig. Gen. John Minor N-32."
  10. Ibid.
  11. Maury, Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars, 3.
  12. "Brig. Gen. John Minor N-32;" Blackford, War Years with Jeb Stuart, 4.
  13. Thomas Katheder, "Debt of Honor: A Sabine Hall Gamester Comes to Ruin in Fredericksburg" SSRN (October 2014), 9, accessed October 14, 2015.
  14. Blackford, "Four Successive John Minors (Concluded)," 436-438.
  15. Katheder, "Debt of Honor," 9.
  16. Blackford, "Four Successive John Minors (Continued)," 204.
  17. "Mary Berkeley Minor Blackford (1802-1896)," by Brent Tarter, Education @ Library of Virginia, accessed November 4, 2015.