Charles W. Byrd

From Ohio History Central
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Byrd, Charles Willing Memorial Dedication.jpg
Mrs. Elmer Fulton, descendent, unveiling memorial marker to Gov. Charles Willing Byrd, appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory in 1798, then Governor of the Northwest Territory in 1802. Sinking Spring, Highland County, Ohio.

Charles Willing Byrd was an early Ohio political leader and jurist.

Byrd was born in Virginia on July 26, 1770 into the wealthy and powerful Byrd family. His father was William Byrd III. His parents made sure that their son received a good education. He studied to become a lawyer and completed his schooling in Philadelphia in 1794. Byrd then became the Kentucky land agent for financier Robert Morris. He was responsible for maintaining, selling, and acquiring real estate for Morris. In 1797, Byrd returned to Philadelphia and opened a law practice.

In 1799, Byrd moved to the Northwest Territory. Due to his legal background, Byrd quickly found himself involved in governmental affairs. He served first as the Secretary of the Northwest Territory, after the territorial legislature sent Secretary William Henry Harrison to the House of Representatives. In 1802, President Thomas Jefferson chose Byrd to replace Arthur St. Clair as the territory's acting governor. Byrd held the position for four months, losing his position upon Ohio becoming a state. He served as a delegate to Ohio's constitutional convention in 1803 and, in that same year, became the first sitting justice on the United States District Court of Ohio. He held this position until his death in 1828 at Sinking Springs, Ohio.

In the early 1800s, Byrd became involved with the growing Shaker religious movement. He financially assisted Pleasant Hill, a Shaker community in central Kentucky. Byrd's son, William S. Byrd, lived at Pleasant Hill for some time

While he came from a powerful family, Byrd sought to make his name and enhance his fortune in the West. Trained as an attorney, Ohio's early residents turned to Byrd and others like him to establish a sound government. Byrd also continued to form political alliances with other prominent families through marriage. He was the brother-in-law of Nathaniel Massie, another prominent Ohioan.

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