JAMES WATT. In the subject of this notice we recognize one of the earliest pioneers of Morgan County - a man who at one time enjoyed the personal friendship of Douglas and Lincoln, and who has been the interested witness of the remarkable changes which have occurred in this country during the period of fifty-six years. He is at present engaged as a furniture dealer at Winchester, among those people he enjoys a lucrative trade and is recognized as an unassuming, straightforward citizen, popular in both business and social circles.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, our subject was born July 17, 1820, and is the son of David Watt, who was born in Pennsylvania and who as a member of the "Pittsburg Grays," served as a soldier in the War of 1812. He traveled through Northern Illinois at that time and later in 1833, brought his family to Scott County, via a river steamer which was more than a week making a trip from Cincinnati to Montezuma. He put up the first steam saw-mill in Scott County, completing it in the spring of 1834, but three or four years later sold this and purchased a water-power mill on Big Sandy Creek, one mile east of Winchester. This latter he rebuilt and put in machinery for grinding wheat and from that time on until his death, in 1848, operated it successfully, running it by water when the latter was plentiful and by steam when the streams were low.
The mother of our subject, Mrs. Jane (Anderson) Watt, was a native of Coal Hill, Pa., and the parental family included nine children, four of whom are living, viz: James our subject; David B., of Winchester; Jane, Mrs. Gwin, of Chicago; and Oliver S., of St. Louis, Mo. The five deceased, all lived to mature years and were named respectively, Henry, Euphemia A. (Mrs. Nash), Robert A., William H., and Isabel (Mrs. Sells of Baldwin City, Kan.) The mother died of cholera in 1851, in Winchester, Ill., being the first victim of this terrible scourge which she contracted without being exposed to the disease. The father of our subject, was killed in 1848, by the explosion of the boilers of the steamer "Planter" when on his way to St. Louis, and at which time several other persons also lost their lives.
The subject of this notice entered upon his education in his native city and completed his studies in Winchester. At the age of eighteen years, he began learning the carpenter's trade and later, took up mill-wrighting which he followed about five years. He put up a wool-carding mill in 1847, and subsequently added to it a flouring mill. He sold this property in 1852, and began the manufacture of threshers and reapers, while he also carried on at the same time the general repairing of machinery. He finally drifted into the manufacture of buggies, wagons, and other vehicles, which he prosecuted until 1876, together with the manufacture of furniture. He failed in business at that time and turned over all of his property tho his creditors and started anew. He then began selling furniture on a small scale, in 1878, and has gradually increased his business until he now operates with a considerable capital stock, and has also stoves and tinware. He has become widely and favorably known to the people of this region among whom he has built up a lucrative trade.
The 10th of March, 1841, witnessed the marriage of our subject with Miss Elizabeth, daughter of David McConnell, deceased, and who was one of the earliest settlers of Scott County. Of this union there were born four children - Orville M., Edwin E., John M., and David K. Orville and David are residents of Washington, D.C.; John lives in Anthony, Kan.; and Edwin in Winchester, Scott County. The wife and mother departed this life in May, 1865, and in the fall of that year, Mr. Watt was married to Miss Sarah Longnecker.
The present wife of our subject, is the daughter of Joseph Longnecker of Winchester, and is now the mother of eight children, five of whom are living, viz: Joseph C., James O., George F., Mary E., and Peter C. Mr. Watt is occupying for his warerooms the building in which Stephen A. Douglas taught school during the winter of 1833-34. In politics, he is independent, voting for measures rather than men, and he has steadily avoided becoming an office-holder. He is identified with the Masonic fraternity, and in religious matters is a pillar of the Methodist Episcopal Church, at Winchester.