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1819 Letter from Joseph Potts to his parents in England
1844 Letter from Joseph Potts to his sister, Jane, in England

These records all came about when I received a query from Glenda Reay of Northumberland, England who was looking for some information on Joseph Potts who apparently lived in Washington, NC.  She mentioned a letter that he'd written to his parents in 1819 and another letter written in 1844 to his sister, Jane whom he had not seen in 35 years, and I, not being above begging, asked Glenda to send me scans of the letters and she was gracious enough to do so.  These letters were sent to Glenda from her cousin, Edward Gall John Gall, the first son of Jane Potts, died in 1899 and the next surviving son was Edward Gall's grandfather Thomas Gall.  Glenda learned that Joseph had built a Presbyterian church in Beaufort County and there was a statue of him in the town square and that he had also leased his boats to the British Government.  This put the Potts family in England on a hunt for their American family. Glenda is the Great-Great-Granddaughter of Jane Potts, daughter of John Potts (b. 1794) who was the brother of Joseph Potts (b. 1796) who wrote these two letters.  William Potts (father of both John & Joseph) was the brother of Ralph Potts who wrote his will in 1816.  Glenda indicated that Glororum and Elford were in the Parish of Bamburgh and a lot of the family were born on Lindisfarne (Holy Island).  These letters, along with the results of some local research, can be seen below.  Also an interesting article written by Nara L. Newcomer on Ralph Potts and music in early America can be read here.

Ralph Potts                                                   married                                      Jane Hutson
b Apr. 1727 Northumberland            June 29, 1742 Eglingham             b c 1731 Northumberland
            |                                                           |                                              |
 William Potts                                           Ralph Potts                               Ann Potts
 b c 1749                                              b June 3, 1752                             b c 1754
 buried May 18, 1822, Bamburgh          Went to USA                   married July 3, 1774 N'land
      married                                                married                                    John Scott
Jane ? [possibly Jane Hall]                    Mary Ann Blount
buried Sept. 23, 1824 Bamburgh
       John Potts                                       Joseph Potts                       Jane Potts                      William Potts           Ralph Potts
       b c 1794                               b. Mar. 24, 1796 N'land     b abt 1803 Elford, N'Land         b c 1800                  b. ???
Tugle Hall, N'Land                               Went to USA
married Nov. 30, 1823 Bamburgh         [see his Bible]
     Helen Cassey
Jane Potts ................................   m 1848 (irregular Border Marriage**)
b 1828 Bamburgh district                  Thomas Gall
 Chesterhill                                                 |
                                                           John Gall                                   m            Ann Tate
                                                       b Jan. 6, 1849 Holy Island              |
                                                                                 William Gall         m     Annie Dodds Thompson
                                                                                     b 1871                               b 1873
                                                                                                     Frances Ann Gall     m     Richard Chrisp
                                                                                                         b 1906                              b 1898
                                                                                                                     Glenda Chrisp     m     John W. Reay
                                                                                                                                       Oct. 15, 1963

** “Irregular Border Marriages”, “Runaway Marriages” – call them what you will, they were very common – and are very difficult to trace!  You will have heard of Gretna Green and its famous runaway marriages which occurred because of the difference between the marriage laws of England and Scotland, enabling English people to marry in Scotland without the need for banns or license, and without previous notice.  But there were not only “runaways” who took advantage of this. Many thousands of ordinary folk just walked over the border and declared themselves to be man and wife. No documentation, no witness and the marriage was quite legal, although frowned upon by the Church. A number of local men in the border areas saw an opportunity for profit and established themselves as “priests”, conducting a form of marriage ceremony and issuing certificates  -- for a fee --  and sometimes keeping registers. There were no formal or official records.  This occurred all along the Border, and not only at Gretna.  On the eastern border, places like Coldstream Bridge, Union Bridge, Lamberton Toll, Mordington Toll, Paxton Toll were in Scotland – only by yards – but were perfectly adequate for a marriage. So these places were used by many Northumberland folk of humble stock – and you will not find their marriages in parish registers or in the civil registration records of either England or Scotland. So the records of the priests are very valuable to genealogists – if you can find them. They are scarce, having been lost or destroyed with the passage of time.  Some do still exist and you can find a list at irregular-border-and-scottish-runaway-marriages. Also, Northumberland and Durham Family History Society and Northumberland Archives Service have been active in publishing some of these, and especially if the marriage you are seeking was in the 1830s, 1840s or 1850s, you may well find what you want in their publications.

