Colonel Joshua Fry was born in Somersetshire, England, around 1700. As a young man, he emigrated from England to Essex County Virginia. He started a boys grammar school attached to the College of William and Mary and later chaired the colleges Math Department. Like many young men of colonial Virginia, he made a fortune through his marriage (Slaughter, 16). In 1737, Fry wed Mary Micou Hill, the widow of a wealthy plantation owner from Spotsylvania County. He gained further political prominence serving as a member of the House of Burgesses, and as a justice of the peace for Essex County.
In 1743-44 Fry moved his family to the one of the westernmost reaches of Virginia settlement. He hoped to take advantage of unpatented lands, and surveying opportunities in the area (Frye, 5). When Albemarle County was founded the following year, Fry was named chief surveyor, responsible for finalizing claims on tracts of land throughout the county. Assisting Fry throughout his work was his close friend Peter Jefferson, father of one of Albemarles most famous residents, Thomas Jefferson. Their bonds of friendship tied them until death. Fry willed his surveying instruments to the elder Jefferson who was also the executor of his will (Slaughter, 35). Fry also acted as a justice of the peace, often making decisions on minor cases from his home, Viewmont, an 800 acre plantation bordering the Hardware river.
Loyal Land Company
Like many early settlers, Joshua Fry was an extensive land holder. He did little farming, but earned a living through surveying and selling the lands. Land deals and speculation tied the founders of Albemarle together. Fry, just like fellow Albemarle residents Peter Jefferson, Thomas Walker, and James Maury, was a partner in the Loyal Land Company, a group that collectively held the patent to some 800,000 acres of unsettled land in western Virginia. He later sold his share to Dr. Thomas Walker as payment for his surveying expedition where he discovered the Cumberland Gap. View their transaction, written on a small scrap of paper, however from reading the transcription of their deal, it is clear these men used proper, legalistic language.
Legacy to Western Exploration
The most lasting contribution Fry made to later generations was his maps, documenting with great accuracy, areas never charted before. While most major land owners were surveyors, Fry was especially ambitious. In 1738 he attempted to gain permission from the House of Burgesses to draw a map of all Virginias waterways. Though this venture failed, Fry was nonetheless valued for his cartographic skills, and the colony turned to Fry and Jefferson for later projects such as their extenstion of the North Carolina-Virgina Border, and the Fry-Jefferson Map, depicting Virginia and Maryland. Earlier maps often proved unreliable since they were based on a compilation of accounts from hunters or American Indians of a region. This map was unique for its time because it was compiled from actual surveying records, and would therefore be useful to following generations.
Fry was dedicated to opening up as much land as possible to English settlement. But as English settlers moved further west, they had to compete with the French for alliance with American Indians. In 1752, Fry was selected to represent Virginia for a treaty negotiation at Logstown, a city on the Ohio River not far from present day Pittsburgh. He negotiated with members of the Six Nations comprising the Iroquois to forgive past troubles with early English travelers, and allow the British to build a fort, which would protect later settlers and traders to the West, and abate any threat from the French (Frye, 29).
Joshua Fry was also known as a capable soldier and leader (Slaughter, 21). Fry had commanded Albemarles militia since its founding in1745, and nine years later at the start of the Seven Years War, Fry was named head of the Virginia Regiment. En route to Fort Monongahela, Fry fell from his horse and died from his injuries. His sudden death, left the young George Washington in command for the duration of the war.