Benjamin Harrison IV

Benjamin Harrison IV

Benjamin Harrison IV (~1700 – July 12, 1745[1]) was a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses, the son of Benjamin Harrison III, and the father of Benjamin Harrison V, who was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and the fifth Governor of Virginia.[2][3] Harrison is also known as the builder of Berkeley which is believed to be the oldest three-story brick mansion in Virginia and is the ancestral home to two Presidents of the United States: William Henry Harrison, his grandson, and Benjamin Harrison his great-great-grandson.[4] Two powerful and influential families in colonial Virginia, the Harrison family and the Carter family, were united when Harrison married Anne Carter, the daughter of Robert "King" Carter.[5] His family also forged ties to the Randolph family as four of his children married four grandchildren of William Randolph I.[1][2]


Benjamin Harrison IV was born in a small house on the plantation named "Berkeley Hundred" or "Berkeley Plantation".[5] Upon completion of his studies at The College of William & Mary, he became the Harrison family's first college graduate.[6] Harrison settled on his family estate and, like his predecessors, he increased his land holdings.[3][6] Around 1722, Harrison married Anne Carter, whom William Byrd II had described as "a very agreeable girl".[1] As part of a dowry from Robert Carter, Harrison managed and received profits from land that was technically owned by his father-in-law.[7] This land was entailed by Carter to Harrison's son, Carter Henry Harrison.[7] Using bricks fired on the Berkeley plantation, Harrison built a Georgian-style three-story brick mansion on a hill overlooking the James River in 1726.[8][nb 1] Berkeley would later earn a distinction shared only with Peacefield in Quincy, Massachusetts as the ancestral home for two United States Presidents.[4] In 1729, Harrison purchased 200 acres of the Bradford plantation from Richard Branford III.[10] From 1736 to 1742, he represented Charles City County, Virginia in the House of Burgesses.[11]

Harrison and his wife had eleven children:[1]

Anne Carter is thought to have preceded Harrison in death.[1] In 1745, he and his "two youngest daughters" (one of which was very likely Hannah) were killed when lightning struck his house.[1][nb 2] Harrison's will expressed his intent to be buried near his son, Henry,[1] and it broke with the British tradition of primogeniture by leaving large amounts of wealth to all of his children.[15] The six plantations that comprised Berkeley, along with the manor house, equipment, stock, and slaves, became the responsibility of Benjamin Harrison V, the oldest son.[6] Eight other plantations were divided among the remaining sons and his remaining daughters were given cash and slaves.[6]

One source indicates that Harrison's tomb is located on the grounds of the "old Westover Church",[10] but another states he was buried in his family's cemetery.[11]