A Guide to the Webb-Prentis Family Papers Webb-Prentis Family Papers 4136-d

A Guide to the Webb-Prentis Family Papers

A Collection in
Special Collections
The University of Virginia Library
Accession number 4136-d


Special Collections, University of Virginia Library

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia 22904-4110
Phone: (434) 243-1776
Fax: (434) 924-4968
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Processed by: Special Collections Staff

Special Collections, University of Virginia Library
Collection Number
Webb-Prentis Family Papers, 1735-1942
ca. 1300 items

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

There are no restrictions.

Use Restrictions

No copies of the Civil War diary of Joseph Prentis Webb may be made without written permission of owner of original diary.

See the University of Virginia Library’s use policy.

Preferred Citation

Webb-Prentis Family Papers, Accession #4136-d, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

Acquisition Information

This collection was given to the Library on 15 May 1978 by Mrs. Robert H. Webb, Charlottesville, Virginia, and Dr. Joseph Prentis Webb, Central Lake, Michigan.

Scope and Content

This collection, consisting of ca. 1300 items and 29 bound volumes, (4 boxes, 1 oversize folder, 1.5 linear shelf feet), is an addition to the papers of the Webb and Prentis families given to the Library on 24 November 1972 (accession number 4136), and contains papers of the relaated Dardens, Allen, and Riddick families, all of Suffolk, Nansemond County, and of Williamsburg, Virginia. The collection spans the years 1735 to 1942, but the bulk of the papers date from ca. 1850 to 1890. Most of the papers relate to members of the above families who lived in uffolk, with only a few papers pertaining to the branch of the Prentis familywhich resided in Williamsburg.

The personal papers in this collection consist of scattered correspondence, financial papers, miscellaneous manuscripts, memorabilia and printed material. The correspondence dates from 1823 to 1939, and for the most part is made up of invitations and calling cards received by members of the above families.

The financial papers date from 1735 to 1887, and consist of 18th century tax receipts from land owned in Virginia, probably by the Prentis family in Williamsburg; bills of exchange, bonds, and bills of lading belonging to William Prentis, John Prentis, and Robert Prentis; and miscellaneous financial papers of various members of the above families.

The miscellaneous manuscripts date from 1771 to 1888, with much of the material undated. These papers consist of poems, quotations from books, songs, memoranda of children's birth dates, lists of subscribers, compositions, gardening notes, recipes, and other assorted papers. Of particular interest in this section is the photocopy of a Civil War diary kept by Joseph Prentis Webb, ca. 1862 to 1863.

The memorabilia is for the most part undated and unidentified, and consists of such items as paper dolls, silhouettes, and locks of hair. There is also a photograph of "Rose Hill," an early home of the Allen family in Suffolk. The printed material dates from 1774 to 1942, and is comprised of newspaper clippings, programs, and advertisements. Of particular interest for local history relating to this collection is a Sketch Book of Suffolk, Virginia, dating from ca. 1886.

The professional papers of Robert Riddick Prentis comprise the next main series in this collection. These papers, mainly correspondence and some related legal material, concern four cases of estate settlement and other fiscal litigation handled by Withers and Prentis, the Suffolk law firm in which Robert R. Prentis was a partner. The series dates from 1812 to 1887. Robert R. Prentis (born 11 April 1818) was the son of Joseph Prentis, Jr., who served as clerk of the Circuit and County Courts for Suffolk, and surveyor and inspector of the port of Suffolk, and Susan Caroline Riddick. Robert R. Prentis served as mayor of Suffolk from 1883 to 1885, and practiced as an attorney in the courts of Nansemond, Isle of Wight and Southhampton counties, and the United States District Court at Norfolk.

A major portion of this collection consists of the financial papers of Joseph Prentis Webb. Webb was the son of Robert S. Webb and Margaret Susan (Prentis) Webb, the sister of Robert R. Prentis. He was born in Suffolk on 30 October 1843, and served in the 13th Virginia Cavalry with the Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 to 1865, during which time he wrote the diary referred to earlier. Immediately after the war he started a drug company in Suffolk, and later expanded the business to include paints, building supplies, books, stationery, and a variety of other goods. He served as treasurer of the board of vestry of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Suffolk, a vice-president of the Suffolk Y.M.C.A., and was treasurer of the Suffolk Street Railway Company (formerly the Suffolk Street Car Company).

