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 set of documents is relatively coherent chronologically, but reflects the diversity of William Watts’s activities. The group begins with 4 documents from 1847, the first of which accompanied the last letter in the previous group, and the other three of which relate to Fleming James and his long-standing affairs. The next item, 1998.26.455, in fact contains 20 documents, all of them brief account statements from local sheriffs, relating to law cases handled by the Wattses in the 1840s. The next item, 1998.26.456, is an account statement prepared by Edward Watts regarding the administration of the estate of his father, William Watts, who died in 1797. The remaining 19 items are letters from almost as many different writers, involving legal business like giving and taking depositions; family business, like the sale of James Breckinridge’s lots in Washington, DC; the opening a branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia in Salem, of which William Watts was president; William Watts’s absence during the fall for the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850-51; and requests from recommendations and advice.
August 30, 1847
Copy of an account statement of the debts of James McClanahan to Harrison Carter France and Edmund Thomas Starling of $198 and $74.51 respectively, sent by William Watts to James Moss Smith with 1998.26.450
October 12, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, explaining that he has delayed his trip to Roanoke County to accommodate Landon Cabell Read, but will depart soon and be at Stoner’s Store in six days; asking Watts to collect debts from Captain Nelmes and Abraham Carney, and have his account of charges against James ready to be settled; giving news of Alice Matilda Watts
December 7, 1847
Letter from Fleming James, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, lamenting the lack of a letter from Watts for the past month and asking for news about rents owed by William C. Langhorne and William McDermid; also sending news of William’s sisters Alice Watts and Ann Selden (Watts) Holcombe, Thomas Philemon Holcombe and William J. Holcombe, called Willie, saying that the Holcombes have gone to Charleston, South Carolina
August 24, 1847
Account statement from Jeremiah Kyle Pitzer, deputy sheriff of Roanoke County of the claims of David Gish, James Howell and others against Fleming James and William McDermid, showing an initial debt of $197.36, with interest, costs, and commissions bringing the total to $270.17, and credits for payments by to Hiram Haydon, by McDermid, and by William Watts to Gish leaving $70.19 due to Howell
Twenty account statements from sheriffs and clerks of courts in Bedford, Franklin, and Roanoke Counties, for charges related to executions of court orders in the 1840s, all presumably involving William Watts as lawyer although he is not always mentioned. Names of the court officers include Green B. Board, Moses Greer Carper, M. Davis, John Hook Griffin, Frederick Johnston, James Kyle, Nathaniel J. Manson, Armistead Otey, Jeremiah Kyle Pitzer, John R. Steptoe, and Caleb Tate. Names of parties include Nathaniel Burwell, Thomas Saunders Gholson, William Gish, William R. Jones, James McClanahan, William S. Minor, Maclin S. Stith, Samuel Stoner, John W. Thompson, Thomas S. Walton, John E. Watkins, Hugh A. Watt, John F. J. White, Joseph Wilson, and the firms Eskridge and Holcombe, Gaynor Wood and Company, and Peck White and Company.
Account statement of the estate of William Watts, prepared by Edward Watts, showing amounts paid and due to himself and to his sisters, Anna Maria (Watts) Gwathmey, Mary (Watts) Morris, Martha Watts, Alice (Watts) Saunders, Elizabeth (Watts) Brown, or to their heirs and representatives; among the latter, Robert Carter Gwathmey, William Watts Gwathmey, and P. B. Winston are mentioned by name.
Statement of my account with the estate of Wm Watts
Assets receivd on account of land 3078.
deduct for commissions _153.90
subject to distribution 2924.10
Having no interests in this fund each share one fifth is 584.82
of the above R. C. and W. W. Gwathmey have receivd in advance 980. excess 395.18
The heirs of Mrs Morris through P. B. Winston 480. def 104.82
Mrs Brown has recd 550. def 34.82
To be paid to the committee of Martha Watts 584.82
To be settled with F. Saunders on account of his land _584.82
deduct excess to Gwathmeys _395.18
add deficiency to Mrs M. & Mrs B. _139.64
This account, presumably prepared by Edward Watts to be copied and circulated to the other heirs, must have been prepared in early 1849, soon after the death on 26 December 1848 of Temple Gwathmey, whose two surviving sons – Robert Carter Gwathmey and William Watts Gwathmey – are listed among the heirs. William Watts died 20 December 1797, leaving six children: one son, Edward; and five daughters: Elizabeth (c. 1781-1843), married Preston W. Brown; Martha (1783-1853), never married; Mary (1784-1835), married Richard Morris; Alice (c. 1793-1867), married Fleming Saunders; and Anna Maria (1794-1819), married Temple Gwathmey.
