THE WATSON FAMILY IN GOMER TOWNSHIP 1870
Narrator: Mrs. Ida Watson Hargrove, 68, Hamilton, Missouri
Mrs. Hargrove is the daughter of Thos. Jefferson Watson (1827-1909) and Abbie Frances Cole both of whom lived much of their lives in Rhode Island where the Watson name went back to the colonial days. Thos. J. Watson moved to Illinois in the sixties and to Caldwell County 1870 when Mrs. Hargrove was three years old. He bought a section of land near Nettleton at $12 an acre and afterwards considered he had paid too much since land near by had sold at $3 an acre and "Old Man" (Fred) Pawsey had bought timber land for 25 cents an acre, but of course that was earlier.
When the Watson family landed at the Nettleton depot (then called Gomer) there was a tiny depot, a store kept by McIntyre and a house where the Camp family lived. This family had three children, a daughter who became Mrs. Grimes (Mother of Joe Grimes of Hamilton) Mrs. Sloan (mother of Tessie and Cassie) and a son Wright.
She recalls the ugly prairie grass, the prairie chickens, but also the beautiful prairie flowers new to her; no bridges, no roads, not a house between them and Shoal Creek.
At first, the two elder boys went to school at Mr. Pleasant school some distance away, but soon a school was built at Nettleton and she started her schooling there. Her sister Anna Watson Kaufman went back to Illinois to school and then on her return taught in the adjoining Van Note School. One of Mrs. Hargrove's teachers was Sam Scott father of Mrs. John Finch.
She has a vivid memory of grasshopper year 1875. They had been hearing of the plague else where and two of the boys had ridden to see the sights some twenty miles away. They brought some in a bottle as a souvenir. The very next morning the grasshoppers came to the Watson farm, like a heavy cloud, landing on fences, porches and corn. The children drove them from the corn by beating the stalks, but some of them fell on the throats of a big brood of young turkeys and killed them all. The next day they suddenly rose and flew east.
The Watson family lost three members of typhoid fever within a few weeks one summer in the seventies. It was said to be due to the dry prairie grass. Whole families used to die of typhoid those days. Funerals held in the school house and the services were often held a week or more likely a month after the death, especially if the disease was catching. The burial ordinarily occurred the next day after death because they could not keep a corpse much longer and because it took the neighbor men about a day to build a coffin.
One of the brothers was photographed after he died because he had never had a grown up picture taken. T.H. Hare, the Hamilton Photographer came out and fixed the body in a semi-sitting pose. Mr. Hare then had his gallery east of the present Martin grocery. She recalled having cabinet and tin types taken there. Her father used to tell of traveling photographers who went thru this country taking pictures right on the farms, so you would not have to go to town.
The Watson family was well fixed, yet the children never had much money to spend. On Fourth of July they were given fifteen cents 15 cents (or a quarter when older). Five cents of this in Mrs. Hargrove's case, had to go for a ride on the merry go round, five cents for peanuts, and five for taffy candy, or later when ice cream came out, a dime went for that. Surprise boxes were always alluring but the old folks always advised them not to buy for they had musty old candy or popcorn in them, even if they did contain a ring.
Interviewed June 1934.
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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998