Egbert R. Watson

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E. R. Watson
Judge Egbert Reid Watson.JPG
Judge Egbert R. Watson

Judge of the Circuit Court
Electoral District Albemarle County
Term Start 1886
Preceded by George P. Hughes, of Goochland

Judge of the Circuit Court
Electoral District (Appointed by United States military authorities)
Term Start 1866
Term End 1869
Preceded by United States military authorities
Succeeded by Henry Shackelford, of Culpeper

Commonwealth's Attorney
Albemarle County
Term Start 1865
Preceded by R. T. W. Duke
Succeeded by R. T. W. Duke

Senate of Virginia
Electoral District Charlottesville District
Term Start 1852
Term End 1853
Preceded by John Thompson Jr.
Succeeded by Benjamin P. Randolph

Virginia House of Delegates
Albemarle County
Term Start 1847
Term End 1850
Preceded by Bezaleel Brown, William D. Hart
Succeeded by John J. Bowcock, Charles Carter

Biographical Information

Date of birth Egbert Reid Watson
March 4, 1810
Albemarle County, Va.
Date of death September 6, 1887
Charlottesville, Va.
Maplewood Cemetery
Spouse Mary Kelly Norris Watson (m. 1833; d. 1853, aged 36)
Jane Lynn Creigh Watson (m. 1856; d. 1858, aged 35)
Bettie J. White Watson (m. 1859)
Children Seven
Residence 713 Park Street
Charlottesville, Va.
Profession Attorney
Religion Presbyterian

Egbert Reid Watson (March 4, 1810 – September 6, 1887) was the son of John Watson of "Forest Hill," near Milton. He studied law under Judge George Hay, President James Monroe's son-in-law, while serving as Mr. Monroe's secretary at Oak Hill in Loudoun County. He was admitted to the Charlottesville bar in 1830, represented the county in both Houses of the Virginia legislature, and served as Judge of the Circuit Court following the War between the States. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church.[1]

Early life

Egbert Reid Watson was born in Albemarle County on March 4, 1810 to John and Jane Price Watson. Egbert entered the legal field as a law clerk reading law under George Hay, a co-prosecutor with William Wirt in the historic Aaron Burr trial and later a U.S. District Judge. Judge George Hay (1765 – 1830) was the son-in-law of James Monroe, Judge Watson was a personal friend of the former president.


At the age of 24, Watson opened a one-man law office on the Albemarle County courthouse lawn. Watson’s first case was an 1833 criminal trial, where he unsuccessfully defended two Black individuals named Peter and Leander for their alleged murder of Peter Ware. Watson’s five-decade career included serving as private secretary to former President James Monroe, six years in the Virginia General Assembly and a Circuit Court judgeship.

Note: One of the commonwealth's oldest law firms, McGuireWoods, LLP, traces its origins to attorney Egbert R. Watson. Through a series of mergers, the names McGuire, Woods, and others were added to the mix. Now headquartered in Richmond, the firm has 750 lawyers in 15 offices across the globe.


Attorney for the Commonwealth

While in the army and at the front, Richard Thomas Walker Duke was regularly elected Attorney for the Commonwealth, Albemarle County. The duties of this office were performed by Judge E. R. Watson, who kindly volunteered his services, while Colonel Duke remaining in the army.

Circuit Court

Egbert R. Watson was appointed Judge of the Circuit Court in 1866 by the United States military authorities. He was superseded in the beginning of 1869 by the appointment of Henry Shackelford, of Culpeper, who held the office until his death in 1880, when Daniel A. Grimsley, of Culpeper, was chosen. In 1882 he gave place to George P. Hughes, of Goochland, until 1886, when he was again elected, and continues to occupy the position.

Charlottesville Presbyterian Church 1856 - 1897 (At this church, Edgar R. Watson served as a deacon from 1848 to 1861; elder from 1861 to 1887)
Watson's home from 1862 to 1887

Private practice

In 1870, Watson formed a partnership with his son-in-law, George Perkins. [2]

Personal life

He was thrice married, first to Mary, daughter of Opie Norris, secondly to Jane Creigh, of Greenbrier, and thirdly to Elizabeth, daughter of Isaac White. Egbert and Mary Norris Watson had seven children. In 1861 Judge Egbert R. Watson purchased 2 3/10 acres from Richard K. Mead. The lot was off the southern side of his Meadlands estate. Judge Watson resided at this home until his death.

Judge Egbert R. Watson passed away on September 6, 1887 at his home and is buried in Maplewood Cemetery. His residence, 713 Park Street, is now known locally as the Judge Watson House. [3]

Family members

Egbert Reid Watson was born in Albemarle County on March 4, 1810 to John and Jane Price Watson.

About 1790 John Watson, known as of Milton, came to the county from Amherst. He was the son of James Watson, formerly of James City County. He settled in Milton, and was closely identified with its interests from its foundation. He was appointed a magistrate in 1800, and served as Sheriff in 1825. In 1813 he purchased from Brown, Rives & Co. "Forest Hill", a plantation on the south side of the Rivanna below Milton, containing upwards of a thousand acres. He made this his residence until his death in 1841.
His wife was Jane, daughter of Richard Price, and his children Eliza, the wife of Ira Garrett; James Richard, John W. C.; Isabella, the wife of Charles B. Shaw; Matthew P.; Egbert R.; and Ellen, the wife of John C. Sinton. J. Richard married Ann, daughter of James Clark, was a merchant in Charlottesville, and a hotel keeper at the University of Virginia, and died at "Forest Hill" in 1867.
  • John W. C. was admitted to the Albemarle bar in 1830, married Catharine, sister of professor John A. G. Davis, and removed to Holly Springs, Miss. He represented that State in the Confederate Senate during the war.
  • Matthew P. married Eliza, daughter of Opie Norris, and removed to Southwest Virginia.
  • Egbert spent his life in Charlottesville, as one of the leading lawyers at its bar, and Judge of the Circuit Court at the close of the war.

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