April 18, 1850
Letter from H. G. Richardson, in Farmville, Virginia, to William Watts and Edward Watts Saunders, at Big Lick, Virginia, stating that he will pay a bond within the next three months
September 25, 1850
Letter from Gustavus Adolphus Wingfield in Liberty (Bedford), Virginia, to Edward Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, making arrangements to take a deposition from Watts and providing a letter for him to communicate to William Madison Peyton, who was a party to the suit
September 25, 1850
Letter from Gustavus Adolphus Wingfield in Liberty (Bedford), Virginia, to Edward Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, explaining why his client Matthew Pate wishes to obtain a deposition from Watts in the case of Peyton and Bailey, claiming under McClure, versus Pate, regarding a marshal’s sale of land in Big Lick belonging to John Pate and Edmund Pate in 1826, in which both Watts and James Breckinridge played a part; the letter is extremely deferential, and asks Watts as a personal favor to find it convenient to attend the taking of the deposition at Neal’s Tavern at the Lick on October 3
October 12, 1850
Letter from Abraham Hupp, in Salem, Virginia, to William Watts, in Richmond, Virginia, informing him that he has been appointed to represent the Light Infantry Grays at a convention in Richmond, and asking him to attend
Salem Va Oct 12th 1850
Dear Sir, Our company the “Light Infantry Grays” at the Sept muster appointed you among other members to attend a volunteer convention to be held in Richmond I believe the 17th inst. Believing that you have not been informed of the fact, and that none of the other members appointed will attend, I take the liberty of writing to you, and at the same time insist on your representing us in that convention, and go for anything that will be of interest to volunteer companies.
Abraham Hupp (1826-1864) ran a tin shop in Salem, VA; he organized the first volunteer military company in Roanoke County, Virginia, in the early 1840s, “The Yellow Jackets”; after it disbanded, he organized the “Salem Light Infantry Grays”, which disbanded after a few years. Following John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry in 1859, he organized the “Salem Flying Artillery” which fought throughout the Civil War. Hupp himself became ill in 1862 and had to return home, where he died of cancer.
October 26, 1850
Letter from William Richard Galt, in Norfolk, Virginia, to William Watts, in Richmond, Virginia, at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850, asking permission to use his name as a reference in a prospectus for a new school in Buchanan, Virginia; he cites his own references as William Willoughby Sharp, president of the Exchange Bank of Virginia in Norfolk; Jordan Anthony, who forwarded Sharp’s letter to Watts; and Tazewell Taylor, a Norfolk delegate to the convention. He also invokes a slight acquaintance with Watts when they were students at the University of Virginia around 1840, mentioning that he has recommendations from the faculty there
Norfolk, Oct 26, 1850
Dear Sir, I take the liberty of addressing you on a subject of much importance to myself, and in which you can be of essential service to me. About two months since I was in the town of Buchanan, Botetourt Co. endeavoring to ascertain what prospects there were of my succeeding in opening a male boarding-school there.
William Richard Galt (1818-1892) was a noted educator. He came from a distinguished family, originally from Williamsburg, Virginia. Watts’s favorable answer to this letter, dated 31 October 1850, is in the Galt family papers in the special collections of the library at William and Mary University, along with copies of the recommendations from faculty and numerous other letters from individuals agreeing to serve as references. He published a prospectus for the “Mountain Home School”, and was living in Botetourt County, Virginia, at the 1860 census, so that one can assume that this project came to fruition. After 1860, however, the census located him in Norfolk, Virginia, where he became head of the Norfolk Academy.
