Cross Keys Plantation

US LNHT 918
Manuscripts Collection 918
family papers and agricultural records
1819-1983 [bulk 1819-1948]
6 linear feet(six manuscripts boxes and two records boxes)

Correspondence, diaries, financial records, scrapbooks, and other papers documenting the Cross Keys Plantation of Tensas Parish, Louisiana, and the Watson, McCall, and Cook families. The plantation was run by women during most of its existence. Topics documented include soldiers' views of the Civil War and World Wars I and II, plantation life, the role of women in the South, southern agriculture, social life in the rural South, the homefront during World Wars I and II, and other subjects.

PROVENANCE

Records of the Cross Keys Plantation and papers pertaining to the Watson, McCall, and Cook families were donated to the Tulane Manuscripts Department by Philip B. Watson and William W. Watson in 1991.

SCOPE

The papers span a period beginning with correspondence from 1819 to the middle of the 20th century. They include correspondence detailing plantation life during most of the nineteenth century, letters revealing the life of a soldier during the Civil War, correspondence from United States soldiers at home and abroad during World Wars I and II, nineteenth-century general store account books and agricultural financial ledgers, and scrapbooks. The papers document the rarely recorded circumstance of an important southern plantation run mostly by women: Anna Watson ran Cross Keys plantation from 1860 until 1902, and Lucille Watson ran the plantation from 1934 until 1985.

CITATION - please cite as follows:

Cross Keys Plantation records, Manuscripts Collection 918, Manuscripts Department, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana 70118.

HISTORICAL SKETCH

The Cross Keys Plantation, comprising approximately 1,453 acres, was acquired by William W. Watson, husband of Anna McCall Watson, from Thomas R. Sutton and Thomas B. Kempe on November 15, 1853, for $52,000. At least a portion, if not all, of the main plantation residence existed at the time of the sale. The name "Cross Keys" was given to the plantation at the time of its purchase by Mr. Watson and his partner, Dr. Asa P. Jones, who was his brother-in-law, being the widower of his sister, Olive, who had died in 1848.

William W. Watson was the son of James H. and Anna Maria Cable Watson who owned the Waterloo Plantation in Jefferson County, Mississippi. William W. Watson and his father-in-law, Dugald G. McCall, had previously acquired the Clio Plantation, just across the river from Rodney, Mississippi, and apparently lived on the Clio Plantation at the time of his purchase of Cross Keys. Clio Plantation has since been taken by erosion of the Mississippi River.

William W. Watson was born March 15, 1821. On September 24, 1846, he married Anna McCall, the daughter of Dugald G. McCall and Susan Coleman McCall, who lived on a small farm at Oakland College, not far from Waterloo. Dugald G. McCall was born on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, January 12, 1790, emigrated to North Carolina with his parents in the same year, and arrived in Natchez in 1808. His wife was the daughter of Jeremiah and Pheroba Coleman, and was a descendant of the Reverend Samuel Swayze, the leader of the Jersey settlers who settled at Kingston about 1773.

Dugald and Susan McCall were also the parents of Duncan McCall and Samuel Edwin McCall, who also moved to Louisiana and lived for a time on the Sundown Plantation. Dugald McCall died on November 17, 1854, after which Susan moved to Cross keys to live with her daughter. During the Civil War, Edwin served in the Confederate Army, but his wife, Mary, moved to Cherokee County, Texas, with Duncan and his wife, Margaret, where they lived until the war was over. After returning to Sundown for a few years, they returned to Cherokee County, Texas. Susan Coleman McCall died at Cross Keys on February 5, 1873.

In 1867, Cross Keys was transferred from William W. Watson to Anna McCall Watson in settlement of separate and paraphernal claims, and she and her husband remained on the plantation until their respective deaths in 1902 and 1899. They were the parents of five children, three of whom died during their childhood. Their daughter, Olive, married W. J. Stripling and lived at Cross Keys until both she and her husband died in the Spring of 1885, leaving two infants, W. W. Stripling and Anna Stripling, who were reared by their grandparents.

