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William Orr

William Orr was a blacksmith at Monticello. On April 3, 1781, Thomas Jefferson noted in his memorandum book, "Sent David Watson a British deserter, house joiner by trade, to work at Monticello."1 In August 1781, there is a payment to "Wm. Orr the smith,"2 and then, on the following January 8, "Wm. Orr the smith begins to work at £3. the month."3 Over the following months, the names of Watson and Orr are often linked in Jefferson's accounts.

In his memoirs, Isaac Granger Jefferson remembered the two workmen and mentioned them together, "The blacksmith was Billy Ore; the carriage maker Davy Watson ..."4 Isaac also remarked that, "Both workmen, both smoked pipes, and both drinkers. Drank whiskey; git drunk and sing; take a week at a time drinkin' and singin'." Jefferson's accounts substantiate Isaac's memories. After hiring Orr in January 1782, there are many entries over the next several months of charges of whiskey to both Watson and Orr. In reference to Orr, Jefferson noted in February 1782, "He has lost 5. days of work,"5 and in March, "Orr has been absent 4. days."6 In spite of their conviviality, they were apparently skilled workmen, as Isaac relates in his memoirs that "Mr. Jefferson came down to Williamsburg in a phaeton made by Davy Watson. Billy Ore did the ironwork."7 Both men continued to work at Monticello through 1783.

- Gaye Wilson, 8/97

Primary Source References

1781 August 11. "Pd. Wm. Orr the smith £225."8

1782 January 8. "Wm. Orr the smith begins to work at £3 the month."9

1782 January 12. "Watson has had 3. gallons whiskey ... Orr. 1. quart do."10

1782 January 30. "Charge Watson & Orr 3. galls. whiskey."11

1782 February 1. "Charge do. 4. gall. do."12

1782 February 5. "Orr has lost 4. days work."13

1782 February 15. "Charge Orr 1/2 gall. whiskey."14

1782 February 16. "Charge him do. also a shirt."15

1782 February 20. "Charge Orr 1. galln. do. [whiskey]"16

1782 February 23. "He has lost 5. days work."17

1782 March 1. "Charge Orr 1/2 gall. whiskey."18

1782 March 5. "Charge Orr 1/2 gall. do. [whiskey]."19

1782 March 13. "Orr has been absent 4. days."20

1782 March 23. "Delivd. Wm. Orr 7. yds. Virga. cloth."21

1782 April 30. "Pd. Watson for Orr 40/."22

1782 June 1. "Gave Watson order on Mrs. Meriwether for 10. galls. whiskey @ 3/6. Gave do. for Wm. Orr do. for 8. falls. In full."23

1783 May 16. "Wm. Orr begins work."24

1783 July 14. "Charge Watson & Orr 20. yds. Check @ 2/ and a pr. of shoes each @ 7/."25

1783 August 30. "Pd. Watson & Orr 13/4."26

1783 September 13. "Pd. Wm. Orr 12/."27


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