Role in Ravensworth: leaseholder in Parcel 1.1; owner Parcel

William Payne was born February 14, 1751, the oldest son of William Payne, Jr. (1724-1782) and Susannah Payne (1721-1771). He was the fourth William in his direct line, but apparently not referred to as William, IV. In surviving official documents and public accounts he is most often called Colonel William Payne. He married twice:

  1. To Mary Robinson (1757-1795), daughter of Tully Robinson, on July 20, 1777, with whom there were seven children:
    • William R. Payne (1781-1847), married Elizabeth Cooke, died in Bowling Green, Warren Co., Kentucky
    • Mary Ivy Payne (?-1818), Married Giles Cooke, Jr., died in Warren Co., Kentucky
    • Tully R. Payne (?-abt 1830), Married Catharine I. Ficklin on September 23, 1819 in Allen Co., Kentucky, died in Warren Co., Kentucky
    • Alfred Payne (dates unknown)
    • Edmund Payne (1791-1851), served in the War of 1812 as a private in Gunnell’s Company, Fairfax County Militia1, died in Bowling Green, Warren Co., Kentucky. Led a lawsuit (described below) to settle his father’s estate, which resulted in his purchasing and owning Parcel’s Mill from 1831 to 1839.
    • Elizabeth Payne (dates unknown)
    • Thomas Payne (dates unknown) 2
  2. To Elizabeth Darrell, daughter of Samson and Mary Darrell, with whom there were no children. 3

Revolutionary War

William served in the Revolutionary War and was wounded. In March 1776 he was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Marines of the Virginia Navy, which protected Virginia waters against British attacks. He served about a year, and then was commissioned a Captain in the 1st Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army, commanded by Colonel George Gibson. He recruited and organized a 1st Regiment company in early-to-mid 1777, about the same time as his marriage to Mary Robinson.4 He was with the regiment when it was in winter quarters in Valley Forge from December 1777 to June 1778.5 During that period and later, the army was engaged in action against British forces in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey6

When and where William was wounded and how long he was in active service are uncertain. A Wikipedia article has him relieved by Captain Charles Ewell.7 Ewell’s records indicate he served as “Captain 1st Virginia State Regiment, 1st June, 1778, to January, 1781.”8 This is evidence that Ewell probably replaced him on June 1, 1778. Unknown is whether he was reassigned or forced to leave service because of the severity of his wounds. Perhaps the clue is in this sentence of his obituary when he died in 1813: “The early part of his life was devoted to his country’s service, having taken a part in the Revolutionary War soon after its commencement, where he was severely wounded; and after retiring home, he was honored with several important appointments….”9

Colonel Payne’s “several important appointments” included…

Two Hats – Sheriff and Surveyor

“…when recommended to the Governor for the position of sheriff, he stated that he would not have any objection to accepting the office, as he would farm it out to good men qualified to ‘do the Business, (as hath generally been the custom here.)’ He thought there was an advantage to attending a survey in a double capacity since the parties could not always get a magistrate to attend when witnesses were to be examined on oath. He concluded that if it was considered to be illegal to hold both offices, he would ‘cheerfully submit’ but would continue as surveyor.” 10

  • Advanced in rank to Colonel through several promotions in the Fairfax County Militia.11
  • In 1782 he was elected Vestryman of Christ Church, Alexandria, replacing his father who had recently died.12
  • Appointed Fairfax County Surveyor by the governor in 1787 and served in this capacity through 1811.
  • Like his father and grandfather, appointed by the governor as a justice of the Fairfax County Court (1801, 1807 and 1808) and as sheriff (1797).13
  • In May 1798 appointed Commissioner with Charles Little, David Stuart, James Wren, and Charles Minor to select a new site for and manage relocation of the Fairfax County courthouse. The County Court moved to its new 4-acre home in March 1800. Payne prepared a survey for an enlarged 10-acre complex to include clerk’s office, jail and related facilities. 14
  • On December 18, 1799 he was one of six pallbearers for George Washington’s funeral. “…the bier “was borne by four lieutenants of the Virginia militia. The six honorary pallbearers marched alongside, three to the left, three to the right. They were Cols. Charles Little, Charles Sims, William Payne, George Gilpin, Dennis Ramsay and Philip Marsteller.” 15
  • In 1803 elected a director of the Little River Turnpike company, which built the 34-mile toll road from Alexandria to Aldie, connecting western farms to Alexandria markets.
  • In 1805 appointed Trustee of the Town of Providence (today’s City of Fairfax) with David Stuart, Richard Fitzhugh and 12 others. Today’s Chain Bridge Road within the city was originally named Payne Street.16
  • Payne Street in Alexandria, VA honors his memory and service to the community.17

Rock Hill – From Ravensworth Leaseholder to Landowner

In 1782 William and his brother Devaul each inherited from their father half of “my plantation where I now live.” The devised plantation was in Ravensworth, part of land leased from Henry Fitzhugh (Colonel). It was adjacent to or near the Payne’s Mill lease and within Parcel 1.1.5, which Fitzhugh’s son Giles inherited. In 1797 William bought from Giles 25 acres (Parcel that included the mill site. With this purchase he became the first Ravensworth landowner outside the Fitzhugh family.

Known as “Rock Hill,” this was his home when he died in 1813, and he was the sole owner of the mill. Likely William had made an agreement with his brother Benjamin Clarke Payne to gain full ownership of the mill, as Benjamin had inherited the mill lease in 1782.

