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Dr. William CABELL
Elizabeth BURKS
Col. Nicholas CABELL
Joseph Carrington CABELL


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Mary Walker CARTER

Joseph Carrington CABELL

  • Born: 28 Dec 1778
  • Marriage: Mary Walker CARTER on 1 Jan 1807 in Williamsburg, VA
  • Died: 5 Feb 1856, Nelson County, Virginia, USA, "Edgewood" aged 77

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Joseph Carrington Cabell Joseph Carrington Cabell was born December 28, 1778 in Amherst County, what is now Nelson County, Virginia. He was the son of Colonel Nicholas Cabell and Hannah Carrington and brother to William H. Cabell. After graduating from the College of William and Mary in 1798, he studied law and then lived abroad for three years. While away he had the opportunity to travel, attend the lectures of many famous scholars, and stay at many of Europe's leading universities. Joseph was friendly with Robert Fulton and Washington Allston, traveled with Washington Irving, and was acquainted with Cuvier, Pestalozzi, Volni, Kosciusko, and William Godwin. Once back in Virginia, he married Mary Walker Carter from Lancaster Virginia, granddaughter of Sir Peyton Skipwith, on January 1, 1807. Joseph Cabell and Mary Carter had no children. The following year, he returned to Amherst County, entered politics, and was elected to the House of Delegates, where he served two terms and was instrumental in establishing the Literary Fund. From 1810 to 1829 he was a member of the Virginia Senate and used the position to argue forcefully for general state improvements like local government and popular education. Between 1831 and 1835, he again served in the House of Delegates and tried to further the interests of the James River and Kanawha Canal projects. Most importantly, he worked with Thomas Jefferson on his pet project: a state univesity. He first helped secure legislative sanction for the school, and then labored tirelessly to obtain financial appropriations for its construction. Joseph's role was so significant he has been nick-named Jefferson's right hand man. Joseph continued to work with the University as a Visitor and Rector for the next thirty-seven years. He did his best to provide modern primary and secondary educational opportunities for males and females, while remaining committed to his projects for the betterment of the state. Known as "the DeWitt Clinton of Virginia," Joseph became president of the James River and Kanawha Canal Company. He also had a reputation for his progressive ideas about agriculture and constantly tried out new ideas on his large plantation. Although he never held national office, Joseph was very well known for his wide variety of talents and his skills as an orator. His personal and political creed was summed up in his comment "I think the greatest service a man can render is to speak the truth and to show that it is his only object." He was emphatically a Virginia statesmen, devoting his life to the commonwealth and presistently declining the diplomatic positions Jefferson offered him. He refused to run for governor or for Congress, and turned down Cabinet seats under James Madison and James Monroe.

Joseph Carrington Cabell was part of the flowering of the Cabell political genius in the nineteenth century. Unlike his more well-known kinsmen, William Cabell Rives and John Cabell Breckinridge , who exercised their gifts on a national stage, Cabell devoted his energies to his native state of Virginia. An early adherent to Jefferson's party and well-traveled for his day--having completed a tour of Europe 1806-1808--Cabell had opportunities to serve in the administrations of Presidents Madison and Monroe. He declined even to run for a congressional seat, preferring Richmond to Washington. He served for decades in the Virginia General Assembly not because he was incapable of attaining a higher station, but because his service there well-positioned him to advance his two great interests, the University of Virginia and the James River & Kanawha Cana. Thomas Jefferson recruited Cabell's aid in the earliest stages of planning for the University of Virginia . Jefferson first raised the issue with his friend in a letter of 5 January 1815, and Cabell thereafter served as the University's most faithful advocate in the state legislature. He was the prime mover first behind the incorporation of Central College in 1817 and second behind the selection of Central College as the official state university in 1819. In that year, Cabell joined Jefferson, his best friend John Hartwell Cocke , and several other of the Commonwealth's most distinguished citizens on the University's first Board of Visitors. When Cabell's energy faded and he considered resigning his post in the state legislature, Jefferson begged his friend in the strongest possible terms not to abandon his post as the institution's most capable friend in Richmond. "Nature will not give you a second life wherein to atone for the omissions of this. Pray then, dear and very dear sir, do not think of deserting us," he pined in January 1821. Cabell found some hidden reserve of energy and served the University of Virginia longer than any of its original founders, as a Board member until his death in 1856 and as a member of the General Assembly until 1835. In addition to his remarkable contributions to the University, Cabell spearheaded the drive for internal improvements in the state of Virginia. He doggedly pursued his goal of connecting the James and Kanawha Rivers--thereby linking the Chesapeake watershed and the Mississippi River--and demonstrated perseverance and political acumen that even his opponents admired. Editor of the Richmond Whig, John Hampden Pleasants, marveled in 1842 at Cabell's ability to keep the project afloat despite the disapprobation of a majority of his fellow citizens. "To keep this majority passive, and not merely passive, but to impel them into active co-operation, argues a great knowledge of mankind, and a great talent for influencing them." No Virginian pushed harder for the incorporation of the James River & Kanawha Company than did Cabell, and shareholders responded by electing him their first president, a position he held from 1835 until 1846. Though cost overruns, the furies of Mother Nature, and the emergence of the railroad prevented Cabell from reaching the Kanawha, the Company had completed 147 miles of canal by 1840, stretching up the James River all the way to Lynchburg. A combination of slack water navigation and canal works facilitated navigation on the river all the way to Buchanan, Virginia by 1851. Cabell died at his Nelson County estate, "Edgewood ," in February of 1856, survived by his wife of forty-nine years, Mary Walker Carter Cabell. Cabell left no children to mourn his passing, but the Faculty and Visitors of the University each passed resolutions honoring him. His grateful successors on the Board further commemorated his sacrifices on their behalf by naming the University's new academic center Cabell Hall in 1895.


Joseph married Mary Walker CARTER on 1 Jan 1807 in Williamsburg, VA. (Mary Walker CARTER died on 20 Dec 1863 in Nelson County, Virginia, USA, "Edgewood".)


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