Webb's papers, dating from 1838 to 1892, are financial and legal records from his various business and service activities. In addition to receipts, accounts, and correspondence relating to his building supply contracts and store, there are deeds, bonds, and other legal records of property ownership, tax and license receipts, pension records, receipts of dues paid the Knights of Huron, and records from Webb's other activities as listed above. Webb's papers extend to within two months of his death on 27 December 1892.

In 1885, a fire swept through Suffolk, destroying not only Joseph P. Webb's store but the business of Darden and Eley. This dry goods and hardware store was established in 1866 by Robert Seth Eley and Algernon Sidney Darden, president of the Commercial Bank of Suffolk, whose daughter, Annie Jordan Darden, in 1881 had married Joseph Prentis Webb. Following the fire the two businesses cooperated in building a new store on Washington Square in Suffolk to house them both. Robert S. Eleydied in 1886, and the business was carried on by A. S. Darden who continued to build and expand it in cooperation with Webb, and to divide the profits from the business with Eliza P. Eley (possibly the former Eliza Jaekson (Prentis) Vickery), the widow of R. S. Eley.

The records of the business of Darden and Eley form the last major series in this collection. These papers, which date from 1867 to 1905, consist mainly of deeds, receipts, and accounts, and chronicle the changes the business went through as a result of the events related above. They include: store receipts of Darden and Eley; deeds made by Darden, Webb, Eley, and others; tax receipts; accounts from the settlement of the estate of R. S. Eley; and receipts and invoices from the building of the new store.

The remainder of the collection is comprised of ledgers, oversize materials, and Bible records. The ledgers and oversize items are listed at the end of this guide. The ledgers date from 1733 to 1907, and include court memoranda books of Joseph Prentis and an 18th century Robert Prentis, various financial ledgers and cashbooks, commonplace books, a diary of Joseph P. Webb, and some pastoral notebooks of the Reverend James Murray. Papers formerly inserted in the ledgers and photocopies made of fragile material in the ledgers can also be found in this section. The oversize material consists of six scattered items pulled from various parts of the collection. The Bible records are electrostatic copies of pages in Bibles of the Allen family, the Darden- Allen- Webb-Prentis family, and the Prentis-Riddick-Webb family, and they are filed in the Bible transcripts tray in the Reading Room. The originals were returned to the owners.


The Webb-Prentis papers are arranged in six series: I. Personal Papers of the Prentis, Webb, Darden, and Allen Families; II. Professional Papers of Robert Riddick Prentis, Attorney; III. Financial Papers of Joseph Prentis Webb; IV. Business Papers of Darden and Eley; V. Ledgers; and VI. Oversize .

The personal papers are arranged in five sub-series: 1. correspondence, 2. financial papers, 3. miscellaneous manuscripts, 4. memorabilia and photograph, and 5. printed material. Sub-series one and three--the correspondence and miscellaneous manuscripts--are divided between the 18th and early l9th century papers of the Prentis and Riddick families and the late l9th century papers of the Webb and Darden families, with some exceptional items foldered separately. The financial papers comprising sub-series two are divided according to type of document. Each sub-series has been arranged chronologically.

The professional papers of Robert R. Prentis--Series II are grouped according to case, as they were arranged when they arrived in the Library. Any notations which appeared on the original wrappings of the papers have been transferred to the present folder headings. Series III, the financial papers of Joseph Prentis Webb, and Series IV, the business papers of Darden and Eley, have also been kept in their original order as far as it existed, and any original labelling which survived has been copied onto the new folder headings. These three series are in chronological order.

The ledgers and oversize material comprising Series V and VI are arranged chronologically. Any titles which appeared on the ledgers have been incorporated in quotation marks into the listing. Papers pulled from the ledgers and photocopies made from the ledgers are filed in chronological order at the end of the ledger series.

