Biography

Of

James A. Watson




James A. Watson, who wore military honor'S in the Civil War was an officer of an Illinois regiment, was for many year's a prominent business man of Dixon, where he is now living in practical retirement from an active life, meriting and receiving the respect due to a man of his character and position. Maj. Watson was born April 1, 1812, in the State of New Jersey. His father, George Watson removed from there to New York, and settled in Seneca County, where he resided a few years and then went to live in Wayne County. He worked on the Erie Canal when it was in process of construction, and continued his residence in Wayne County until 1843, when he took up his abode with his son David in Calhoun County, Mich., and remained with him until his death. The maiden name of his wife was Hannah Van Shoyic. She was a descendant of one of the old Holland families that peopled New York in the early years of its settlement, and she died in Wayne County, that State.

The subject of this sketch left the parental home at the age of ten years to live with a cousin, and remained with him until he was fifteen years old. He then started out even with the world, and from that time has earned his own living. His first employment was as a driver on the tow path on the Erie Canal, and he made three trips from Clyde to Albany in that capacity. He then turned his attention to learning the trade of a carpenter, and after a three-years apprenticeship, during which time he became an expert mechanic, he commenced business on his own account as a contractor and builder near St, Catharines, Canada, where he remained six years. In 1839 he returned to the States and settling in Calhoun County, Mich. was a pioneer of that region. He bought a tract of heavily timbered land three miles from Marshall. At that time there were no railways in that county, and the abundance of deer and other wild animals was evidence that the pioneers had made but little headway in their efforts to reclaim the land from the wilderness.

The Major followed his trade in Michigan until 1845 when he made a new departure, coming to Illinois making, the journey hither, with a team, and casting in his fortunes with the brave, hardy and intelligent pioneers that had preceded him in this section of the country. He took a contract shortly after his arrival to build bridges over the Illinois and Michigan Canal and later took another on the Chicago and Galena Railway, now the Northwestern Railway, the first road completed out of Chicago. In 1852 he came to Dixon, as a contractor on the Illinois Central Railway and has ever since been an honored resident of this city with the exception of the time when he was at the front helping to fight his country's battles.

In 1862 Major Watson volunteered for service in the army, enlisting in Company A, Seventy-fifth Illinois infantry, and was at once commissioned as Captain of his company. Two months later he was promoted to be Major, and served with his regiment in that capacity until the close of the war. His promotion was due solely to his merit as from the very beginning it was seen that he possessed the native energy the firmness, executive capacity and dauntless courage so necessary for a leader of men and his subsequent career in the various important battles in which he fought justified his selection for a position of trust and honor. He did good-service in the hotly contested battles of Perryville, Chickamauga, Mission Ridge and Lookout Mountain, accompanied Sherman on his Atlanta campaign, and was active in all the important engagements with the enemy from Chattanooga to Atlanta, and did his share of the fighting took place in the siege and capture of that city. After that he was present at the battles of Franklin and Nashville. He suffered all the hardships and privations that our heroic soldiers bore so uncomplainingly, and was twice wounded - once at Buzzard's Roost, when he and a number of others were injured by the falling of a tree that had been shot off, and once by a spent shot before Atlanta. After the war closed, he was honorably discharged with his regiment.

Returning to Dixon from the battlefields of the South, our subject resumed his business as bridge builder, which he carried on until 1873. In that year he was appointed commander of the United States boat No.4, used in making necessary repairs. on the Illinois and Michigan Canal. The Government found in him a most efficient official, who during the whole period of eight years that he held the position was faithful in the discharge of his duties. Since that time he has lived practically retired in his pleasant home at Dixon, where he has many warm friends that he has gathered from a large circle of acquaintances during the many years he has been known throughout this county. Maj. Watson has been twice married. In 1836 be was wedded to Miss Catherine Van Riper, a native of New Jersey, and a daughter of John Van Riper. She died in 1846, leaving these four children, Hester, wife of George Millen, a resident of Rome, Italy; Jennie, who married Charles Sweet, of Benton Harbor, Mich.; Josephus and Henry. Josephus served with credit in the same regiment with his father during the Rebellion, and continuing in the service in the regular army after the war ended, he lost his life in Arizona while in the service. The second marriage of our subject, which took place in 1853, was to Miss. Susan (Clute) Love1and. By this union there are two children living; Fred and Samuel. The former is Superintendent of the Riverside Shoe Co., of Dixon, The latter is a commercial traveler and resides at Fremont, Neb. Mr. and Mrs. Watson's only daughter Nettie, married Theodore Hyde, and died l September, 1888. Mrs. Watson has two children from her former marriage living: Kittie, the wife of Dr. H.E. Paine, and George, a real-estate dealer, Dixon. Her son, Willet O., was a brave soldier in the late war and died in 1890 from a disease contracted while in the service.

Mrs, Watson was born in Schenectady, N. Y., and is a daughter of Wessel and Sarah (Suitz) Clute, who are represented in the sketch of F. C. McKenney. Mrs. Watsons first husband, Richard B. Loveland, was born in Bainbridge, N. Y., and was a son of Otis and Mehitable (Parker) Loveland. His father kept a hotel at Bainbridge for several years. He came to Dixon in 1831, and the latter part of his life was passed in this city. His son, Richard, was sixteen years old when he came to Dixon to accept a position with his brother-in-law, Smith Galbraith, and for a time he was overseer of a corps of men engaged in clearing the rooks from the river at Rock Falls, it being then the intention to make Rock River navigable. He subsequently secured the contract to carry the mail from Madison to Milwaukee, and as he also carried passengers between the two cities the business was remunerative. He continued in this until Frink & Walker's stage route was established, and be then settled his attention to the grocery trade. He was successfully engaged in that business until death closed his promising career in 1851 at the early age of thirty one years, and Dixon was deprived of one of its most enterprising business men, who, if his life had been spared, would doubtless have been an important factor in its growth and financial prosperity.

Portraits and Biographical 1892 Pg 751

Major James A. Watson, who raised a company of volunteers in 1862 and after the battle of Perryville received his promotion to major.

Born in 1812, he came to Dixon in 1850, contracted to build, and in 1855 built the Illinois Central railroad through Dixon.

Upon his discharge from the Union Army in 1865, he became superintendent of the Illinois and Michigan canal, and for several years, subsequently, was a farmer in Dixon.

He was first married in 1840 and in 1853 married Mrs. Richard Loveland for his second wife. An enthusiastic member of the GAR, he was accidentally killed at the Dixon dam, May 8, 1893.

Dixon Evening Telegraph May 1, 1951

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