Madison Family History
John Madison (or Maddison), a ship's carpenter, arrived in Virginia from England in 1653. For paying the passage of twelve immigrants, including himself, he was granted six hundred acres of land through the "headright" system, a system which allowed anyone fifty acres of land for each immigrant whose passage from England he paid. Usually, those immigrants were indentured servants, who worked for a certain number of years in exchange for their passage. Madison's land was on the Mattapony River, at a place called Mantapike, and for the next thirty years, he continued acquiring land through the "headright" system. By 1683, around the time of his death, his estate consisted of nineteen hundred acres on the York and Mattapony Rivers.
After his death, his son John continued enlarging the family estate, becoming a prominent landholder and serving as sheriff and justice of the peace in King and Queen County. In 1714, he and a neighbor, Daniel Coleman, patented two thousand acres of land on the upper Mattapony River. His three sons, John, Henry, and Ambrose, moved to this land, which was forty miles above Mantapike, and began working on their own estates. Of these sons, Ambrose, the grandfather of President James Madison, proved to be the most important Madison in this generation.
In 1721, Ambrose Madison (James Madison's grandfather) married Frances Taylor, who came from a prominent landowning family in Virginia. Frances was the daughter of James Taylor and an ancestor of future President Zachary Taylor. James Taylor had been a companion of Governor Spotswood and had been one of the members of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe in 1716. This land surveying expedition, which had crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Shenandoah Valley, took possession of the land between the Blue Ridge and the ocean in the West in the name of King George I of England. Those who had been part of the expedition then began to stake out claims to the land that had been surveyed, James Taylor being among them.
Taylor worked on building a 13,500-acre estate. In 1723, Taylor probably pointed out some of the best 4,675 acres of land for his two sons-in-law, Thomas Chew and Ambrose Madison, to patent jointly. This land would be part of the Madison estate originally called Mount Pleasant. When James Taylor's son, James Taylor, Jr., moved onto another portion of his father's estate, the Taylor, Chew, and Madison families became a small community in themselves, all living within a few short miles of each other.
In 1732, Ambrose and Frances, now with three children, moved onto their plantation, Mount Pleasant. About six months later, however, Ambrose died suddenly. Frances was left, at the age of thirty-two, with three small children, an estate of about 2,337 and a half acres, much of which still needed to be developed, and twenty-nine slaves, fourteen of them being children. She was not entirely on her own, however, since members of her family surrounded her on nearby plantations, offering her protection, advice, and help with the estate. Frances took over the responsibilities of running the plantation and within a few years, had begun marketing tobacco in England.
Image Credit: Belle Grove Plantation, Middletown, VA. A historic property of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
As James Madison, Sr., grew older, he assumed a larger role in the management of the plantation. One of his responsibilities was to carry tobacco to the warehouse of Francis Conway on the Rappahannock River. There he met Conway's daughter, Nelly, and in 1749, they married. Twelve children would be born to them over the next twenty-two years, though five would die in infancy. The first child, James Madison, Jr., was born March 16, 1751, leaving, in order of birth, Francis, Ambrose, Nelly, William, Sarah, and Frances.
Family Tree Sources:
Brant, Irving. 1970. The Fourth President: A Life of James Madison. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.
Brant, Irving. 1941. James Madison: The Virginia Revolutionist. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company.
Ketcham, Ralph. 1990. James Madison: A Biography. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia.
Rutland, Robert A., et al. 1994. James Madison and the American Nation, 1751-1836: An Encyclopedia. New York: Simon & Schuster.