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James M. Watson docket book


Held at: University of Delaware Library Special Collections [Contact Us]181 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19717-5267

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Delaware Library Special Collections. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

James M. Watson was a justice of the peace in New Castle County, Delaware, in the late nineteenth century. He was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, to James and Mary Watson around 1812. He married Abigail Pugh, also of Pennsylvania, and the couple had at least one child, Joseph P. Watson. The Watson family had moved to Wilmington, Delaware, by October 1847, when they were admitted to the First Presbyterian Church of Wilmington. By 1850, James M. Watson was a dry goods merchant. The 1872 Wilmington City Directory described the firm of James M. Watson & Son as proprietors of a "gents' furnishing store" on Market Street. By this time, Watson was also acting as a justice of the peace. An advertisement in the 1874 Wilmington City Directory described him as a "Justice of the Peace & Notary Public, also General Collecting Agent." At the time of the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, the Watson family lived on Shipley Street in Wilmington. James M. Watson died on August 6, 1881. Several entries in this docket book note that his widow, Abigail, collected debts on behalf of his estate in 1882.

U.S. Federal Census for 1850 (accessed via on July 11, 2018)U.S. Federal Census for 1860 (accessed via on July 11, 2018)U.S. Federal Census for 1870 (accessed via on July 11, 2018)U.S. Federal Census for 1880 (accessed via on July 11, 2018)U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995, Wilmington, Delaware, City Directory, 1872 (accessed via on July 11, 2018)Boyd, William H., compiler. The Delaware State Directory and Gazetteer for 1874-75, Containing a Complete Directory of the City of Wilmington. Wilmington, DE: The Commercial Press, 1874.Delaware Death Records, 1861-1933 (accessed via on July 11, 2018)U.S. Presbyterian Church Records, 1701-1970 (accessed via on July 11, 2018)Information derived from the collection.

This docket book is a register of debt litigation and collection kept by James M. Watson, a justice of the peace in New Castle County, Delaware, between 1875 and 1883.

The volume contains two alphabetical indices, one at the front organized by the plaintiff's last name, and another at the back organized by the defendant's last name. Each entry is identified with a case number, starting with 3469 in May 1875. Each entry in the docket book lists the plaintiff and defendant, the nature of the case, when the court's summons was issued and returned, a summary of proceedings, the amount of the judgment awarded, the court costs, and a signature from Justice of the Peace Watson. Most cases in this book relate to debt litigation, including actions on book debt, unpaid promissory notes, and delinquent payment for goods and services rendered. Plaintiffs sought payment for groceries, store bills, rent, board, and medical attendance. Court costs included not only payments for Watson's service, but also payments to constables and witnesses. While Watson noted that some plaintiffs and defendants paid court costs immediately after judgment, others failed to pay for months or even years. Receipts, invoices, and other financial documents have been pasted onto some of the entries.

The volume is bound in brown leather over boards with blind-stamped decoration on the front and back covers. There are three leather labels with gilt borders on both the front and back covers without any text. There is a partial black paper label with gilt text reading "DOCKET" on the spine. The front and back pastedowns are red marbled paper. There is a stationer's ticket on the inside of the front cover showing a book with black text reading "BOUGHMAN,/ THOMAS & CO./ COUNTING HOUSE/STATIONERS/ AND/ BLANK BOOK/ MANUFACTURERS/ 421 MARKET STREET/ WILMINGTON/DEL." There is another label with black text reading "NOTICE./ Any one wanting a Book like this, giving us this No. 787 and Name of Book, can have one made without further description, as we keep all patterns of Blank Work./ BOUGHMAN, THOMAS & CO.,/ STATIONERS, PRINTERS,/ AND/ BLANK BOOK MAKERS/ WILMINGTON, DEL." The volume contains 720 pages of lined wove paper with handwritten notations in black ink.

Item 0031: Shelved in SPEC MSS 0096 oversize boxes (17 inches)


Processed by Marrette Pearsall, October 2012. Further processing and encoding by Elizabeth Jones-Minsinger, July 2018.

University of Delaware Library Special Collections
Finding Aid Author
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
Finding Aid Date
2018 July 13
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections Department, University of Delaware Library,

Collection Inventory

James M. Watson docket book, 1875-1883.
Item 0031

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