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October 28, 2021 / Joanne Yeck

Buckingham County Notable: Linnaeus Bolling

On June 5, 1816, The Richmond Enquirer published the following obituary for Linnaeus Bolling, one of Buckingham County’s most promising young men:


Extract of a letter to a gentleman in this City dated, Williamsburg, Saturday Evening, 6 o’clock.

“I have a tale of horror to relate! This moment I have received the sad tidings of the death of Mr. Bolling: he went to the College Mill to bathe, and attempted to swim across the pond. — About fifteen yards from the shore, on the opposite side, his feet became entangled in some grass, which grew under the water, and not being able to disentangle himself, was immediately drowned; you can form no idea of the general distress of the Students, and the Inhabitants, for the untimely end of this truly amiable but unfortunate young man — with truth I may add, that all Williamsburg is in tears. He remained underwater two hours before he could be found, and then he was so completely tied by his feet and arms, that it was with difficulty three men drew him out of the grass. The President and all the Professors are greatly distressed, and exclaimed, ‘The flower of William and Mary is gone!’”


The death of Linnaeus Bolling, a Student of William and Mary College, and son of L. Bolling, Esq. of Buckingham, is announced by letters from Williamsburg. Of the worth and merits of this young man, it would be a difficult task to speak and exaggerated praise  — I knew him well — and as a man, I admired him — as a fellow student, I was attached to him — as a friend I loved him, — To the bounties of nature, who had lavished on his person and his heart her richest and proudest favors and elegant manners, heightened by handsome improvements, the fruits of vigorous study and ambitious cultivation — His stern integrity and universal candor had made him the arbitrator of William and Mary — To promote good order and preserve friendly intercourse among his fellows, was a distinguished and truly noble principle in his nature — So honestly zealous and so impartially correct, their differences were often referred to his decision, from which there was never an appeal — I am privileged to speak of this mark in his character, to it I am indebted beyond the power of gratitude to repay.

By his death the gay polished circle of Williamsburg have lost a rich ornament — the students, an excellent monitor — When relaxing from the rigor of close study, he was not to be found in the brothels of dissipation, not in idle and useless amusements, — He preferred either to seek the company of the fair, by whom, for the chaste conversation, and gay enchanting disposition, he was always welcome — Or with kindred souls to pass his hours in cool and rational recreation, where friendship fully exerts her richest powers and bestows delights and improvements, which no other society affords — such was Linnaeus Bolling — The definition is weak and simple — but correct — ask any student of William and Mary College, who was Linnaeus Bolling. You shall be answered “my Friend” — ask a professor — already you have heard them say “the flower of William and Mary”.


According to a Markham family tree, Linnaeus Bolling (b. abt 1795 – d. 1816) was the son of Linnaeus Bolling (1773-1836) and Mary “Polly” Markham (1776-1824).  For more about this branch of the Markham-Bolling family, see Markham of Chesterfield: Ancestors and Descendants of John Markham.

For much more about the Bollings of Buckingham County, search the archives at Slate River Ramblings.


Special thanks to Patt Freedman for sharing her knowledge about the Bollings of Buckingham County.

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