Checklist of documents in the Watts Collection at the Historical Society of Western Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia. To consult these documents, go to http://www.vahistorymuseum.org/ and move the cursor to the “Virtual Museum” tile at the top. Then click “Virtual Collections” on the menu that appears. The documents can be found by a keyword search, or by catalog number using “Click and Search”. Some or all of the documents described here may not yet be available online, but all may be consulted on site.
This is a very coherent set of 25 documents. The first 3 date from 1846 and relate to the affairs of Fleming James; the remaining 22 all date from January to September 1847, and they are almost in chronological order. Another 15 of these documents relate to the affairs of Fleming James. Of the remaining 7 documents, 6 concern typical business conducted by William Watts, mainly collecting debts due to clients. A single document, 1998.26.441, is a receipt to Edward Watts for money paid by R. C. Gwathmey & Co, probably for agricultural products sold on his behalf.
Account statement of Fleming James to William McDermid, including farm items like clover seed, horses and cows, and the assumption of a debt to John Sheridan
June 30, 1846
Letter from Fleming James in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, answering with some delay a letter from Watts; notes actions taken in regard to Benjamin Franklin Moomaw, Catharine (Ammen) Stoner, and William McDermid; questions a charge for hauling plaster for William C. Langhorne; complains of delay in receiving flour shipped by Landon Cabell Read; says that he was deceived by Daniel Ammen about the money needed to clear Mrs Stoner’s title, but sends a check to pay Alexander P. Eskridge, with instructions to Watts; gives an account of the credit of Gordon and Skinker, endorsers of the note he plans to offer Eskridge as security; boasts of the good name of F. & J. S. James & Co.
October 26, 1846
Letter from Abraham Carney at Stoner’s Store, Virginia, to Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, notifying James, his landlord, that he intends to stay another year as a tenant farmer, stating that no one, including William Watts, James’s agent, has given him notice; also mentions that he has been ill with a fever for six weeks
October tha 26 1846, Dear sur, I mus inform you that I cant wat any longer for a notis about tha place I live on I hav had notis from any purson an I hav comenced seedin an will hold tha land another year on tha same turmes I hav been confined to my bed for six weaks with tha fevour and cant at this time git out of the house and you nor any purson gave me any notis that you wonted tha land that you intend me to stay an I hav asertained that a land lord must giv a notis an that in time so that tha can look out in time to seed an as you have faild to do so I must continue if I had any notis by you or your agent I wold give posesion without a word for I wont to liv in pes with all pursons on Erth
The spelling in this letter is phonetic. Here is a translation into standard English:
October 26, 1846, Dear Sir, I must inform you that I can’t wait any longer for a notice about the place I live on. I have had [no] notice from any person and I have commenced seeding, and will hold the land another year on the same terms. I have been confined to my bed for six weeks with the fever, and can’t at this time get out of the house, and you nor any person gave me any notice that you wanted the land [or] that you intend me to stay, and I have ascertained that a landlord must give a notice, and that in time so that the [tenant] can look out in time to seed. And as you have failed to do so, I must continue. If I had any notice by you or your agent, I would give possession without a word, for I want to live in peace with all persons on earth.
Abraham (or Abram) Carney 1820-1911) was a life-long resident of the Bedford-Botetourt-Roanoke County area. He appears in census reports in 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910, a farmer living at Lisbon, Bedford County, Virginia, farmer; Lisbon is a “lost village”, which lay along the Lynchburg-Salem Pike, about 9 miles east of the Bonsack-Coyner’s Spring area where Fleming James’s land lay. According to online family trees, Carney was married three times and left issue by his first wife.
January 9, 1847
Letter from J. Sibley of Buck & Potter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, sending an account statement of their claim against G. W. Anderson, showing an original debt of $392.74, with interest added and partial payment deducted, leaving $334.37 before deducting Watts’s commission, and asking Watts to remit approximately $303.50 by check on Philadelphia or New York
January 20, 1847
Letter from Thomas S. Gholson, in Petersburg, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, acknowledging receipt of a check for $300 and requesting a full statement when the balance is sent, to enable settlement with N. S. Freeman to whom the debt was due
January 28, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, expressing pleasure at Watts’s return to health; describing his agreement with William McDermid regarding the rental of James’s land for another year, the purchase of his crop of clover seed and other matters to be arranged with James’s manager Benjamin Perkins; telling of plans to send the deed for the Coyner property; authorizing Watts to employ help in dealing with lawsuits involving Daniel Stoner, John Stoner, Samuel Stoner, William S. Minor, William McDermid, and St Clair; stating that John Stoner is pressing Perkins to vacate the house, because of an agreement with William Langhorne, while James wants to retain possession
February 13, 1847
Letter from J. Sibley, of Buck & Potter in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, acknowledging receipt of a check of $303.05, payment for the balance of the debt of George W. Anderson
February 16, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, covering the deed for the Coiner land, which James wants Edward Watts to sign and draw his commission for his work thereon, and for William Watts to have recorded; announcing his imminent departure for New York for a month, in care of Halsted, Haines & Co.
