Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Watts Collection, documents 326-350

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 is a very homogeneous set of documents. All but 4 date from 1845; those 4 date from 1844, and were apparently unfinished bits of legal business from James Breckinridge Watts’s practice, which he left to his brother William when he went to New York. Virtually all the documents concern debt collections – a major part of the law practice – or receipts for items like tailoring, stationery, or medical services. Only one item differs markedly, 1998.24.346, a letter from James Lawrence Cabell concerning his campaign to obtain the professorship of moral philosophy at the University of Virginia.

doc #

February 5, 1845
Letter from Beers and Poindexter, merchant tailors in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, acknowledging receipt of a check for $35.75  in full payment of his account

about April 1845
Account statement from the clerk of Botetourt Superior Court, Virginia, Henry Winston Bowyer, to Edward Watts, for expenses of $3.67 in the case of Brown and Switzer in February, March and April 1845

February 24, 1845
Receipt from Drinker and Morris, stationers in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, for $62.44, full payment of the account of William S. Minor

March 11, 1845
Letter from Thomas S. Gholson, in Petersburg, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, regarding suits and judgments, including the case of George W. Freeman against S. P. White, which had originally been entrusted to James Breckinridge Watts, who moved to New York and left his pending business with his brother William; Gholson believes that the judgment should have been executed by this time, and wants the money as soon as possible

Will you do me the favor to inform me the state of the matter & when I may calculate on receiving the balance. I wish the money pade [=paid] as soon as it can be in the regular course of Law. I do not know, however, the custom & habits of your sheffs [=sheriffs] &c. & at what time your executions are made returnable. I believe your court sits during the present month. In haste &c Very Respectfully, Yr obt svt [your obedient servant], Thos S. Gholson

Thomas Saunders Gholson (1808-1868) was a judge, and took an active part in Episcopal church affairs; he served as a Virginia representative to the Confederate Congress.

February 12, 1845
Payment order and receipt, from Jacob H. Eversole in Roanoke County, Virginia, to Edward Watts, to pay Jeremiah Kyle Pitzer $8.71, with receipt from Pitzer and further receipt from Eversole that Watts has paid his account in full

March 5, 1845
Letter from Drinker and Morris, stationers in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, acknowledging receipt of $62.44 from Watts, delivered by A. Carlton, collected from William S. Minor, approved by Drinker and Morris as payment in full of Minor’s account

March 4, 1845
Letter from David Fenton Kent, in Pulaski County, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, promising to pay a bond he executed to T. A. Griffin at the May or June court in Roanoke County, Virginia, saying that he failed to do so earlier because of his late return home from the North, but will send the money by J. Logan for the May or June court session

I have a large sum of money to pay in a short time. I will certainly send it to you by J. Logan at your May or June Court. Very Respectfully, Your Obt Svt [obedient servant], David F. Kent

David Fenton Kent (1807-1850) was a prominent citizen of Pulaski County, Virginia. He married in 1834 Elizabeth Cloyd, of another prominent family, and lived at Springfield, a Cloyd estate on Back Creek. He was present at the election of Pulaski County Court officers in 1846 and was in business with Thomas Miller. He apparently had financial difficulties, however; see the next item, 1998.26.333.

March 18, 1845
Letter from Ezekiel Hunn of Hunn and Remington, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, following receipt of a letter from James Breckinridge Watts; Hunn asks about the money owed by David Fenton Kent, expressing his outrage at Kent’s subterfuges, threats and scurrilous behavior, and presses Watts to seek full payment of damages

I have just recd a letter from your Brother J. B. Watts of New York informing me that you had recd through him for attention and collection the claim of Hunn etc. against David Kent. I hope you understand thouroughly the transaction for if you do I think you with me will admit that it is outrageous that a man owing a claim for which he has recd full value and amt [amount], able to pay, still resorts to all the subterfuges in his power to prevent payment. Your Brother writes me that the penalty is such cases is 5pc a month but can be released by the Court. But there is no reason in Kent’s case why they should release and that he will write you to insist on the full amt of Damages. I hope you will use every exertion to obtain it for his conduct has been infamous. Indeed sometime back he threatened me personal injury in the Valley where I met him for simply asking him for the money and after free indulgence writting me the most scurrilous letters.

