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Preston, James Patton, 1774-1843



  • Existence: 1774 - 1843

Biographical Note

James Patton Preston was born at "Smithfield" in Montgomery County, Virginia, on 21 June 1774, the ninth child of Colonel William Preston and Susanna Smith. He was educated at the William & Mary College from 1790 to 1795. In 1799, Preston qualified as justice of the peace for Montgomery County. He married Nancy Taylor of Norfolk, Va., sister of Gen. Robert B. Taylor, on 13 June 1801. From 1801 to 1804, Preston served in the Virginia Senate. Preston also represented Montgomery County in the House of Delegates from 1810 to 1812. During the War of 1812, he was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the 12th U. S. Infantry. On 15 August 1813, he was promoted to colonel of the regiment and reassigned to the 23rd U. S. Infantry. Severely wounded at the battle of Chrysler's Farm on 13 November 1813, Preston was later discharged from the army on 15 June 1815.

Preston returned to politics with his re-election to the House of Delegates on 11 November 1816. This term in the House was extremely short-lived as he was elected governor on 11 December 1816 to succeed Wilson Cary Nicholas. Preston served the maximum three one-year terms as governor until 11 December 1819. Notable achievements during his governorship include the establishment of the University of Virginia, improvements to Capitol Square, and the charting of Virginia's rivers & counties. Following his governorship, President James Monroe appointed Preston postmaster for Richmond from 1824 to 1837. In 1837, he was chosen president of a convention at Abingdon to plan a railroad from Lynchburg to Tennessee. He died on 4 May 1843 and is buried at a family plot at "Smithfield." Preston County, West Virginia, was named in his honor in 1818.

Finding aid for the Governor James Patton Preston Executive Papers, housed at the Library of Virginia:

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Henry Edmundson Letters

Identifier: Ms-2010-085

The Henry Edmundson Letters contain nine letters, eight of which were written to Edmundson and one, the earliest of the letters, written by Edmundson in 1814 to General John Preston. The senders include William Ballard Preston; Francis H. Smith, superintendent of Virginia Military Institute (V.M.I.); Bernard Peyton; Isaac White; and Joseph Robert Woods.

Dates: 1814 - 1847