Today’s view (in Google Maps)
Today the Rock Hill property is open parkland, part of Fairfax County’s Mill Creek and Accotink Creek Stream Valley Parks. The Cross County Trail runs through the former mill lot. The map below shows the locations of the 25-acre Parcel (larger outline) and the mill lot lease (smaller outline).

Death and a Lawsuit

Darrell Family

Within a year after William died, Elizabeth moved from Rock Hill to live with her sister Ann (Darrell) Brooke whose husband was Commodore Walter Brooke. He was a senior commander in Virginia’s Revolutionary War navy, in which William served in 1776-77. Commodore Brooke named his home “Retirement.” Today the property is known as Stone Mansion and is maintained by the Fairfax County Park Authority.18 William’s father’s will had divided between William and his brother Devaul Payne land the father had purchased just months before he died – 307 acres on the northern border of today’s City of Falls Church. This land was previously owned by Samson Darrell, Elizabeth Payne’s father, and the Darrell family may have still owned land adjacent to it. William bought Devaul’s share from him in 1789.19

Colonel Payne died on September 23, 1813, one month after the British attacked and burned Washington, DC just 10 miles away in The War of 1812. He did not leave a will. Giles Fitzhugh and John Summers inventoried the estate for the Court. His widow Elizabeth, as administratrix of the estate, advertised in the Alexandria Gazette to sell some household items and slaves, and to rent the property and mill. The ad concluded: “Those having claims against said Estate are requested to present them for adjustment.”20

Elizabeth died 16 years after her husband in 1829, but the estate still had not been settled. To force a settlement, led by Edmund Payne, Colonel Payne’s children sued the then administrator of the estate in Fairfax County Court. Depositions and other documents in the court record provide information about the family and details of the layout and use of the property about the time of his death in 1813 and later.21 The tract was sold at auction on April 20, 1831 at the Court’s direction. Edmund Payne, their son and a plaintiff in the lawsuit, bought it with his bid of $600.22


  1. “Database Research By David Whitman, War of 1812 Database,” FCCPA, accessed September 4, 2015,
  2. Brooke Payne and Joanne Leach Gatewood, The Paynes of Virginia (C.J. Carrier Company, 1977; Alice Gedge, “Mary ‘Polly’ Robinson, RootsWeb’s WorldConnect Project: Our Research,” accessed May 7, 2015,, 244-248.
  3. Charlotte Brown, Groveton (Arcadia Publishing, 2013), 7.
  4. Payne and Gatewood, The Paynes of Virginia, 245; “List of Officers, Sailors and Marines of the Virginia Navy in the American Revolution,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Jul., 1893), pp. 64-75 (Virginia Historical Society), Stable URL: Accessed: 05-05-2015 21:03 UTC.
  5. “1st Virginia State Regiment,” accessed May 1, 2015, This site lists the roster of the regiments officers in camp.
  6. “The 1st Virginia Regiment in the Revolutionary War,” accessed April 30, 2015, This site has a concise history of the regiment’s operations.
  7. “1st Virginia State Regiment – Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia,” accessed May 1, 2015,
  8. Francis Bernard Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army During the War of the Revolution, April, 1775, to December, 1783 (Press of Nichols, Killam & Maffitt, 1892), 170.
  9. Alexandria Gazette, Commercial and Political, September 29, 1813, quoted in Payne and Gatewood, The Paynes of Virginia, 244
  10. Beth Mitchell, Beginning at a White Oak: Patents and Northern Neck Grants of Fairfax County, Virginia (Fairfax County Office of Comprehensive Planning, n.d.), 294 and 297.
  11. Fairfax County Court Order Book 1783, page 250, July 17, 1786, Payne, William, gent. Recommended as major of the militia; and page 321, Feb. 20, 1787, Payne, William Recommended as Lt. Col. of county militia.
  12. Payne and Gatewood, The Paynes of Virginia, 246. This source also states that in 1784 he was admitted to the Alexandria Masonic Lodge.
  13. “The Fairfax County Courthouse by Ross De Witt Netherton and Ruby Waldeck – Free Ebook,” 106, accessed July 26, 2013, and “Past Fairfax County Sheriffs – Fairfax County, Virginia,” accessed April 4, 2015,
  14. “The Fairfax County Courthouse by Ross De Witt Netherton and Ruby Waldeck – Free Ebook,” 12, accessed July 26, 2013,
  15. Freeman, D.S., Washington, Scribner, 2011
  16. William Page Johnson, II, “Richard Ratcliffe: The Founder,” The Fare Facs Gazette The Newsletter of Historic Fairfax City, Inc., Volume 3, Issue 1 Winter 2005, accessed April 16, 2012,
  17. Telephone conversation with research librarian in Special Collections / Local History section, Alexandria Library, Alexandria, VA, May 4, 2015.
  18. Charlotte Brown, Groveton, 7; “List of Officers, Sailors and Marines of the Virginia Navy in the American Revolution,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Jul., 1893), pp. 64-75.
  19. Fairfax County deed R1:534. The deed gives a full history of the land’s ownership from 1715 to 1789. The land was a half share of 714 acres Elizabeth Payne’s grandfather, William Darrell, bought in 1715.
  20. Advertisement, Alexandria Gazette, published as Alexandria Gazette Commercial and Political; Date: 09-13-1814; Volume: XIV; Issue: 4210; Page: 4; Location: Alexandria, Virginia, accessed March 29, 2015,
  21. Dist(s) of Col William Payne Etc. v. Admr of Elizabeth Payne Etc., Index #1845-003 in “Virginia Memory, Chancery Records Index”. For the information synopsized, see especially records: 94-95; 142-143; 145-147
  22. Fairfax County deed E3:117, 1/29/1839