Ralph Potts, son of Ralph Potts & Jane Hutson, was born June 3, 1752 in England.  Passenger & Immigration Lists show a Ralph Potts arriving in Virginia in 1787.  No further information was found in Virginia but it's apparent that he removed to Beaufort County before 1790.  He is found in 1790 (apparently unmarried with 1 slave).  Ralph married Mary Ann Blount (b1771) c1791 and they are found in the 1800 & 1810 Beaufort Co., census.  His will was written Mar. 29, 1816 and was probated at June Term 1816.  The American Recorder, a Washington, NC newspaper, carried the Ralph Potts obituary on Friday, April 5, 1816 which stated, "Died in this town on Saturday the 30th of March last, Mr. Ralph Potts, in the 64th year of his age, a native of Northumberland, England.  He was among the first of those Europeans who adopted the United States of America (at the close of the Revolution) as his country and his home.  In the year 1790 or '91, he removed from Portsmouth, Virginia, to this town where he continued to reside up to the time of his death."  [see the full obituary]  According to his will, Ralph Potts had a brother, William Potts, and a sister, Ann (Potts) Scott, still living in Holywell, Alnwick, Northumberland, England.  Ann married John Scott in Rennington, Northumberland, England on July 3, 1774.

Ralph Potts & Mary Ann (Blount) Potts had the following known children:
    1. Ann Potts was born c1795 and married Jarvis B. Buxton, Sr. in Beaufort Co. on Mar. 26, 1819.  According to his tombstone in Saint John's Episcopal Church Cemetery in Fayetteville, Jarvis was born in Craven Co. on January 3, 1792 and died in Fayetteville, NC, May 30, 1851. He was ordained a deacon in the Protestant Episcopal church at Elizabeth City, NC, in 1827, and in 1831 he removed to Fayetteville and was rector there until his death.  Apparently Ann died before 1834 when Rev. Buxton married Harriett Harrington (Troy) Jennings at Fayetteville, NC on April 3, 1834. 
    2. Sally Blount Potts was born between 1794-1804 and married James R. Hooker.  They are found in the 1820 Beaufort Co. census.
    3. John Wesley Potts
born between 1800-1810

This page appears to be the outside of the letter and someone had apparently used it to make notations to themselves.  As near as can be determined, this is what it says....minus a few things that I didn't think were pertinent.

Mr. William Potts
Gloroum, New Belford
Northumberland England

Joseph Potts
J.J. John Potts

Pearcy 55½
Potts 55½
Hen__? 58½
Racke_? 590
Bruce 57¾
White 56¼
Foster 501/4 

If you could get a bill on the London Bank or on any stauch? London Merchant we could then have the Bill Cashed at Alnwick And Merchant of Alnwick had Great Corispondents and bra__? From London

We, William Potts and Ann Scott do jointly Authorize Josh Potts (son of Said Wm Potts at Washington North Carolina America) to receive of J.H. Hinton Esqr all the Monies Willed to said Wm Potts & Ann Scott by the late Mr Ralph Potts of Washington (Deceased) own Brother and Sister to Said Ralph Potts Deceased.

As Witness Our hands
     William [his x mark] Potts
     Ann [her x mark] Scott

(viz) Sum Willed to William Potts 300 Dollars, to Ann Scott 200 Dollars

NOTE:  See Free Church of Chocowinity where Joseph & John W. Potts are mentioned as well as James R. Hooker and Jos. Hinton. 

