© 2016–2019 Ann D. Watson. Proudly created with Wix.com

Ann D. Watson adheres to the APG Code of Ethics and the BCG Genealogy Standards.

All materials on this web site, except for images in the public domain, are Copyright 2016–2019 Ann D. Watson.

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon

Watson Homestead, Conway, Massachusetts

April 3, 2018

Summer 1862. The Civil War raged. Lincoln called for more Union army volunteers. Pressure to enlist was tremendous. After meetings were held three nights in a row in Conway, [1] William Watson, English immigrant, naturalized citizen, and mill hand, enlisted in the 52nd Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry (Militia). [2] He received a $100 bounty from the U.S. government, and $40 more from Conway citizens who offered bonuses to volunteers. [3] 

 

Five days later, for five hundred dollars, William bought the house that would be home for the next 36 years — perhaps with the assistance of the enlistment bounty money. He put the deed in Maria's name — presumably to ensure her full ownership should William die at war. [4]

 

Watson homestead, (now) Orchard Street, Conway, Massachusetts, c. 1900. [5] 

 

The Watson home sat on a steep hill on the side of a river valley. A photograph taken about 1900 (see above) shows a small 1 1/2 story wooden-clapboarded, gable roofed house with a one story extension on each side and a covered porch. A central brick chimney likely vented a fireplace or wood stove, and shutters adorned the windows. On the uphill end of the house, a small closed in shed with another chimney led to an attached barn. The connected shed meant that the family didn't have to go outside in winter to feed the pig and cow, or to bring in firewood. At some point William planted apple trees. You can see what look like apple barrels on the porch in the photograph. From the shutters and the porch moulding trim, you can tell that someone really cared about this house.

 

William and Maria had already lived in the house for about ten years when they bought it. [6] Son Thomas had come into the world there in 1855 — and would die there of scarlet fever at the age of 15. [7] Thomas and his elder brothers Daniel and Edwin no doubt grew up roaming the surrounding woods, sliding down the hill behind the house in winter, and playing at the river's edge across the road below the house. Under the covered bridge, a two minute walk from home, the boys could swim and fish in the mill pond in summer and slide on the ice in winter. When school was in session they walked across the covered bridge and up the hill to the Burkeville schoolhouse.

 

Orchard Street — not so named until later — runs lengthwise along the narrow valley of the South River, which flows through Conway, and whose power cotton and woolen mill entrepreneurs harnessed in the 1840s and, for a while, prospered from. [8] The house is located on this street, aside the steep hill which runs down to the river. Two identical houses sit just east of the Watson house. All three were likely built by mill owner Edmund Burke for his employees. [9]

 

Map of Burkeville area, Conway, Massachusetts, c. 1871. [10]

 

It took William less than five minutes to walk from home to his job at the woolen mill in what came to be known as "Burkeville" after mill owner Edmund Burke. A ten-minute walk toward the village led to the Methodist Episcopal Church where the family worshipped. I've made these walks, and one gets a strong sense of the physical closeness of the neighborhood. It's very quiet there now, but in the mid-1800s the area bustled with industry. The company store was across from the mill, alongside "boarding houses" that housed the mill workers. Many people were about.

 

Finances were tough for William after the Civil War. He arrived home with a chronic illness which at times prevented him from working and got worse as he aged. [11] Would he be able to pay the taxes? Town reports, William's Civil War pension file, and the fact that all three sons, including fifteen year old Thomas, were in the mill by 1870, all attest to his financial struggles. [12] He did all he could, becoming janitor at the new Town Hall after he could no longer work at the mill, and even cleaning at the school building for $2.00 in 1893. [13] But he kept the house.

