Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Watts Collection, documents 226-240

Checklist of documents in the Watts Collection at the Historical Society of Western Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia. To consult these documents, go to and click on “Visit HMWV's Virtual Collection!” The documents can be found by a keyword search, or by catalog number using “Click and Search”.

This group of 15 documents is less coherent than most previous groups, but extremely interesting. The first item is a list of bonds due to or owed by Edward Watts in 1842. The next 5 items relate to the Breckinridge family, mainly in 1840-41, but also to the settlement of James Breckinridge’s estate in 1856. Several documents relate to legal matters, where Edward or William Watts served as trustee for mortgaged property, in 1841, 1865, 1872 and 1873. There are two personal letters from Mary Jane (Allen) Watts, one from 1852 about social life at Oaklands, and one from 1853 about a visit to Cincinnati, Ohio. Another personal letter from Letitia (Watts) Sorrel in 1872 announces the diagnosis of cancer in her sister, Emma Gilmer (Watts) Carr. A letter from William Joseph Robertson, brother-in-law of William Watts, to the director of the Internal Revenue Service in 1866 challenges the calculation of taxes owed from the Civil War years. And a letter from Henry Alexander Wise to William Watts raises the question of improper expense charges by a colleague on the Virginia Commission on Boundary Lines in 1873.

doc #

July 1, 1842
List of bonds due to or by Edward Watts in 1842, totaling $2251.19, itemized by the parties' names and amounts; names include M. Peyton, Benjamin Carper, Jacob Carper, Thomas Brown, Jacob Price, James Hannah, William Gill, Richard Fox, and C. Best

January 2, 1841
Note from Cary Breckinridge to Edward Watts for $150 for the hire of two Negroes named Griffin and Patterson

about December 31, 1856
Account statement of the estate of John Selden Breckinridge to Edward Watts, showing bonds dating from 1840 to 1843 with interest to 1856, and various payments made by Cary Breckinridge, leaving a total still due of $228.17

November 16, 1840
Note from John Selden Breckinridge to Edward Watts for $375 for the hire of three Negroes, John Lewis, John Burks and his wife Fanny Burks

November 9, 1833, with additions after December 25, 1841
Note from Edward Watts and William Madison Peyton to John B. Floyd for $668.33, with an account statement including other bonds and credits, including purchase and hire of slaves Ned, Griffin and Patterson, and with assignment of this note to James Breckinridge Watts, and by him to Cary Breckinridge

after December 25, 1841
Statement of bonds of Edward Watts, with interest and various credits and debits, the final sum of $81.92 being due to Cary Breckinridge

January 4, 1841
Indenture between Andrew Lewis, James Francis Preston and Edward Watts, providing that Preston as trustee may sell two tracts of land belonging to Lewis, if Lewis defaults on a loan of $130 from Watts; the tracts of land were in Montgomery County, Virginia, on Bottom Creek

 THIS INDENTURE, Made this 4th day of January in the year of our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and forty one between Andrew Lewis of the first part, and James F. Preston of the second part, and Edward Watts of the third part.

James Francis Preston (1813-1862) was born at Smithfield, the Preston estate in Montgomery County, Virginia. He seved in the Confederate army, was wounded at the first battle of Manassas, and died of disease contracted while in military service. Andrew Lewis (1759-1849) was a son of the famous Revolutionary War general of the same name.

late 1852
Letter from Mary Jane (Allen) Watts, at Oaklands, Roanoke County, Virginia, to her sister Evelina "Eva" Sophia Allen, presumably at home at Beaverdam, Botetourt County, Virginia, urging her to come to Oaklands for a party, and bring her cousin Jane Arthur and brother John Allen, reassuring her about clothes, adding the encouragement of her sisters-in-law Alice Matilda Watts and Emma Gilmer Watts, and describing the young men who will be present; she also tells of a day's activities, going to the railroad station and meeting a number of friends, including the Tayloe girls; and she sends love to her family

Oaklands, Thursday morning [late 1852]
            My dear Evie, I wrote you a hurried note on yesterday morning to apprize you of the contemplated party at the Lick. I have since ascertained that I was mistaken as to the time of its coming off, and as I am particularly anxious for you and Jane to be here I write to hurry your movements. The party [is to be next Wednesday night ...]
            [... John must be sure] and come to the party. Love to Jane. Write to me – or rather come to see me. Tell Mama she must please make you come. I must conclude. Your affectionate sister Mary. Emma sends her love. Alice is sick with a bad cold. She has heard from Mr Lewis. All well.

