Samuel William Watts Papers

Manuscript Collection #281
Watts, Samuel William, 1826-1881
Physical description
0.11 Cubic Feet, 183 items , consisting of correspondence, receipts, vouchers, court dockets, legal papers, and miscellaneous.
Preferred Citation
Samuel William Watts Papers (#281), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Papers (1845-1918) of lawyer who lived in Martin County, Franklin County, and Smithfield in Brunswick County and was active in Reconstruction Era Republican politics, consisting of correspondence, receipts, vouchers, court dockets, legal papers, annual railroad pass, financial records, advertisements.

Biographical/historical information

Samuel William Watts (April 16, 1826 - October 6, 1881) was a Martin County lawyer before the Civil War and represented that county at the 1868 state Constitutional Convention. In 1868 he moved to Franklin County, where he was promptly elected judge of the 6th Judicial District Superior Court, serving until his resignation February 1, 1877. In the late 1870s he moved to Smithville in Brunswick County. Watts was very active in state and local Republican party activities during the Reconstruction period.

Scope and arrangement

Correspondence deals primarily with state politics between 1875 and 1880. A letter of April 22, 1875, from the Raleigh mayor's office asked Watts to be in that city on May 3 in order to prevent Democrats from intimidating Republican voters.

Correspondence dated April 29, 1876, apparently from an Asheville Negro, informed Watts that blacks from that section would not be able to attend a particular function, possibly the July 12, 1876 Republican nominating convention in Raleigh, unless they received financial assistance. The writer complained that blacks were upset with state Republican politics and were disappointed that they had not received their share of appointments.

An undated letter from the foreman of a grand jury directed the solicitor to insure that Ed Graham Haywood and T. F. Lee (Wake County politicians) appeared in court in connection with charges of bribery which had been filed against Watts.

Other correspondence pertains to patronage, the 1875 Constitutional Convention, an annual railroad pass given to Judge Watts, the petition of a "homesteader" who had been forced off his land, guidelines for the selection of electors for the 1880 Presidential election, and various elections and politics in general in the state and in Burke, Northampton, and Franklin counties. In addition, correspondence contains information concerning the preparation of the 1880 census for which Watts served as enumerator for Brunswick County. Also included is a list of names, possibly of leading politicians, in the 3rd Congressional District, drawn up around 1880.

Legal papers (1850-1880) consist of records of fees, court dockets, bills for transcripts, documents dealing with the settlement of various estates, various land sales and deeds, and legislation pertaining to the length of Superior Court terms. In addition, and of particular significance, is an undated affidavit sworn before Judge Watts by Luchien N. B. Battle, prominent Nash County politician, charging county commissioners with malfeasance in the exclusion of persons from jury lists because of political opinions or race.

Financial records (1855-1918) include receipts and statements of account listing amounts ordered and price paid.

Miscellaneous items consist of an advertisement by Watts for the sale of high quality cotton seed and various newspaper clippings.

Administrative information
Custodial History

March 28, 1975, 175 items; Papers (1845-1880), consisting of correspondence, receipts, vouchers, court dockets, legal papers, and miscellaneous

November 1, 1975, 7 items; Papers (1874-1918), including correspondence and financial statements. Deposited by Mrs. Lucy Watts Shelton, Southport, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mrs. Lucy Watts Shelton

Processing information

Processed by M. Mitchell, July 1977

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Watts, Samuel William, 1826-1881
Corporate Names
North Carolina. Clerk of Superior Court (Franklin County)
North Carolina. Constitutional Convention (1868)
Republican Party (N.C.)
Judges--North Carolina
Lawyers--North Carolina
Political participation--North Carolina