Watts Island - by Gail Walczyk

Watts Island is located north of the mouth of Onancock Creek in Virginia. At one time it was inhabited. The waters surrounding all the Islands have grown and widened and the Island has washed away, beaten by time, tides and the numerous storms over the centuries. Like other islands in the Chesapeake Bay, it has been diminished to an uninhabited tiny island of pines and wild asparagus that springs up in early spring. In 1923 it was purchased as a little island "reduced to 3 acres by erosion"(Whitelaw, p. 973). Today it is used as an educational tool by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for school children.

The first note of record on this island was in 1652, when Nicholas Waddelow patented 400 acres called "Gabriel's Island. In 1657 he and his wife Amy assigned the patent to Robert King, John Watts, Gilbert Henderson and Robert Blake. Robert Blake shortly deeded his quarter back and Amy and her next husband Thomas Fowkes sold this quarter to Walter Taylor (974). Amy was married four times, Thomas Fowkes being her last husband. In the will of Walter Taylor he leaves "To eldest son John plantation known as 'Gabriell's' or 'Watts Island'" The island has been known as "Watts Island" since.

In 1673 John Taylor patented 24 acres as "Little Watts Island (973)." On 25 April 1702 Francis McKemmie and Henry Jenkins patented 150 acres on the south end of Watts Island and 24 acres on "Gabriel's" alias "Little Watts Island" alias "Goat Island" (Walczyk 4).

In 1743 John Taylor sold the island to John Parker. This John Parker (c1685-1755) was the third John in a line of John Parkers. Though he did not name the Island in his will, it passed to his son William Parker (c1717-1784,) who left it to his son Robert (c1745-1809.) (Nottingham Willsp. ) William Parker was a Captain during the Revolutionary War (NottinghamSoldiers, p. 1). From Robert Parker it became owned by his son by his second wife, Hannah Sterling, Josiah Parker. In 1832 Josiah Parker sold "Little Watts Island" to the Government for a lighthouse. In the 1850 census Josiah Parker is listed in HH53 (Scherzinger, 1850 Census,, p. 93).
Living with him are Matilda Bundick age 23, Tabitha Bundick age 27, Susan Taylor age 22, Thomas Mitchel sailor age 20, Burnetta Parker age 5 and Mary J. Parker age 3.
In the 1860 census was listed as Josiah Parker age 67 (Crowson & Hite, 1860 Census, p. 253).
With him were Matilda Bundick age 30, William Parker age 18, Burnetta Parker age 13, Melissa C. Parker age 7, Louseanna Parker age 6, Walter C. Parker age 3 and Isaac H. C. Parker age 1.
In 1870 he and his second wife were still living on the island as noted in the census in Household 1727 Family 1767. (Walczyk, 1870 Census, St. George, p. 196). It states:
Parker, Josiah, 80 White, occupation farming, personal estate $600.00. Parker, Matilda 50 Female, keeps house. Parker, Burnetta 25 Female, at home. Parker, Maliccia 20 Female, at home. Parker, Laura 15 Female, at home. Parker, Walter 13 Male, at home. Parker, Isaac H. 11 Male, at home. Parker, George 9 Male, at home.
Josiah Parker's children were baptized by the traveling ministers on the Cokesbury Methodist Church Circuit (Walczyk, Cokebury Curcuit) See: Baptism on the Cokesbury Curcuit

In 1908, Arinthia Parker Dormeus, daughter of Robert Parker and Mary Jane Horsey, son of Josiah Parker and his first wife Elizabeth Sterling, sold the island out of the family (Whitelaw, p. 974).

A cemetery was all that remained on the island and has now been moved to Port Isabel, Tangier Island, by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.


Crowson, E. Thomas and Susan Crowson Hite. Accomack County, Virginia 1860 Census. Bowie MD: Heritage Books Inc., 1987.

Nottingham, Stratton. Soldiers and Sailors of The Eastern Shore of Virginia In the Revolutionary War. Westminster MD: Family Line Publications, 1995.

Nottingham, Stratton. Wills and Administrations of Accomack County, Virginia 1663-1800. Bowie MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1990.

Scherzinger, Patricia. Accomack County Virginia 1850 Census. Bowie MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1988.

Walczyk, Gail M. Accomack County 1870 Census, 2 Volumes. Coram NY: Petersrow 2000.

Walczyk, Gail M. Baptism on the Cokesbury Curcuit. Coram NY: Petersrow 1993.

Walczyk, Gail M. Report and Journal of Proceedings of The Joint Commission to Adjust The Boundary of the States of Maryland and Virginia; Deposition of Witnesses. Coram, NY: Petersrow, 1992.

Whitelaw, Ralph T. Virginia's Eastern Shore A History of Northampton and Accomack Counties. Gloucester MA: Peter Smith.

© Copyright 2004-2012 by Gail M. Walczyk
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