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David Watson

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 He came to work about the same time William Orr joined the work force. Orr started working in January 1782.

Watson was apparently a convivial bachelor in his first years at Monticello, and he and his compatriot, William Orr, were fond of their whiskey, losing numerous work days during their binges. In his Memoirs of a Monticello Slave, Isaac Granger Jefferson remembered the two workmen and mentioned them together: "The blacksmith was Billy Ore; the carriage-maker Davy Watson."2 Granger also remarked that "both workmen, both smoked pipes & both drinkers: drank whiskey; git drunk & sing: take a week at a time drinkin' & singin.'"3 Jefferson's accounts substantiate Isaac Granger's memories. After hiring Orr in January 1782, Jefferson's records over the next several months included many charges of whiskey to both Watson and Orr. In spite of their conviviality they were apparently skilled workmen, Granger relating in his Memoirs that "Mr. Jefferson came down to Williamsburg in a phaeton made by Davy Watson. Billy Ore did the iron-work."4

While at Monticello, Watson worked as a wheelwright, carriage maker, and cabinetmaker, and undoubtedly in his trade as a house joiner. In addition to the phaeton, there are references to Davy Watson making wheels and a writing desk, laying off a timber yard, and supervising other Monticello carpenters. He gave the enslaved John Hemmings his first training in skilled woodworking.

David Watson returned to work at Monticello in 1793, now a married man. A son is mentioned in 1797. It was December 2, 1797, when Jefferson recorded that he "Settled with D. Watson. ... He leaves my service this day."5 Watson went to work at Blenheim and Enniscorthy after leaving Monticello, but he must have left with a good reference, for in February 1798 he was working for Jefferson's son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph.

Primary Source References

1781 April 3. "Sent David Watson a British deserter, house joiner by trade, to work at Monticello @ 3000 ℔ tobo. a year or it's worth in paper. Pd. him £60."6

1781 June 9. "Pd. Watson £150."7

1781 August 4. "Pd. Watson £225."8

1781 August 14. "Pd. Watson £900."9

1781 September 25. "Pd. Watson £120."10

1781 October 28. (David Watson to Jefferson). "Watson would be 'much obleadged' if TJ would consider his state, for he is 'full of want' and has not 'Any Spair Clothing to Change my Self.' He [had been given?] 'sume Stockings … publicklly' which caused him 'very much Concern: as I have a Spirit above thos things although Never So poor: has Come of Good people and good principle is Sorey to be Accomodated by Neagros.'"11

1782 January 12. "Watson has had 3. galls. whiskey 3. galls. do. 1/2 galln. do."12

1782 January 14. "Watson 1 qt. do."13

1782 January 16. "1 qt. do."14

1782 January 30. "Charge Watson & Orr 3. galls. whiskey."15

1782 February 1. "Charge do. 4. gall. do."16

1782 February 2. "Charge Watson 1 pr. shoes."17

1782 February 19. "Charge Watson 1/2 gall. whiskey."18

1782 March 4. "Charge Watson 1/2 gall. whiskey."19

1782 March 9. "Watson had a galln. of whiskey yesterday."20

1782 March 23. "Delivd. Watson 6. yds. do. [Virginia cloth]."21

1782 April 22. "I agree to give Watson £40. per ann. for himself from the end of his first year & £10. more if Dodd comes."22

1782 April 30. "Pd. Watson for Orr 40/."23

1782 May 10. "Delivd. Watson 22 ℔ bacon & 1. bushel Indian meal."24

1782 June 1. "Gave Watson order on Mrs. Meriwether for 10. galls. whiskey @ 3/6."25

1782 June 22. "Pd. Watson 24/."26

1782 July 3. "Charge Watson 1. galln. whiskey."27

1782 July 20. "Charge Watson 1. qt. whiskey."28

1782 July 23. "Charge Watson 3. qts. whiskey."29

1782 July 26. "Charge Watson 1. galln. whiskey."30

1782 August 1. "Charge Watson a season of his mare."31

1782 August 31. "Charge Watson 7 yds. linen for shirt."32

1782 September 19. "Pd. Watson 48/."33

1782 October 8. "Pd. Watson 53/4."34

1782 October 27. "Let Watson have 3 ℔ sugar."35

1782 December 18. "Pd. Butler for Watson 40/."36

1783 June 9. "Pd. ... Watson 13/4."37

1783 July 6. "Pd. Watson 12/8."38

1783 July 14. "Charge Watson & Orr 20 yds. check @ 2/ and a pr. of shoes each @ 7/."39

1783 August 2. "Pd. Watson 39/4."40

1783 August 30. "Pd. Watson & Orr 13/4."41

1783 October 15. "Settled with Watson & gave him note for balance £25-8-5."42

1784 February 1. (Jefferson to John Key). "TMR's phaeton ... Watson to be kept ...."43

1784 February 1. (Jefferson to David Watson). "Watson. TMR's phaeton—list of work—provisions—my return home—will get watch, drawing instruments, clothes when I go to Phila—write to me."44