Their other child, Willie Jackson Watson, who was born February 9, 1863, also remained on the plantation and was married twice, first to Lou Maddox, who died in 1916, and secondly to Lucille Cook, who died in 1985. Mr. Watson and his first wife, Lou, reared their nephew, Philip B. Cook, who was born on February 22, 1903, and whose mother died within a few months. Lucille Cook and Philip B. Cook were the children of Elizabeth Maddox Cook, who was a sister of Lou Maddox Watson. Philip B. Watson was formally adopted by W. J. Watson on February 19, 1924. W. J. Watson died at Cross Keys on May 2, 1934.

Dugald G. McCall was a trustee of Oakland College, which was founded as a Presbyterian Institution in 1830 and flourished until the Civil War. Cross Keys Plantation was successfully operated by William Watson and Asa P. Jones, and apparently paid for, prior to 1860, but from that time on, it appears that the management of the property was assumed by Anna Watson, and that all business transactions were made by her until her death in 1902.

After the Civil War, 323 acres of the property were sold by Anna Watson in order to preserve the remainder, and in 1907 the place was partitioned between W. J. Watson and the two children of Olive Watson Stripling, with W. J. Watson retaining the original plantation residence and out-buildings. At his death in 1934, he bequeathed the property to his wife, Lucille, who managed it for the production of cotton and cattle until her death in 1985.


Inventory

Series 1. Diaries, correspondence and family papers

Box 1

Folder

1. Diary of Anna McCall Watson, 1849. 54 pages. Includes transcript. Brief entries discussing temperance, the weather, sewing, visitors, and church. Fragile. Because the original diary is fragile, researchers are asked to use the transcript in this file folder before reading the original diary.

2. Diaries of Dugald McCall, 1854, and Anna McCall Watson, 1868-76. 280 pages, 216 blank. Includes transcription. Topics discussed include runaway slaves, yellow fever, plantation livestock, steamboat travel, finances, and household activities. Fragile. Because the original diary is fragile, researchers are asked to use the transcript in folder 3 before reading the original diary.

3. Transcript of above diary.

4. Diary, author unknown, 1912-1916. Very brief entries. 18 pages, 12 blank; pages 1-62 cut out and missing.

5. Documents and correspondence pertaining to Dugald McCall, 1833-1855. Topics discussed include slaves, family, and church. 14 items.

6. Documents and correspondence pertaining to Duncan McCall and Margaret McCall, 1846-1873. 10 items. Includes correspondence from family members in Cherokee County, Texas, to Cross Keys, in 1864, discussing the effect of the war on their families. The letters also discuss the war's impact on the living conditions of slaves.

7. Correspondence primarily to and from Edwin S. McCall and from Mary McCall, 1854-1959. 6 items.

Folders 8 and 9 contain the Civil War letters of Edwin S. McCall. Many of the letters describe conditions during the Civil War, when Edwin McCall served in the Confederate Army. He probably participated in the Battle of Shiloh, and one of his letters, dated May 20, 1862, discusses the maneuvering around Corinth, Mississippi, in the weeks following the battle. Other letters discuss the Siege of Vicksburg, attacking army stores near Richmond, destroying an African American camp, and the morale and health of the troops.

8. Correspondence primarily to and from Edwin S. McCall and from Mary McCall, 1862-1863. 15 items.

9. Correspondence primarily to and from Edwin S. McCall and from Mary McCall, 1864-1865. 16 items.

10. Correspondence primarily to and from Edwin S. McCall and from Mary McCall, 1868-1870 and undated. 5 items.

Box 2

Folder

1. Correspondence to Susan Coleman McCall, 1819-1826. 20 items. These early letters are from her cousin, Sarah Jones.

2. Correspondence to Susan Coleman McCall, 1854-1865. 30 items. Much of it is from her niece, M.G. Snodgrass, and some is from her son, E.S. McCall, and her daughter, Mary.

3. Correspondence to Susan Coleman McCall, 1867, 1869, 1896, and no date. 15 items. Includes one poem on the death of George Washington addressed "for Mrs. Susannah Coleman."

