In the fifty-six years of his life, nearly twenty of which have been passed in Colorado, John A. Watson, like other members of his family, has rendered important service to the public interests of his country, local and general, in peace and war. No call to public duty has ever been unheeded by him, no effort for the advancement or improvement of his locality or the betterment of its people has failed of his cordial and substantial support. Mr. Watson came into the world on April 28, 1848, at Woodsfield, Monroe county, Ohio, and is the son of James and Maria Jane (Smith) Watson. James Watson was a native of Glasgow, Scotland, who emigrated to the United States and settled in Ohio in the early life with his parents, who remained in that state until death. The mother, Maria Jane (Smith) Watson, was of Irish parentage, but born in Jefferson county, near Steubenville, Ohio.
James Watson was a prominent man in his portion of the state, held in high esteem by its citizens and chosen by them to many offices of importance and responsibility. He served them well as justice of the peace, postmaster at Graysville for sixteen years, representative in the legislature two terms from January 1, 1874, to January 1, 1878, master commissioner and president of the Monroe County Agricultural Society, and in various other official capacities. He was also a prominent merchant at Graysville until the beginning of the Civil war, when he espoused the cause of the Union and entered the service in its active defense as lieutenant of Company D, and afterwards as captain of Company I, Seventh West Virginia Infantry. His command was soon at the front and in most of the important engagements of that portion of the field of conflict in which it was located bore itself gallantly. At the battle of Fredericksburg, in the Slaughter Pen as it was called, while fighting under General Burnside, Captain Watson was shot in the shoulder, receiving an ounce ball which disabled him and led to his retirement from the service. His first marriage was with Miss Maria J. Smith, and brought him seven children, Maria Jane (deceased), John A., Smith H. (deceased), James A., Mary H., Archibald J. and Maggie. After the death of their mother he married Miss Mary S. Devore, who bore him two children, Devore (deceased) and Katie (deceased). The third marriage occurred on November 22, 1865, and was to Mrs. Hester Ann Beardmore, daughter of John and Lucinda (Cook) Latshaw, both born in Monroe county, Ohio. Six children were the fruit of this marriage, Henry Knox, Olive L., Roy Heber, David Okey, G. W. W., and Columbus M. The Watson family and their relatives were full of martial spirit and fervently patriotic.
Robert Smith, an uncle of the subject of this sketch, was killed at the battle of Missionary Ridge; William Watson, another uncle, became a victim of consumption from exposure in the service and thereby gave his life to the cause of the Union; another uncle was a soldier in the One Hundred and Sixteenth Ohio Infantry, and still another in Seventh West Virginia Infantry; while their cousins, the Givenses and other families related to them, sent large numbers of their best and bravest men to the Union side in that memorable conflict. James Allen Watson, a brother of John A., also had the martial spirit and to such an extent that he ran away from home to take part in one of General Custer’s campaigns against the Indians and joined Company K, Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry, for the purpose. In the service which followed he suffered great hardship, nearly starving on the plains, undergoing long forced marches, fighting at times with great odds and in imminent peril, and encountering all the worst phases of Indian warfare from a foe savage with the fury of despair. On being mustered out of this service he returned to Ohio and entered Mt. Union College, from which he was graduated in the scientific course. He then served a number of years as principal of the Woodsfield schools.
John A. himself was a soldier for the Union in the Civil war, although he did not reach the proper age for entering the army until the contest was nearing its close. After being educated at the common schools and Spring Bank Academy, at Woodsfield, Ohio, he enlisted in Company I, One Hundred and Eighty-sixth Ohio Infantry, in February, 1865, and served to the end of the war, being mustered out at Nashville, Tennessee. He then returned to Ohio and entered his father’s store as a clerk, soon rising to a partnership in the establishment. In the meantime he took a course of business training at Duff’s Commercial College at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. When the father was elected to the legislature the sons took charge of and conducted the business until 1884. Then John A. sold his interests in it, having been elected treasurer of his township. He also kept a hotel at Graysville for a few years. In 1885 he left the scenes and associations of his childhood and youth, and coming to Colorado entered actively on a new field of stirring activities. Locating at Meeker, he preempted one hundred and sixty acres of land adjoining the townsite, to which he has added thirty-five acres by a subsequent purchase. The ranch is well supplied with water for irrigation and one hundred and sixty acres of it are in an advanced state of cultivation. Four ditches, in which Mr. Watson has interests, help to irrigate his land, and that of many others, the Beard & Watson, the Highland, the Meeker and the Meeker Bridge Gulch, and these he aids in maintaining for the common service of the locality. While carrying on his ranching and cattle industries he has also bought and sold land as a business and for the development and settlement of his section of the county. He was largely engaged in the stock business until the fall of 1901, when he was elected county treasurer, a position which he is now filling. He is a stockholder in the Union Oil and Gas Company near Rangeley and owns twenty valuable building lots in Meeker. In 1889 he was appointed clerk of the district court by Judge Rucker, and he held the office eleven years. Thus in almost every line of productive energy, official usefulness and personal worth he has served this people, and by all classes of them he is well esteemed. Fraternally he is a Mason of the Royal Arch degree and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and politically he is firm and faithful in his allegiance to the Democratic party. On January 1, 1867, he was married to Miss Pauline Allen, daughter of David and Pauline (Hill) Allen. They have had five children, Mary E., Nora M., Evart H., who died on December 27, 1877, Frank E. and Beatrice K. Mr. Watson‘s mother died in April, 1860, and his father in September, 1901.
Source: Bowen, A. W. Progressive Men of Western Colorado, page 34-36. Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co., Publishers. 1905.