James Monroe Watts

This is our Great-great Grandfather.  Born 15 December, 1839, probably in Jessamine County, he was the ninth child of John and Susan…the youngest of their brood.  We’re fortunate that a brief, contemporary biography exists for James, printed in the 1887 edition of Kentucky’s history.

James M…was reared on the home farm and educated in the public schools.  At twenty-one he joined his mother and brother in the cultivation of the home place, and at twenty-five began on his own account.  In 1868 he purchased his present place of 335 acres at Camp Nelson, where he is still engaged in general farming.  November 16, 1865 he married Miss Sarah J. Waters, daughter of Harvey and Paulina (Owens) Waters, of Jessamine County.  To this marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Watts have been born six children:  Annie, Arkie J., Thomas, Emma, Tilford and Lucy.  Mr. Watts is a Master Mason.

A lot of this is confirmed in the census data.   The 1860 census lists him with Susan as head and his brother John as farmer.  The 1870 census list Susan as head again, this time with only John in the household.  On another page in the same district we find James, Sarah J, Annie and Thomas.  By 1880 Monrow and Sarah have four kids…Anna, Thomas, Arkie and Tilford.

A good example of a primary genealogical source is the marriage bond/certificate/license and we’re fortunate to have the one for James and Sarah.

James_Sarah BondThis authorizes a minister to marry James M. Watts and Miss Sarah Watters within three months of the date on the license.  That date was November 13, 1865.

That’s the top half…the bottom half is the return from the minister who performed the marriage.  It appears J.A. Meng of the Christian Church married the two at the home of Harvey Waters on November 16th in the presence of John Watts.  I can’t make out the other two witnesses.  I’ll have to look at that again when I get back to Jessamine County.

In fact, the date and place are a little difficult to see here, but are a little clearer on the copy I have.

It’s a little odd that Sarah’s name is spelled with two t’s and her dad’s only has one.  It’s also that way on the bond I have.  Also note the Christian Church minister.  Most of the family was Methodist during these years.  Don’t know when this changed, or if it was just a minister who was available at the time.  By the time the rest of the kids get married, they use Roberts Chapel, which still exists by the way, and is a Methodist house of worship.

By the turn of the century there’s only one kid left at home, 15-year-old Lucy.  James is 60 while Sarah’s now 57.  They’re still farming in the same area.  Next time I visit Jessamine county I’m going to spend some serious time trying to track down the old homesteads.

In July of 1905, James Monroe drew up his will.  Don’t know if he was feeling poorly but he decided to lay out his final wishes:

JMW Will 1

Looks like he’s leaving everything to Sarah.  And his farm, which used to be over 300 acres back in 1887 is now a little over 100 acres.  Hope he got a good price for the land.  As we read further, below the fold, he’s left everything to Susan “for her natural life provided she remains my widow.”  Don’t go marrying somebody else if you want to keep the farm.  And article 3 says, once Susan dies everything that’s still left gets split equally between his four kids…and then he gives us their names.  This is why I love wills and probates.  They solve a lot of problems.

JMW Will 2

So there are the four living children:  Thomas H., Tilford S., Annie Stolts and Lucy E. Caywood.  Apparently, Annie and Arkie have died or been disowned…I’m betting on died.

I’ve got one final document to share.  This is James Monroe’s obit from the Jessamine Journal of September 29, 1905:

JMW ObitThis illustrates some of the problems we have with second hand accounts.  Some of this information is correct, some not, some we’re not sure of.  Part of the problem is we don’t know for sure who supplied the facts.

For instance, JM wasn’t born in 1842, he was born in 1839.  It mentions his four children (the same ones mentioned in his will) but our Great grandfather’s middle initial was H, now W.  The obit did help me track down Tilford.  He was living in Tulsa at the time.

That’s pretty much the story I have about this generation.  James Monroe was a pretty solid guy, stayed pretty much in the same place his whole life, farming and raising his kids and out of that marriage comes our ancestor, Thomas Harrison Watts, born July 12, 1868.  This guy is fun to follow and we’ll start that next time.  But first, here’s the way Tommy looked as a teenager in post-war Kentucky.

TH Watts

4 Responses to “James Monroe Watts”
  1. kevin watts 20 February 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    great reading Durry. Thanks . K

  2. Lori Watts Malmgren 21 February 2010 at 10:08 am #

    Thanks for sharing. I am enjoying this, great reading

  3. Leslie 22 February 2010 at 9:00 am #

    Great info thanks so much :) Love the picture its a treasure. He kind of looks like Tom Sawyer forced to stand there but wanting to go catch frogs instead.

  4. Kurt w schneider 19 February 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    I wonder if these are the ancesters I am looking for,my grandfather name is thomas harrison watts.he had 5 kids one son named thomas harrison watts,the other tilford watts.He farmed here in roswell,nm.he died in 1945.

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