The Maury Family - A Brief History

The Maury and Fontaine families were both Huguenot families who fled France because of religious persecution since the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The families joined on October 20, 1716, when Mary Anne Fontaine and Matthew Maury were married in Dublin, Ireland. Mary Anne was the daughter of Jaques (James) Fontaine. James wrote of his son-in-law in his Memoirs of Jaques de la Fontaine, writing that Matthew Maury was “a very honest man, and a good economist, but without property; he had lived in Dublin for two years, having come hither from France as a refugee.”

Based on James’ writing, Matthew Maury had come to Dublin from France around 1714, where he worked as a merchant. He was the son of Abram Maury and Marie Feauguereau, to whom he was born on September 18, 1686, in Castel Mauron in Gascony, France. There is little else in James’ memoirs about Matthew Maury’s ancestry and little else is known of the Maury family in France.

Some months after his marriage, in February 1717, Matthew Maury sailed for Virginia with a shipment of trade goods. His father-in-law pledged his financial support to help Matthew to establish himself in Virginia, and borrowed £90 which he advanced to Matthew. His father-in-law wrote that he had a general release from Matthew for this debt dated August 19, 1719.

Matthew arrived in Virginia in March 1718, and joined his brothers-in-law, John and James Fontaine. Matthew settled on a portion of land which John Fontaine had purchased near West Point, Virginia. This property was located near the headsprings of Jack’s Creek where it emptied into the Pamunkey River. Matthew made preparations for the construction of a small house there and then returned to Dublin for Mary Anne. They and their infant son, James, sailed for America in September 1719, along with 13 servants. Matthew carried a cargo of trade goods with them on their voyage.

Matthew and Mary Anne called their home in Virginia “Hickory Hill.” Matthew engaged in business. He also served as Justice of King William County from 1732 to 1744 and was sheriff in 1739.

Matthew died in 1752 in King William County, Virginia. He left his wife with a house, land, stock, furniture, six working slaves for her use during her lifetime, and twenty pounds per year in income. Matthew’s will directed that his plantation should be sold upon his widow’s death.

Mary Anne remained in their home there until October 1755, when ill health forced her to move to Charles City County, where she lived with her brother, the Reverend Peter Fontaine. Mary Anne died there on December 10, 1755.

Matthew and Mary Anne raised four children. Three were their own children - - James, Mary, and Abraham Maury. They also raised their niece, Mary Anne Fontaine, daughter of Mary Anne Maury’s brother, the Reverend Peter Fontaine. She came to live with them after the death of her mother, Elizabeth Fourreau Fontaine, around 1722.

Matthew and Mary Anne Maury’s descendants have left their mark on U.S. history. Their son, the Reverend James Maury, is best known as the plaintiff in the famous “Parson’s Cause,” a case which culminated in Patrick Henry’s first trial as an attorney that started him on his career. Their grandson Fontaine Maury served as mayor of Fredericksburg, Virginia, during the 1790s and early 1800s. His correspondence in that capacity with such notables as Governors Henry Lee, Robert Brooke, and (later President) James Monroe is well-documented.

Their grandson, James Maury, Jr., served as U.S. Consul in Liverpool, England, for 45 years beginning in 1790. He was the first U.S. Consul to that city. It was his daughter, their great-granddaughter, Ann Maury, who conducted extensive research on the Fontaine family and in 1853 published the English translation of James Fontaine’s memoirs. She also published a large genealogical chart of the Fontaine and Maury families, which is still available from The Fontaine Maury Society library.

Other of their great-grandchildren include Matthew Fontaine Maury, the famous “Pathfinder of the Seas,” and Major General Dabney Herndon Maury, of the U.S. Army and then the Confederate Army, who later served as U.S. Minister to Colombia. One of their great-great-great-grandchildren, Antonia Caetana de Paiva Maury (1866-1952), was a notable astronomer who developed a system for classifying stars.

The best source of information on the Maury family is Sue C. West-Teague’s book, The Maury Family Tree: Descendants of Mary Anne Fontaine (1690-1755) and Matthew Maury (1686-1752), published in 2004. This book is an update of her 1979 and 1983 editions on the Maury family. It is available for purchase from the library.

The following information on the children of Mary Anne Fontaine and Matthew Maury comes from Sue West-Teague’s book:

1. James Maury, born April 8, 1718, in Dublin, Ireland. Married on November 11, 1743, with Mary “Mollie” Walker, daughter of Ann Hill and Dr. James Walker, in Louisa County, Virginia. The Reverend James Maury died on June 9, 1769, at Glebe Farm in Albemarle County, Virginia.

2. Mary Anne Maury, born in 1728 Virginia. She married Daniel Parke Claiborne, son of Anne Fox and Captain Thomas Claiborne, Jr. Mary Anne’s death date is not known.

3. Abraham Maury, born on March 18, 1731, in King William County, Virginia. Married on November 2, 1759, with Susanna Poindexter, daughter of Elizabeth and Phillip Poindexter Sr., in Lunenburg County, Virginia. Colonel Abraham Maury died on January 22, 1784, in Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg County, Virginia.

For more information on the Maury family, see the Society’s library and bibliography listings.

Revised March 2014