1784 March 2. (Jefferson to John Key). "Watson may be discharged when stairs done, or before, if necessary—settle lost time since I came away as he pleases—keep £8. or £10 in hand for watch unless Wats. chuses money, then give me notice—not tell him I have been consulted— … Watson lay off timber yard."45

1790 March 7. (Jefferson to Nicholas Lewis). "Watson attacks me here with his account. To satisfy him I gave him a line for you. I inclose you his account and will be obliged to you to compare it with the one settled between Mr. Key and him, and if any injustice has been done him, be so good as to have it rectified."46

1792 September 19. "Pd. Watson 21 days work 12.D."47

1793 October 22. "I have agreed with Watson to come & work for me at 120.D. a year, 500 ℔ pork & corn."48

1793 October ca. 22-25. (Memorandums to Thomas Mann Randolph). "Memorandums with respect to Watson. The waggon is to be sent for him on Monday Nov. 4. to bring his things. He is to work in the shop near the sawpit, and he must lodge there till Claxton moves. Then his wife is to live in Claxton’s house till I return and can fix them elsewhere. Johnny [Hemmings] is to work with him for the purpose of learning to make wheels, and all sorts of work. He is to do the following work, and in the order here mentioned unless any good reason should arise for changing it. Make a pair of wheels for Tom's mule cart. Mend or make wheels for the two oxcarts. Make a pair of forewheels for the Phaeton. Make 2 pr. of wheels for wheelbarrows. 3 f. diameter. Make a set of waggon wheels. The Phaeton wheels should be of ash, but the rest may be of the oak I bought of Gaines. Watson is to be furnished with provisions till I come home which may be done from the Plantations at the same time with Mr. Biddle. In rainy weather the carpenters are to be employed in splitting, planing, jointing and rounding shingles, which may be under the eye of Watson."49

1793 November 7. (Thomas Mann Randolph to Jefferson). "Watson has arrived and is at work as you ordered."50

1793 December 15. (Jefferson to Mary Jefferson Eppes). "I agree that Watson shall make the writing desk for you."51

1794 January 21. "Gave Watson and order on Brydie & co.'s store £5."52

1794 March 15. "See Brydie & co.'s acct. of 1793. ... Watson David 5-0-0 ante Jan. 21."53

1794 March 21. "Pd. Watson 1.D."54

1794 March 29. "Gave David Watson order on Brydie & co. for 18/."55

1794 March 31. "Gave do. order on Shadrech Reynolds 20/ for which Reynolds is to be credited."56

1794 May 24. "D. Watson gives an order on me in favr. of Dyer to pay a jdmt. of Wm. Hay & co. agt. him for about £9. part of which however he has pd."57

1794 May 28. "Gave D. Watson ord. on Brydie & co. for a pr. of overalls & 7 yds. linen @ 4/ or 5/ a yard (came to 46/6 see acct). Charge him 8 1/2 oznabrigs @ 14d."58

1794 June 3. "Richmond ... postage for Watson 1/6."59

1794 August 30. "Pd. D. Watson 26/2."60

1794 October 14. "Pd. David Watson 4.D."61

1794 October 15. (Farm Book addenda). "Killed a beef weighing about 50 lb. a quarter ... Sent ... 7. lb. to Watson."62

1794 October 22. "Pd. David Watson 2.D."63

1794 November 1. "On settlement with Samuel Biddle I owe him for ... an order of Davd. Watson 5. Charge D. Watson the above order for 5.D."64

1794 November 12. "Recd. from Shadrech Reynolds in discharge of his smith's acct. Mr. Dyer's note for 42/. This note is to be to my credit with Dyer in part of my assumpsit for D. Watson."65

1794 November 13. "Charge Dav. Watson £8-1-11 for goods recd. from Flem. & Mclanahan to my debit."66

1794 December. (Farm Book Entry: Bread list for top of mountain for 1795). "Watson 1."67

1794 December 9. "Credit John Lively Mr. Dyer's assumpsit for him 49/ in full of his acct. for smith's work, and debit this to Dyer in part of my assumpsit for David Watson to him."68

1794 December 11. "Credit Philip Gooch his assumpsit to Mr. Garland to pay the judgment Watson v. David Watson, wherein I stood special bail. Qu. sum? Assumed to Bruce David Watson to pay Dr. Barber's demand against him. Qu. sum? Note I am to have Watson's cow & calf, valued at £5. but say £5-10."69

1794 December 20. "Pd. Watson 4.D. assumed for do. to Peter 5.D. to Tom 4.D. = 13.D. Settled with Watson except blanks to be filled for some articles. Agreed that making up lost time his year is up this day, & the new year is to begin on his return from Augusta."70

1794 December 24. "Pd. Peter the 5.D. assumed for Watson."71

1795 January 17. "Credit Wm. Reynolds Saml. Dyer's note assuming for him 30/. which debit to Dyer on my assumpsit for Watson."72

