Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Watts Collection, documents 301-325

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 documents dates from 1844 and early 1845, with only two partial exceptions: document 311 involves a court case that began in 1844 and continued into the late 1840s, and 316 is a collection of receipts dating from 1839 to 1846. Most of the documents concern the law practice of Edward Watts and his sons James Breckinridge Watts and William Watts; and much of that practice involved collecting debts on behalf of distant creditors, notably in New York, Philadelphia and Richmond. One name recurs with significant frequency: Stoner (301, 311, 321, 323, and 324); the settlement of their affairs will be a frequent topic in the Watts papers for several years. Some documents involve routine business matters, like the hiring of slaves to a neighbor (309), tax payments (317), payments to court clerks (318-320). Some of the more interesting and exceptional items include a list of subscribers to the Richmond Whig newspaper (303); a receipt from the professor who taught music to the Watts girls (304); a letter from the Gwathmeys, in part about tobacco and wheat sales, but also about family news (305); a plat and survey of land at the confluence of Glade and Tinker Creeks (307); and a letter from Henry Coalter Cabell to William Watts, seeking his support for a candidate applying to become professor of moral philosophy at the University of Virginia (325).

doc #

July 10, 1844
Letter from John Quarles James in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, whom he had recently met, requesting information about the trust deed made by Samuel Stoner to Edward Watts, James Breckinridge Watts and Peachy Ridgway Grattan, in particular whether the deed had been recorded by the court clerk

May 9, 1844
Receipt from Joseph Kyle Pitzer by M. Leftwich, in Buchanan, Virginia, to Edward Watts, for 1679 pounds of tobacco, to be settled for according to contract

January 17, 1844
Payment order from Thomas W. Micou in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, to Edward Watts, to deliver payments for several subscriptions to the Weekly Whig (Richmond Whig and Advertiser) on behalf of himself, D. Lewis, James Eddington, Landon Cabell Read and Solomon Slusher, all residents of Roanoke or Floyd Counties, Virginia, and to deliver a letter to Kent, Kendall and Atwater, a  Richmond dry goods dealer; the payment receipted by Newton Hill

 Genl Edward Watts
            Will please pay the Editors of the Weekly Whig for the following subscriptions
                        {viz      D. Lewis Big Lick Va
                        {           James Eddington Do [ditto]
3$ sent             {           Edward Watts Do [ditto]
                        {           Landon C. Read Stoners Store
                        {           Solomon Slusher Greazy Creek Floyd Co Va
and put the Letter to Kent, Kendall & Atwater in the Office if he can’t see them personally
                                                                                                oblige yrs &c
                                                                                                Thos W. Micou
Big Lick Jany 17 1844
[receipted across the text] Received the above amount of Five Dollars / Newton Hill / Jan 22/44

Thomas W. Micou was postmaster in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, in the 1840s. He was married to a daughter of Elijah McClanahan and had children. He died in 1846 at the Western Asylum in Staunton, Virginia. The Richmond Whig and Public Advertiser; was a weekly newspaper; although the name varied, it began publication in the 1820s and continued into the 1870s.

January 30, 1844
Account statement of Edward Watts with Gennaro F. Bozzaotra, professor of music, for instruction of his daughters, Letitia Gamble Watts and Alice Matilda Watts in 1843 and 1844

October 18, 1844
Letter from Temple Gwathmey in Richmond, Virginia, acting for his brother Robert Gwathmey, to Edward Watts in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, enclosing an account statement for tobacco and flour sold for Watts; statement includes names of buyers and identifications of lots, prices and deductions for expenses, with a total of $999.54 due for the tobacco and $449.87 for the flour; letter discusses prices of tobacco and flour and gives advice to improve chances of sale in the future, such as not drying the tobacco too much and using cleaner barrels; letter also includes news of the Gwathmey family

July 20, 1844
Letter from R. Kingsland & Co in New York to William Watts in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking for a duplicate check to be sent, to replace one sent by James Breckinridge Watts and apparently lost in the mail or stolen

December 26, 1844
Survey and plat by Andrew Reynolds for George Ground of 271 acres of land in Roanoke County, Virginia, lying on Tinker and Glade Creeks, which Ground sold to John H. Smith; the survey mentions boundaries shared with property belonging to Edward Watts, the Vinyard family, the heirs of Robert Filson, the McDermid family, and David Gish

 Surveyed for George Ground 271 acres of Land which he sold to John H. Smith Lying in Roanoke County on Tinker and Glade Creeks, branches of Roanoke River and bounded as follows to wit, Beginning at two white oaks at 1, corner to Vineyard thence S51°E 24 poles to a stake in a flat at 2, corner to the land of the heirs of Robert Filson; and with the same S58°W 38 poles to a rock pile on a branch at 3. S28°W 63 poles to a persimmon tree at 4. S43°W 62 poles to the (NE) bank of Tinker Creek at 5, thence ...

