James Maury was born in Dublin in 1719, and emigrated to Virginia with his parents Matthew and Mary Ann Fontaine Maury, while still an infant. James Maury later married a daughter of Dr. Thomas Walker, with whom he fathered eleven children.
Maury was minister of the Fredericksville parish of Albemarle from 1751 until his death in 1769. Maury proudly served as the chaplain to the Albemarle troops participating in the French and Indian War of 1755(Rawlings 96). As the rector of the Fredericksville parish, Maury was involved in all the religious affairs of the area. The established religion of the colony was Church of England, but other forms of Christianity were slightly tolerated. Pressed by controversy, in 1761, Maury publicly addressed all Christians in the area, when group called the Anabaptists were traversing Virginia. He called on all denominations to unite against the Anabaptists who denied all ordination and claimed, "Everyone had the right to preach by virtue of the inspiration of the spirit." He worried that they were moving about without any license, disturbing the order of the neighborhoods and churches with wild doctrines (Meade 428). This was an important point in Maury's life as he worked had to preserve the religion and it's teachings in Virginia, but specifically Albemarle County.
It was customary for colonial clergymen to add to their usefulness and salary by teaching and James Maury followed the trend by starting his own academy called the Maury School for Boys. At first it was located in downtown Charlottesville and then relocated to his farm Edgeworth(Rawlings 73).
Loyal Land Company
In addition to his religious duties, he was a student of the geography of North America. James Maury could use what he taught himself as one of the original rectors of the Loyal Land Company, chartered in 1749. The Loyal Land Company was created with the purpose of petitioning for a large grant west of the Allegheny Mountains.
Legacy to Western Exploration
As founder of the Maury School for Boys, Maury tutored three future Presidents and five future signers of the Declaration of Independence including Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe. Considered the "best known" school in Albemarle County, the log building in which he taught, was on the border of Albemarle and Louisa counties. He gave instruction in classics, manners and morals, mathematics, literature, history and geography (Dabney 110). Maury considered knowledge of geography as one of the essential features in the education of a "well-rounded young gentleman"(Allen 61). His intellectual expeditions would influence explorers for years to come. These lessons in history and geography were the driving force that helped Maury spread his love for exploration and discovery. It is no wonder that Thomas Jefferson would go on to commission the Lewis and Clark expedition.