SAMUEL WATKINS is one of the native sons of Menard county, his birth having occurred January 26, 1842, on the farm which he now occupies. On the paternal side he is of Scotch and Welsh descent and his grandfather was the youngest in a family of twenty-one children. He is a son of Joseph and Nancy (Green) Watkins. At a very early day Joseph Watkins accompanied his father on his removal from Kentucky to Illinois, his mother having died when he was young, and the family located on Shoal creek in Clinton county. There Joseph Watkins married Nancy Green and in the '20s they came to Menard county, the journey being made in a two-wheel cart which he had made himself, and which was drawn by a yoke of oxen. A log cabin was built in Little Grove and corn was planted but the squirrels ate up the first crop. Mr. Watkins was badly handicapped during his early residence here from the fact that he had forgotten to bring his gun with him and was thus unable to secure the wild game which was the principal meat of the early settlers. He continued to reside in Menard county until called to his final rest, his death occurring when he was about sixty-five years of age. In politics he was a Democrat. His wife was also a member of an old Kentucky family. They became the parents of eleven children, of who Samuel is the youngest, while with the exception of two all have passed away. William, the eldest, married Sarah Armstrong and made his home three miles north of Petersburg, where he reared his family. His widow now lives in Sand Ridge precinct. Beverly, who married Elizabeth Armstrong, is deceased, while his widow lives in Cass county, Illinois. Sally became the wife of Gaines Green and lived in Tallula but both are now deceased. Hannah married William Nance and they resided in Sand Ridge precinct, but both have now passed away. Alvin married Nancy Potter, who survives him and resides south of Petersburg. Elias married Eliza McManaway and they resided in Mason county, his widow being still a resident of Kilbourne. Ann became the wife of Daniel Atterberry and they resided west of the town of Atterberry, but both have passed away, leaving a large family. Maria is the wife of Samuel Colston, a resident of Petersburg. Thomas died of typhoid fever at the age of twenty-one years. Mary died in early girlhood. Samuel completes the family.
In the Little Grove school Samuel Watkins acquired his education and was thus prepared for life's practical duties. He was reared to farm work upon the old family homestead and has always handled stock. After arriving at years of maturity he wedded Miss Mary Woodridge, a daughter of David and Margaret (Hawthorne) Woodridge, who came from Reed county, Kentucky, to Illinois, in 1830, settling on a farm in Menard county three miles from the present home of our subject. Mr. Watkins now owns this place and also the old Watkins homestead. On coming to this county Mr. Woodridge was a poor man, but through energy, perseverance and industry he became well off. His political support was given the Democratic party. He died in August, 1857, and his wife passed away in October of the same year. They were the parents of seven children, four sons and three daughters. Robert, who married and removed to Oklahoma, died in the territory, leaving one child. John married and resided in Illinois for a time, but twenty years ago removed to Missouri, where his death occurred. Richard married a daughter of Henry Dick, of Cass county, Illinois, and they make their home in Petersburg; Jackson Heath wedded Mary Vaughn and they now reside near Faye in Oklahoma. Mrs. Watkins is the fifth of the family. Martha is the wife of Willis Boulware and they reside in Clark county, Missouri.
Mr. Watkins, the subject of this sketch, began farming in 1863 in Mason county, Illinois, and there carried on agricultural pursuits for two years. In 1865 he removed to his father's old farm, which he began to cultivate and improve. He purchased the interest of some of the heirs in the old homestead and has been adding to his landed possessions continuously since until his property holdings now aggregate over three thousand acres. He bought some of this land about 1868 at six dollars per acre. It was then wild and uncultivated, but is now a highly improved property, being supplied with modern equipments, while the fields are under cultivation and yield a splendid financial return. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Watkins have been born eight children: Nettie is the wife of Z. A. Thompson, who resides near Petersburg and by whom she has four children; Elizabeth is the wife of Elijah Purvines, a resident of Pleasant Plains, Sangamon county, and they have three children; Evans married Pauline Spears and they, with their one son, reside in Petersburg precinct; Elias married Irene Fisher and is living near Atterberry; Walter, who resides in precinct 7 in Menard county, married Ollie Juhl; Hattie married Chris C. Juhl and they reside on the old David Woodridge farm with their one child; Nona is the wife of Ira Abbott, who is connected with the electric light system of Petersburg.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Watkins hold memberships in the Christian church and Mr. Watkins is a member of the Masonic fraternity, with which his son, Elias, is also identified, the latter having attained the Knight Templar degree of the York rite. The father was made a Mason in 1886 at Petersburg and is still connected with the lodge at that place. He gives his political allegiance to the Democracy. He is today one of the most extensive landowners of Menard county. His success is creditable and yet investigation into his life record shows that his prosperity has been won entirely through indefatigable effort, capable management and unfaltering perseverance. His life has been open to his fellow citizens and no suspicion of evil has ever been attached to it. It has been clean in every way and his influence has always been for what is honest, for everything that is elevating to the public, for everything that conserves the interests of the county, for everything that is sound in business, for everything that is true and everything that is right.