 Detail of “Roanoke County Farms 1825-1875” by J. R. Hildebrand, showing the tract bought by John H. Smith and adjoining tracts owned by Filson, Gish, McDermid, Vinyard and Watts. The Watts land is shown as belonging to James Philemon Holcombe, husband of Anne Watts, and to Emma G. (Watts) Carr, who inherited the property.

May 20, 1844
Receipt for deposit by James Philemon Holcombe of $1000 to the account of Edward Watts in the Bank of Virginia, Lynchburg, Virginia, signed by W. B. Averett, teller

January 17, 1844
Account statement of Thomas Tosh with Edward Watts for hire of two slaves, Jabet and Peyton, with itemized additions and deductions

May 23, 1844
Letter from Thomas & Charles Ellis in Richmond, Virginia, to James Breckinridge Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, sending a check signed by W. B. Averett of the Bank of Virginia for $919.88, for the account of Townsend Sharpless of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

1847 or 1848
Bill from William S. Donnan & John Donnan, merchants, to Edward Johnston, judge of the Circuit Superior Court of Law and Chancery for the County of Roanoke, asking for a writ to be issued against William S. Minor, the heirs of Samuel Stoner, and John Stoner, and many others, who were heirs of the Stoners, who held deeds of trust for them, or who purchased property from them, or who did business with them, for recovery of a debt; the bill includes copies of writs from 1844 and 1845, and the defendants’ confession of the obligations, which however had not been paid and the debtors had subsequently sold their property and declared insolvency. The following individuals and companies are named, in addition to the plaintiffs, judge, and primary defendants: John Bonsack; Edward C. Burks; William Bush; Robert Campbell; Isaac Davenport, Jr.; Henry Davis, executor of David Palmer, deceased; Robert Edmond; Alexander P. Eskridge; John Gaynor; Gaynor, Wood & Co.; John O. L. Goggin, administrator for Stephen Goggin, deceased; Peachy Ridgway Grattan; Edwin James; F. & J. S. James & Co.; Fleming James; John Quarles James; James F. Johnson; Frederick Johnston; David W. Moon; Alexander K. Packer or Parker; M. A. Painter; J. K. Pitzer, administrator of Samuel Stoner, deceased; John H. Seay; Edward D. Steptoe; Elizabeth “Eliza” Virginia Stoner; Emiline Stoner; Frances Stoner; John Stoner, Jr.; Kenton Ballard Stoner; Lavinia Stoner; Lenora Ann Stoner; Louisa C. Stoner; Osborne Stoner; John W. Thompson, administrator of William Woodson, deceased; William H. Watson; Edward Watts; James Breckinridge Watts; William Watts; George A. Williams; Samuel Williams; Joseph Wilson; Jackson B. Wood; Peter M. Wright, administrator for Matthew Wright, deceased

December 12, 1844
Letter from Buck & Potter, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, signed by J. Sibley, to James Breckinridge Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking for his services to collect a debt of $392.74 from George W. Anderson of Christiansburg, Virginia; they write on the recommendation of Col. W. M. Lambert

November 16, 1844
Letter from Dr Robert Johnston, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Salem, Virginia, asking his help in obtaining payment of $20 for assistance rendered at White Sulphur Springs, probably in Montgomery County, Virginia, in the birth of a child born to a slave belonging to Col Thomas Burwell, and adding a lengthy political diatribe lamenting the results of the 1844 election, expressing disillusionment with the idea of government by the people

I really do consider that the experiment of free government has failed with us. We are clearly under the dominion of a mob, who set all law, order and moral obligation at defiance, and are prepared at any moment to trample under foot the most sacred institutions of the country, should they appear to be in the way of any of their favourite schemes or maxims. I believe the experiment will always fail of giving to the people, their own government; the intelligence suffused by education is disproportional to the actual power given them, it is not possible to equalise these two elements.

Dr Robert Johnston (1803-1847) is buried in Shockoe Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.

