Otis N. Watson

Page 584-585 - Otis N. Watson. The name of Watson has been linked with the history of Grand Rapids since 1837, the year in which Michigan was admitted into the Union, and the development of the city since that time has seen a Watson taking a leading part in the work. Otis N. Watson, one of the pioneer hardware dealers of Grand Rapids, was born in that city, February 9, 1855, the middle child of John and Elizabeth (Roberts) Watson, the former of whom was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1826, and the latter of whom was born in Plattsburg, New York, in 1831. John Watson came to Grand Rapids with his father, mother and sister when he was a boy of eleven years, in 1837. The family came up the river from Grand Haven in the old "Governor Mason," which at that time was the first and only boat plying on the Grand river. The colony of white people at Grand Rapids then consisted of only about seventy-five families, and 700 Indians made their home at the same place. The Watsons established themselves in a log house which had been abandoned by Baptist missionaries. This house was located in the middle of what is now Bridge street at the west end of the bridge. When he was a young man, John Watson, operated a ferry across the river at Grand Rapids. He later put the first ox team at work of which the city of Grand Rapids could boast. It was with this team that he hauled the timbers for the wooden bridge that was built over the river at Bridge street, the first bridge to be constructed there. From this time forward he was known to all the people of Grand Rapids as "Honest John" Watson. Soon after he engaged in the livery stable business, and with the characteristic foresight of the pioneer he realized the future of the city in which he was living and began to invest his money in real estate. His first land purchase was that of a large lot at the corner of what is now Sixth street and Fourth avenue, a lot for which he paid $25. Year by year he added to his holdings, and on the corner of West Bridge and Stocking streets he built the "Watson House," which remained a landmark of Grand Rapids for many years. During the later years of his life, his business activities were confined solely to handling his real estate holdings. In 1850, he married Miss Elizabeth Roberts, whose family came to Grand Rapids two years later, in 1840. At the time of his death on February 19, 1916, he lacked one month of being ninety years old. His widow died on November 8, 1920. Lewis C Watson, brother of Otis N. Watson, was born February 8, 1851, in Grand Rapids. Having learned the tinner's trade as a young man he became associated with Otis N. in the hardware business in Petoskey in 1875. After several years of success in this enterprise his health failed and he was forced to seek other employment. Though he traveled extensively in the southern and western states in search of health he died in 1883, leaving two children: John L, who is now living in Glendale, Michigan, and Charlotte, wife of John M Edison, of Grand Rapids, whose mother was Mr. Watson's first wife, Mrs Mary (Cane) Watson, a native of Plainfield township, Kent county. Mrs Edison has three sons, Lewis, Haines and Richard. Otis N. Watson received his education in the public schools of Grand Rapids, and in 1869, at the age of fourteen years, he secured employment with the Grand Rapids & Indiana railroad as fireman on the only passenger train which was operating on that road out of Grand Rapids. He continued in railroad work for several years, and in 1875, he started in the hardware and tin business at Petoskey, Michigan, after a time spent in learning the business at Grand Rapids. He continued to operate the store at Petoskey until 1883, when he returned to Grand Rapids and built a hardware store on the site of the house in which he was born. Since that time, he developed a large business in hardware and sporting goods, gaining the name of being not only the pioneer hardware dealer of the west side but also an able business man who has contributed much to the development of the city with which his family has so long been identified. He has always been active in local affairs, serving as alderman of the Eighth ward and as a member of the board of public works for a term of three years. In 1877, Mr Watson married Miss Cora Wight, daughter of Mr and Mrs George Wight, of New Hampton, Iowa. To Mr and Mrs Watson have been born the following children: Grace, who married Dr Charles H. Jennings, of Grand Rapids, and has two children, Olive and Watson; Elizabeth, deceased, who married Arthur H Vanden Berg, editor of the Grand Rapids Herald, by whom she had three children, Arthur, Barbara, and Beth; Olive, who married Guy R Hankey, of Petoskey, Michigan, and has two children, Eleanor and Lewis; and Cora, the wife of Sydney French, of Middleville, Michigan and the mother of two sons, Thomas and Sydney, Jr.

Transcriber: Terry Start
Created: 13 December 2002
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net//white1924/personal/watsonon.html