Bio/HistoryWilliam Clopton, Jr., of Virginia

William Clopton, Jr., was the second son of William Clopton, Gentleman, and his wife, Ann (Booth) Dennett Clopton. He was born in Virginia, possibly in York County, Virginia as were his three older siblings. He married Joyce Wilkinson, the daughter of George Wilkinson and Sara Lyddall Wilkinson on January 28, 1718. William died before 1733, and it is not known when Joyce died. They had four children: Waldegrave Clopton, Ann Clopton, William Clopton, and George Clopton. The births and baptismal records of the children are to be found in St. Peter's Parish Register, New Kent County, Virginia.

Hanover County, Virginia records reveal William Clopton, Jr., owned, on February 22, 1724, 400 acres of land at Captain West's upper corner on the upper side of Owen's Creek, formerly granted to Robert Clopton (his brother) July 11, 1719. On September 28, 1726, William owned 400 acres of land joining the back of Drummond Scott and Charles Hudson.

In a Richmond News article, dated February 16, 1901, honoring John Bacon Clopton, the grandson of William and Joyce, states: "William Clopton, Jr. married Joyce Wilkinson, one of the most beautiful and charming belles of the Colonial era of Virginia, the daughter of George Wilkinson and Sarah Lydall. Sarah Lydall was the daughter of Col. George Lydall, of the British Army, and of his wife Jane Churchill, aunt of John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough."

The following is a copy of a handwritten statement, signed and sealed, to be found among the John Bacon Clopton Papers at Duke University Library, Durham, North Carolina.

I, Joyce Wilkinson (Clopton) Wallace, daughter of John Bacon Clopton, Judge of the General Court of Virginia, granddaughter of John Clopton, Member of Congress from Virginia, great granddaughter of Captain William Clopton of Hanover County, Virginia and great, great granddaughter of William Clopton, called William Clopton, Jr., who married Joyce Wilkinson in 1718, do make the following statement:

There was in my father's possession a golden horseshoe which the tradition of the family said was worn by William Clopton, Jr. above mentioned. That it had seven (7) diamonds set in it in the place of nailheads, was inscribed on one side "Sic Juvat Transcenderi Montes" and on the other "William Clopton, Knight." That as a child I have had it laid in my hand to look at and that it was of a size to encircle the center of my palm. And that this horseshoe was stolen by Pickpocket Smith, a notorious character, who operated among the fashionable of Richmond in 1842 or 3.

Witness my hand and seal this ninth day of August, 1897.
Signed: Joyce Wilkinson Wallace

The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe came about in the following way. On learning that rangers had discovered a pass through the mountains of Western Virginia, Governor Spottswood in August, 1716, formed an expedition to explore the outer reaches of the state. The company consisted of the Governor, a dozen or so Virginia gentlemen (of whom our William was one) and a great number of servants, rangers and Indians. John Fontaine, one of the gentlemen, tells us in his journal that commencing the journey "Behind the file of horsemen came servants, with pack horses bearing tents, provisions, implements, clothing, and a formidable quantity of wines and cordials. Altogether sixty-three men, seventy-four horses, and a dozen noisy dogs headed for the mountains when the marching trumpet blared."

On reaching the pass and descending into the valley they discovered a large river which in their exalted mood they called the Euphrates. Fortunately the lovely native name, Shenandoah has survived. They hunted and fished to provide a celebration feast. After a festive dinner of perch, venison and turkey, the men loaded their guns. According to Fontaine: "We drank to the health of the King in champagne, and fired a volley; the Princess's health in burgundy, and fired a volley; and all the rest of the Royal Family in claret, and a volley. We drank to the health of Governor Spottswood and fired a volley. We had several sorts of liquors, viz, Virginia red wine and white wine, Irish usquebaugh, brandy, shrub, two sorts of rum, champagne, canary, cherry, punch, water, cider, etc."

They returned to Williamsburg September 17th, having traveled in four weeks a distance of 438 miles. On Christmas Day 1716 Governor Spottswood gathered his gentlemen in Williamsburg and ceremoniously presented a souvenir of their mountain expedition. To each man he gave a miniature golden horseshoe inscribed Sic Juvat Transcendere Montes. So formed the immortal order of the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe. (And one would think not without a considerable number of hangovers!).


Contributed by :

Isabel Lancaster (Clopton) Steiner
and Suellen Clopton Blanton, bblanton@fast.net