The Resource William Stewart, Jr., Letters

William Stewart, Jr., Letters

William Stewart, Jr., Letters, 1800-1818
William Stewart, Jr., Letters
Inclusive dates
  • William Stewart, Jr., Letters, 1800-1818, were either written by, written to, or about William Stewart, Jr., manager of a nail factory and blacksmith shop in Alexandria owned by Catherine Flood McCall. The collection consists largely of correspondence written by Stewart to McCall. The major themes found in Stewart's letters to Catherine McCall include: his affectionate feelings for McCall and desire to marry her; business matters related to McCall's nail factories in Alexandria and Richmond and her plantation in Tappahannock; his difficulties with McCall's slaves who worked for him at the factory; his constant lack of money to pay his personal debts; his efforts to make additional income outside the factory (one effort led to his being sued by the United States government for violating the Embargo Act of 1807); his repeated requests to be given total authority over McCall's financial interests; his poor health, both emotional and physical; and his great unhappiness with his life in Alexandria
  • The collection includes correspondence between Stewart and Archibald McCall, father and business manager of Catherine. The correspondence mostly deals with business matters such as factory production, inventories of stock, sales, expenses, machinery used to make nails, labor issues (hiring of slaves, Stewart's difficulties with slaves, need for additional workers, etc.), and issues surrounding Catherine McCall's nail factory in Richmond
  • Stewart often mentions Catherine McCall's slaves in his letters. A total of twenty-four were sent from the McCall plantation to work at the nail factory in Alexandria as blacksmiths and nailors or they were hired out by Stewart to people in the city. Stewart writes about his bitter relationship with slaves; the work they performed either at the factory or for others; slave escapes and efforts by Stewart to return them; forms of punishment Stewart meted out to slaves for poor work or for escaping; expenses related to upkeep of slaves in Alexandria; amount Stewart charged for hiring slaves to people in Alexandria; value of McCall's slave property; and his constant request that they be sold because of their behavior and expense
  • The collection contains very emotional letters written by Catherine McCall to Stewart shortly before his death expressing her deep affection for Stewart and encouraging him to overcome his depression and illness. Following Stewart's death, she writes Stewart's friends in Alexandria concerning matters related to disposal of his property
  • The collection also includes correspondence from Stewart's brother, Catherine McCall's cousin in New England, and several gentlemen Stewart conducted business with. There are several letters from the Catherine McCall's plantation overseer informing Stewart of matters regarding the plantation. There is one letter from an acquaintance encouraging Stewart to replace slaves on McCall's plantation with Redemptioners
  • On the back of each letter is a summary of the letter's contents written by Catherine McCall
Member of
Biographical or historical data
  • William Stewart, Jr. began his career in his youth working as a clerk for Archibald McCall and Catherine Flood McCall in Tappahannock. In November 1800, the McCalls sent Stewart to Alexandria to manage Catherine's nail factory and blacksmith shop. He had numerous responsibilities such as overseeing the hired slaves who worked in the factory or for people in Alexandria, placing and filling orders, purchasing equipment for the factory or personal goods and items for the McCalls, scheduling deliveries, and keeping the account books. In January 1815, Stewart and Miss McCall reached an agreement that transferred control of the business from her to him. For a short period of time, Stewart operated the factory in partnership with John Creighton. In 1816, Stewart was forced to sell out his share of the factory to Creighton and William Gilham because of mounting personal debt. Stewart died in February 1819 of a combination of illness and emotional depression.
  • Catherine Flood McCall was born in Essex County, Virginia on December 25, 1766. She was the daughter of Archibald McCall, a prominent merchant and landowner in Essex County. Both lived on a plantation near the town of Tappahannock. With her father's guidance, Catherine used her wealth and slave property to start a nail factory and blacksmith shop in Alexandria in 1798. They started a second factory in Richmond in 1806, transferring a number of slaves from Alexandria to work in it. Soon afterwards, Catherine and her father moved from Tappahannock to Richmond maintaining residences in both locations. Catherine died on March 9, 1828 in Georgetown.
  • The letters in this collection were used as evidence in a chancery suit entitled Administrator of William Stewart, Jr. versus Catherine Flood McCall and others that was heard in the Circuit Court of the District of Columbia for Alexandria County. The purpose of the letters was to prove that Stewart did not have complete authority to act on her behalf. He had to have the approval of herself or her father in order to sell slaves, hire slaves, purchase machinery, take out loans, etc.
Cataloging source
Location of other archival material
William Stewart, Jr., Letters, 1800-1818, were used as exhibits in the Arlington County Chancery Cause Administrator of William Stewart, Jr. versus Catherine Flood McCall and others. The index number is 1827-036.
William Stewart, Jr., Letters
Digital images were generated by Backstage Library Works through the Library of Virginia's Circuit Court Records Preservation Program
  • The Library of Virginia
Digital images.
Governing access note
There are no restrictions
Immediate source of acquisition
Backstage Library Works
Organization method
Terms governing use
Do not serve originals. Use digital images available on the Chancery Records Index.

Library Locations

    • Library of VirginiaBorrow it
      800 East Broad Street, Richmond, VA, 23219, US
      37.5415632 -77.4360805
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