Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Wedding of Abram Penn Staples and Jean Duncan Watts

            Jean Duncan Watts, my grandmother, married Abram Penn Staples (III) on 5 January 1910, in Roanoke, Virginia. Thus the Watts family, about whom I have written many times in this blog, was joined to the Staples family, about whom I have so far written very little. The wedding seems a logical place to begin remedying the imbalance. The local newspaper devoted a long article to it the same day.

Society page article on the Staples-Watts wedding (top)

Text of the article:
            The marriage of Miss Jean Duncan Watts to Mr. Abram Penn Staples, Jr., which was celebrated this afternoon at 4:30 o'clock in the home of the bride on 9th avenue, s.e., was of unusual interest on account of the popularity of the contracting parties and the social prominence of both families. Although the wedding was a quiet home affair, it was exquisite in its appointments. Great masses of mistletoe tied with broad red satin streamers, holly, evergreens in Christmas effect were used in the wide-entrance hall. The stairway was interwoven with evergreens and holly. The same color scheme of adornment was used in the library. In the dining-room, the red carnations, smylax, candelabra with red lighted candles were most attractively arranged. The dining-roon table with its huge wedding cake, red carnations, cut glass and bon bons all added to the beautiful effect. The parlor which was the scene of the wedding was in the bride's color of white and green. The tropical potted palms were in profusion. On the mantel was banked smylax and growing narcissus white candles tied with love knots of white tulle. The chandelier was also beautiful with smylax and white tulle but the central feature of beauty was the improvised altar of palms, growing narcissus, tied with the love knots of white tulle all of which formed a background for the altar. On each side were tall palms and altar sconces with white tapers and with white tulle.
            At the appointed hour, to the strains of Tannhauser's "Wedding March" played by Mrs. Lamar Lipscombe of Washington, DC, the bridal party entered the parlor.
            Mrs. William Watts the bride's sister was the attractive matron of honor who wore an imported white chiffon embroidered in silver and carrying La France roses, preceded the bride, who entered on the arm of her brother, Mr. William Watts. Her bridal dress was an exquisitely tailored brown suit with brown furs, hat, gloves and shoes to match. Her ornaments were pearls, which had been worn by her mother and grandmother at their marriages and she carried a shower bouquet of lillies of the valley. The groom entered with his best man, his brother, Mr. Hunt Staples of Petersburg and received the bride at the altar, where the beautiful solemn ring ceremony was performed by the bride's pastor, Rev. Cantey J. W. Johnson, rector of St. John's church.
            During the ceremony, Mrs. Lipscombe played "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms".
            Following the wedding the guests enjoyed an informal reception.
            A delicious emperor's guard punch was served in the library by Mrs Lucien Cocke and Mrs. Lamar Lipscombe. The guests were invited into the dining room where the bride's cake was cut and wine and other delicacies were served.
            The young ladies assisting were: Mrs. DeMoss Taylor, Misses Mary Peyton of Charlottesville, Luie Dillard of Rocky Mount, VA, Sarah Cox, Mary Churchill and Mary Stuart Cocke.