February 22, 1847
Letter from Thomas S. Gholson, in Petersburg, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, acknowledging receipt of a statement and the balance of the debt vs Burwell, credited to Gholson’s account in the Bank of Virginia
March 8, 1847
Letter from John Quarles James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, covering a copy of notice left for his father, Fleming James. The notice says that depositions will be taken from Henry A. Edmundson and others in Roanoke County, in a case in which F. & J. S. James & Co are plaintiff and Daniel Stoner, Matilda Stoner, William Noffsinger as trustee for Matilda Stoner, Clack B. Campbell and Jacob Frantz are defendants. John Quarles James says that he and his cousins have gone into business under the firm and style of H. & J. Q. James & Co, and solicits Watts’s interest in recommending them.
March 11, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in New York, New York, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, asking Watts to obtain security for rental of a farm from William McDermid, and to urge McDermid to deliver the clover seed to James’s manager Benjamin Perkins; also asking Watts to assist Perkins, and obtain aid from William C. Langhorne if necessary, to retain possession of the mansion house, which John Stoner is trying to get; outlining his travel plans to Boston, Massachusetts, Richmond and Roanoke County, Virginia, and inquiring in general about the status of his lawsuits in Roanoke and Botetourt Counties
March 25, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, expressing displeasure at not finding a letter from Watts on his arrival in Richmond and repeating urgent requests for action and information about Mary (Dagen) Stoner’s dower; telling of Peachy Ridgway Grattan’s advice to cede possession of the house and dower land to John Stoner but to retain the store and other buildings on the road; asking Watts to meet him at William Langhorne’s home in Roanoke County on March 31 and accompany him to Fincastle for the court session; sending greetings from his family and news of Alice Watts
April 5, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Liberty (now Bedford), Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, calling his attention to two letters addressed to him in Fincastle, Virginia, one concerning William Langhorne and both of important to F. & J. S. James & Co
May 1, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, including a copy of a legal notice to himself and Edwin James, partners in the firm F. & J. S. James & Co., that depositions will be taken in their case against Daniel Stoner, Matilda Stoner, Clack R. Campbell, Jacob Frantz, and William Noffsinger, trustee for Matilda Stoner; James’s letter asks Watts to attend the taking of depositions and represent James’s interests; also notes that John Stoner has asked James’s manager Benjamin Perkins to hand over the keys to the house, which James has told Perkins not to do and asks Watts to advise Perkins; and concludes noting with pleasure political gains by the Whigs
April 20, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, replying to a letter from Watts bringing the good news that James’s manager Benjamin Perkins has full possession of the Stoners’ store and lumber yard, asking Watts to substitute F. & J. S. James & Co. as defendant in case Perkins is sued by John Stoner, and thanking both William and his father Edward Watts for their help; also asking about taking depositions in the Stoner case from Mr Parker and from Fleming’s son John Quarles James, and about executing a bond against A. A. Boyd in time for the September session of the Botetourt County Superior Court
April 28, 1847
Receipt from the Bank of Virginia to R. C. Gwathmey & Co. for a deposit of $1200 to the credit of Edward Watts; receipt signed by John Hunter Hatcher, assistant teller
John Hunter Hatcher (1813-1878) appears in the census in census 1850, 1860, and 1870 in Chesterfield County, Virginia, giving his profession as bank clerk. He was married twice and left issue by both marriages, according to an online familytree.
May 11, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, describing his exhausting day riding horseback to inspect his estate in Louisa County, Virginia, then taking the “cars” (railroad train) to Richmond; promising to see Peachy Ridgway Grattan immediately about a bill of injunction, needed in case Mary (Dagen) Stoner obtains a judgment against James
May 13, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, covering a copy of the bill of injunction prepared by Peachy Ridgway Grattan and granted by Judge Clopton; giving Grattan’s opinion about Mary (Dagen) Stoner’s rights and James’s likelihood of winning his cases against her and John Stoner; informing Watts that depositions will be taken from Alexander K. Parker, Robert L. Brooke, John W. Boyd and John Quarles James in Grattan’s office in June; stating that James will order an execution of fieri facias against A. A. Boyd; saying that he has written to Bonsack about selling land; explaining that William McDermid has paid his rent with horses, cows, hogs and clover seed, about which James’s estate manager Benjamin Perkins will provide details; and asking Watts to provide security for the bill of injunction
The Clover seed were to be at 6$ pr Bushel. There were two horses I believe at 50$ or upwards each, also a cow, perhaps two, & maybe some hogs, but Mr Perkins will inform you precisely. Charge your commission of 5 pr Ct on both years rent when the balance is realized & settle with McDermid as soon as you can.
