Joshua Fry

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Colonel Joshua Fry (1699 – May 31, 1754) was a prominent inhabitant of early Albemarle County and an influential surveyor throughout Virginia. The Fry’s Spring Historic District in the southwest corner of Charlottesville, and the Fry's Spring neighborhood are named after one of his descendants, James Francis Fry.

The historical marker for Viewmont, located at 37° 53.823′ N, 78° 33.018′ W. in Charlottesville. Reproduced from the Historical Marker Database.


Early life

Fry was born in Crewkerne, Somerset, England in 1699. He studied at Wadham College (a constituent school of the University of Oxford) before emigrating to the Virginia Colony around 1726.

Soon after arriving in Virginia, Fry established a grammar school (affiliated with the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, which had recently received a royal charter in 1722) for the sons of local gentry. By 1732, Fry had become William and Mary's professor of mathematics and natural philosophy, soon beginning a public career as justice of the peace for James City County. After his marriage in 1736, he resigned his teaching position and began operating his wife's plantation in Essex County, also serving that county as a coroner, sheriff, and justice of the peace during this time.

Albemarle County and surveying

Sometime before 1743, Fry moved westward across Virginia with his wife and children, settling in an area of Goochland County. Here he bought land along the Hardware River and began establishing an 800-acre plantation just south of Carters Bridge Store, building a house upon the property known as "Viewmont" (this land would not be properly patented until 1750). When the state legislature decided to split Albemarle County off from Goochland County in 1744, Fry was commissioned to establish the official boundary for the new county.

Fry was present at the organization of Albemarle County in 1745 and was appointed one of its first magistrates, its lieutenant, and its surveyor.[1] For multiple years, Fry was actively engaged in surveying lands in both Albemarle County and neighboring counties, entering a considerable number of tracts in his own name. In 1746, Lieutenant Governor William Gooch commissioned Fry and Peter Jefferson to survey the lands of Lord Fairfax in the Piedmont region. In 1749, the pair received yet another commission, this time to establish the boundary between North Carolina and Virginia. Beginning that same year, Fry also became involved with the Loyal Company of Virginia, which received grants across the Appalachian Mountains conditioned upon surveys being made.

The 1752 Fry-Jefferson Map of Virginia. Reproduced from WikiMedia Commons.

In 1750, acting governor Lewis Burwell commissioned Fry and Jefferson to survey Virginia's disputed boundary with the Maryland Colony (whose royal deed only extended to the Appalachian Mountains, while Virginia's had no explicit western border). Fry also prepared "An Account of the Bounds of the Colony of Virginia of its Back Settlements of the Lands Toward the Mountains and Lakes" and included within it a handwritten copy of "A Brief Account of the Travels of John Peter Salley," which documented a 1742 expedition led by that explorer along the Ohio River to the Mississippi River. These manuscripts gained less renown than the detailed accompanying map, now known as the The Fry-Jefferson Map.

In 1752, Fry accepted an appointment from Lieutenant Governor Robert Dinwiddie as one of several commissioners to negotiate with the Iroquois Confederacy in order to secure land west of the Appalachian Mountains and south of the Ohio River. This expedition was also intended to strengthen relations between the colonists and Iroquois, many of whom had contested the previous Treaty of Lancaster signed a decade earlier. While the Treaty of Logstown was eventually signed near what later became Baden, Pennsylvania, giving the colonists claim to lands in modern-day Kentucky, this document would also provoke tension in the context of Great Britain's growing rivalry with France for dominance in the region.[2]

French and Indian War and death

1754 British Soldier, an American Indian Warrior and French Soldier

When the French and Indian War commenced in 1754, Fry was appointed Commander-in-Chief of colonial forces and given personal command of the Virginia Regiment, with George Washington serving as his lieutenant colonel. Fry's initial orders were to capture the French settlement known as Fort Duquesne, but during the march into the Ohio Country on May 31, 1754 he suddenly fell off his horse and subsequently died from his injuries. He was succeeded in his command of the Virginia Regiment by Washington and in the Virginia House of Burgesses by Jefferson.[3]

Memorial plaque in honor of Fry in Cumberland, Maryland. Reproduced from The Historical Marker Database.

Fry's body was buried in an unmarked grave within the Rose Hill Cemetery in Cumberland, Maryland.


Fry's Spring neighborhood in the southwest corner of Charlottesville is named after Fry and his family.

Ancestry and relatives

In 1736 or 1737, he married the wealthy young widow Mrs. Hill of Essex County (1716 – August 20, 1772), whose maiden name was Mary Micou, daughter of Paul Micou, (Physician and- Surgeon), who was an exile from France, to Essex County, Virginia. Mary would survive him by nearly two decades. They had five children who grew to adulthood, viz :[4]

  1. John, born May 7, 1737; married Sarah, the sister of Thomas Adams (who was once the owner of Blair Park) and had three children with her. He died in 1778. One of his sons, Joshua, married Peachy (the youngest daughter of Dr. Thomas Walker) and was appointed a magistrate of Albemarle County, representing it in the House of Delegates. Towards the end of the eighteenth century Joshua moved to Kentucky, where he taught a classical academy for a time.
  2. Henry, October 19, 1738; married Sukey "Susan" (June 16, 1764), daughter of Dr. Thomas Walker, of Albemarle (in her 17th year.) and served as deputy clerk of the county. He later moved to Madison County near Rapidan Station, where he died in 1823 at the age of 85. He had nine children and numerous grandchildren, including Joseph L. Fry (for 20 years the Judge of the Wheeling Circuit), J. Frank Fry (a longtime commissioner of the revenue of the county), and Captain W. O. Fry.
  3. Marta, born May 18, 1740; married John Nicholas, the clerk of the county. Their son, Joshua Fry Nicholas, married Miss Marks (a niece of Thomas Jefferson).
  4. William, born Feb. 6, 1743, died July 1, 1760 unmarried.
  5. Margaret, born May 15, 1744; married John Scott of Scottsville - probably of the family who founded Scottsville, Albemarle, Va.


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