John Watson (1800-1873), Ancestor No. 9

My Genealogical Square One is my 4th great-grandfather, known frustratingly simply as John Watson. Here, on this very spot, my direct paternal line peters out.

What We Know

According to pretty much everything I’ve found on him, John Watson was born in Schoharie County, New York in 1800.

His wife’s name was Margaret (occasionally spelled Margrethe), born in Saratoga County, New York around 1800-1801.  I know from the death certificate of one of their daughters that Margaret’s maiden name was Irish. And I know she died sometime between the taking of the 1870 Census and John’s death in October 1873. That’s it  for her.

[Aside:  Ever grasped the challenge of searching almost any resource for the name IRISH???  Worse even than the LOVE family on my mom’s side!]

I pick up John first in the 1820 Census in Halfmoon-Middletown, down in the southeastern corner of Saratoga County. He and Margaret are married, and their first child has been born. Though the children would scatter to all corners of the country, John & Margaret probably only rarely and briefly left the confines of Saratoga County.

In all, the couple had eleven children: George, Louisa, Elisha, Elisabeth, John Braddock, Samuel, Jane, James William, Margaret M, Susannah, and Benedict Arnold Clark Watson.

John was a farmer, for certain, and some sources say he operated a paper mill as well. He was also a deputy sheriff.

John died on the 5th of October 1873, in nearby Greenwich, Washington County, in the home of his son Rev. Elisha Watson, my 3rd great-grandfather.


I’ve determined through DNA research that sometime in the couple of generations before John Watson, our family name was probably EGGLESTON.  HUH???  I have a handful of good, solid matches of my Y-DNA, and they all, to a man, descend from one Bygod Eggleston, the first of his surname to arrive here from England in 1630.

The implication of this discovery is that somewhere along the way there was an adoption by, or out-of-wedlock birth in, a family of Watsons, and that the biological father of that male child was an Eggleston.


Old-fashioned genealogical research and collaboration has led me to another 1800-era Watson family in the Halfmoon area.  The number of commonalities between this family and my Watson family is mind-blowing: the first name Elisha, plus locations (Halfmoon-Waterford, NY, Halifax, VT, Stonington, CT), and affiliated family names (Worden, Nichols, perhaps Husted, and even Eggleston).  But we can’t find the link!

To make matters a tad worse, the name Elisha Watson is also prevalent in Rhode Island family histories – but I can’t link to them either!

But this process has had its entertaining moments too. Very recently, thanks to the incredible collection of newspapers at (and in spite of its wonky search engine), I discovered what a pistol John Watson was!

On September 19, 1862, he wrote a firecracker of a letter to the New York World, a new and apparently appallingly Democratic newspaper that was printed on paper from the local West Milton mill.

“… I was advised to subscribe for the [NY World]. I did so, and have read its columns for the last five months, and I have become fully satisfied that the editor of the said World is opposed to the present administration, and has spoken treasonable language, which is highly offensive to my dignity.”

And in 1870 he turned his sights on another fledgling newspaper, The Saratoga Sun.

“Your prospectus … has been placed in my hands for perusal and aid. The prospectus is respectfully returned, and the undersigned declines having anything to do with it, as he thinks its publication will be a grievous wrong, in spreading its democratic heresies.”

(Since the upstart Saratoga Sun was to be a competitor, the paper that printed this 1870 letter – the Ballston Journal, I believe – was more than happy to revisit and reference John’s tirade on several occasions.)

Finally, I find it fascinating that there seems to be a tradition of Watsons taking pen in hand to rant and rail on about one thing or another – and I’m proud to count myself among them.

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