            The bride is the daughter of Mrs. J. Allen Watts and Mr. J. Allen Watts deceased, also the granddaughter of the late Colonel William Watts, one of the bravest and most distinguished officers of the Confederacy and she is one of Roanoke's most attractive and accomplished young ladies. She is a favorite in social circles and has a host of friends. Mrs. A. P. Staples, Jr., was born at Oaklands, Roanoke County, the old family homestead, and was educated at Hollins Institute, Stuart Hall, Staunton, and New York city.
            The groom is the son of Prof. and Mrs. A. P. Staples of Washington and Lee University at Lexington of which he is a graduate in law and is one of he most popular and promising young lawyers at the bar in this city. His father was formerly a very prominent lawyer of this city of the firm of Scott and Staples.
            The couple were the recipient of many magnificent presents. Mr. and Mrs. Staples left this afternoon on the Memphis special for New York and will be at home on their return at Judge and Mrs. Waller Staples on 13th avenue.
            Only the relatives of the contracting parties and a few intimate friends [were] present at the ceremony. Relatives of the bride at the wedding were her mother, Mrs. J. Allen Watts, Mr. and Mrs. William Watts, Judge E. W. Robertson, Dr. Francis Sorrell, Mrs. John H. Parrott, Mrs. Rockingham, Paul, Miss Peachy Robinson, Mr. Wm. Robertson, Miss Eliza Breckenridge, Mrs. Julia Breckenridge, Miss Rosa Breckenridge, Mr. John Breckenridge, Miss Minnie Bowyer, Mrs. Joseph E. Hunter, Jr., Mrs. Elizabeth Guerrard of Savannah, GA, Mrs. Harry Latane, Buchanan; Miss Annie Allen of Buchanan.
            The groom's relatives who attended the wedding were: Mr. A. P. Staples and wife, mother and father of the groom, Miss Harris Staples of Lexington; Mr. Hunt Staples of Petersburg; Judge and Mrs. W. R. Staples, Mrs. D. DeJ. Staples, Miss Olivia Staples, Mr. and Mrs. D. W. Persinger, Mr. and Mrs. E. L. Moir, Misses Wallace Moir and Dorothy Moir, Mrs. Callie Staples, Daniel and daughter, Miss Hilda Daniel, Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Hoge, Miss Kitty Hoge, Mrs. Alice Penn, Mrs. Ernest Penn, Mrs. I. E. Warren, Mrs. Charles Moir, Mrs. S. D. Shackleford, Miss Willie Penn, Mr. G. H. Penn, Judge and Mrs. N. H. Hairston, Misses Elizabeth and Mary Hairston, Mr. D. R. Hunt, Mr. H. D. Vickers and family, Mr. and Mrs. A. M. Nelson, Miss Emma Staples, Mr. Sam Staples, Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Hairston, Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Hunt, Miss Bertie Hunt, Charlottesville.
            Other invited guests were: Mrs. P. H. Trout, Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Trout, Dr. George Lawson, Mrs. Jane Monsarrat of Baltimore; Mrs. Bettie Massie, Mr. J. J. Watkins, Charlotte Court House; Mr. and Mrs. Lucian Cocke, Mrs. Frances Cocke, Miss Mary Stuart Cocke, Mrs. and Mrs. Joseph Coxe, Mrs. and Mrs. Joseph Coxe [sic], Miss Sarah Coxe, Mr. and Mrs. W. W. Coxe, Mr. and Mrs. C. S. Churchill, Miss Mary Churchill, Mrs. D. J. Breslin, Mrs. Everett Perkins, Mr. and Mrs. DeMoss Taylor, Mrs. Fred Foster, Miss Nonie Reed, Mr. Frank Reed, Miss Mary Rogers, Judge Beverly Berkley, Mr. R. Quarles Mosely, Miss Mary Peyton of Charlottesville; Miss Luie Dillard of Rocky Mount; Mrs. Lamar Lipscombe of Washington, DC, Mr. Marvine Altizer, Mr. Paul V. Littlejohn, Mr. and Mrs. DeMoss Taylor.