Container List

  • Box 1
    Correspondence: Prentis and Riddick Families
    1823 Dec 18-1862 Feb 24, n.d.
    24 items
  • Box 1
    Correspondence: Webb and Darden Families
    1881 Jan 27-1939 May 19
    10 items
  • Box 1
    Financial Papers: Tax Receipts
    1735 Oct 17-1750 Jun 14
    104 items
  • Box 1
    Financial Papers: Bills of Exchange, Bonds and Bills of Lading
    1754 Jul 24-1780 Feb 7
    16 items
  • Box 1
    Financial Papers: Miscellaneous Financial Material
    1778 Nov 5-1887 May 31
    9 items
  • Box 1
    Miscellaneous Manuscripts: Prentis Family of Suffolk and Williamsburg, and the Allen and Riddick Families
    1771 Sep 16-post 1861, n.d.
    21 items
  • Box 1
    Miscellaneous Manuscripts: Darden and Webb Families
    1862 Feb 22-1888 Mar 22, n.d.
    12 items
  • Box 1
    Miscellaneous Manuscripts: Civil War Diary of [Joseph Prentis Webb] (photocopy)
    ca. 1862-1863
    1 item
  • Box 1
    Miscellaneous Manuscripts: Deed from Wm. W. Eley to Robert R. Allen
    1881 Dec 13
    1 item
  • Box 1
    Memorabilia and Photograph
    1870 Jul, n.d.
    13 items
  • Box 1
    Printed Material
    ca. 1774-1942 Jul 19, n.d.
    51 items
  • Box 1
    Correspondence and Related Material re Whitehead vs. Whitehead (2 folders)
    1812 Jun 23-1887 Jul 27, n.d.
    110 items
  • Box 2
    Chancery Papers re Ballard Copeland vs. Dempsey Reed's Heirs
    1882 Aug 29-1883 Apr
    7 items
  • Box 2
    Correspondence and Related Material re Court Cases Handled by Withers & Prentis
    1883 Jun 13-1887 Dec 28, n.d.
    11 items
  • Box 2
    Miscellaneous Legal Papers, mainly of Joseph Prentis Webb
    1838 Jan 20-1890 Nov 11
    18 items
  • Box 2
    Overdue Notes
    1855 Sep 19-1889 Aug 7, n.d.
    29 items
  • Box 2
    Miscellaneous Business and Financial Papers of Joseph Prentis Webb
    1871 Jan 24-1892 Oct 22, n.d.
    86 items
  • Box 2
    Tax and License Receipts
    1873-1890 Jul 1, n.d.
    95 items
  • Box 2
    Knights of Huron Dues Receipts
    1880 May 4-1888 Sep 1
    143 items
  • Box 2
    Papers of Joseph Prentis Webb as Treasurer of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Suffolk, Virginia
    1882-1892 Oct 10
    99 items
  • Box 2
    Correspondence with Nash, Porter & Co. and Others re Business Deal with Joseph Prentis Webb
    1886 Sep 22-1887 Mar 14, n.d.
    18 items
  • Box 2
    Suffolk Street Railway Company Papers
    1891 Jul 8-1892 Apr 30, n.d.
    51 items
  • Box 3
    Deeds Relating to the Business of Darden & Eley
    1867 Nov 14-1905 Jan 18, n.d.
    25 items
  • Box 3
    Receipts, Accounts, and Invoices from the Building of New Stores by D & E and JPW
    1884 Jan 11-1887 Feb 11, n.d.
    60 items
  • Box 3
    Receipts, Accounts, etc. of Darden & Eley
    1885 May 23-1887 Oct 29
    100 items
  • Box 3
    Receipts and Accounts from the Settlement of the Estate of R. S. Eley
    1886 Mar 10-1893 Jan 13
    55 items
  • Box 3
    Notes on the Settlement of Building Costs Shared by D & E and Jospeh Prentis Webb
    ca. 1886
    13 items
  • Box 3
    Receipts and Accounts of A. S. Darden and Joseph Prentis Webb from Building Projects
    1887 Jun 1-1892 Feb 25
    42 items
  • Box 3
    Tax Receipts of Darden & Eley
    1887 Nov 28-1892
    12 items
  • Box 4 1
    Ledger [of Robert Prentis, Attorney]
    1733, 1745-1782
  • Box 4 2
    Ledger, Letterbook and Memoranda Book
    1743, 1754-1760
  • Box 4 3
    Account Book - "List of Debts due to Richard Wall when he left Wmsburgh," [kept by John Prentis]
  • Box 4 4
    Ledger of Joseph Prentis & Co.
  • Box 4 5
    Pocket Ledger with Index
  • Box 4 6
    Court Memoranda Book - "York [Causes]"
  • Box 4 7
    Court Memoranda Book - "Elizabeth City Docket"
  • Box 4 8
    Memoranda Book of Joseph Prentis
    1790 Feb, 1807