 

After the war the attached barn sheltered a pig and a cow, and later, a horse. [14] My grandfather, Ernest William Watson, remembered visiting his grandparents, having fun driving the horse and picking apples in the orchard. [15] The house also saw the deaths of William's parents and his wife Maria, as well as granddaughter Cora at age 16. [16]

 

The former Watson house still stands, the property intact. The one story extensions have been removed and the barn is gone, replaced by a newer barn further up the hill. A few years ago I visited the place; the current owners were very welcoming, showing me around the property and allowing me to climb the hill behind the house for a view of the property and toward "Burkeville."

 

 Former Watson homestead, Orchard Street, Conway, Massachusetts, 2010. [17]

 

Notes

 

1. “Conway,” The Gazette and Courier (Greenfield, Massachusetts), 8 September 1862, p. 3, col. 3; microfilm image, “Gazette & Courier Greenfield MA January 1861–December 1864/Roll 11,” Greenfield Public Library, Greenfield, Massachusetts.

 

2. Compiled service record, William Watson, Pvt., Co. D, 52 Massachusetts Militia Inf.; Carded Records, Volunteer Organizations, Civil War; Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General's Office, 1780s–1917; National Archives, Washington, DC. Digital images were supplied by the archives in a temporary online link, without any citation of source; the citation here is reconstructed from (a) name and unit data shown on the images; and (b) collection, series, and RG data supplied by archival cataloging information for the Civil-War era compiled service records. Also, William Watson (Pvt., Co. D. 52nd Mass. Inf., Civil War), pension application no. 436591, certificate no. 263907, Case Files of Approved Pension Applications … , 1861–1934; Civil War and Later Pension Files; record Group 15: Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D.C. Digital images were supplied by the archives in a temporary online link, without any citation of source; the citation here is reconstructed from (a) name and unit data shown on the images; and (b) collection, series, and RG data supplied by archival cataloging information for the Civil-War era pension files. Digital images and transcriptions held by Ann D. Watson, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], New Haven, Vermont, 2016.

 

3. “Conway,” The Gazette and Courier (Greenfield, Massachusetts), 4 August 1862, p. 3, col. 2; microfilm image, “Gazette & Courier Greenfield MA January 1861–December 1864/Roll 11,” Greenfield Public Library, Greenfield, Massachusetts.

 

4. Franklin County, Massachusetts, Deed Book 236:65, Phebe M. Stone to Maria Watson, 13 September 1862; Franklin County Registry of Deeds, Greenfield, Massachusetts. Common law held that after a husband's death, the widow was entitled to only one-third of the estate for her lifetime. See Carole Shammas, “Re-Assessing the Married Women's Property Acts,” Journal of Women's History, Spring 1994: 9–10; image copy, Knox College Department of History, History 267: Great American Debates, The History of Marriage in the United States, Winter 2014 (http://www.courses.knowx.edu/hist267/index.html : accessed 14 March 2016), path: Reading Schedule > Th January 30 Free Married Women's Property Rights. Note: this course is not accessible by following a path from the Knox College home page. It was originally located by a search. Also, the Married Women's Property Act of May 5, 1855, allowed married women to own real property. See Wikipedia (http://wikipedia.org), “Married Women's Property Acts in the United States,” rev. 11:27, 28 February 2016.

 

5. Howes Brothers photograph collection, image no. 2579A; microfilm image, “Howes Collection Reel 16, #2357b–2582c”, image no. 2579A; Greenfield Public Library, Greenfield, Massachusetts; originals are at Ashfield Historical Society Museum, Ashfield, Massachusetts.

 