October 28, 1850
Letter from William G. Peck, at Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, to William Watts, in Richmond, Virginia, giving news on the state of his farm under Walker’s supervision, on his father Edward Watts’s hunting trip to Greasy Creek, on the deer killed by Colonel Oliver, A. White and John Lewis, on preparations for a wedding at Colonel Peyton’s; wishing Watts and his new wife happiness and asking for news about the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1850
October 28, 1850
Letter from Philip J. Ellicott, in Baltimore, Maryland, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia (forwarded to Richmond, Virginia), asking about progress in an effort to recover a debt from Oliver, who failed to appear in court in Washington in a case in which Ellicott had stood as his security
November 4, 1850
Circular letter from William Willoughby Sharp, president of the Exchange Bank of Virginia, at Norfolk, Virginia, to William Watts, George W. Shanks, Powell A. Huff, Abram Hupp, Charles L. Snyder, Robert Craig, and George Plater Tayloe, directors of the branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia at Salem, Virginia, stating that the stock subscription for the Salem branch of the bank has been fulfilled, and giving instructions for putting the branch into operation
Exchange Bank of Virg[ini]a, November 4, 1850
Messrs Wm Watts, Geo. W. Shanks, Powell A. Huff, Abram Hupp, Chs L. Snyder, Robert Craig, & G. P. Tayloe, Directors Br. Exch. Bank Va at Salem
Gentlemen, The amount of stock subscribed here and at other points, together with the subscriptions reported by you on the 4th ulto being nearly equal to your proposed capital, it is proper that arrangements be made, without further delay, to put your Branch into operation.
William Willoughby Sharp (1801-1871) lived in Norfolk, Virginia, where he was head of the Exchange Bank of Virginia. It was organized in 1837 and had branches in Richmond and Lynchburg. William Watts served as the first president of the newly organized Salem branch of the bank, which was authorized by an act of the General Assembly of Virginia on 15 March 1849. The other addressees of the letter, who were directors of the bank, were among the leading businessmen of the region: George W. Shanks (1809-1876) was a merchant; Powell A. Huff owned a hat factory; Abram Hupp (1826-1864) ran a tin shop; Charles L. Snyder (c. 1815-1863) was a tanner and farmer; Robert Craig (1792-1852) was a planter and had served in the Virginia House of Delegates and the U. S. House of Representatives; George Plater Tayloe (1804-1897) was a major landowner and businessman.
November 12, 1850
Letter from Morris and Brother, booksellers, signed by A. Morris, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, informing him that the $10 note on the Bank of Virginia with which he paid for two copies of Hugh Alfred Garland’s The Life of John Randolph of Roanoke, for himself and for James Philemon Holcombe, was a counterfeit, and giving details about the appearance of the note and the way in which the forgery was discovered
November 15, 1850
Letter from John T. Anderson, in Fincastle, Virginia, to William Watts, at Oaklands, in Roanoke County, Virginia, saying that he has $2450 to pay off a bond on James Shanks, which he had hoped to give Watts when he passed through Fincastle returning from Richmond, but now knows that Watts returned by Lynchburg and so he proposes to bring or send the money to Salem, Virginia; also expresses a wish to change the date of the case of Francis vs White in Roanoke County Court
November 29, 1850
Letter from Walter S. Leon to Cary Breckinridge, in Fincastle, Virginia, repeating an offer from Mr Corcoran to buy lots
December 6, 1850
Letter from William Ransom Johnson Jr, in Petersburg, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, expressing satisfaction that Watts has sold a slave mother and child and adding his confirmation to the sale; also congratulating Watts on recent honors
December 10, 1850
Letter from Jordan Anthony, at the Bank of Virginia in Buchanan, Virginia, to William Watts, presumably at home in Big Lick, Roanoke County, Virginia, transferring his money to the new Exchange Bank of Virginia branch in Salem, Virginia
Office Bank of Virginia, Buchanan Dec 10th 1850
Dear Sir, I have received your favor of the 9th instant. There is a balance of $1053.30 standing to the credit of your account on the Books of this Office. I am happy to hear you have been placed at the head of the Banking institution to be put in operation in Salem. We must when necessary confer with each other and harmonize.
