The Watts family consisted of William Walker Watts (1836-1912), Mary Buford Parkes Watts (1838-1934) and their daughter Emma Parkes Watts (1887-1970). William was the son of Charles Sinclair Watts and Elizabeth Walker Watts. Mary was the daughter of John White Parkes and Elizabeth Buford Parkes. William built Elmwood after his marriage and their only daughter Emma was born there in 1887 and lived there her entire life. Emma attended Vassar College and took several trips to New York and Europe with her mother. She never married and lived at Elmwood with her parents until each of their subsequent deaths. Watts was a collector of antiques and was an avid reader.
This collection consists of correspondence, photographs, ephemera, financial records and legal documents that were left in Elmwood at the time of Emma Watts' death. The collection spans three branches of the family (Parkes, Walker, and Watts) and covers nearly 150 years. The bulk of material is from 1878 and later and pertains to the Watts family; however, the Parkes family, particularly James B. Parkes, is well-represented within the collection.
The Watts family owned thousands of acres of land the Brazos Basin area of Texas and in the Texas Panhandle. The land in the Brazos Basin was used as a plantation growing, while the Texas Panhandle land served as a cattle ranch called Z-L Ranch. The histories of both these properties are richly detailed through correspondence with lawyers and foreman and through the vast amount of legal documents that were kept; including lawsuits, tax receipts, and land surveys.
The voluminous correspondence between William and Mary Watts and their daughter Emma while she attended Vassar and traveled reveals family dynamics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Other correspondence from friends and family reveals social customs and culture of the time.
Members of the Watts family were involved in the Madison Female Institute, the Richmond Cemetery, Liberty Hall in Frankfort, the Democratic Party, the National Society of Colonial Dames and the Daughters of the American Revolution and this collection includes documents relating to all those organization. A significant part of the collection concerns the Elmwood property, including gardens, farming, furniture, and renovations and repairs to the house.