Illinois Genealogy Trails

Rock Island County Biographies
- W Surnames -

- Eudell Watts Family -

Eudell Watts and Ronald Reagan
Eudell Watts and Ronald Reagan remember old times at the dedication of Eureka College's Library.

On June 8, 2004 the Rock Island Argus and Daily Dispatch published a wonderful story about the lifelong friendship of Eudell Watts of Rock Island and former President Ronald Reagan. The story gave a local, Rock Island connection and tribute to Reagan shortly after his death. I posted the story and requested permission to use it at the same time, but found that it would violate the newspapers' copyright law. So, Marie, Eudell's daughter, and I have reworked the story in our own words since she gave the story to the paper in the first place.

Upon Ronald Reagan's death, Eudell Watts' daughter, Marie Grigsby, shared the following stories about the lifelong friendship of two football players at Eureka College. When Reagan was a movie star, Eudell would tell his family how Mr. Reagan was just an "ordinary joe, just one of the guys." Whenever the two friends had occasion to meet, such as the dedication of the Eureka College Library, Mr. Reagan never forgot his old friend, "Lump," who was known for the lumps he gave to the opposing team.

When Mr. Reagan spoke to the Davenport Chamber of Commerce between his movie and political careers, Lump tried to slip into the back door to hear him speak. Mr. Reagan saw him and waved him to come up front. He never forgot his old football buddies.

When Ronald Reagan wrote his autobiography, "Where's the Rest of Me?" he recalled his old friend, Eudell Watts. He told about a drop kick field goal that won the game and also the fact that Eudell had to leave Eureka College because of the Depression. In spite of that he still created a successful trucking company in Rock Island.

"We delight in the friendship between our dad and Ronald Reagan." Mrs. Grigsby said. "Because the future president chose to remember dad in the pages of his 1965 autobiography, he put a glimpse of Eudell Watts Jr. on bookshelves across the nation and carried his name into history forever."

In 1980, Eudell was ill and received a get-well card from the future President. Later he was invited to the inauguration. In 1990, Eudell Watts died, but President Reagan sent a heart-felt note to his family:
"I'll always be grateful for Lump's friendship and hope that Our Lord will comfort you with many warm memories of him."

Reagan and Watts were teammates on the Eureka college football team in 1928. Ronald Reagan is wearing a white uniform in the second row. Eudell Watts is at the right end of the first row. These pictures were submitted by Eudell's daughter, Marie Grigsby

James R. Wood
JAMES R. WOOD, one of Clarke county's most substantial farmers, is a native of the old Hoosier State, born in Rush county, June 22, 1836. His parents, Jephthah W. and Frances B. (Reed) Wood, were natives of Tennessee and South Carolina respectively. The father, who was of Welsh-German extraction, was born in 1810, and was a lad of ten years when his parents emigrated to Indiana; he was a carpenter by trade, and also followed farming in connection with his occupation. His death occurred March 17, 1887. Mrs. Wood was descended from Scotch ancestors. There were members of her family who figured prominently in the Revolutionary struggle and also in the war of 1812. Colonel Reed participated in the engagement at Bunker Hill, and Captain Jacob Reed, father of Mrs. Wood, was a line officer under command of Gen. Jackson at the battle of .New Orleaus. James R. is the second of a family of nine children, only three of whom survive at the present time. When he was a child of seven years his parents removed to Mercer county, Illinois, and there he grew to maturity. His father being a farmer he naturally acquired a taste for this most independent of vocations, which he has followed through life. In the year 1866 he went to Gage county, Nebraska, and there resided for a period of fifteen years. The States of the Pacific Coast offering most alluring inducements to farmers he crossed the plains and mountains in 1882, and took up his residence in Clarke county. He has a farm of 140 acres; thirty-five acres are cultivated to grain, sixty-five are in natural timber and two acres are in orchards. This tract is situated nine miles northeast of Vancouver and is a very desirable piece of land. Mr. Wood, a worthy descendant of his ancestors, has a military record quite equal to that of his grandsire. Promptly heeding the call of country he enlisted August 11, 1862, in the One Hundred and Second Illinois Volunteer Infantry, and served until the cessation of hostilities. His regiment was a part of the brigade commanded by the late President of the United States, General Harrison. He participated in many of the engagements of Sherman's memorable march through Georgia, and when he was discharged from the service it was as a brave and loyal soldier.
Mr. Wood was united in marriage in the State of Illinois, August 27, 1859, to Miss Rebecca Shanks, who was born at Moline, Illinois. They are the parents of seven children: Wilburn S., James M., Nettie, wife of J. B. Higdon, Louis W., Walter H., Ford E. and Omar E.
In politics Mr. Wood adheres to the principles of the Democratic party. He has been an active member of the School Board for a number of years, and for one year served as Road Overseer. He is associated with the Patrons of Husbandry, Flat Wood Grange, No. 96.
[Source: Hines, Harvey K. "An illustrated history of the state of Washington". Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1894. - DC - Sub by FoFG]

Maverick Wright was 22 when he came to Hampton in 1837. In 1850 Mr. Wright purchased lot 1 block 30 and built his two-story brick store building and engaged there in general merchandise business. Mr. Black's and Mr. Wright's stores were considered large, and their customers came from Whiteside and Henry counties and also from out in Iowa.

Both Black and Wright engaged in the pork packing business and did all large trade with the steamboats the packing was done in the fall and winter and was so extensive that their business hired 16 Coopers in eight shops to make the necessary pork barrels and lard tierces.

Mr. Black and Mr. Wright had paid as high as16 and 18 cents a pound for their holdings and probably gave their notes until the river opened up in the spring so they could ship and sell their product. The war closed and pork took a heavy drop, and Mr. Wright, unable to meet the loss, went broke and went out of business. He sold out to Frank Wells and Bares Shurtliff and moved to Iowa. His health failed him and he returned to Hampton where he died April 14th, 1876.

[Information submitted by Mary and Rock Nelson of the Hampton Historical Society, A History of Hampton, Illinois 1838-1938, by George McNabney ]

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