APPENDIX 3

WILLIAM CALVIT AND TROUBLE WITH WIVES

http://users.ju.edu/jclarke/josephcalvitapp3.htm

 

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Joseph’s eldest brother, William, was born about 1738 in North Carolina.  He appears to have been the eldest of the four Calvit brothers.  He married a Miss Holmes, but she died before 1780, either while he lived in the Carolinas or after he had moved to the Holston River section of East Tennessee.[1]

 

About 1782 in Washington County, Tennessee, Calvit married his second wife, Phoebe Crawford, born about 1742 in North Carolina.  She was probably related to the Gaillards, a Huguenot family that had left South Carolina for East Tennessee and thence to Mississippi.[2]  In her life, she saw romance and too much of the tragedy typical of frontier life.  In remote and hostile Indian country, there were few ministers and no civil officials among the early settlers of Kentucky and Tennessee.  Consequently, many young couples made their homes and reared their families sanctioned only by their relatives and neighbors.  When quite young, Phoebe had thought she had found a companion in Stephen Jett.  She lived with him as his wife and bore him at least one child.  Then she found out that he had another wife, and she left him.[3]

 

Stephen Jett apparently resented Phoebe’s new marriage, and shortly after he concealed himself in the bushes along a road and shot at William from ambush.  Wounding him in the hand and taking advantage while William was incapacitated, Jett stole his child from Phoebe.[4]

 

Sometime in 1783, William Calvit immigrated to Natchez with his family.  Whether Stephen Jett preceded him or came later is uncertain, but shortly after Calvit had located his family in this new territory, he again met Stephen Jett, this time at the house of William Brocus.  Fueled by drink, the two had a fierce fist fight, with William likely getting the better of his rival as Jett preferred charges against him to the Spanish authorities.  As a result, in the summer of 1783, William petitioned the local commandant at Natchez:

William Calvit versus Stephen Jett. William Calvit represents that a certain Stephen Jett who had made a complaint against your petitioner is a man of bad character; that Jett about the 7th of October last on the Holstein [Holston] River, without any cause whatever, did conceal himself near the road from whence he fired upon your petitioner with intent to kill him and did break the right palm of your petitioner.  Unfortunately your petitioner met with the said Jett at the house of Mr. Brocus and your petitioner being a little in liquor a dispute took place between them and they fought until they were parted. Your petitioner is very sorry for what has passed and asks the clemency of Your Excellency. Signed: William Calvit.[5]

 

Shortly later, Phoebe filed her own petition with the commandant, asking him to restore her child.  He responded favorably.

Phoebe Calvit versus Stepehn (sic.).  Jett Phoebe Calvit represents that some time since she lived with a certain Stephen Jett until she had one child by him and was again pregnant[6] when she found that he had deceived her and had another wife, of which she was before ignorant; that on this discovery your petitioner determined to leave the said Jett and it was mutually agreed that they should separate. Your petitioner afterwards married William Calvit who had his arm broken by a ball fired by said Jett with intent to kill and while in that situation the said Jett came to the house swearing that no one but himself should have your petitioner and has since taken her child by stealth for no other purpose but to torment your petitioner, saying that he would carry the child among the savages to be revenged on her, which he will probably do, having no fixed residence and no means to support the child. She prays for consideration and that the said Jett will be compelled to restore her child and such measures may be taken to prevent him from troubling her in the future. Feb. 17, 1784. Signed. // Stephen Jett Is ordered to restore to the petitioner the child whom he took from her and then to appear before me. Trevino. // I notified Stephen Jett. James Harman, constable.[7]

 

Unfortunately, however, Phoebe’s choice of William as her second husband proved little better than had her first.  William had a violent temper and was given to prolonged drunks.  Spanish authorities granted her request for a lot in the City of Natchez as a home for her and her sons.  It is believed that Phoebe’s primitive Spanish home—a quaint three-room structure with low ceilings, wide chimneys, and plain woodwork—stood into the twentieth century.[8]

 

