Role in Ravensworth: leaseholder in Parcel 1.1; Overseer

(Payne’s several appointments to public office are compelling evidence that he had a written lease(s) rather than a mere tenant agreement, as having legal title to land was a qualification for voting and holding public office. It’s assumed he had a written lease before 1742, though no recorded lease has been found earlier then 1758. The lack of recorded deeds in many cases makes it uncertain whether a person was a leaseholder or a tenant.)

William Payne, Sr. was born August 10, 1692 in Westmoreland County, Virginia to William Payne (1652-1698) and Elizabeth (Pope) Payne. He married twice to:

  1. Alicia Jones (d. 1760), with whom he had at least five children:
  2. Anne Jennings (1740-1827), married in 1763, with whom he had one child:
    • John Payne (1764-1837), who married Betsey Johnson1

Public Office

William Payne, Sr. was a justice of the Prince William County Court and a Ravensworth tenant or leaseholder of Henry Fitzhugh (Captain) in 1742, when Prince William was divided to create Fairfax County. His Ravensworth home now in Fairfax County, the governor appointed him a justice of the new county court. He received appointments as sheriff in 1743, and again as justice in 1749.2

Portion of record in Henry Fitzhugh (Colonel)'s plantation ledger

Portion of record in Henry Fitzhugh (Colonel)’s plantation ledger identified William Payne as overseer. Listed are payments to Payne for items he provided; also listed are rents due from Payne for 1767 and 1768 in pounds of tobacco as Ravensworth tenant. (Source: Henry Fitzhugh et al., Henry Fitzhugh Papers, 1746-1789, Bedford (Stafford County), Virginia (Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1987)

Ravensworth Overseer

Henry Fitzhugh (Colonel)’s account record for 1766-1768 entitled “William Payne my overseer” indicates that William was a Ravensworth overseer in those years. He was 74 years old in 1766. Not a likely age for a first overseer position, so he may have filled that role at other times. It’s also possible that the account record was for William Payne, Jr. However, Fitzhugh’s earlier list of Tenants and Rents 1764 in Parcel 1.1. accurately names William and William, Jr. With both having separate accounts, it’s unlikely Fitzhugh would confuse them.3


In a recorded 1758 lease, he was granted title to “six acres more or less” for 99 years for a grist mill – Payne’s Mill – at the token “yearly rent of one peppercorn.” In 1762 he transferred the mill lease to his two of his sons, William, Jr. and Sanford – for “Love and affection…for their further advancement.”4

Although not a landowner, William, Sr. was a man of some means. In 1747 he loaned Thomas Baylis 8000 pounds of tobacco, which was legal tender in Virginia, to be repaid with interest in two years.5 In February 1752 he contributed one pistole (Spanish money) toward defraying the cost of building a new courthouse and jail in Alexandria.6 As with the mill, before he died in 1782, he had gifted to his children several of his possessions. His estate inventory value was 73 pounds.7

His will, written in 1769, includes just one mention of real estate: “my wife to live undisturbed on plantation whereon I now live, if she desires, otherwise desire Edward have it.”8


  1. Brooke Payne and Joanne Leach Gatewood, The Paynes of Virginia (C.J. Carrier Company, 1977), 228–9.
  2. “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,
  3. Henry Fitzhugh et al., Henry Fitzhugh Papers, 1746-1789, Bedford (Stafford County), Virginia (Frederick, Md.: University Publications of America, 1987), 134.
  4. Fairfax County deeds D1:519 and E1:116
  5. Fairfax County deed B1:297. Baylis pledged collateral including slaves, livestock and household items.
  6. “Fairfax Co…We the Subscribers oblige our selves…to pay the several sums set to our respective names, if the same are appropriated to the building of a Court house & Prison in the Town of Alexandria….Feb. 7 1752” George Washington contributed two pistoles; William Fitzhugh (of Chatham) and Henry Fitzhugh (Captain) 10 pistoles each.
  7. Fairfax County will D1:134 dated 7/19/1779
  8. This differs from information in Brooke Payne and Joanne Leach Gatewood’s The Paynes of Virginia, page 229, which states: “He settled on the 700 a. that he inherited from his brother Edward, which was first in Stafford, in 1731 it was in P.W. Co.; in 1742 it was in Fx. Co. This estate was near what was later Payne’s Church on the Colchester Road.” The author seems to refer to land that William, Sr.’s son Edward assembled in several purchases beginning in 1739, which totaled 801 acres in 1760 and grew into the 1250-acre Hope Park plantation that Edward sold in 1785 to David Stuart.