This page illustrates the practice of cross-writing, which was used to save paper. As is the case here, the writer usually filled the paper with normal horizontal lines, and then returned to the first page and continued writing vertically. The Lick refers to Big Lick, the old name for the community that became Roanoke City. Mr Lewis has not been identified.

July 31, 1865
Indenture between John Dabney, William Watts, George Edward Dabney and George Plater Tayloe, selling his two-thirds interest in a water grist mill and the land around it in Montgomery County, Virginia, to Watts, to insure payment of John Dabney's debts of $2000 to George E. Dabney and of $634.59  Tayloe

March 22, 1873
Agreement between William Watts, John Dabney and Lavinia (Langhorne) Dabney his wife, George Plater Tayloe, and James Humphries, regarding the water grist mill and land in Montgomery County, Virginia, held in trust by Watts to insure payment of John Dabney's debt, which is to be sold to Humphries without a public auction; Humphries is paying with bonds from Charles Elisha Pobst, issued in payment for a house and lot in Old Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, and from John A. Sowers, issued in payment for the Company Mills in Roanoke County, Virginia; incomplete document, continues in 1998.26.242

 This agreement made this 22nd day of March 1873 between William Watts Trustee, John Dabney and Lavenia his wife of the first part, William Watts Trustee and George P. Tayloe of the second part and James Humphries of the third part,

            John Dabney (1822-1887) was born in Campbell County, Virginia, and died  in Greenville, Mississippi.  George Plater Tayloe (1804-1897) was born at Mount Airy, Richmond County, Virginia, and died  at his home Buena Vista, in Roanoke, Virginia. He was a leading citizen of Roanoke County and City, and a friend of the Watts family; in 1830 he married Mary Elizabeth Langhorne, a sister of Lavinia (Langhorne) Dabney.
            James Humphries (1824-after 1888) was born in Roanoke County, Virginia; in 1853 he married Eliza Jane Lore (died 1877), and they left issue. They moved to Montgomery County, Virginia, in 1842, where he was a farmer. He enlisted in October 1864 in the 4th Virginia Infantry and served until Lee’s surrender. In 1865 he was elected justice of the peace in the Alleghany district, and served two years.

May 3, 1853
Letter from Mary Jane (Allen) Watts, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to her mother, Mary Elizabeth Payne (Jackson) Allen, in Virginia, describing her activities while she visits her sister-in-law Letitia Gamble (Watts) Rives with other members of the Watts family, another sister-in-law Emma Gilmer Watts and her mother-in-law Elizabeth (Breckinridge) Watts; they attend church services with the noted preachers Stephen Higginson Tyng and Bishop Charles Pettit McIlvaine, shop and observe curious sights in the city, call on relatives of Letitia's husband Landon Cabell Rives, Jr, including the noted philanthropist Sarah Anne Worthington King Peter, and make plans for future travel to Kentucky and Zanesville and their return to Virginia. The writer also sends news of her health, which has been poor, and relates the vain efforts of her sisters-in-law to meet the famous writer and lecturer Anna Cora (Ogden) Mowatt, who is in town to give a reading

 I hope dear Jimmy is much better. Tell Henry my next letter shall certainly be to him. Good night my dear Mother and may God bless you all. Your affectionate daughter, Mary A. Watts

Jimmy and Henry were the writer’s two younger brothers, James Madison Allen and Henry Clay Allen.

January 20, 1866
Copy of a letter from William Joseph Robertson in Charlottesville, Virginia, to Edward Ashton Rollins, Commissioner of Internal Revenue, in Washington, DC, questioning the 1864 tax assessment of his wife's farm in Roanoke County, Virginia, arguing that non-working slaves should not be used to calculate imputed income, that only products actually sold should be considered income, that his wife, Alice Matilda (Watts) Robertson, and her sister, Letitia Gamble (Watts) Sorrel, should be assessed individually and not as a partnership, and that income in Confederate currency should be converted to US dollars at a more favorable rate

 3d, I think that the Confederate money received by my wife & her sister from the products of their farm in 1864 was not worth as much as one dollar in Greenbacks for fifteen of that currency. The larger portion of it was received in December 1864 when the dollar in gold was worth from forty to fifty of Confederate Currency. And it seems to me that the assessor ought to scale that currency according to its actual value when received instead of adopting an arbitrary rule of putting it at fifteen for one, no matter at what period of the year it was received. May I ask the favour of you to decide whether the assessment has been correctly made, & if you agree with me in thinking that it has not been, that you will cause the errors to be corrected in such manner as may be proper, informing me at your earliest convenience of your decision upon the questions I have submitted. Very respectfully yours, Wm J. Robertson

Alice (Watts) Robertson and Letitia (Watts) Sorrel inherited large tracts of land, formerly part of Oaklands, from their parents, Edward Watts and Elizabeth (Breckinridge) Watts. The two tracts lay approximately where the Roanoke municipal airport and the adjoining shopping malls to the east are located.