Claim No. 1143. Phoebe Calvet petition the Spanish Govt, that she wishes to establish a home for herself and sons; asks for Lot No.3, Sq. No. 13, in the City of Natchez. 19 Sept. 1795. // Granted same, 24 Oct. 1795 by De Grand-Pre.  //   File.  Claimant, Phoebe Dayton, 24 Mch. 1804. Wit: Benet Truly, 11 June 1806.  Certif. A-782, issued to claimant, 20 Aug. 1806.  Phoebe Dayton claims Lot No. 3, Sq. No. 13 In the City of Natchez by virtue of a grant from Spanish Govt., to this claimant, by the name of Phoebe Calvit, as above. Phoebe Dayton[9] by Lyman Harding, her atty.[10]

 

In Phoebe Calvit versus William Calvit she explained why she had left William.  She added detail to her complaints and called for witnesses in her support.

Phoebe Calvit versus William Calvit.  Phoebe Calvit, lawful wife of Wm. Calvit, represents that by reason of the cruelty and ill-usage of her husband, she has been obliged to leave his house, and finds herself with nothing wherewith to subsist, and although she had property before her marriage, consisting of a negro, a bed and furniture, valuable horse and saddle, her said husband refuses to restore any part thereof but has sold her negro, without the consent of the petitioner, that Thomas Vause, of Bayou Pierre, is acquainted with the state of property of your petitioner before her marriage, and she asks that said Thos. Vause be ordered to appear to prove same, and that her husband be ordered to restore to her the bed and other property possessed by her before her marriage, and that she be allowed such support by her husband as Your Excellency deems just, observing that during the twelve years of her marriage she has received nothing from him, not even clothing. Natchez.  19 Dec. 1795.  Signed: P. Calvit. // p. 352.  Bayou Pierre. May 20, 1796.  Came Thomas Vause before me and declared on oath that, about 13 years ago, he was called in by William Calvit and Phoebe Crawford to write a bill of sale of a negro boy named “Peter”, from said William Calvit to sd Phoebe Crawford, which he did and witnessed a saw the said negro boy delivered by Wm. Calvit to Phoebe Crawford.  This transation [sic.] took place in Holstein in North Carolina.  He thinks the consideration mentioned in the bill of sale was 80 pounds.  He also remembers that Phoebe Crawford did let Wm. Calvit have a horse which he saw Wm. Calvit sell to Capt. Thomas Aimey, but for what sum he does not remember.  Signed: Thomas Vause.  Before me.  P. Bryan Bruin.[11]

 

Expecting a child when she separated from William, she went to live with the family of Tacitus Gaillard.  After the birth of her son, Phoebe temporarily returned to William, but the marriage did not improve.  She again left, this time securing and agreement from William to provide her with a house on his plantation with provisions and servants sufficient to care for her and her two sons.  She also requested $500 to be paid to her and her heirs.  It is believed that they were divorced, giving William and Phoebe the distinction of obtaining the first divorce in the Mississippi Territory, then still a part of Spanish Louisiana.[12]

 

The separation and divorce from William led Phoebe to appear before the governor on March 18, 1796 and again to petition for the restoration of the property he had owned before her marriage:

Phoebe Calvit versus William Calvit.   Phoebe Calvit represents that by agreement between herself and William Calvit, her husband, dated 14 March 1795, her said husband bound himself to allow her a separate maintenance but your petitioner, having received so much ill treatment from him, was impelled to seek her residence elsewhere.  She lived a long while with Mr. Gaillard and others until her husband, having made many fair promises to the late William Savage, curate of the parish, who persuaded your petitioner to return and live with her husband again and she did, but in fear.  But from ill-treatment, she cannot continue to do so. She had a slave before her marriage, a horse, bed and furniture and a side saddle.  The negro belonging to her was sold by her husband without her consent to Dr. Farrar; asks an order that he deliver her another negro of equal value out of his own stock to be appraised by Thomas Vause and Daniel Miller, both of Bayou Sara, who knew the value of the petitioner's slave and other property. Sig: Phoebe Calvit.[13]

The governor ordered William Calvit to appear before to answer Phoebe’s complaint.[14]

 