4. Business and family correspondence to Anna McCall Watson, 1845-1860. 14 items. Includes letters to and from friends and family, including one letter describing Gonzalez, Texas, in 1852 (". . . it is great corn cotton and pecan country.").

5. Business and family correspondence to Anna McCall Watson, 1865-1874. 8 items. Includes letters to and from friends and family, including five letters from a circuit-riding preacher who describes presenting fourteen sermons in eleven days and who was eventually called to minister in Mexico City.

6. Business and family correspondence to Anna McCall Watson, 1880-1881. 14 items. Includes letters to and from friends and family and one letter to her attorneys. Seven items of correspondence are from her son, William J. Watson, written while he was attending school at the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Port Gibson, Mississippi.

7. Business and family correspondence to Anna McCall Watson, 1882-1901. 14 items. Includes letters to and from friends and family and five items of correspondece from her attorneys.

8. Business and family correspondence to Anna McCall Watson and miscellaneous, 1865, 1882, and undated. 19 items. Includes one letter to Dugald Watson (January 1, 1865) from his cousin Lem in Hogjane (sp), Texas. He describes soldiers stealing his dogs and impounding supplies. Also includes three envelopes, a prayer, a poem, Christmas and Easter greeting cards, and a list of Anna McCall's assets.

9. Correspondence from family and friends to and from Loula Maddox Watson, 1887-1889. 6 items.

10. Correspondence from family and friends to and from Loula Maddox Watson, 1890. 17 items. Includes letters from her parents and other relatives, letters from rejected suitors (one of whom apparently was the noted steamship captain B.S. Leathers), and love letters from her future husband, W. J. Watson.

11. Correspondence from family and friends to Loula Maddox Watson, 1891-1895. 15 items.

12. Correspondence from family and friends to Loula Maddox Watson, 1896 - 1915. 18 items. Includes one picture post card and a rental agreement.

13. Correspondence from family and friends to Loula Maddox Watson, undated. 15 items. Includes some miscellaneous items including a lease agreement, a poem, two broadsides regarding the Home Circle Publishing Company, and a panoramic postcard of the beach at Epworth-by-the-Sea.

14. Correspondence to W. W. Watson, 1845-1883. 12 items. Also includes legal papers, including land deeds and a probate settlement (for which there is also a typed transcript).

15. Correspondence to W. W. Watson, 1845-1883. 20 items. Some of the correspondence reveals the influence of the Civil War on life in the rural South. Letter from R. C. Ingalls, "Camp Seymour on the Rappahannock" April 8, 1863, discusses life in a military camp during the Chancellorsville Campaign. Also includes correspondence concerning legal claims, and several miscellaneous documents, including two voter registration certificates (1872 and 1874), a genealogical note, and two envelopes.

Box 3

Folder

1. Correspondence from family and friends to Anna Stripling, 1893-1895. 9 items.

2. Correspondence from family and friends to Anna Stripling, 1897-1898 and undated. 13 items. Includes one poem and one envelope.

3. Correspondence to and from Olive Watson Stripling from friends and relatives, 1871-1873. 14 items.

4. Correspondence to and from Olive Watson Stripling from friends and relatives, 1874. 21 items. Much of the correspondence is from her godfather, Hartwig Moss.

5. Correspondence to Olive Watson Stripling from friends and relatives, 1875. 14 items.

6. Correspondence to Olive Watson Stripling from friends and relatives, 1876- 1877. 22 items. Correspondents include her cousin, W. W. Dix.

7. Correspondence to Olive Watson Stripling from friends and relatives, 1878- 1881. 15 items.

8. Correspondence to Olive Watson Stripling from friends and relatives, no date. 14 items. Includes one poem.

9. Correspondence to Olive Watson Stripling from friends and relatives, no date. 13 items. Includes one calling card from Hartwig Moss.

10. Miscellaneous items. 35 items. Includes an 1844 grant of land to Thomas B. Poindexter signed by John Tyler (poor condition); land deed (1844), poetry, newspapers clippings, and two items of correspondence by Dr. A. P. Jones.

