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Col. James Taylor II

Col. James Taylor II (ca. 1675-ca. 1729)

James Taylor II was born in 1673-34, in New Kent, Virginia. He married Martha Thompson about 1699 in Orange County, and they had at least nine children. James and Martha were the great grandparents of two U.S. Presidents: President James Madison and President Zachary Taylor.

Taylor was an experienced surveyor, and he was county surveyor of King William County by the early 1720s and was appointed one of the county surveyors of newly-created Spotsylvania County in 1722. He extended his land ownership into what are now Spotsylvania, Orange and Greene counties.

By the 1720s, he managed a collection of plantations extending across six modern Virginia counties.

James Taylor was responsible for the land south of the Rapidan River in modern Orange and Greene counties, and many modern land boundaries can be traced back his original surveys. Taylor was one of 63 men chosen to accompany Lieutenant Governor Alexander Spotswood in 1716 on the Tramontane Expedition to track headwaters of Virginia’s rivers, claim land for the British Crown, identify geographical sites, and observe Indian tribes. Lt. Gov. Spotswood called his expedition the “Knights of the Golden Horseshoe,” and upon their return, Spotswood presented the members with symbolic certificates and gold badges with diamonds in the shape of a horseshoe. Taylor also appears to have participated in a 1705 expedition west into the backcountry. However, the outcome of this expedition is unknown. During the next six years, Taylor patented thousands of acres in the region that included the location of the town of Orange.

Taylor Family Coat of Arms

In 1722, Col. Taylor obtained a patent from King George I for 8,500 acres in the Little Mountain area and built Bloomsbury (the oldest home in Orange County), which still stands near the Orange airport. Almost all of the land now occupied by the Town of Orange was once a part of that patent. Meadowfarm, at the southeastern edge of the town of Orange, is still owned by direct descendants of Col. Taylor.

Highway Marker for Col. Taylor’s Home, Bloomsbury, outside Orange, VA.

Col. James Taylor II is died about 1729 at the age of 56, and he is buried in Orange in the family cemetery on the Greenfield property at the eastern edge of town.


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