Phoebe continued her struggles in court.  The wealthy Moore family held a competing Spanish land grant and laid claim to the property William had bought for Phoebe at 311 Jefferson Street in Natchez, adjacent to the Moore family’s cotton gin.  Because Phoebe had remarried, she was known as Phoebe Dayton in 1806 in the continuing court case over Lot #3.  Phoebe won her case and was awarded the lot, which was to become known as "Calvit's Corner.[15]

 

Apparently, William continued to live on his plantation of 800 acres on Sandy Creek, eighteen miles east of Port Panmure, Mississippi until his death.[16]

 

The records at Natchez show that on August 19, 1801, about five years after her separation from William Calvit, she entered into an antenuptial contract with Ebenezer Dayton.  Still living under the government of Catholic Spain, she could not legally remarry after a divorce; therefore it is doubtful that she could have entered into a legal contract to remarry as long as he was alive.  Thus, William had probably died before August 19, 1801, likely in March 1799, yet his real estate was divided between his heirs only in 1816.[17]

 

 

William Calvit—Inventory of Estate

 

One tract of land on Sandy Creek containing 800 acres

Two tracts on Pretty Creek, one containing 500 acres, the other 200 acres

One negro man named Prince

One negro man named Sam

One negro man named Matt

One negro woman named Alice

One negro girl named Rachel

Two mares, a black and a _______

One sorrell mare claimed by his daughter Zelpha

One Roan mare claimed by his son Tacitus

Five broke oxen

Fifty head of cattle, more or less

Forty head of hogs, more or less

Two feather beds

One mattress

Five sheets

Two bolsters

Four pillows

Seven blankets

Three bedsteads

Two gallon basons

One putter dish

One wash tub

One trunk

One looking glass

One pr of shires

One earthing dish

Four plates

Five coffee cups

Six saucers

Eight knives & forks

One pepper box

Nine table spoons

Twelve tea spoons

One sugar case

One large table

Seven chairs

Two pots

One large kettle

One skillet

One tea kettle

Two pr pot hooks

Two iron pot hooks

One iron shovel

One dutch oven

Two smothing irons

One pr of  ________

Two large plows

Three axes

Two log chains

Two grubing hoes

One drawing knife

One hand saw

Three water pails

Three ________

One spinning wheel

Two pr of Cotton corder

One pr of Cart wheels

One hand mill

The above inventory certified to be a just and true statement of the property real and personal which has come into our possession of the dec'd William Calvit 23 March 1799.

Anthony Calvit, Joseph Calvit, administrators.[18]



[1] Stanfill, Colvett Family, 327; Harmon, A Good Inheritance, 182; Stafford, Wells Family, 230-37.

[2] Ibid., 336-37.

[3] Ibid., 327-28.

[4] Ibid., 328.

[5] Book G, p. 101. n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in McBee, comp., Natchez Court Records, 308; Potter, Dorothy Williams. Passports of Southeastern Pioneers, 1770-1823: Indian, Spanish and other Land Passports for Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Virginia, North and South Carolina. Baltimore: Gateway Press, Inc., 1982, 342; Stanfill, Colvett Family, 328.

[6] No other information exists on the pregnancy; perhaps the child did not live to term.

[7] Book G, p. 152, n.d. Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in McBee, comp., Natchez Court Records, p. 320-21; Harmon, Good Inheritance, 170; Stanfill, Colvett Family, 328-29.

[8] Edith Wyatt Moore, “Fondly I Roam: Stories of Natchez Homes,” Natchez Times, Dec. 11, 1949;

[9] By this time, Phoebe had married Ebenezer Dayton.

[10] Book D, p. 294. n.d., Land Claims, 1767-1805, in McBee, comp., Natchez Court Records, 449-50.

[11] Book E, p. 351, Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in Ibid., 202.

[12] Stanfill, Colvett Family, 329.

[13] Book F, p. 452. n.d., Natchez Court Records, 1781-1798 in McBee, comp., Natchez Court Records, 284-85.

[14] Stanfill, Colvett Family, 330-31.

[15] Moore, “Fondly I Roam”; Stanfill, Colvett Family Chronicles, 331, 335.

[16] Stanfill, Colvett Family Chronicles, 332-33.

[17] Stanfill, Ibid., 329-32.

[18] Ibid., 333.