11. 10 recipes and 4 lists.

12. Map showing the partition of Cross Keys Plantation in 1907; map showing land mortgaged to Susan McCall, n.d.; copy of map for the Surveyor General's Office, Donaldsonville, La., 1857, for district north of Red River, Louisiana., n.d.

13. History of Tensas Parish, no date, author unknown.

14. Miscellaneous publications: College of New Jersey catalogue, 1844-45; closing exercise of the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy, Port Gibson, MS, n.d.; annual circular of the Poydras Military College, 1859; Mississippi College catalog, 1855-56; oration delivered by Thomas Reynolds at Jericho Grove, Maryland, 1857; address delivered by John Perkins, Jr., at Oakland College, 1853. 6 items.

Box 4

Folder

1. Correspondence of W. J. Watson, 1880-1893, with family and friends. Much of the correspondence is with his mother, Anna McCall Watson, and sister, Olive, while he attended the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Other correspondents include his cousins Lily L. and James Maddox and his friend E. P. Mangum. Also includes one tuition receipt (1880), two report cards from the Chamberlain-Hunt Academy for the 1880-1881 term, one receipt from a factor, and one envelope. 20 items.

2. Two pieces of business correspondence of W. J. Watson, 1907, 1909.

The following folders contain the correspondence of Lucille Cook Watson. Lucille Cook married W. J. Watson August 19, 1920, after the death of his first wife, Lou. Her correspondence created before her marriage to Watson is listed as being to "Lucille Cook." Her correspondence created after her marriage to Watson is listed as "Lucille Cook Watson." Please note, therefore, that Lucille Cook and Lucille Watson were the same person. Also note that while the correspondence in the following folders is predominantly that of Lucille Cook Watson, the folders will also contain occasional correspondence of other family members, particularly that of her husband, W. J. Watson.

3. Correspondence of Lucille Cook. 1910-1913. Major correspondents include her friends, W. J. Watson and Lou Watson.

4. Correspondence of Lucille Cook from family and friends, including W. J. and Lou Watson, 1914. 20 items.

5. Undated correspondence and correspondence fragments to Lucille Cook, mostly from her father. 10 items.

6. Correspondence from Loulie Wagner to her cousin, Lucille Watson (nee Cook), 1912-1935. 11 items.

7. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook, January - August, 1915. 7 items.

8. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook, September - December, 1915. 10 items

9. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook, January - July 1916. 7 items.

10. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook, August - December 1916. 16 items.

11. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook, 1917. 6 items.

12. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook, January - June 1918. 16 items.

13. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook, July - December 1918. 10 items.

14. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1920. 14 items. Note that Lucille Cook married W. J. Watson August 19, 1920, and her correspondence after this point will be inventoried as being that of "Lucille Cook Watson."

15. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1921-1923. 11 items.

Box 5

Folder

1. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1924. Includes one bank statement.

2. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1925-1926. 15 items.

3. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1927. 8 items.

4. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1928. 22 items.

5. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1929. 9 items.

6. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1930. 7 items.

7. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1931. 8 items.

8. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1932. 12 items.

9. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1933. 17 items.

10. Employment Relief Committee files. In 1933 Lucille Watson worked for the Employment Relief Committee of the State of Louisiana. She would visit potential clients in their homes, write reports describing their living conditions, make recommendations regarding their eligibility for relief, certify their ability to work, and certify the eligibility of farmers for loans. This folder contains her case load records. It includes lists of potential clients, expense statements, client grocery lists, and blank forms. Fragile.

11. Employment Relief Committee reports. 1933; 14 pages comprising 7 or 8 reports. The reports, written by Lucille Watson after conducting home visits for the ERC, describe the clients' residence, employment, assets (usually livestock), liabilities, family background, religious activities, weekly budget, "situation," expenditures, and other information. Fragile.

12. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, January - 1934. W. J. Watson died May 2, 1934, and this folder contains mostly condolence letters along with an itemized bill for his funeral; ca. 55 items.

13. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1935; 11 items.

14. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1936; 20 items.

15. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1937; 20 items.

16. Correspondence from family and friends to Lucille Cook Watson, 1938-39; 14 items.

During World War II, Lucille Watson organized soirees in St. Joseph for soldiers stationed at nearby military bases, including Selman Field, Monroe, Louisiana, and Camp Van Dorn, Mississippi. She also corresponded with many soldiers at local camps and overseas as part of a "pen pal" program to boost morale. Much of the correspondence in the following folders reflects those war-time activities.

17. Correspondence from family, friends and soldiers to Lucille Cook Watson, 1940, 1942 (no correspondence for 1941); 19 items.

Box 6

Folder

1. Correspondence from family, friends and soldiers to Lucille Cook Watson, 1943; 20 items. Primarily letters from soldiers.

2. Correspondence from family, friends and soldiers to Lucille Cook Watson, January - June, 1944. 21 items.

3. Correspondence from family, friends and soldiers to Lucille Cook Watson, July - November, 1944. 30 items.

4. Correspondence from family, friends and soldiers to Lucille Cook Watson, January - June, 1945. 16 items. Includes reactions to the death of President Roosevelt and the defeat of Germany.

5. Correspondence from family, friends and soldiers to Lucille Cook Watson, July - December, 1945. 21 items. Includes correspondence from soldiers stationed with the United States occupation army in Germany and letters from soldiers discussing civilian life after being discharged from the military. Also includes photographic postal cards of Germany and several envelopes.

6. Correspondence from family, friends and soldiers to Lucille Cook Watson, 1946-1948, 1953, 1973. 24 items.

Folders 7 through 9 contain undated correspondence, correspondence fragments, and miscellaneous other undated items primarly to Lucille Watson. Note that when undated correspondence was found within a group of dated letters, appeared to be from the same time period as the dated letters and pertained to similar subjects, the archivist assumed the undated item was from the same time period and kept it within its original group. Therefore, some undated correspondence may be found throughout the collection.

7. Undated correspondence to Lucille Cook Watson. Note that the first item is an undated, handwritten last will and testament of William J. Watson in which he bequeaths his property to "my beloved wife Lucille Watson born Cook."

8. Undated correspondence primarily to Lucille Cook Watson. Also contains one letter to W. J. Watson, a list of his clothing, a speech he gave as a child, and one short story, "Daddy's Adventures with a Wildcat."

9. Undated correspondence to Lucille Cook Watson.

10. Newspapers clippings pertaining to Lucille Cook Watson. 1983 and n.d.

Series 2. Financial records and scrapbooks.

This series contains financial papers, general store personal account books, financial ledgers, practice books, and scrapbooks.

Box 7

Folder

1. Bills and receipts, 1854, March - September. 9 items.

2. Bills and receipts, 1854, October. 7 items.

3. Bills and receipts, 1854, November. 7 receipts and one envelope.

4. Bills and receipts, 1854, December. 8 items.

5. Bills and receipts, 1855, January - September. 11 items.

6. Bills and receipts, 1855, October - December. 11 items

7. Bills and receipts, 1856-57, 1860. 8 items.

8. Insurance papers, 1900-1913, and one stock receipt, 1915.

9. Tax receipts, 1952-1924. 26 items.

10. Legal papers, 1864-1872. Most pertain to a dispute between Anna and W.W. Watson and A.P. Jones. Includes lease of land to a former slave in exchange for cotton. 16 items.

11. Slave bills of sale, 1834-1865. 23 items. Includes list of slaves owned by E. G. McCall, August 24, 1861; power of attorney appointing William W. Watson agent for Asa P. Jones of Claiborne County, Mississippi, regarding slaves owned by Jones in Louisiana, January 23, 1865.

Personal accounts ledgers. Folders 12 - 21.

12. 1830-1851 (primarily 1830-45). Includes fines for runaway slaves, "Memorandum of Negroes for Shoes," "Memorandum of Negroe Hire for 1831," gin records, and other information. 84 pages.

13. 1875-76, 1886, 1889 (including cash accounts). Also cotton weights for 1889, poetry by Anna Watson, 1896, 1902. 305 pages, 12 blank.