1795 January 26. "Watson begins the year's work."73

1795 February 15. "Pd. Tom Shackleford for Watson 4.D."74

1795 March 3. "Pd. Watson 3.D."75

1795 March 31. "See the sd. acct. [Thomas Bell's] for articles of acct. with ... Oct. 10 Watson David £6-17-6 1/2 Int. to this day 10-10 [=] £7-8-4 1/2."76

1795 April 25. "Charge D. Watson articles furnished by Fleming on my note £4-9-4 1/2."77

1795 May 23. "Pd. D. Watson 2.D."78

1795 June 23. "Pd. D. Watson 2.D."79

1795 August 11. "Pd. Dav. Watson 2.D."80

1795 November 2. "Pd. David Watson 28/5."81

1795 December. (Farm Book Entry: Bread list for top of mountain for 1796). "Mr. Watson 2. [pecks]."82

1795 December 7. "Pd. Watson on acct. 25/4 1/2."83

1795 December 11. "David Watson has had goods of J. Watson on my note for 49/4."84

1795 December 16. "Pd. Watson on acct. 11/4 1/2."85

1795 December 24. "Pd. Watson 25/7 1/2."86

1796 January 22. "Paid D. Watson on acct. 3.D."87

1796 February 26. "Gave D. Watson order on Flem. & Mclanahan for hat & overalls."88

1796 March 3. "Settled with D. Watson. His year (makg. up lost time) ends on the 5th. inst. Balance due him £5-1-9 3/4 but there is an article in the acct. (Feb. 26 ante) not carried out, and so to be taken into our next year's acct."89

1796 March 7. "Pd. Watson .5."90

1796 March 26. "Pd. D. Watson 2.D."91

1796 April 14. "Charge Watson ord. on Flem. & Mclan. a bed tick &c. £1-16-7."92

1796 April 18. "Gave Watson an order on Snelson for 2.D. to Peter."93

1796 April 20. "Charge D. Watson my ord. on Flem. & Mclan. to Isabel 52/ also cash for her now paid 3/. Gave D. Watson ord. on Flem. & Mclan. for 2.D."94

1796 May 23. "Charge David Watson order on his acct. to Flem. & Mclan. for 8/ in favor Billy chicken."95

1796 June 11. "Pd. Wm. Hunt for David Watson cash 0-12-7."96

1796 August 2. "Gave D. Watson order on J. Watson for goods. See bill 41/4."97

1796 August 6. "Pd. D. Watson 4.D."98

1796 October 1. "Pd. Usher for David Watson 9 ℔ Xd nails @ 1/."99

1796 November 6. "Pd. Ursula for D. Watson 6/. pd. Watson cash 18/."100

1796 November 12. "Gave D. Watson ord. on stores for goods. (£4-3-9. post)."101

1796 November 14. "D. Watson has got goods £4-3-9 from Mclure, Brydie & co. on my order of the 12th."102

1796 November 18. "Pd. D. Watson 1.D. Pd. Isabel for do. 3.D."103

1796 November 26. "Gave D. Watson ord. on Snelson for a rug &c. £1-9."104

1796 December 31. "Charge D. Watson 15/9 furnished him by J. Watson on my acct. viz. for rum & mitts."105

1797 January 7. "Gave D. Watson ord. on Flem. & Mclan. for 15/6 and pd. him 6/ cash."106

1797 February 4. "Gave Watson ord. on Lott 1. gall. rum."107

1797 February 20. "Pd. Watson 10.D."108

1797 March 31. "Pd. Watson 1.D."109

1797 April 8. "Pd. Watson 2.D. = 12/."110

1797 April 16. "Pd. Watson 4.D."111

1797 April 22. "Pd. Watson 1.D."112

1797 April 30. "Settled with David Watson. Balance due him £7-9."113

1797 May 1. "Pd. Watson 2.D. —pd. do. 2.D."114

1797 May 4. "Pd. Watson £3-17-2."115

1797 July 19. "Pd. Watson 11.D."116

1797 July 29. "Watson 3.D."117

1797 August 7. "Pd. Watson 4.D. & gave order on Kelly for 2 shirts, cost £1-14s-3d."118

1797 August 17. "Paid Watson 4.D."119

1797 August 19. "Paid Watson 2.D."120

1797 September 1. "Pd. Thos. Walker for D. Watson a quarter's board of his son 50/."121

1797 September 12. "Pd. Ursula for D. Watson 21/."122

1797 October 16. "Pd. Watson 2.D."123

1797 November 2. "Pd. Watson 3.D."124

1797 November 20. "Paid postage ... for D. Watson .125."125

1797 December 2. "Settled with D. Watson. Balance due him 37/6. He leaves my service this day. Paid him 38/ in full."126

1798 February 15. (Jefferson to Thomas Mann Randolph). "[H]ow does Watson answer your purpose?"127

- Gaye Wilson, 8/1997, and Lucia Stanton, 1990

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Monticello, the House


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