            Although the article describes the event as “a quiet home affair,” there were about a hundred people there. Oddly, no photograph appeared with the article, and no wedding portraits have survived among the family papers known to me. Here, instead, are pictures of each of the two from shortly before their marriage.

Abram Penn Staples (III), c. 1908

           This photo is excerpted from a group photo of fifteen young men, all formally dressed with jackets and bow ties, except for A. P. Staples, who has a normal tie. It was probably taken around 1908 at Washington and Lee College, and must be a club of some kind. Abram Penn Staples is called “Junior” in this article; his father had the same name, but in fact the groom was the third member of the family to bear the name, and two more followed. For clarity, they are referred to by Roman numerals I to V, in parentheses.

Jean Duncan Watts, 1906

            This photo was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on 22 April 1906, with the following text in the caption: “Miss Jean Watts, sponsor for Second Brigade, U.C.V. of Virginia, at New Orleans reunion, April 25th-27th, is a daughter of the late Senator J. Allen Watts. Miss Watts is one of the prettiest and most attractive young ladies of Roanoke's younger set. Her mother is president of ‘William Watts’ chapter, U.D.C.”

            The Watts side of the family invited fewer than half as many guests as the Staples side. There were few of them remaining in the Roanoke area. Most of their guests were from the Allen family, kin through the bride’s grandmother, Mary Jane (Allen) Watts (1825-1855); from the Breckinridge family, kin through the bride’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth (Breckinridge) Watts (1794-1862); and from the Robertson family, kin through the bride’s grandfather’s sister, Alice (Watts) Robertson (1832-1914).
Mrs. J. Allen Watts, née Gertrude Lee (1862-1953), was the bride’s mother.
William Watts (1882-1932) was the bride’s brother; his wife of two years was Ellen (Catogni) Watts (1889-1972).
Judge Edward Watts Robertson (1868-1921) was a first cousin of the bride’s father; he was the son of Alice (Watts) and William Joseph Robertson.
Dr. Francis Sorrel (1827-1916) was the widower of Letitia (Watts) Sorrel, a sister of the bride’s grandfather.
Mrs. John H. Parrott has not been identified.
Mrs. Paul Rockingham has not been identified.
Miss Peachy Robinson was probably Peachy Gilmer Breckinridge Robertson (1894-1976), a daughter of William Gordon Robertson (below) and Anne Anthony Breckinridge.
Mr. William Gordon Robertson (1856-1910) was a son of William Joseph Robertson by his first marriage; although not related by blood to the Watts family, he was married to a Breckinridge cousin, lived in Roanoke and had close ties to the Watts family. He died just a few months after this wedding. This guest was perhaps his son, William Gordon Robertson Jr (1895-1958).
Miss Eliza Breckenridge was probably Eliza Watts Breckinridge (1841-1928), a daughter of Cary Breckinridge and a first cousin of the bride’s grandfather.
Mrs. Julia Breckenridge was probably the widow, née Julia Anthony (1833-1917), of Peachy Gilmer Breckinridge, the second son of Cary Breckinridge; her late husband was a first cousin of the bride’s grandfather. But the guest may have been Julia Breckinridge Robertson (1884-1916), granddaughter of the preceding, who was married to Maurice Anthony Breckinridge.
Miss Rosa (Rose) Breckenridge (1885-unknown) was a daughter of George William Breckinridge, and a granddaughter of Cary Breckinridge; she was a second cousin of the bride’s father.
Mr. John Breckenridge (1887-unknown) was a son of George William Breckinridge, and a grandson of Cary Breckinridge; he was a second cousin of the bride’s father
Miss Minnie Bowyer (dates unknown); Matilda Breckinridge, a sister of the bride’s great-grandmother, married Henry Winston Bowyer, and they had several children. Minnie was no doubt one of the descendants of that union, but she is unidentified.
Mrs. Joseph E. Hunter Jr has not been identified.
Mrs. Elizabeth (Allen) Guerard (1875-aft. 1910) of Savannah, GA; she was a sister of Julia (Allen) Latane (below), and in 1910 a widow, living in Buchanan, VA, with her sister and brother-in-law’s family; her late husband, Joseph Guerard, was a doctor in Savannah.
Mrs. Harry Latane of Buchanan, was born Julia Gatewood Allen (1871-bet. 1912 and 1920).
Miss Annie Allen (c. 1884-aft. 1930) of Buchanan was a first cousin of the bride’s father.

            In the next posting, I will identify the guests from the Staples side of the family, and provide a genealogical chart.

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