Col. William Cabell (1730-1798)

The eldest son of William Cabell, Col. William Cabell (distinguished most frequently from his father by his military title), followed very directly in his footsteps. He haunted the same stretch of the James River and held many of the same offices, adding markedly to the Cabell family reputation by his outstanding public service.

Very soon after coming of age, in 1751, Cabell joined his father as a vestryman of St. Anne’s Parish in Albemarle County. In late 1753, he took over his father’s position as a surveyor. He obtained a commission in the militia and served with Peter Jefferson in the French and Indian War, rising by 1760 to the rank of Colonel. In 1756, he married Margaret Jordan and immediately started a family. Like several of their other children and grandchildren, their firstborn, Samuel Jordan Cabell, was active politically; he was both a Delegate to the General Assembly (1785-1792) and a four-term representative to the United States Congress (1795-1803). As a family man, Cabell continued to accrue power, land, and enslaved persons to work on his expanding estate. Between 1761 and 1775, he held almost every possible office in Amherst County–presiding magistrate, county lieutenant, county surveyor, and even coroner (like his father!). Moreover, he was a Burgess from at least 1761-1776, a member of all five Revolutionary Conventions, and a Senator or Delegate in the General Assembly from 1776-1783, then again 1787-1788.

A great patriot, Cabell protested the Stamp Act and acted within the legislature to defend colonial rights. His last hope for reconciliation with the mother country failed in 1774 when he received word of Parliament’s Boston Port Bill, one of the “Coercive Acts.” Family tradition records his reaction: “No one can deny that the people of this colony have been loyal subjects; they have borne their grievances with patience, and have petitioned, and have petitioned respectfully for their removal. All their remonstrances and memorials have been treated with neglect and contempt, and now we are to be gagged. By the eternal God! we must fight, and for one, I care not how soon.” He afterwards served on the colony-wide Committee of Safety, helped recruit troops for Amherst County, and kept his position in the House of Delegates.

Like his brothers, Col. William Cabell received land from his father, who had patented thousands of acres along the James River. In 1763, he inherited over 1200 acres in what is now Nelson County. He had been living on this land since about 1752 and had, by purchase, already added to the extent. He continued to acquire adjacent lands, accumulating in all over 25,000 contiguous acres. “Union Hill” was built by enslaved labor on this estate in 1778. It would become the most important Cabell homestead. It was to Union Hill that family members traveled to give birth or to die, and from Union Hill that Alexander Brown wrote The Cabells and Their Kin in the late nineteenth century.