6. Censuses from 1855–1865 consistently place the Watson household in the same physical relationship to other families on the street. See 1855 Massachusetts state census, Franklin County, population schedule, Conway, pp. 40-41 (penned), dwelling 374, family 374, William Watson; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 February 2016); citing “1855-1865 Massachusetts State Census (microform),” New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Also, 1860 U.S. census, Franklin County, Massachusetts, Conway, p. 29 (penned), dwelling 224, family 232, William Watson; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 February 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 501. Also, 1865 Massachusetts state census, Franklin county, population schedule, unp., dwelling 286, family 286, William Watson; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 29 February 2016); citing “1855-1865 Massachusetts State Census (microform),” New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.. William is referenced in a neighboring deed in 1858 and appears on an 1858 county map in the Orchard Street location. For neighboring deed see Franklin County, Massachusetts, deed book 188:261, Edmund Burke as Treasurer of the Conway Manufacturing Company to Charles Devarell, 11 March 1858; image, MassLandRecords.com (http://www.masslandrecords.com : accessed 17 January 2016), path: Search Criteria>Unindexed Property Search>Book 188 page 261; Franklin County Registry of Deeds, Greenfield, Massachusetts. For 1858 map, see Map of Franklin County, Massachusetts: Based upon the trignonmetrical survey of the state, the details from actual surveys under the direction of H.F. Walling, supt. of the state map (Boston: Smith & Ingraham, 1858), Burkeville inset; digital image, Old Maps Online (www.oldmapsonline.org : accessed 4 November 2015); Harvard University Library, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

7. For Thomas's birth see Conway, Massachusetts, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, Book A:23, no. 403, Thomas S. Watson, 24 July 1855; Town Clerk's Office, Conway. For his death see Conway, Massachusetts, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, Book B:40, Thomas S. Watson death, 1870; Town Clerk's Office, Conway.

 

8. Dave Barten, “Conway 1868–1906: A Hill Town Chronicle” (MS, Written for the Conway Historical Commission, June 2013), p. 54; privately held by Barten, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Conway, Massachusetts; a copy also held by Ann D. Watson, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], New Haven, Vermont, 2016.

 

9. Mill owner Edmund Burke had previously owned all three lots and sold the neighboring two to Charles Deveral and Thomas Sheppard. See Franklin Co., Mass., deed book 188:261. Also, Franklin County, Massachusetts, deed book 202:137, Conway Manufacturing Company to Thomas Shepherd, 2 July 1855; image, MassLandRecords.com (http://www.masslandrecords.com : accessed 8 March 2016), path: Search Criteria > Unindexed Property Search > Book 202 page 137; Franklin County Registry of Deeds, Greenfield, Massachusetts.

 

10. Ann Watson, "Burkeville, Town of Conway," after a map created by F. W. Beers & Co., 1871. "Burkville & Conway, Town of Conway," in Franklin County 1871 (New York: F. W. Beers & Col, 1871).3. Photo copyright 2016 Ann D. Watson.

 

11. See William Watson Civil War pension no. 436591, certificate no. 263907, RG 15, NA-–Washington.

 

12. For Town Reports, see Annual Report of the Town Officers of Conway, Mass.: For the year ending March 1, 1888 (Turners Falls, Mass.:: Printed by Cecil T. Bagnall, Proprietor of Reporter, 1888), 8. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway, For the year ending Mar. 1, 1889 (North Adams, Mass.: Walden & Crawley, Book and Job Printers, 1889), 5. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway, For the year ending Mar. 1, 1890 (North Adams, Mass.: Walden & Crawley, Book and Job Printers, 1890), 5. Also, Annual Report of the Town of Conway, For the Year ending March 1, 1891 (Conway, Mass.: H. E. Miller, Printer, 1891), 4. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers to the Inhabitants of Conway, for the Year ending February 23, 1892 (Shelburne Falls, Mass.: J.L. Goldsmith Steam Book and Job Printer, 1892), 5. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway, for the Year ending March 1, 1893 (North Adams, Mass.: Walden & Crawley, Book and Job Printers, 1893), 4. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway, for the Year Ending March 1, 1894 (North Adams, Mass.: Walden & Crawley, Book and Job Printers, 1894), 4. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway for the Year Ending March 1, 1895 (Greenfield, Mass.: Stetson's Electric Print, 1895), 4. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway for the Year Ending March 1, 1896 (Greenfield, Mass.: Stetson's Electric Print, 1896), 6. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway for the Year Ending March 1, 1897 (Greenfield, Mass.: Stetson's Electric Print, 1897), 4. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers to the Town of Conway, for the Year ending February 1, 1898 (North Adams, Mass.: & Crawley, Book and Job Printers, 1898), 5. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers to the Town of Conway, for the Year ending Feb. 1, 1899 (North Adams, Mass.: Walden & Crawley, Book and Job Printers, 1899), 5. Also, Annual Report of the Town Officers of the Town of Conway, for the Year ending February 1, 1900 (No printing information given), 5. All town reports are at Town Clerk's office, Conway, Massachusetts. Photocopies of covers and relevant pages also in possession of Ann D. Watson [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], New Haven, Vermont : 2016. For Civil War pension file see William Watson Civil War pension no. 436591, certificate no. 263907, RG 15, NA-–Washington. For 1870 employment of William's sons see 1870 U.S. census, Franklin County, Massachusetts, population schedule, Conway, p. 7 (penned) [6 penned and 7 overwritten], dwelling 54, family 57, Daniel Natson [Watson]; image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 12 January 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 615. On the census the first letter of the surname looks like “N”, but the surrounding neighbors were the same as in the 1860 and 1880 censuses, and the family members and ages all correlate.