It has been raining more or less for 4 or 5 days past, extending as I learn beyond the mountains. I hope Roanoke has had enough. John & Mrs James unite with me in friendly sa[lutations] to [your father,] mother & family.
This document shows damage done by rodents. Benjamin Perkins (1793-1852) had worked for Fleming James on properties in Louisa County, Virginia, before James brought him to Roanoke County to manage his new land there, mainly acquired from the Stoner family; Perkins appears in the 1850 census in Roanoke County as “manager for James”. He was married and had children; after his death, his wife, née Eliza A. Sanders or Saunders, returned with the children to live with her parents near Trevilian Depot in Louisa County. William McDermid (c. 1791-1871) was married to Anna Stoner.
June 10, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, acknowledging receipt of a letter and enclosures, and enclosing the indemnifying bond from Gordon addressed to Frederick Johnston, clerk of the court; also informing Watts of progress in taking depositions from John Quarles James, John W. Boyd and Alexander K. Parker; and expressing regret over the poor wheat crop in the Roanoke area
June 15, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, announcing that the depositions in his case against John Stoner, given by John Quarles James, John W. Boyd, and Alexander K. Parker, with Peachy Ridgway Grattan as lawyer, had been sent by Samuel T. Pulliam, the magistrate who sat for them, to the clerk of the Superior Court of Law & Chancery for Roanoke County in Salem, Virginia; also urging Watts to clear the docket of all of James’s cases at the next session; and sending news of Watt’s sister Alice Matilda Watts, who has been riding with her cousin Mary Ann Breckinridge and James’s wife Mary (Armstrong) James
August 23, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Saratoga Springs, New York, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, saying that he has instructed his estate manager, Benjamin Perkins, to apply to Watts for assistance with his crops, and with making arrangements with his tenants William McDermid and William S. Minor; apologizing for burdening Watts with these tasks and hoping for success in their upcoming cases before the Roanoke County Superior Court
Saratoga Springs, August 23rd, 1847
Wm Watts Esqr, Big Lick Va
Dear Sir, I have directed Mr Perkins, our manager in Roanoke, to apply to you to assist him in securing his growing crop & in preparing for & seeding a large Crop of wheat the coming fall. I have also requested him to get your aid in arranging with Mr McDermid to seed a crop of wheat on the land he now occupies with a view to my bargaining directly or through you with Mr McDermid about staying on the place another year.
The ink has bled through the page of this letter, making it difficult to read. On Benjamin Perkins and William McDermid, see 1998.26.443 above.
August 24, 1847
Receipt from J. K. Pitzer, deputy sheriff, for John H. Griffin, sheriff of Roanoke County, Virginia, to William Watts, agent for Fleming James and F. & J. S. James & Co., for $70.19 in payment of an execution against William McDermid in favor of David Gish, James Howell, and Hiram Haydon, this payment being the balance in full of Howell’s portion
September 6, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Baltimore, Maryland, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, saying that he expects to return home the next day, and to be in Roanoke County in thirty or forty days; replying with satisfaction to a letter announcing victory in the suit against John Stoner and promising to pay $300 to the Donnans to settle a suit over the Coiner land; asking Watts to talk to James’s estate manager Benjamin Perkins about settling with William McDermid, who may be needed as a witness in a suit to stop David Gish from building a mill dam; expressing surprise that Captain Nelmes had not yet sold his tobacco and paid Watts; saying that Landon Cabell Read also owes money for mill rent; proposing to pay Watts soon for all the work he has done on matters that are now settled, including those already mentioned and others with Samuel Stoner, Mrs Stoner, William C. Langhorne, William S. Minor, and Alexander P. Eskridge
September 10, 1847
Letter from Thomas W. Brockenbrough, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, acknowledging receipt of $167.26 deposited in the Bank of Virginia at Buchanan, collected as a debt from Goode
September 14, 1847
Letter from James Moss Smith, in Martinsville, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Virginia, giving directions for the disposition of debts collected for Harrison Carter France and Edmund Starling, the money to be sent to McCorkle & McDaniel of Lynchburg, Virginia, credited to William T. Clark, grocer, of Henry County, Virginia; the France debt belongs to John Cousins Traylor and the Starling debt to the writer, James Moss Smith