Washington No Carolina Beafort Co.    Jany 26th 1819

Dear Father and Mother
            I have once more Imbraced the Opertunity of Comunicating to You and also To all my relations in Great Britain.  Altho circumstance has placed Imencity of Space Between us Yet By the Blessing of God We can Look Beyond that Distance and as it ____________ and Communicate Together the Inginuity of man.
            By Assistance of Omnipotence has Taken away that Gloom of Darkness which would other wise never Left no Hope.  Since I wrote you Last I Have Enjoyed a Reasonable share of Health Which Blessing I Desire To Be very Thankfull to God from whom All Blessings flow.  I wrote you on July Last by Mr. Davis who saled from this Port for Bristol England since which I Received letters of Jos B. Hinton Esq. Desired me to Write You About the money Left by Uncle Ralph Potts for You And Also Aunt Ann Scott To Authorise me To Give Him a Discharge As He is Boath Administrator & Executor and can’t Give Himself A Discharge.
            Mr Thos. Trotter Mr Wm Ross & Mr James R. Hooker Has Give up there Charg To Mr Hinton so he Has Every thing in his own Hands.  They have all advised me of this plan.  If You and Also Aunt Ann Scott Scott will send me A Letter with Your Signature to it saying that you Authorise me To Receive it for You as Agent for you and Give a Receipt in Your name I can Receive it and forward it to You.  I cand Make arangement (turn over)


with Adrian H. Van Bokkelen of New York, Consine of the Store where I am Now Agent To send you A Draft on Som Good Bank in England or on Some of the Merchants So You can Get it Safe Without Cost.  Mr. A.H. Van Bokkelen dos business To All parts of England.  He is Ca_____ [crease in paper] Danger? or Dificulty & to prevent anyone receiving the Letter and Colecting the Draft I Shall Deam it payable to None But You or Your Heirs.  As Life is uncertain.

Dear Father Advise me By the first Oportunity if Living, if not Your Heirs Will Do So.  When I think of the uncertainty of Life of Boath old & Young I Cannot help Sheding a Tear of Compassion.  I am very Anctious for You To have the money That is Du [torn] and I Know Your nessity for it.  You will after receiving this Letter Communicate To Aunt Ann Scott if Living if not To the family so as they Can If They think proper Authoris me or any other person in this place to receive it & forward it as there is no other way to git it But By Appointing Some one as Agent To Receive it and Give Receipt for it.  Cousin John Scott is Living on Scupperlong Two?/Twp? working at his Trade and is Doing Well and I Believe if He Continues present and industress he Will Soon Be in Good Circumstance. [Jno. Scott is mentioned in Tyrrell County's 1815 Tax List.]  I Herd from him a week ago he's well.  I have Herd nothing more of Cousin Ralph Scott But Am afraid he has payed the debt we all have and must shortly Pay it.  I am now Agent for Abner Burbank Esqr in a Large (Turn Over)

[Note:  According to U.S. City Directories, Adrian Hubertus VanBokkelen was listed as living in Brooklyn, NY from 1823-1830.  He was born in the Netherlands on April 17, 1786 and died in New Bern, Craven Co., NC on August 24, 1846.  The Burbanks family were merchants in the town of Washington, NC.]


Wholesale & Retail Store For which I Have A Good celery [salary] and Expects To Continue Till I Commence Business for my Self. I Have Done Considerable Business But I find it not so proffitable as the Business I am now into less my Capital was Larger over purchases Whare am Now Annualy 30000 Barrels Turp[entine] from 15 to 20000 Barrels Tar Besides Lumber and pork fish and other things. Sales for the Last five Months Has Been 80 Hogheads Rum Molass Sugar &c in Great quantities.  They are Going to Cut 1 Cannel from Ronoak River To Washington on Tar River which will Be Great advantage to Washington it is suposed it will Increase the Value of all property Twenty five per cent in this place.