 

13. For Janitor work see Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1889, 6. Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1890, 5. Also, Annual Report … Town of Conway ... 1891, 4. Also, Annual Report ... Conway ... 1892, 5. Also, Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1893, 4. Also, Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1894, 4. Also, Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1895, 4. Also, Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1896, 6. Also, Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1897, 4. Also, Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1898, 5. Also, Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1899, 5. Also, Annual Report ... 1900, 5. For schoolroom cleaning see Annual Report ... Town of Conway ... 1893, 13.

 

14. Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts, Tax valuation lists, 1866–1892, listings in alphabetical order, entries for William Watson; Tax Assessors' Office, Conway.

 

15. Eve Brian Watson, “Ernest's birthplace,” loose typescript, (MS, Fort Myers, Florida, 1978), privately held by Ann D. Watson, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE], New Haven, Vermont, 2016.

 

16. For the elder Daniel Watson's death see Conway, Massachusetts, Births, Marriages, Deaths, Book B:57, Daniel Watson death, 21 November 1876; Town Clerk's Office, Conway. For "Polly" Mary's death see Conway, Massachusetts, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, Book B:62, Polly (Libry) Watson, 1879; Town Clerk's Office, Conway. For Maria's death see Town of Conway, Massachusetts, Births, Marriages, and Deaths, C:9, Maria (Silcocks) Watson, 2 May 1898; Town Clerk's Office, Conway. Also, Pine Grove Cemetery (Conway, Franklin County, Massachusetts, LAT/LON 425231N, -72690319W; .61 miles off Shelburne Falls Road on Reeds Bridge Road,) Maria Watson and William Watson marker; photographed by Ann D. Watson, 3 August 2013. Also, “Conway,” The Gazette and Courier (Greenfield, Massachusetts), 7 May 1898, p. 3, col. 6; microfilm image, “Gazette and Courier Jan 1897 – Dec 1899,” Greenfield Public Library, Greenfield, Massachusetts. For Cora's death see Conway, Massachusetts, “Births 1859–1892, Marriages 1856–1892, Deaths 1855–1892,” B:94, No. 12, Cora A. Watson; Office of the Town Clerk, Conway, Franklin, Massachusetts. Also, “Conway,” The Gazette and Courier, Greenfield, Massachusetts, 26 March 1892, p. 4, col. 7; microfilm image, “Gazette & Courier Jan.1891–Dec. 1894,” Greenfield Public Library, Greenfield, Massachusetts.

 

17. Photo copyright 2010 Ann D. Watson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Please reload

Featured Posts

Herman Bauer, German Immigrant on Lower Broad Street, Keyport, New Jersey

August 6, 2019

1/7
Please reload

Recent Posts

November 23, 2018

Please reload

Archive