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Preston Family (Alice Preston Moore Collection) Papers

Identifier: Ms-1962-004

Scope and Contents

The collection include business transactions, land surveys, and general store accounts (1745-1789) relating to William and Susannah Smith Preston; correspondence, business transactions, and notes on farm affairs (1782-1828) relating to their son, John Preston; correspondence and land surveys (1840-1882) relating to John, William A., and Alfred G. Preston; correspondence (1848-1861) relating to William Ballard Preston; and a day book (1789-1820) of the Prestons of Washington County.


  • 1749-1882, n.d.


Language of Materials

The materials in the collection are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use

The circumstances relating to the loan of this collection restrict SCUA staff from creating reproductions for publication and exhibition. Requests for reproduction for personal and research use may be permitted. Contact Special Collections and University Archives for more information.

Biographical Note

William Preston

Smithfield Plantation is the historic home of the Preston family, one of the founding families of Blacksburg and Montgomery County, Virginia. It was built by William Preston (1729-1783), who emigrated from northern Ireland with his family in 1737. He married Susanna Smith in 1761 and settled at Greenfield in Botetourt County in 1769. Preston established himself as a leader in the Virginia frontier by serving in the militia in the French and Indian and Revolutionary wars, in the House of Burgesses representing Augusta County from 1766 to 1768 and Botetourt County in 1769, and as County Lieutenant of Fincastle and Montgomery. He was appointed surveyor of Fincastle County in 1772 and moved his family to that area. He built Smithfield, named in honor of his wife, in 1773. Smithfield was the birthplace and home of three Virginia governors, including James Patton Preston (son of William), and John Buchanan Floyd and John Floyd, Jr. (grandsons of William).

Susanna Smith Preston

Susanna Smith was born in Hanover County, Virginia, in 1740 to Francis and Elizabeth (Waddy) Smith. In 1761, Susanna Smith married William Preston and in 1769, they settled at Greenfield (in Botetourt County). They moved to Fincastle in 1772, and then in 1773 to Smithfield, the home William built for her in Montgomery County. Susanna and William had at least twelve children: Elizabeth Preston Madison (1762-1837), John Preston (1764-1827), Francis Smith Preston (1765-1835), Sarah Preston McDowell (1767-1841), Anne Preston (1769-1782), William Preston (1770-1821), Susanna Preston Hart (1772-1833), James Patton Preston (1774-1843), Mary Preston Lewis (1776-1821), Letitia Preston Floyd (1779-1852), Thomas Lewis Preston (1781-1812), and Margaret Brown Preston Preston (1784-1843). William Preston died in 1783, and although the historical record is lacking about Susanna, it is known that she lived at Smithfield for another 40 years, raising the younger children and managing the household and the estate (sometimes with the help of her sons, who were known to handle legal matters). Susanna died in 1823 and is buried in the Preston Cemetery at Smithfield Plantation. Source: Additional information was compiled from Preston family papers in Special Collection and University Archives.

John Preston

John Preston, eldest son of William and Susanna (Smith) Preston, was born in 1764 at "Greenfield" in Botetourt County, Virginia. He periodically served in the Virginia militia throughout his lifetime. Preston was elected a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, representing Botetourt County in 1783, as well as Montgomery County in 1791 and again in 1803-1804. He served as a member of the Virginia Senate from 1792- 1799.

In 1792, Preston was named as a trustee in the act that established Christiansburg, Virginia in 1792, and served as a clerk of its first Board of Trustees. In 1798 he served as a trustee in the act that established Blacksburg, Virginia. In 1795, Preston became a Lieutenant Colonel, commanding the Third Regiment of Artillery. In 1799, he was elected Brigadier General, and given command of the brigade for Wythe, Montgomery, and Monroe Counties.

Later in 1810, Preston was appointed by the Virginia General Assembly to be the Treasurer of Virginia, serving until 1819. An audit of the treasurer's books found that Preston's accounts were in arrears, and a judgement was issued against Preston for 87 thousand dollars. To meet the obligation, Preston transferred a number of properties to trustees, who were to oversee their sale and the payment of funds into the treasury.

Preston married Mary Radford in 1798, and after her death in 1810, married Eliza Ann Carrington Mayo in 1811. He had seven children with his first wife and one with his second. When not on active military duty, Preston resided at "Smithfield" with his mother until his marriage, after which he lived at "Horseshoe". He died at Greenfield in 1827.

Administrative History

Founded in 1889, the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA) has twenty branches which own and maintain historic properties. In November 1958 the APVA authorized the organization of the Montgomery County branch for the specific purpose of acquiring and restoring Smithfield Plantation, the historic home near Blacksburg in Montgomery County, Virginia, built by William Preston in 1773. In 1959 Mrs. Janie Preston Brockenbrough Lamb, a descendant of Preston, donated Smithfield and 4.5 acres of land to the APVA. Restoration of the building was begun in 1962 when the APVA's Montgomery County Branch raised the funds for renovation and contracted with architects and contractors. Since its foundation, and in more recent years, the organization has had some changes, including the dissolution of branches and the combination of the Montgomery County Branch with the Smithfield Preston Foundation. In 2009, the name was changed to Preservation Virgina.


1.5 Cubic Feet (4 boxes; 1 oversize)


The collection consists of family papers, receipts, correspondence, and original and photocopied materials relating to the Preston family, primarily William and Susanna Smith Preston, John Preston, and William Ballard Preston, dating from the 1740s to the 1880s. Other materials include 19th and 20th century genealogy research on the Prestons.


The majority of the collection is arranged in series by family member/branch of the family: William and Susanna Smith Preston, William Ballard Preston, John and Elizabeth Preston, John Preston, and James Patton. Two additional series include materials from individuals in later generations and branches of the Preston family and genealogical/historical research. Within each of these series, materials are in chronological order.

Source of Acquisition

The Preston Family (Alice Preston Moore Collection) Papers were deposited with the University Libraries in several accruals from the 1960s through 1980s. They were later transferred to Special Collections.

Related Materials

There are several collections in Special Collections and University Archives related to the Smithfield Plantation and the Preston family:

  • Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, Montgomery County Branch Papers, 1754-1996. Ms1962-001. Finding aid available online.

  • John Preston Deed, 1826. Ms2005-014. Finding aid available online.

  • John Preston Papers, 1806-1830, 1844, n.d. Ms1994-034. Finding aid available online.

  • Preston Family (Charles Peale Didier Collection) Papers, 1747-1897. Ms85-020. Finding aid available online.

  • Robert Taylor Preston Papers, 1829-1871, n.d. Ms1992-003. Finding aid available online.

  • William Preston Land Grant, 1773. Ms1994-027. Finding aid available online.

  • Willard Preston Genealogy, c.1998. Ms2009-121. Finding aid available online.

  • George Green Shackelford Papers, 1899-1990 (Bulk, 1955-1989). Ms1983-003. Finding aid available online.

  • Smithfield Preston Foundation Papers, 1784-1881, n.d. Ms1997-002. Finding aid available online.

Rights Statement for Archival Description

The guide to the Preston Family (Alice Preston Moore Collection) Papers by Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech, is licensed under a CC0 (

Processing Information

Some processing, arrangement, and description of the Preston Family (Alice Preston Moore Collection) Papers was completed in the 1960s. Additional arrangement and description was completed prior to and during 2014.

Preston Family (Alice Preston Moore Collection) Papers, 1749-1882, n.d.
Special Collections and University Arhives Staff
2014 (CC0 1.0)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives, Virginia Tech Repository

Special Collections and University Archives, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg Virginia 24061 US