14. 1876, 1877, 1887, 1896. Includes index to general store accounts, cash accounts, number and weight of cotton bales by person, balance sheet of Oak Wood Plantation for January through April, 1877; and childhood Latin exercises of W.W. Stripling. 206 pages; 42 blank.

15. 1893-99. Includes rent records for 1891, gin records for 1893, 1896, 1897, and Cross Keys records for 1890. 170 pages.

16. 1903-1907; 1937-1945. Indicates payment method. Includes four pages of Cross Keys Plantation expenses, two pages of "House Accounts," and three-page record of "Rent Cotton for the Year," i.e., cotton quantities recorded by person.

17. Items laid in the above volume, mostly bills and receipts. 38 items.

18. 1905-07. Clippings for children's scrapbook pasted over many of the entries. 288 pages.

19. 1906-1908. Indicates payment method ("by cash," "by work," etc.). Includes index to names and one page of house accounts. Cover says "1902.3&4 1906" but early pages torn out and existing dates begin with 1906. 142 pages (38 blank; 147-164 missing).

20. 1911, 1919. Indexed. Part of volume devoted to diary, 1913, 1915, 1916. Records cotton weights, 1911. 196 pages, 26 blank.

21. Items laid in the above volume. 3 items.

Box 8

Folder

1. 1913, 1918-1919. Indexed. Indicates payment method. Contains three diary entries for December 1918 and January 1919 on inside front cover. 92 pages (4 blank).

2. Receipts laid in the above volume. 4 items.

3. 1922-1927. Primarily records of weekly meat and meal purchases. Records payment method. Also includes records of "Weights of Bales of Cotton" by person for 1927. Individual accounts occasionally record cotton taxes, interest on accounts, and land rental charges. 146 pages (11 blank; approximately 75 pages cut out). Binding broken, warped.

4. Items laid in the above volume: personal and business correspondence, receipts, gin records, tax papers. Approximately 70 items.

5. 1930-1936. Occasional tax information in individual accounts. Brief account of Lucille Watson's poker winnings. 100 pages (2 blank); water damage, fading, rust damage, but entries legible.

Other financial ledgers.

Folders 6 - 10 contain personal expense records, gin records, records of dealings with factors, and other financial records.

6. Expenses of D.M. McCall, 1849-1851; journal of Susan Coleman McCall, 1870- 1873. 68 pages, 5 blank.

7. Financial ledger, 1876. Later used as child's English practice book (probably Anna Stripling's), 1894. 176 pages; binding loose.

8. Financial Ledger, 1904-1908. Tracks expenses to factors, brokers, and other suppliers. Includes summaries of cash balances by budget category and person, including W.J. Watson and Cross Keys Plantation. Indexed. 202 pages (44 blank).

9. Cotton Ginner's Record Book (Census Bureau), 1914. Contains ginning data for December 12-21, including date, name, seed, lint, and price. W.J. Watson's name on front cover. 56 pages (49 blank).

10. Cotton bale weights, 1930-1933. Records name, number of bales, weights, and price. 102 pages (86 blank); binding warped, minor water damage.

Practice books and scrapbooks.

Folders 11 -15 contain practice books, 1899. There were used by W. W. Stripling as class exercises for an accounting course at the Soule Commercial College and Literary Institute in New Orleans. The volume in folder eleven also contains shorthand exercises.

16. Scrapbook of newspaper clippings pasted in financial ledger. Clippings 1869- 1872; financial ledger 1811-1818. 44 pages; binding broken.

17. Clippings, 1884, pasted in financial ledger, 1849. 32 pages; binding broken, pages loose.

18. Clippings, 1891, pasted in financial ledger, 1866-88. 66 pages; binding broken.

19. Clippings, possibly from the 1930s, pasted in financial ledger of Oak Wood Plantation, 1874-88. 172 pages; water damage, binding missing.

OVERSIZE

Scrapbook of clippings, 1893, pasted in financial ledger, 1878-79. 71 pages, 5 blank; binding broken.