January 17, 1872
Letter from Letitia Gamble (Watts) Sorrel, at Oaklands, Roanoke County, Virginia, to Evalina Sophia “Eva” Allen, in Botetourt County, Virginia, giving news of Letitia's sister Emma Gilmer (Watts) Carr who has recently and unexpectedly been diagnosed with cancer, describing her consultations with famous doctors in Charlottesville, Virginia; Baltimore, Maryland,  and Washington, DC; it explains also where Emma’s five young children are, and when Emma plans to return home; includes some news of other family members; with envelope

 Miss Eva S. Allen / Care of Capt John Allen / Waskey's Mills / Botetourt County / Va

Envelopes with printed stamps had been in use since the 1850s; this issue dates from 1870. The addressee, Evelina Sophia Allen, was a sister-in-law of the writer, her late sister Mary Jane (Allen) Watts having been married to Letitia Gamble (Watts) Sorrel’s brother, William Watts. Waskey's Mills was a post village in Botetourt County, Virginia, near Buchanan.

I am truly sorry to hear that yr dear Mother has been so sick. I trust the change you contemplate making will prove beneficial to her. Give her if you please my most affect[ionate] love. And with kindest remembrances to the other members of the family, believe me, dear Eva, always sincerely & affectionately yrs, L. G. Sorrel

Emma Gilmer (Watts) Carr, whose recent diagnosis of cancer is the principal subject of this letter, died less than two months later, on 12 March 1872.

August 14, 1872, to November 29, 1872
Deed between John A. Sowers, in his own right and as executor for the estate of his late wife Emeline Sowers and as trustee for their children Emma and Elizabeth Sowers, of the first part, and James Humphries of the second part, concerning the sale by Humphries to Sowers of a mill in Roanoke County, and by Sowers to Humphries of a house in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, with endorsements acknowledging Sowers' signature and recording the deed in Roanoke County

State of Virginia, County of Wythe
To Wit: I Jno. W. Robinson a Justice of the peace for the State & County aforesaid do certify that John A. Sowers whose name is signed to the writing hereto annexed, bearing date on the 12th day of August 1872, has acknowledged the same before me in my County aforesaid, Given under my hand this 4 day of September 1872, Jno. W. Robinson J. P.

At the bottom of the page are affixed 8 US Internal Revenue stamps of 25 cents each, which have been canceled by writing on each one: “J. A. S. / 6th Sep / 1872”. There are other stamps at the top of the following page. John A. Sowers (c. 1806-1886) appears in the 1870 census in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia as a railroad agent.

February 18, 1873
Letter from Henry Alexander Wise, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, regarding their expense accounts as commissioners on the Virginia Commission on Boundary Lines, and Wise's conclusion that Daniel Coleman DeJarnette, the third member, has overspent his share, having obtained $4697.50, compared to $2457.50 for Wise and $845 for Watts; asking Watts to approve Wise's request for payment of $4320.11 and to come to Richmond to submit his own accounts; and expressing concern that further appropriations may be denied

 Tell me what you wish done with your acct, if you can't come. But, I repeat, come. Pardon so long a letter, intended to be a mere note. Yrs truly, Henry A. Wise
Col Wm Watts

            Henry Alexander Wise (1806-1876) served in the U.S. Congress 1833-44. He was named by President Tyler as U.S. minister to Brazil 1844-47, was elected governor of Virginia in 1855, and was a member of the Virginia secession convention of 1861. He served as a brigadier general in the Confederate army. He moved his family to Rocky Mount, Virginia, during the Civil War, and lost his plantation near Norfolk; after the war he lived in Richmond and practiced law. He was married three times and had fourteen children.
            The boundary between Virginia and Maryland was defined by a royal charter of 1632 as the southern bank of the Potomac River. From the beginning, the two colonies and later states disputed the boundary, over such issues as the use of the high water or low water mark to measure from, the treatment of small inlets, and usage rights. An agreement in 1785 settled some of the debates over navigation rights. In 1877, following the work of the commission on which William Watts served, the two states agreed to use the low water mark and to survey a boundary based on it. Nevertheless the question led to further disputes in the 1950s.

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