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Dr. William Cabell

Father of the Cabell Family in Virginia

Born 1699 in Warminster, England. Died 1774 in Warminster, Virginia.

Young William Cabell, Virginia Museum of History and Culture (original source unknown)

In 1895, Alexander Brown, a great-great grandson of Dr. William Cabell published The Cabells and Their Kin: A Memorial Volume of History, Biography, and Genealogy of Dr. William Cabell and Elizabeth Burks and the first three generations of their descendants in America. Dr. Cabell was from Warminster, England and received his medical training in London at the Royal College of Medicine and Surgery. He immigrated to Virginia in about 1723 and married Elizabeth Burks, daughter of Samuel Burks (1682-1756) and Mary Davis (1685). Dr. William Cabell and Elizabeth are considered founders of the Cabell Family in Virginia.

In 1730, settlements along the James River in Virginia extended as far west as Scottsville, and the James River was becoming the center of population, travel, and trade. Dr. William Cabell, who had first settled on the James in Goochland County, decided to move west and staked out twenty miles of low grounds on the James River beginning 15 miles above Scottsville. He established his home on the lower banks of Swan Creek in present day Nelson County. He built his home, Liberty Hall, on this site, and the ensuing community around Liberty Hall was named Warminster.

By 1753, Dr. Cabell owned close to 26,000 acres of land along the James River. He served his community as magistrate, surveyor, and clergyman. He prospered as a physician and plantation owner establishing a community around the supply trade down the James River. The prosperity enjoyed by Dr. Cabell was in large part due to enslaved persons performing the manual labor associated with running the farm, mills, blacksmiths, boats, and plantation house.

The First Generation Cabell Family in Virginia

Dr. William Cabell and Elizabeth Burks had 6 children. Cabell family history and genealogy is presented through his 5 children that lived to adulthood.

As his children grew up, they settled on parts of their father’s land and married into other families nearby. In 1763, Dr. Cabell conveyed to his four oldest children their portion of his estate by deeds. Upon his death in 1774, his youngest son, Nicholas, inherited the Liberty Hall plantation.

For the first nearly twenty years after the Declaration of Independence (1776-1795), Cabell men nearly continuously represented the people of the counties of Albemarle, Nelson, Amherst and Buckingham in the state legislature. See more on the Cabell Political Dynasty at the University of Virginia Special Collections.

Migration of Cabell Descendants

Members of the Cabell family continued to maintain the genealogy of the descendants of Dr. William Cabell and Elizabeth Burks. In 1993, Randolph W. Cabell compiled and published the updated genealogy of the descendants of Dr. William Cabell and Elizabeth Burks in 20th Century Cabells and Their Kin. This commitment to preserving the details of family lineage and history has resulted in a family tree of 12 generations of descendants (about 8,900 descendants in 2023). Using family records and public records, the birth places and birth dates of 95% of the first 7 generations of descendants (born up to 1920 only) was determined and used to visualize migration of the family from their original home place in central Virginia. The following map shows the birth location of the first 3 generations by descendant (Mary, William, Joseph, John and Nicholas).

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