June 21, 1844
Letter from O. A. Strecker, in Richmond, Virginia, to James Breckinridge Watts, in Roanoke County, Virginia, asking him to collect money from a bond of $91.88 of Dr Thomas Goode of Hot Springs, Virginia

March 2, 1844
Letter from Townsend Sharpless & Sons, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to James Breckinridge Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, inquiring about progress on collecting a debt from David Fenton Kent

Wrapper and eight brief documents relating to debts owed by or to James Breckinridge Watts or William Watts, including receipts for payment, accounts, bonds and bad debts; people named include Edward Watts, Christian Bowen, John Steele, J. Robertson, Harry P. Taylor, David Gish, L. Brockenbrough, W. B. Peck, Elisabeth Bradley, N. P. Dillard, William Nelms, and others

Account statement of Edward Watts for taxes paid to the sheriff of Roanoke County, Virginia, in 1845, itemized, including 1 white and 80 black tithes, 98 slaves, 50 horses, 1 carriage, 2 gold watches, 2 pianos, silver plate and 2250 acres of land

Account statement of Edward Watts for fees owed to the clerk of Montgomery County Court, Virginia, in 1844, showing charges in a case involving Deaton and Leahy, signed by R. D. Montague, clerk

April 1844
Account statement of Edward Watts for fees owed to the clerk of Bedford County Court, Virginia, in April 1844 for a writ of capias against Gish, Ground and Taylor, and other actions involved in these cases, costing a total of $5.12

Account statement of Edward Watts for fees owed to the commissioner of Roanoke County, Virginia, in 1845 for a land transfer to his sons James Breckinridge Watts and William Watts

January 15, 1845
Letter from Jordan Anthony, cashier of the Bank of Virginia, in Buchanan, Virginia, to William Watts, at Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, forwarding a note for $500 from Samuel Stoner to James Philemon Holcombe, with advice about Holcombe’s intention if the note was not paid at maturity

 I have received your favour of the 13th inst and here enclose you S. Stoner’s note to J. P. Holcombe $500 & charges of protest 2 20/100. In the event of this note not being paid at maturity I think it was Mr Holcombe’s intention to have an execution issued for a much larger amount. I am very respectfully yours, J. Anthony C. [Cashier]

Jordan Anthony (1788-after 1866) appears in the census reports of 1850 and 1860 as a bank cashier, living in Botetourt County, Virginia. In 1860, his household included his niece, Julia Anthony, who was married to Peachy Gilmer Breckinridge (1835-1864), a first cousin of William Watts. James Philemon Holcombe was William Watts’s brother-in-law. Samuel Stoner’s debts are a recurrent subject in these documents.

January 16, 1845
Letter from Henry Homer, in Newbern, Virginia, to James Breckinridge Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, concerning a debt, unpaid because Homer has not yet received money from a sale of bottles from Alexander and Harness, who sold the bottles in Baltimore, Maryland

January 16, 1845
Letter from Drinker and Morris, stationers in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking Watts to collect debts from William S. Minor and John Stoner, the latter resident in Bedford County, Virginia; to the former, whose note is not due, they propose to offer reduced terms; as to the latter, who signed an acceptance but gave a draft that was refused, they plan to file suit

 This calendar was printed on the stationery.

January 25, 1845
Letter from John G. McClanahan and Elijah G. McClanahan, in Lynchburg, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, explaining that they refused to pay a draft for Samuel Stoner because he had not met his obligations, and they had notified him to return or destroy it

January 19, 1845
Letter from Henry Coalter Cabell, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking his help in having a kinsman, James Lawrence Cabell, appointed professor of moral philosophy at the University of Virginia, to succeed George Tucker; he says that Benjamin Franklin Minor and other faculty are supporting him, and hopes that Watts will use his influence to secure support from Senator William Cabell Rives, his cousin William Ballard Preston, and his brother-in-law James Philemon Holcombe

If you could write a letter to Mr Preston, speaking in such terms as I hope you would feel yourself authorized to use, he probably would have no difficulty upon your statement in giving this recommendation. Holcombe, if with you, I am sure would join in such letter. I hope you will use your discretion and act promptly in this matter. It is now a subject near his heart to succeed in this application and I hope he may not be disappointed. I write in great haste. Your friend, Henry C. Cabell

Henry Coalter Cabell (1820-1889) had known William Watts as a student at the University of Virginia. James Philemon Holcombe was William Watts’s brother-in-law and a professor at the University of Virginia. William Ballard Preston (1805-1862) attended Hampden-Sydney College and studied law at the University of Virginia. He served in the Virginia House of Delegates 1830-32, 1844-45, in the state Senate 1840-44, and in the U. S. House of Representatives 1847-49. Under President Zachary Taylor, he served as Secretary of the Navy, then retired from political life and practiced law. He went to France in late 1850s as a negotiator, but returned as the Civil War grew imminent. He was a member of Virginia's secessionist convention in 1861, wrote the act which declared Virginia's secession; he also served in the Confederate Congress. James Lawrence Cabell was not successful in his campaign to obtain this appointment; see 1998.26.346. 

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