SAMUEL H. WATSON is the senior member of the firm of S. H. Watson & Sons, bankers, of Vinton. The bank was organized in 1856 by Judge Samuel Douglas and Mr. Watson, the firm of Douglas & Watson continuing until 1861, when Judge Douglas retired, Mr. Watson continuing alone. In 1865 the bank was merged into the First National Bank of Vinton, with H. D. Gay, President, and S. H. Watson, Cashier. The capital stock was $50,000. In 1869 it surrendered its charter as a National Bank, Mr. Watson succeeding to the business. In 1872 he associated with himself in the business his sons William P. and Peter W., and under the firm name of S. H. Watson & Sons the business has since been continued. The bank is not only one of the oldest in this section of the country, but is regarded as one of the safest, doing a large and satisfactory business.
Samuel H. Watson was born in Ohio County, W. Va., July 3, 1828. His parents, Joshua P. and Martha (Humes) Watson, were both natives of Virginia. In 1833 his father located with his family in New Athens, and about two years later in Harrisville, Harrison Co., Ohio, where he engaged in the mercantile trade, continuing in the same many years. In 1856 he engaged in the banking business, and followed that business till his death, in 1883. As long as the Whig party had an existence, he gave it his support, Henry Clay, one of its great leaders, being with him an ideal statesman. He was also a consistent member of the United Presbyterian Church. Beginning life poor, by industry and economy he accumulated a large property. The mother of Samuel died in 1835, and his father subsequently twice married. Few women were more highly respected and loved by those who knew her than his mother.
When his father located in Ohio Samuel was but five years of age; the country was new and the hardships of pioneer life bad to be endured. In the old log schoolhouse he received his first instruction. When old enough he would attend school about three months in the year, and then assist in the rendering establishment of his father, finally taking complete charge of the same. At that time country merchants engaged more or less extensively in packing pork. When about fifteen years of age he had the privilege of attending school for some months, kept by James Wollerton, a thoroughly educated man and a graduate of one of the Eastern colleges. Mr. Wollerton some time previously had embraced the Mormon faith and had gone to Nauvoo, Ill., to reside, but, becoming dissatisfied, returned to Ohio, and was engaged to teach the district school at Harrisville. In this school Samuel learned arithmetic, algebra and surveying. At the age of eighteen he took entire charge of his father's mercantile business, and continued to manage it until 1856. In 1849 he was married to Miss Emeline Perrine, a daughter of Peter W. and Elizabeth (Hopper) Perrine, of Harrisville, Ohio. Mr. Perrine now resides near Vinton in Benton County, being in his eighty-fourth year, and is a well-preserved man of his age. Mr. and Mrs. Watson have had seven children— William P. married Laura Kendall, and they have one son, Pearl; Peter W. married Blanche Hewes; and they had three children— Samuel H., Ralph and Leah L.; he died in October, 1884, at the age of thirty- one years; Clara, who died August 26, 1880; Clifford married Flora Kreader; they have one child, an infant; Frank married Libbie Burnham; they have one child, Peter W.; Lillian, who died at the age of twelve years; and Estella H.
In the spring of 1856 Mr. Watson came to Iowa to seek a location, and after visiting various places decided to make Vinton his home, and at once moved his family here. At that time Vinton was a small village with two or three hundred inhabitants, but with a promise of a bright future. Surrounded by rich agricultural country, it could not long remain unsettled. With but little capital, as already stated, he united with Judge Douglas in establishing the present bank of S. H. Watson & Sons. Success has crowned his efforts in every particular, and he has accumulated a large property, at the same time retaining the respect and confidence of his fellow-citizens. In every enterprise tending to advance the best interests of Vinton, he has actively engaged. During the past few years he has erected several valuable buildings and started several manufacturing enterprises. Among the buildings worthy of special mention are the Bank and Watson's Opera House, and the large hardware store occupied by F. D. Tonney. In manufacturing he was instrumental in establishing the S. H. Watson Canning Co., having a plant valued at $30,000 and doing a business of $70,000 per year. In 1885 he established the Vinton Washing-Machine Factory, with a cash capital of $40,000, and which employs regularly from twenty to twenty-five men. In educational matters he takes a great interest. He has been Treasurer of the College for the Blind for eighteen years.
Religiously Mr. Watson is connected with the First Presbyterian Church of Vinton, his wife also being a member of that body. This church he helped very materially to build, and in 1886 he supplied it with a fine pipe organ costing $2,500, built by Johnson & Son, of Westfield, Mass. Politically he is a Republican, and has been connected with that party since its organization. During the war, he did much in securing enlistments, and otherwise aiding in the suppression of the Rebellion. In the thirty years he has resided in Benton County he has seen many wonderful changes, and in it all he has been one of the most active participants.
A portrait of Mr. Watson appears on another page.
Source Citation: "1887 Benton County, Iowa Biographies" [database online] Benton County IAGenWeb Project. <http://iagenweb.org/benton/>
Original data: "Portrait and Biographical Album of Benton County, Iowa." Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887, p. 187-188.
Transcribed by: Sue Soden. Submitted to the Benton County IAGenWeb Project on June 16th, 2007. Copyright © 2007 The IAGenWeb Project.