    (Please use photocopies filed at back of box -original very fragile)

  • Box 4 9
  • Box 4 10
    "Memoranda-Nansemond Superior Court - Joseph Prentis"
    1815, 1824-1838
  • Box 4 11
    Account Book of the Estate of Daniel Webb
  • Box 4 12
    Commonplace Book of Robert H. Webb
    1818-1819, 1838-1845
  • Box 4 13
    Lawyer's Notebook and Account Book
  • Box 4 14
    Bank Book of Joseph Prentis
  • Box 4 15
    Sunday School Record Book of Margaret Susan Prentis
  • Box 4 16
    Commonplace Book
  • Box 4 17
    Register of Members of the Episcopal Parsonage Society
  • Box 4 18
    Diary of Joseph P. Webb
    1858, 1864
  • Box 4 19
    Songbook and Autograph Book
  • Box 4 20
    Commonplace Book of Joseph P. Webb
  • Box 4 21
    Pastoral Notebook of the Rev. James Murray
  • Box 4 22
    Journal and Cashbook of the Rev. James Murray
  • Box 4 23
    Pastoral Notebook of the Rev. James Murray
  • Box 4 24
    Pastoral Notebook of the Rev. James Murray
  • Box 4 25
    Commonplace Book
    1890, 1902
  • Box 4 26
    Political Notebook
    ca. 1892

    (Newspaper clippings and photocopies at back of box)

  • Box 4 27
    Register of Insurance Policies of R. R. Allen
  • Box 4 28
  • Box 4 29
  • Box 4
    Papers Pulled from Ledgers No. 1, 5, 8, 9, 11, 13, and 25
    1765-1818, n.d.
    41 items
  • Box 4
    Photocopies of Ledger No. 8, "Memoranda Book of Joseph Prentis"
    1790 Feb, 1807

    (Original fragile -please use photocopies)

  • Box 4
    Photocopies of Folded Newspaper Clippings in Ledger No. 26, "ca. 1892 Political Notebook"
    ca. 1892
  • Box 4
    Newspaper Clippings and Photocopies pulled from Ledger No. 26, "ca. 1892 Political Notebook"
    ca. 1892
    13 items
  • Box 4
    Commonplace book of Mary S. Allen
  • box: Oversize
    Broadside - "To Hugh Blair Grigsby," Norfolk, mailed to Joseph Prentis, Virginia Convention, Richmond
    1829 Dec 10
  • box: Oversize
    Diploma - from Wesleyan Female College, Murfreesboro, North Carolina, awarded to Lucie F. Allen
    1859 Jul 20
  • box: Oversize
    Broadside - announcing a concert for the benefit of yellow fever sufferers
    1878 Nov 8
  • box: Oversize
    Notice and plat of lands to be sold in Charlottesville, Virginia, in settlement of the case of Whitehead vs. Whitehead
    1882 Dec 28
  • box: Oversize
    "W. B. Whiteheads plat" of land
  • box: Oversize
    "Plat of Land near Bethesda Church I. of Wt. Co. Va.[ - ] Land bought by Jno. R. Kilby of R. H. B. Deusen"
  • box: Oversize
    Genealogical chart of the Jordan family
  • box: Money tray
    VIRGINIA: ten pound note (serial no. 5127)
    1757 June 8
  • box: Money tray
    VIRGINIA: 100 shilling note (serial no. 147)
    1758 Oct. 12
  • box: Money tray
    NORTH CAROLINA: Half dollar note (Spanish dollar) (serial no. 2891)
    1775 Aug. 21
  • box: Money tray
    NORTH CAROLINA: Four-dollar note (Spanish dollars) 5 items: a) serial no. 3; b) serial no. 428; c) serial no. 616 (right half missing); d) serial no. 1435 (right half missing); e) serial no. 2091
    1775 Aug. 21
  • box: Money tray
    UNITED COLONIES: Four-dollar note (Spanish dollars) serial no. 25462
    1777 Feb. 26
  • box: Money tray
    VIRGINIA: Fifteen-dollar note (Spanish dollars) serial no. 1348
    1778 Oct. 5
  • box: Money tray
    186-Dec. 2