Dabney Carr (1824-1837)

Further reading:

F. Thornton Miller, “Dabney Carr (1773-1837),” Dictionary of Virginia Biography (1998).

Anya Jabuor, “Male Friendship and Masculinity in the Early National South: William Wirt and his Friends,” Journal of the Early Republic 20, no. 1 (Spring 2000): 83-111. Carr was a close friend of William Wirt, a lawyer, member of the House of Delegates, U.S. District Attorney, and and U.S. Attorney General. They met when they were newly licensed lawyers riding the circuit in Albemarle County in the 1790s.

Memorial to Carr published in the Southern Literary Messenger (1838); includes a description of Carr’s career on the bench and a copy of the official obituary entered in the Court of Appeals of Virginia order book.

Carr contributed to The Old Bachelor, a series of essay compiled and edited by William Wirt (1814).

When he moved to Richmond to join the court, Judge Carr purposely did not live close to the Capitol so he could continue a regimen of long walks recommended to him by his physician in Winchester. He lived in a large home built between 1815 and 1817 on what is now Marshall Street, near the intersection of Marshall and Belvidere Streets and the VCU Institute of Contemporary Art Museum. Carr called the home Elba, after Napoleon’s island exile, because of its isolation. Mary Wingfield Scott, Old Richmond Neighborhoods, (1950), 231; Miller, “Dabney Carr,” and Harry Kollatz, First Impressions: the ICA at VCU, Richmondmagazine.com, April 26, 2017.


Research collections:

Connecting Presidential Collections (a centralized site for searching across presidential collections) provides access to 12 pieces of  Carr’s correspondence, 1793-1816, in the Papers of Thomas Jefferson.  Correspondence concerns Jefferson’s recommendations to Carr for reading law (1793-1794); the burning of Washington, D.C. and national politics (1812-1815), and memorializing the contributions, during the Revolution, of Carr’s father and Jefferson’s friend Dabney Carr (in William Wirt’s biography of Patrick Henry).

Library of Virginia (Personal Papers Collection)
Richmond. Va.
William Wirt Letters, 1803-1832; 74 items.
Letters to Dabney Carr; detailed description of correspondence available in the finding aid to the collection.

Francis Walker Gilmer Letters, 1818-1824; 72 items.
Letters to Dabney Carr include letters about Carr’s career as a chancery judge in Winchester and his appointment to the Court of Appeals and the process of selecting judges for the chancery courts and the Court of Appeals. Detailed description of correspondence available in the finding aid to the collection.

Maryland Historical Society
Baltimore, MD.
William Wirt Papers, 1784-1864, Microfilm, 4 reels.
Correspondent; letters provide a “detailed portrait of court and government life of the 1820s.” Finding aid available.

University of Virginia (Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library)
Charlottesville, Va.
Carr-Cary Family Papers, 1785-1839; includes correspondence of Dabney Carr, 1805-1839, circa; with members of the Jefferson, Randolph, Carr, and Cary families; finding aid contains item-level description of letters. Topics include “family and social news of Charlottesville, Virginia, and Baltimore, Maryland, agricultural matters and plantation life; relationships between slaves and their owners; family advice, education and study of law; the increasing financial distress of the period and other financial matters of the family; religious thought; local and national politics,” “proposed and subsequent sale of Carrsbrook” and the “sale, hire, and purchase of family slaves.” Finding aid available.

Creed Taylor Papers, 1791-1873.
Correspondent (4 letters), 1809-1817; subjects include judicial procedure. Creed Taylor was a lawyer, judge of the Superior Court of Chancery for the Richmond, Virginia, and propietor of a law school. Finding aid available.

University of North Carolina (Southern Historical Collection)
Chapel Hill, NC:
Letters from William Wirt to his life-long friend Dabney Carr (1773-1837), 1816-1820; 1832-1833; 44 items; microfilm available.
Letters pertain to Wirt’s book on Patrick Henry and other writings; his activities as attorney general and arguments before the United States Supreme Court; and family affairs and matters of mutual interest. Finding aid available.