Jordan Anthony (1788-after 1866) was a cashier at the Bank of Virginia branch at Buchanan, Virginia; his niece Julia Anthony Breckinridge married Peachy Gilmer Breckinridge, an attorney and a cousin of William Watts. In the 1860 census, Julia and her husband were living in her uncle’s household.
December 13, 1850
Letter from Green James, in Fincastle, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, asking him for a letter of introduction to assist in his application to obtain the advertising of the United States mail routes in Virginia for his newspaper, the Valley Whig; he explains that he does not know the Postmaster General Nathan Kelsey Hall or any other member of the Cabinet, but knows that Watts is acquainted with Alexander Hugh Holmes Stuart, Secretary of the Interior; he notes further that General Augustus Alexandria Chapman gained the contract for the Fincastle Democrat under the previous presidency, and hopes that the current administration (under Millard Fillmore) will be favorable to a Whig editor
December 14, 1850
Letter from John Thomas Anderson, in Fincastle, Virginia, to William Watts, in Salem, Roanoke County, Virginia, asking Watts to attend, on behalf of client Noah S. Brown, to the taking of depositions from Roberts and Ballard by Alfred Terrell Dillard; Anderson thinks both deponents are interested in the outcome of the suit and therefore incompetent to give testimony; he also says that he will leave for Richmond on January 2, 1851, traveling by way of Lynchburg, and hopes to have Watts’s company
December 13, 1850
Letter from William Coleman Campbell, in Salem, Virginia, to William Watts, in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, requesting a letter of recommendation from Watts in support of his application to the Virginia Military Institute, on which he has sought advice from John William Tayloe, Madison Pitzer, and Benjamin Harrison Smith
Salem Dec 13th 1850
Mr Wm Watts
Dear Sir, In accordance with your suggestion, I wrote to Mr J. W. Tayloe of the V. M. I. in relation to the appointment of State Cadets, and recei[ve]d an answer on the 10th inst stating, that there was a vacancy in this Gen[era]l District, and advising me to send on my recommendations immediately.
William Coleman Campbell (1832-1873) was a Salem, Virginia, native; he graduated from V.M.I. in the class of 1855, never married, made his career in mining and writing for newspapers. He died in Salt Lake City, Utah. John William Tayloe (1831-1904) was born in Big Lick (Roanoke). He entered V.M.I. in 1849 as a member of the class of 1852, but resigned in 1851. He moved to Alabama, where he enlisted as an officer in the Confederate army in 1861. After the war, he moved to Birmingham, Alabama, where he died. Further information on both men may be found in the online archives of V.M.I.
December 16, 1850
Letter from Kent, Kendall & Atwater, in Richmond, Virginia, to William Watts, presumably at home in Big Lick (Roanoke), Virginia, discussing options for recovering a debt from George Callaway Langhorne, for which Tayloe has proposed notes from Samuel P. Holt which he, Tayloe, will endorse, this arrangement being contingent on the sale of property by Langhorne to Holt; otherwise Watts is to have the execution against Langhorne levied; Rass will carry the letter to Watts, and consult with him about Langhorne, and about a debt of Edmund Penn White
December 19, 1850
Letter from William Langhorne, at Cloverdale, Virginia, to William Watts, at home (at Oaklands, Roanoke County, Virginia), asking to be excused from attending a taking of depositions at Bedford County Court because of his rheumatism, and giving advice about points on which to question others who may attend, mentioning his son George Callaway Langhorne and brothers Maurice Langhorne and Henry Scarsbrook Langhorne, Mr Tompkins, Mr Otey, Mr Radford, and Dad Hanes
December 24, 1850
Letter from William Willoughby Sharp, in Norfolk, Virginia, to William Watts, in Salem, Roanoke County, Virginia, informing him that John Benjamin Irwin Logan has resigned as cashier of the planned Salem branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia, and suggesting Robert McCandlish as a replacement; mentioning also the problem of any delay because the stock has already been issued