Skip to main content

William Selden Papers

Identifier: SC 00934

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

Papers, 1772-1799, of Anglican minister William Selden (1741-1783) and his wife Mary Ann Hancock Selden (1745-1789) of Elizabeth City County, Virginia. These papers are primarily financial in nature and document the Selden family's management of the Elizabeth City Parish, the family estate, slave holdings, and the hire of estate slaves to local plantation owners. These papers consist of receipts, labor contracts, financial summaries, and a small leather financial ledger. The labor contracts in this collection consist of agreements which discuss the terms for hire of slaves. Also included are two leather gentleman's purses owned by the Selden family.


  • Creation: 1771-1799


Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access:

Collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Biographical Information:

William Selden was born in 1741 at Princess Ann County, Virginia, the son of John and Grace Boswell Selden. From 1752 to 1755 Selden studied at the College of William and Mary. He originally pursued a career in law, but after several years of practice he switched to work as an Anglican Minister. As early as 1765 Selden applied for the position of rector at the Elizabeth City Parish, VA but the position was given to Thomas Warrington. However, upon Warrington's death in late 1770 Selden was unanimously chosen as rector of the parish. In early 1771 he was ordained and by March 1771 Selden was officially licensed by the Virginia Colony to serve as a minister of the Elizabeth City Parish.

Sources indicate that throughout Selden's tenure at the Elizabeth City Parish tithes increased, starting in 1770 with 1,179 and by 1776 reaching 1,246. While the disestablishment of the Church later forced a drop in tithes, numbers had sufficiently increased by 1784 to 1,051. In addition to these financial aspects, during his time Selden also owned a number of slaves which he used for various economic undertakings. Sources also show that during the American Revolution Selden placed his loyalties with the American cause. William Selden served at the Elizabeth City Parish until his death in 1783.

In the midst of these events, on May 29, 1767 Selden married Mary Ann Hancock (1745-1789) of Princess Ann County. The couple later had eight children, two of whom are known to have lived to adulthood, Sarah H. Selden (1769-1810) and William Boswell Selden (1772-1849). Upon Selden's death in 1783, Mary Ann Hancock Selden oversaw her late husband's financial affairs, often renting their slaves to nearby estates, until her death in 1789.


Patterson, Susan Louise. œBiographical Sketches of Anglican Clergyman Trained at the College of William and Mary, 1729-1776: A Study of James Blair's Plan and its Results. MA Thesis, College of William and Mary, 1973, 68-70.

Goodwin, Edward Lewis. The Colonial Church in Virginia, with Biographical Sketches of the First Six Bishops of the Diocese of Virginia, and Other Historical Papers. Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing Co., 1927: 305-306. Further information about this individual or organization may be available in the Special Collections Research Center Wiki: .


0.01 Linear Foot

Acquisition Information:


Physical Description

53 items

Processing Information:

Processed in 2007 by Zachary R. Jones.

Guide to the William Selden Papers
Finding Aid Authors: Zach Jones, SCRC Staff.
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
The collection description/finding aid is written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository