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John Watts (New York politician)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

John Watts Jr.
John Watts (New York politician).jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from New York's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1793 – March 3, 1795
Preceded byJohn Laurance
Succeeded byEdward Livingston
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
In office
January 1, 1791 – December 31, 1793
Preceded byGulian Verplanck
Succeeded byJames Watson
Member of the New York State Assembly
In office
January 1, 1788 – December 31, 1793
Recorder of New York City
In office
Preceded byRobert R. Livingston
Succeeded byRichard Varick
Personal details
Born(1749-08-27)August 27, 1749
New York City, Province of New York, British America
DiedSeptember 3, 1836(1836-09-03) (aged 87)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyFederalist
Jane DeLancey
(m. 1775; died 1809)
RelationsJohn de Peyster (grandson)
Marquess of Ailsa (nephew)
Philip Kearny (grandson)
Parent(s)John Watts
Ann DeLancey Watts
Alma materKing's College

John Watts Jr. (August 27, 1749 – September 3, 1836) was an American lawyer and politician from New York City who represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives.[1]


John Watts was born on August 27, 1749 in New York City. He was the son of John Watts (1715–1789), a Scottish immigrant from a wealthy family, and Ann DeLancey (1723–1784), a descendant of the Schuyler family and Van Cortlandt family. His elder brother, Robert Watts (1743–1814), was married to Mary Alexander, the daughter of Lord Stirling. His younger siblings included Anne Watts (1744–1783), who was married to Archibald Kennedy, 11th Earl of Cassilis (the parents of Archibald Kennedy, 1st Marquess of Ailsa), Susannah Watts (1749–1823), who was married to Phillip Kearney, Mary Nicoll Watts (1751–1815), who was married to Sir John Johnson, 2nd Baronet, Stephen Watts, who was married to Sarah Nugent, and Margaret Watts, who was married to Robert Leake.[2]

His maternal grandparents were the French born Etienne de Lancy (1663–1741), a minor member of the French nobility,[2] and Anne van Cortlandt (1676–1724), the third child of Gertrude Schuyler (b. 1654) and Stephanus van Cortlandt (1643–1700), the Chief Justice of the Province of New York.[3]

He completed preparatory studies, graduated with an A.M. degree from King's College in May 1769, and studied law.[1]


In 1774, he was appointed the Recorder of New York City under Mayor David Mathews, and was the last to serve in this role under the English Crown.[4] The role included serving as a "mayoral assistant, judge, and in sundry administrative and judicial functions."[5]

His father, a Loyalist, fled the colonies to England during the Revolutionary War. In 1779, his properties, including his "Rose Hill" estate (which is now occupied by Fordham University), were seized by the New York State Legislature. Watts and his brother Robert petitioned for the attainder to be overturned. They were unable to have it overturned but were allowed to buy back their father's properties.

Post Revolutionary War

From 1788 to 1789 and again from 1791 to 1793, Watts was a member of the New York State Assembly serving as Speaker of the Assembly from 1791 to 1793. He was a member of the commission to build Newgate Prison in New York City, in use between 1797 and 1829.

In 1793, he was elected as a Federalist to the 3rd United States Congress succeeding John Laurance to represent New York's 2nd congressional district. He served in the U.S. Congress from March 4, 1793 until March 3, 1795. He was defeated in his run for re-election by Edward Livingston.

He was a judge of Westchester County, New York from 1802 to 1807.

Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum

In 1831, Watts organized the Leake and Watts Orphan Asylum after his friend (who was also his sister Margaret's brother-in-law), John George Leake (1752–1827), died with no children or living siblings.[6] Leakes had left his personal property (valued at about $300,000) and real estate (worth an additional $86,000),[7] to Watts' son provided he change his name to "Robert Leake."[8] While Watts son made the change, he died a few months later, leaving no will. The real estate was escheated to the State because of technical problems of the "will", however, the personal property passed to Watts who used it to found the Orphan Asylum.[8]

Personal life

In 1775, Watts married Jane Delancey (1750–1809)[9] in a double wedding, along with her sister, Susannah Delancey (1754–1837), who married Thomas Henry Barclay.[10] The sisters were daughters of Peter DeLancey (who served in the New York Provincial Assembly for many years) and Elizabeth Colden (daughter of Cadwallader Colden), and granddaughters of Stephen Delancey making them first cousins to John.[11]

Together, John and Jane were the parents of eleven children. His grandson would later write that "Watts was a monument of affliction, in that he had seen his wife, six handsome, gifted, and gallant sons, and four daughters precede him to the grave. One childless daughter survived him and three grandchildren."[5] The children included:[11]

  • George Watts, a First Lt. and aide-de-camp to General Winfield Scott from 1814 to 1815.[11]
  • Robert J. Watts, a Captain in the 41st Infantry to whom John G. Leake left his extensive properties. Robert inherited Leake's estate but died very soon after.[5]
  • John Watts III.[11]
  • Ann Watts.[11]
  • Susan Watts (1795–1823), who married her cousin Philip Kearny (1780–1849).[11]
  • Elizabeth Watts (d. 1866),[12] who married Henry Laight.[11]
  • Mary Justina Watts (1801–1821),[12] who married Frederic de Peyster (1796–1882) in 1820.[11]

John Watts died at his longtime home, 3 Broadway in New York City, on September 3, 1836. He was interred in a vault in Trinity Churchyard.[1] In 1839, his family's Rose Hill estate and manor house were purchased by the Catholic Church to establish St. John's College.[9]


Through his daughter Susan, he was the grandfather of Gen. Philip Kearny (1815–1862), a United States Army officer notable for his leadership in the Mexican–American War and American Civil War who was killed in action in the 1862 Battle of Chantilly. He was interred in Watts's vault until being removed to Arlington National Cemetery.

Through his daughter Mary, he was the grandfather of John Watts de Peyster (1821–1907),[13] a New York City author and philanthropist who married Estelle Livingston (1819–1898) in 1841.[14][15]


  1. ^ a b c "WATTS, John - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  2. ^ a b Stevens, Walter Barlow (1921). Centennial History of Missouri, Vol. 2, 1921. Chicago : S.J. Clarke Pub. Co. p. 76.
  3. ^ Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "De Lancey, Étienne" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  4. ^ Richard M. Ketchum, Divided Loyalties: How the American Revolution Came to New York, 2003, page 385
  5. ^ a b c "Who Was John Watts, Jr.?". Trinity Church. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  6. ^ Gray, Christopher (June 24, 1990). "The Leake & Watts Orphan Asylum. A Castoff in the Path of a Growing, Great Cathedral". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  7. ^ "Leake Heirs Sue The State. Seek to Recover $86,608. How They Trace Their Relationship to John George Leake". New York Times. December 18, 1900. Retrieved 2008-12-25.
  8. ^ a b Nevius, Michelle & Nevius, James (2009), Inside the Apple: A Streetwise History of New York City, New York: Free Press, ISBN 141658997X, pp.82-83
  9. ^ a b "Rose Hill Park Highlights : NYC Parks". New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  10. ^ Valentine's Manual of Old New York. Valentine's Manual Incorporated. 1919. p. 159. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h Purple, Edwin Ruthven (1873). Genealogical Notes of the Colden Family in America. Priv. print. pp. 15–17. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  12. ^ a b Allaben, Frank (1908). John Watts De Peyster. Frank Allaben Genealogical Company. p. 230. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  13. ^ "DIED. DE PEYSTER". The New York Times. 6 May 1907. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  14. ^ "MRS. JOHN W. DE PEYSTER DEAD; She Was a Daughter of John Smith Livingston -- Passed Away at Tivoli, N.Y." The New York Times. 3 August 1898. Retrieved 6 February 2018.
  15. ^ "GEN. J. W. DE PEYSTER DIES Soldier and Author Was Known for His Wide Philanthropy". The New York Times. 6 May 1907. Retrieved 6 February 2018.

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by Recorder of New York City
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
This page was last edited on 2 January 2022, at 00:44
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