Abbott was born in Hagerstown, MD, and grew up in Georgetown, DC. His parents were William Richardson Abbott (d. 1852), the founder of the Georgetown Classical and Mathematical Academy, and his wife, Ellen Jane (Harris) Abbott (9 Dec. 1815-3 Dec. 1902). Abbott the younger attended the University of Virginia in sessions 32-33 (1855-1857). He was a teacher by profession and taught in Alexandria and Charlottesville, VA, and in Opelousas, LA, until the start of the Civil War. From 1861 until 1863, Abbott was employed as a clerk in the government of the Confederacy in Richmond, VA; from 1863-1865 he served as a second lieutenant in the First Regiment of Engineers Troops, the Army of Virginia. He was with Lee at the surrender in Appomattox, VA.
On 7 Oct. 1863, in Albemarle County, Abbott married Lucy Ridgeway Minor, daughter of Dr. Charles Minor, founder of Brookhill School, Charlottesville, VA, and his wife Lucy. The couple had eight children, Ellen Harris, Lucy Minor, Jennie Oliver, Louisa Noland, William Richardson, Jr., Charles Minor, Francis Harris, and Emily McIlwaine Abbott. In 1870, Abbott became assistant headmaster of the private Bellevue High School in Bedford County, VA, and in 1873, became headmaster, a post in which he served until the school was closed in 1909. Bellevue was then converted to the Abbotts’ private home, where he lived until the end of his life.
- “Biographical Note,” Inventory of the Abbot Family Papers, 1739-1999 and undated. Duke University Libraries, http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/rbmscl/abbot/inv/ (accessed 3/23/2011).
- Dodd, Jordan, Liahona Research, comp. Virginia Marriages, 1851-1929 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2000.
- Thornton, William M., “A Virginian Schoolmaster.” Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia,Third Series, v. 10 (Jan. 1917), p. 60-76.
- 1880 U.S. Census, Otter Magisterial District, Bedford County, VA, p. 268A.