Ezekiel Hunn (1810-1902) was a Quaker businessman in Philadelphia; his family was among the first English settlers in the Delaware area, and they were prominent in supporting the abolition of slavery and the underground railroad. Kent stalled so long on paying this debt that Hunn felt that he had been a victim of injustice.

after March 11, 1845
Draft of a legal pleading of non assumpsit in the case of Ground vs Smith (probably George Ground and John H. Smith) in the Roanoke County Court, Virginia, regarding an alleged debt resulting from a land sale by Ground to Smith, which Smith refused to pay, claiming that the acreage was less than stated in the agreement

August 1845
Account statement of Edward Watts with the clerk of Roanoke County Court, Virginia, William M. Cook, for 75 cents for legal procedures in a case involving the Evans heirs

April 9, 1844
Letter from Dr Josiah L. P. Woods, in Rocky Mount, Virginia, to James Breckinridge Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, regarding an overdue account with R. Stabler & Co., explaining that he had only just seen the letter because it had been misfiled by servants in his absence, and stating that he had already written to Stabler and would pay as soon as he had funds

April 29, 1845
Letter from an unknown person in Floyd County, Virginia, to William Hill, in Wythe County, Virginia, asking his advice about responding to an order from Hill’s stepmother, now a widow, to lay off Jack Henderson’s land in her dower; the writer hopes to compromise and avoid a lawsuit

April 28, 1845
Letter from Thomas Shanks, in Fincastle, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, concerning a claim by Mr Denby against Captain J. M. Harvey as executor of the estate of his father, Colonel Harvey; Shanks explains that an offer had been made to Denby, which was declined, and asks Watts to delay going to court in the hope of negotiating a settlement

If these difficulties can be removed, I would promptly enter upon a negotiation for the satisfactory discharge of the claim. In much haste I am, Very Respectfully, Yr obt svt [Your obedient servant], Thos Shanks

April 18, 1845
Letter from Drinker and Morris, stationers in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, enclosing a note on William S. Minor, due for collection; it explains that the note was endorsed by John Stoner and has an additional charge for toll and drayage, and asks about a debt collected from Samuel Stoner

April 1, 1844
Account statement of D. R. Shectner with James Breckinridge Watts for a case against Housman and Stair, showing a balance due Shectner of $87.22 from a judgment in Botetourt Superior Court, Virginia

April 1844
Account statement of A. A. Shectner with the sheriff of Botetourt County, Virginia, for services in his case against Housman et al, and receipt for payment of $7.38 signed by R. Pitzer, deputy sheriff, for Henry Walker, sheriff

April 1, 1844
Account calculations for A. A. Shectner in his successful lawsuit versus Housman and Stair

May 24, 1845
Letter from Charles S. Boker, of Boker and Brothers in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to James Breckinridge Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking for news about collecting a note from Henry Hause, which had been sent June 22, 1844

June 9, 1845
Letter from S. Simpson in Milton, North Carolina, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking for news about collecting a note signed by Thomas A. Griffin, originally given to Col G. Towns for collection, forwarded by him to Watts; with a separate sheet used as an envelope

June 9, 1845
Sheet used as an envelope in 1998.26.344

June 13, 1845
Letter from James Lawrence Cabell, at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, to William Watts at Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking for help in securing Cabell’s nomination to the professorship of moral philosophy at the University, by writing a testimonial as to his good reputation, and asking other influential men of the area, like his father Edward Watts and William Madison Peyton, to write as well; mentions that Bishop William Meade has already written on his behalf

Now, my dear Sir, can you serve me so far as to send me a testimonial from yourself & to communicate to your father & any other influential gentleman in your neighborhood, as Mr Wm M. Peyton, for example, any favorable opinion you may have of my claim so that if they should be satisfied they may feel themselves free to write in such a testimonial as would indicate the fact of my having been recommended to them by persons in whom they confided. If you can conveniently procure such testimonials I will be greatly indebted to you & will thank you to transmit them to me by mail before the end of this month. I remain, my dear Sir, Respectfully & truly yours, J. L. Cabell

James Lawrence Cabell (1813-1889) was a distinguished doctor; he studied at the University of Virginia, the University of Maryland, in Philadelphia, and in Paris, France. He was appointed professor of anatomy, surgery, and physiology at the University of Virginia in 1837, a post he retained until his death. He was chief surgeon of Confederate hospitals at Charlottesville from July 1861 until the end of the Civil War. In 1876, he was president of the Medical Society of Virginia, he was president of the National Board of Health, 1879-84, and for one year he was president of the American Public Health Association. He did not obtain the professorship of moral philosophy, which was awarded to William Holmes McGuffey (1800-1873), famous for the readers he edited for schoolchildren; McGuffey held the post from 1845 until his death.

January 23, 1845
Receipt from William W. Lewis to Edward Watts for $150 payment toward his medical account

June 27, 1845
Letter from Hugh A. Watts, in Richmond, Virginia, written on the recommendation of John Quarles James, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, sending a bond of William Gish of Bedford Crossroads, Virginia, for collection

June 25, 1845
Letter from Thomas S. Gholson, in Petersburg, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, concerning the collection of a debt from the sale of a property, which has been postponed; Gholson held a judgment against George W. Freeman and S. P. White, and was surprised to learn that the sheriff had returned the property to the court

June 25, 1845
Letter from Henry B. Richards and William A. Richards, in Lynchburg, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, enclosing a bond of George Rusinger for $48.56 for collection; the bond had been given to Thomas F. Taylor, by Taylor to Hill, and by Hill to the Richardses

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