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Rev William Douglas








William Douglas (1708-1798) was a Scottish Reverend of St. James Northam Parish, Goochland County, and was the tutor of young Thomas Jefferson from 1752 until the death of the latter's father in 1757. Jefferson was sent to the Reverend's Latin school to study Greek, Latin, and French upon the return of his family from Tuckahoe to Shadwell.

Jefferson later wrote of his teacher in his Autobiography: "My teacher Mr. Douglas a clergyman from Scotland was but a superficial Latinist, less instructed in Greek, but with the rudiments of these languages he taught me French..." According to Henry Randall, Jefferson also had recollections "of mouldy pies and excellent instruction" at the Rev. Douglas's school. Regardless of his mixed reviews of his education under Douglas, Jefferson had continued to keep in touch with his tutor until his death in 1798. No direct correspondence between them has survived, however.

William was the son of William Douglas and Grizel McKeand, and uncle to Sir William Douglas of Castle Douglas. He married Miss Nicholas Hunter, and they had a daughter, Margaret (Peggy), who married Nicholas Merriwether, of Albemarle. He emigrated to America from Scotland  in 1748.

They may also have had a son, Captain William James Douglas, born 1733, an army officer who was killed at the battle of the Plains of Abraham on 13th September 1759(a).  He was a widower, his wife probably dieing in childbirth, and left a daughter, Jane, who married Captain Thomas Condon Mellish.


William's brother, James, settled in New York where he 'left a numerous prosperity'.


1.  Rev William Douglas is the great uncle of Elizabeth (Betsy) Mary Douglas, who marries Col. James Monroe, nephew and adopted son of President James Monroe.

2.  Jane Douglas was orphaned after her father's death, and she actually married thee times: Thomas Mellish, Mr. Gaudreau (sp?), and John Burhoe. They all were from PEI, Canada.


Research note:

a.  It has been suggested to me that the Douglas who died on the battlefield at Plains of Abraham was a John Douglas, and not William James Douglas. Lt John Douglas, of the 78th Foot (Fraser’s Highlanders), did indeed die in 1579.





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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024