Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Watts Graveyard at Oaklands, part 2

            The previous post recounted the history of the Watts graveyard at Oaklands, and showed the gravestones of the first four children of General Edward Watts and his wife Elizabeth (Breckinridge) Watts who were buried there. Pictured below are the gravestones of General Watts and his wife, and of the other three of their children who were buried at Oaklands: William Watts, Emma (Watts) Carr, and Letitia (Watts) Sorrel.
            William Watts attended William and Mary College, and studied law at the University of Virginia. He practiced law in Roanoke County, while managing the Oaklands plantation. He married Mary Jane Allen in 1850; their first child, Edward, born in 1852, died as an infant; their second, John Allen, born in 1855, but his mother died soon afterwards. In the Civil War, William Watts served as a colonel in the 28th Virginia Infantry. He survived the war, and lived until 1877,  long enough to see his son J. Allen Watts reach adulthood and begin his own career as a lawyer, while assuming the stewardship of Oaklands.
            Emma (Watts) Carr died in 1872, only 37 years old, but she had been married to George Watson Carr for more than eleven years and had five children, four of whom survived her. The Carrs lived on an inherited portion of Oaklands plantation, which they called “Hawkesdale”. According to a letter in the Watts Collection of the Historical Society of Western Virginia, #1998.26.238, Emma died of lung cancer, which was diagnosed only three months before her death.
            Letitia (Watts) Sorrel died in 1900. After her parents’ death, she lived with her second husband, Dr. Francis Sorrel, at “The Barrens”, on a portion of the Oaklands plantation she inherited; she had no children. Her husband memorialized her with a beautiful stained glass window in Saint John’s Episcopal Church in Roanoke, Virginia, which can be glimpsed in the rotating gallery of pictures at the top of the church’s website homepage. He and she both originally had table monuments as grave markers; they could not be moved to the new location at Fairview Cemetery, and were replaced in 1977. A photo in my previous post shows part of the two original monuments.

 To our / Father's / Memory / Gen'l Edward / Watts / Born / April 2, 1779  / Died / Aug. 9, 1859 / After a well spent life / he died beloved by his / Family / Honored and respected / by all.

 Elizabeth, daughter of / Gen'l James Breckinridge / wife of / Gen'l Edward Watts / Died July 8, 1862 / Aged 69 years.

William Watts / Col. 28th Va. Infantry / C S A / Born Dec. 20, 1817 / Married to Mary Jane Allen / at Beaverdam, Botetourt Co. / Oct. 8, 1850 / Died at Oaklands / May 1, 1877. / Mary Jane Allen Watts / Oct. 5, 1825 – June 1, 1855 / Edward Watts / June 17, 1853 – Feb. 2, 1854. [The graves of Mary Jane (Allen) Watts and of Edward Watts were originally marked only by uninscribed fieldstones; their names were added to William’s monument in 1977.]

Emma Gilmer Watts / Daughter of / Edward & Elizabeth / Breckinridge Watts / Wife of / George Watson Carr / Born / at Oaklands / Oct. 13, 1834 / Died / at Oaklands / Mar. 12, 1872.

Letitia Gamble Watts Sorrel / Nov. 7, 1829 / Dec. 8, 1900. [This stone was made in 1977 to replace the table monument, which could not be moved. The original inscription read:] Sacred / to the memory of / Letitia Gamble / daughter of / General Edward / and / Elizabeth Breckinridge Watts / wife of / Francis Sorrel M.D. / (formerly of Savannah, Ga.) / Born Nov. 7, 1829 - Died Dec. 8, 1900 / Jesus died and rose / even so them also which sleep in / Jesus will God bring with him. [On the side was inscribed a long tribute written by the Rev. William Hopkins Meade, former rector of St. John's Episcopal Church, Roanoke, published in the Southern Churchman, Richmond, Va., Dec. 29th, 1900.]

Graveside flowers at the funeral of J. Allen Watts
William Watts’s second son, J. Allen Watts, was buried at Oaklands in 1904. Like his father, he attended William and Mary College and studied law at the University of Virginia. He practiced law in Roanoke and served a term as a senator in the state legislature. He moved from Oaklands into the city of Roanoke around 1890, and had an interest in a company founded to develop the estate, which apparently failed. J. Allen Watts’s wife, Gertrude (Lee) Watts, lived as a widow for almost fifty years, and in 1953 her burial was one of the last in the old cemetery. At the time of her death, her husband’s deteriorating table monument was replaced, and two similar stones were carved to commemorate her and her husband.
            Two of J. Allen Watts’s children were also buried at Oaklands: Hugh Lee Watts and William Watts.  Hugh died in 1908, not yet 24 years old, unmarried. Around 1918 William built a new house at Oaklands, to replace the one built by his great-grandfather Edward in 1818, which had burned in 1897, and he returned to live on the farm, although by this date much of the plantation land had been sold. William Watts died in 1932, and was the last man buried at Oaklands.

John Allen Watts / March 30, 1855 / January 5, 1904 [This grave was originally marked by a table monument like the Sorrels, inscribed: John Allen Watts / Born / at Beaverdam, Botetourt Co., Va. / Mar. 30th, 1855 / Died / in Roanoke, Va. / Jan. 5th, 1904 / followed by 11 lines from Shelley's "Adonais" beginning "Peace, peace, he is not dead" in stanza 39. The monument was replaced in 1953 because of deterioration.]

Gertrude Lee Watts / October 15, 1862 / January 30, 1953

Hugh Lee Watts / Beloved son of / John Allen and / Gertrude Lee / Watts / Born at Oaklands / Roanoke Co. / Dec. 10, 1884 / Died / in Roanoke City / Sept. 22, 1906 [actually 1908] / I look for the Resurrection / of the dead / And the life of the world / to come.

William Watts / son of / John Allen / and / Gertrude Lee Watts / Born at Oaklands, Roanoke County / Sept. 27, 1882 / Married to / Ellen Gregory Catogni / Nov. 28, 1908 Died at Oaklands, Roanoke County / Nov. 11, 1932 / He prayeth best who loveth best / All things both great and small / For the dear God who loveth us / He made & loveth all.

            The remaining graves from the Oaklands graveyard will be described in the next post.


  1. Good post. I am a Catogni and have been working on family history when I ran across your site. Please feel free to look around on a my family's site at I will check there also for the Watt family.

    Warm regards,

    1. Thanks for the comment. If you would like a little more information about the Catogni family in Roanoke, send me an email. My address is in my profile.