I will begin this part of our family history with the family stories that have been handed down for several hundred years. These stories have been handed down principally by the William Russell Watts Sr., William Russell Watts Jr. and James Thomas Watts line. Family stories are notoriously unreliable. However they often contain a grain of truth or may be merely distorted. I will attempt to evaluate the stories through documentation and DNA information.
1. Three Watts brothers Peter, William and Gideon came from Culpeper Co. Virginia and brought their nephew William Russell Watts with them.
Peter Watts, Gideon Watts and William Watts are listed on the tax list of Mercer Co. KY in 1789. A Richard Watts appears in the Wilkes Co. NC census in 1790 and then a Richard Watts Appears in Mercer Co. KY in 1794. In the early 1800’s William Watts was excused from paying taxes in Mercer Co. KY because of old age. As it turns out William and Eliza Watts were in all probability the parents of Peter Watts. When Peter Watts was in Guildford Co. NC he served as attorney in fact for William Watts of the State of North Carolina, Guildford Co., selling 128 acres in St. Mark’s Parish in Culpeper Co. Va. to Reuben Doggett of Culpeper Co., adj. Amelia Road, Watt’s Branch, John Megannen. Dated 7/20/1782 recorded 9/16/1783. There is no evidence that Gideon or Richard Watts are the sons of this William and Eliza Watts. It appears now that Richard is a nephew of William Watts and Eliza, a cousin of Peter Watts and in all probability a cousin of Gideon Watts.
2. The Watts family were originally trappers and not farmers when they came to Kentucky. That is why they passed up the lush flatter land of the Lexington, KY area and came to the more hilly Mercer Co. area. This story was told to Emery Willis Watts by his grandfather William Russell Watts, Jr.
In the circuit court records of Mercer County KY in 1985, Roselyne Watts Jones, a descendant of Richard Watts found a suit of Peter Watts against a man (unnamed) for 40 weight of good clean beaver fur. She also found a suit by Peter Watts against the estate of Simon Fisher with whom he had a partnership to take produce down the Mississippi River. When Simon died down river and did not return, Peter tried to get his part of the partnership money from Simon Fisher’s estate. Peter Watts was also hired by a man in Mercer Co. KY to be his lawyer and conduct business for him in Natchez, MS. These records were all in boxes and had not been opened for years if one could judge by the dust and dirt according to Roselyne.
3. Peter and Gideon Watts took William Russell Watts to Danville, KY to a tavern where a fight erupted between the Tories and Whigs. The brothers put their young nephew behind the counter so he would not get hurt. The brothers wore knives strapped to their upper backs so they could reach back and pull them out quickly. After the fight Gideon placed two human heads on the counter. This is a story told by Bob Horn, son of Naomi Watts Horn to Roselyne Jones.
The Watts On-Line Issue # 64 July 1, 1999 lists the following for Gideon Watts of Mercer Co. KY. The Kentucky Gazette reported that” Gideon Watts was in jail in Danville for stabbing an unknown man to death”. A court paper in the possession of Wade Watts of St. Louis, MO calls for the arrest of Gideon Watts for assault and battery of various sorts including biting off the right ear of Edward McKinney. In another case according to Wade Watts, Gideon Watts was accused of blasphemy, etc for exclaiming “ Goddamn the rain!” and Goddamn the cliffs of Kentucky and the mason that made them”. Roselynne Jones saw the suit against Gideon for biting off the ear of Edward McKinney.
It is difficult to see how William Russell Watts could be with Peter and Gideon if he were not related to them or at least know them. Since Peter Watts and Richard Watts appear on a court case together as defendants, according to Wade Watts, they did know each other. This incident could have occurred and if William Russell Watts was 10 years old as stated by Bob Horn, it is likely to have been somewhere after 1796 when Richard Watts first appears on the Mercer Co. KY tax list. Since William Russell Watts was born in 1789 it is most likely that if the incident did occur it would have been around 1799-1800.
4. A direct Watts ancestor participated in the French-Indian War.
I could find no documentation of a Watts ancestor of this branch of the family participating in the French-Indian War. However the second wife of William Russell Watts Sr. filed for a pension based on his participation in the War of 1812. In this petition he is said to have fought in the Battle of the Thames in which he saw the American Indian leader Tecumseh dead. Could this have been what was referred to in the family story?
5. There is a final story that was passed down that this branch of the Watts family was part Cherokee, which is not too uncommon a story in Southern families. This story was known but not openly discussed (unless asked) by Mary Watts, daughter of William Russell Watts Jr. and some of the children of James Thomas Watts his son.
Beatrice Watts Vance, daughter of James Thomas Watts and Gillie Thomas Huff Watts, had her DNA Print done by Familytreedna in 2003 and her ancestry profile is Indo-European 73% and Native American 27%. Her daughter, Marilyn Watts Vance McGaughey also had her profile done, and the results were Indo-European 72%, East Asian 5% and Native American 23% indicating that her father, Hugh Lewis Vance, was also of mixed blood descent which corresponds with his family documentation.
In addition William Russell Watts Jr., according to his grandson Emery Willis Watts, had a trunk full of American Indian objects, such as leather pants and shirts, moccasins etc from his days as a Pony Express rider delivering mail in the west. William Russell Watts told his grandson that he would often spend the night in an Indian village and trusted his Indian friends more than he did white people. Told by Emery Willis Watts to his niece Marilyn Watts Vance.
Richard Watts Connection to Culpeper County Virginia
There is a strong connection for Richard Watts of Kentucky to Culpeper County Virginia as seen in the will of a Thomas Watts.
Culpeper County, Virginia, Will Book A, 1749-1770
5 January, 1760 (Will written)
I do hereby acknowledge this to be my last will and testament making all other wills that hath been here made Voide and of none affect but this to be my last Will & Testament and in Witness whereof I have sealed hand and seal this Twenty fiveth day of January in the year of our Lord Seventeen hundred and Sixty and the first year of the Ragne of our Soverin Lord George the Third Witness my hand and seale.
At a Court for the County of Culpeper on Thursday the 19th day of April 1764.
The Richard Watts mentioned in the will is considered to be the son of William Watts the son of Thomas Watts who wrote this will and therefore the grandson of Thomas and Elizabeth Watts of St. Marks Parish, Culpeper County, Virginia.
(NOTE: If you have stories to contribute from your branch of one of these families, please email Marian Franklin. firstname.lastname@example.org.)