George L. Watson. There are pioneer names in Champaign County that so essentially belong to the development and progress of this section of Illinois that no history would be complete without reference to them. One of these names is Watson, and a worthy bearer of it is found in George L. Watson, a leading citizen and the owner of a large body of finely improved land situated in section 16 of Harwood Township.
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George L. Watson was born in Champaign County, Illinois, and is a son of Joseph and Rachel E. (Simpson) Watson, the latter of whom was born in Ohio. Joseph Watson was born in Ireland and was a son of William N. and Ellen (Patrick) Watson, born in County Kildare. The father belonged to the old order of Orangemen. When Joseph Watson was three months old his parents immigrated to America and finally settled at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and later in Ohio. At that time there was a fine old custom prevailing whereby a son who remained with his parents and did a son’s duty until he was twenty-one years old was then released from all responsibility, was given a horse and bridle and saddle and a Godspeed and was sent out to test his own physical and moral strength with the world. When he reached his majority Joseph Watson received these gifts and bravely started out to find opportunity for himself. It was something of an undertaking in those days because of so many unknown dangers to be faced, but he started on his way from Ohio and traveled by horseback to Iowa, in the meanwhile paying his own way by labor and keeping his eye out for a desirable section in which to locate, finally deciding that Illinois would suit him best of all others. After his marriage, which took place in Indiana, he moved with his wife to Champaign County, Illinois. There were many hardships and no doubt he often remembered the story his father had told of his pioneer days in Ohio, when the loss occasioned by his horse, his one valuable possession at the time, caused him much distress. The horse had wandered away into the great surrounding wilderness and Grandfather Watson had to leave his wife alone in the little cabin for three days while he sought the animal and found it miles away. Such stories were not unusual and doubtless many like accidents happened to Joseph Watson in Champaign County. Here, however, he became a man of settled estate and public usefulness and his name is recalled with feelings of respect and veneration. Of his six children George L. was the youngest in order of birth.
George L. Watson attended the public schools and grew to manhood in Champaign County. The Watsons had relatives who lived in Indiana, and it was while visiting them that Mr. Watson met the lady who subsequently became his wife, and on December 31, 1889, he was married to Miss Elizabeth Josephine Short. Her parents were James and Amanda (Kemp) Short, the former of whom was a prominent farmer in Fountain County, near Hillsboro. He died from the effects of a fall when aged eighty years. He was a son of Aaron Short, of whom the story is told that it was through his plucky deeds that the name “Hoosier” was ever afterward applied to Indiana, in which state he lived. It is said that at the early day when the canal around the Ohio River was in course of construction in southern Indiana, all classes were to be found among the workmen. According to prevailing custom there was plenty of whiskey on hand and consequent frequent brawls. On one occasion a number of these half-drunken workmen decided to attack Aaron Short, the big Virginian, Virginia being his native state. He was a Hercules, six feet tall and brave as a lion. He fearlessly faced his foes and one after another went down under his powerful, sledge-hammer blows. He had never studied any science of fighting but had a system of his own that had always proved effective. When he had seven men groveling in the dust at his feet it is said that he straightened himself, and swinging his brawny bare arms, yelled, “Who’s here?” as much as to say, “Who is next to tackle me?” His companions, it is told, laughingly abbreviated the remark and named him “Hoosier,” and applied it to the state he lived in.
During the first five years of their married life Mr. and Mrs. Watson lived on the farm of an uncle, Nelson Watson, Sr. They were industrious, frugal, ambitious and energetic, and soon found themselves able to purchase eighty acres of land situated in Harwood Township, four and a half miles south of Ludlow. In five more years they bought eighty acres more and at the end of another five years purchased an additional eighty acres. At a later date Mr. Watson inherited ninety-six acres from his father’s estate and then purchased the interests of the other heirs, making his farm 360 acres. Mrs. Watson owns eighty acres in Indiana, a part of her father’s estate. General farming and stock raising have been carried on, Mr. Watson continuing actively superintending all his industries until within recent years, since which time his son, Clarence Everett, has taken over the management and is ably continuing his father’s methods and policies.
Mr. and Mrs. Watson have had six children, namely: Laura E. and Raymond E., twins, who died in infancy; and Clarence Everett, Nora Esta, Fannie Josephine and George Joseph. Not only have these children had social advantages but their education has been carefully looked after. Clarence, Nora and Fannie all completed their eighth grade work in the Harwood Center district school on the same day and proudly brought home to their gratified parents their grade diplomas and also honorary diplomas for school attendance for eighteen months without once being absent or tardy. Subsequently Nora entered the Paxton High School and was creditably graduated there from in 1913. She is a very ambitious as well as intellectual young lady and has spent three years in Eureka College, preparing for educational work. The other children are doing equally well. Fannie has completed her first year, at the time of writing, in the Ludlow High School. Joseph, although only eleven years old, has no intention of being outdistanced by his sisters, and he, too, received a diploma for punctuality and attendance.
Mr. and Mrs. Watson, in their desire to give advantages to their children and also to add to the attractions of home, have recognized the great place that music holds and the daughters have been carefully instructed and show talent in this direction. In 1915 Mr. Watson erected the fine residence that is the happy home. It is beautifully situated on a natural eminence, and is shaded by trees along the front and its attractive appearance elicits general admiration. Mr. Watson has also looked after the comfort of his family by installing a hot and cold water system, such as city residents enjoy and the house is lighted by gas. Rural life as Mr. Watson and family can enjoy it leaves little to be desired, for they have their mail delivered on the rural route and are connected in all directions through excellent telephone service.
Politically Mr. Watson is a Democrat and he voices his faith in President Woodrow Wilson as being the man to safely guide the nation through its present perils. Both he and son Clarence Everett are members of the Masonic fraternity, and Mrs. Watson is a member of the Eastern Star. Mr. Watson and family attend the Christian Church at Ludlow, afford it liberal support and take part in ‘its benevolent and other missionary work.