Dear Father I Wish that You & All my relations were in this place. I think They Could Do well. I never Expect To return To England Again For I hope I Shall Soon Git Naturalised To this Country.  If not, All I Now & Ever Shall continue in Grace To You all Yet If not I will never forget the Duty owe To You as parents and To my Brothers for there Cindness to me and If ever it is in my power to Assist in any thing I will Do [smudge] Sally Ann & John Rober? Scot [crease] L___? Love To You and also [smudge] [Jo]hn Scots family All of whome Joins Me in Love To You. I W[smudge] Health & Hoping to ____? You & Ann Your Direct as Follows

Your Son untill Death
   Jos Potts Washington No Carolina ----To Wm Potts

/s/ Joseph Potts

1844 Letter

Postmarked: Washington, N.C. America - July 17

Addressed to:
   Miss Jane Potts
      Easington Demesne
        Near Belford

Washington N.C. America July 12th 1844

My dear Sister
     You cannot imagine how much I was delighted at receiving your favor of the 30th March the first letter we rec'd from you in my life.  I commenced reading it and tears of joy soon clouded my vision, which have been repeated as often as I have read it & now when I am answering it.  I have to take of my spectacles (so you see I am gitting old) "and wipe away the falling tear."
     My dear Sister when we were last together I was but a boy and you a little girl & I suppose were we to meet each other now we would be utter strangers to each other.  I know how you looked when I left you.  Your Read cheeks and sparkling Black Eyes are still fresh in my memory, yes the little scar on your nose, your long Black hair & your pleasant smile often come dancing before my recolection when awake, as well as during the Peacefull slumbers of the Night as I left you "I see you yet" and I suppose just so you see me what changes the hand of time has made in you is unknown to me as it is with you so it is with me still we are the same individuals and if the hand of time has made great changes in our personal appearance what changes has been made in our moral characters, are we becoming polished


stones to adorn the spiritual building of Jesus Christ that Glorious Temple in which he will delight to dwell, it matters little what is our personal appearance but is of the utmost consequence what our moral characters and what relation we stand to our God whether we are among his redeemed ones or among his sinners.
     We are far apart the misterious providence of God has separated us widely, we have enjoyed very little of each others society in this world how will it be with us in the world to come.  Shall we spend an eternity of happiness together with our Dear Parents & other dear friends and above all of with our Dear Redeemer or where shall we be?  now is the time to decide these things and may God of his infinite mercy incline our hearts to his Service & fit us for his society.

     A few days ago since I rec'd a letter from our Dear Nephew William and how did my heart leap with Joy at seeing his signature & reading his letter delighted me because in a boyish way he told me of the times of my Boyhood, he speaks of Glanton of the School of James Kirton & of Tittlington pleasing associations cluster around all this

and I shall imbrace the earliest opportunity of letting him know that his letter has been rec'd and how much pleasure it offered me.  I am pleased with the Progress him and his brother are making in their education & I hope the Bible and Shorter catechism is included in their education.  Tom no doubt remembers our Dear Mother how she would sit down on the Lords day and hear us repeat of our catechism & the Hymns Psalms and chapters of the Bible we had memorised & read in formation?
     I have requested my Agent [in] New York to transmit a draft on Liverpool to our Brother John.  I have not heard from him since but he has no doubt complied with my request.  tell Bro. John to equally divide it between Bro Ralph William himself and you.  it will help to educate the children.
     Give my love to Bro. Ralph & Family. Bro. Wm & Family. Bro. John & Family.  also the love of my wife to all.
     Write me soon and believe me to be your affectionate Brother

                                                     /s/ Joseph Potts



Although I don't know the significance of this North Carolina money, it was among the papers that Edward Gall sent to Glenda Reay.

© 2012 Kay Sheppard