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Lewis Findlay Watson    

WATSON, LEWIS FINDLAY, was born in Crawford county, Pa., on the 14th day of April, 1819. His parents, John Watson and Rebecca Bradley, were natives of the State of Delaware, and descended from a Scotch Irish ancestry. The early education of the subject of this sketch was such as the educational advantages of Crawford and surrounding counties afforded during his boyhood. At the age of thirteen he entered a store at Titusville in the capacity of clerk, and remained in that occupations there and at Franklin and Warren until 1837, his residence in the latter place having commenced in 1835. At the close of his last engagement, in 1837, he entered the prothonotary’s and register and recorder’s office in Warren, where he remained until 1838, shortly after which he commenced a course of study at the Warren Academy, then under charge of Mr. Rasselas Brown, who subsequently became president judge of this judicial district.

Upon leaving the academy, Mr. Watson entered upon mercantile pursuits in the borough of Warren, in partnership with Archibald Tanner and S.T. Nelson, under the style of Nelson, Watson & Co. At the termination of this co-partnership, in 1841, he continued his mercantile pursuits, sometimes on his own account, and sometimes with others, until 1860, when, closing this business, he turned his attention more directly to the manufacture and marketing of lumber. In the autumn of 1859, in company with his brother John and Archibald Tanner, he engaged in the development of the petroleum business by drilling wells on his brother’s farm at Titusville, Pa. In the spring of 1860 this firm opened what was known as the Fountain Oil Well, the first flowing well in that district, and probably the first in the country.

Since the date of the above-mentioned discovery Mr. Watson has, at intervals, engaged in the production of petroleum, and has continuously engaged also in extensive operations in pine timber lands, and in the manufacture and sale of lumber up to the present time.

Enterprises of more public importance have at various times occupied his attention. In 1864 he was one of the original stockholders of the First National Bank of Warren, and for several years acted as its vice-president. In 1870 he organized the Warren Savings Bank, of which he was the first president, a position which he continues to hold.

In 1861 he organized the Conewango Valley Railroad Company, now known as the Dunkirk, Allegheny Valley and Pittsburgh, and was elected its first president. It was mainly through his efforts that the Conewango Valley road was constructed. In 1877 he purchased a large tract of land in Cass county, Dak., and at once commenced the cultivation of wheat and other agricultural products. At the present date he has over two thousand acres under cultivation.

Since the organization of the Republican party Mr. Watson has at all times supported the political principles which have distinguished that great body — principles that have more firmly cemented the bonds of the Union; which have protected the American laborer from competition with the degraded laborers of foreign nations, and which have established and sustained the conservative financial policy that has secured so much prosperity to the country, and insures the extinguishment of the public debt without distress to the people. Although not a politician by profession or practice, his unswerving loyalty to his party, his known patriotism, his energy, perspicacity, and success in the various enterprises which he had undertaken, led, in 1874, to the unanimous recommendation of Mr. Watson, by the Republicans of Warren county to the district convention, as a candidate for representative to Congress. At the meeting of the district convention Mr. Watson’s name as a candidate was withdrawn at his own request, to effect an unanimous nomination, of Hon. C. B. Curtis, the sitting member of the House from the Twenty-seventh Pennsylvania Congressional District, for a second term. Unfortunately Mr. Curtis was defeated at the polls by his Democratic competitor, by a small majority.

Two years thereafter, in 1876, Mr. Watson was nominated by the Republican convention, held at Franklin, as a candidate for representative to the Forty-fifth Congress from the above district, and he was elected by the overwhelming majority of 3,547, against Wm. L. Scott, the Democratic nominees notwithstanding the election of a Democrat for the preceding term of 1874-76 In 1880 he was again elected to Congress. His congressional duties were performed with the same assiduity and zeal that he displayed in private affairs.

In the Forty-fifth Congress he introduced a bill to regulate inter-state commerce and to prohibit unjust discrimination by common carriers. This bill aimed to correct one of the crying evils of the times.

In the House it elicited discussion which its importance merited, and it was was widely commented upon by the leading newspapers of the country in a manner which indicated the deep interest felt in the proposed reformatory legislation by the people at large. The bill passed the House, with some unimportant amendments, by a large majority, but reached the Senate too late for action during that session of Congress.

That its passage through the House, by a large majority, should be ascribed to the energetic and skillful efforts of Mr. Watson, is apparent from the fact that a similar bill, introduced in the Forty-sixth Congress, did not reach a vote in either the House or the Senate.

In 1842 Mr. Watson married Elvira W. McDowell, whose death occurred in 1849. No children of this marriage survive. In 1856 he married Miss Caroline E., daughter of Hon. N.B. Eldred, of Wayne county, Pa. Of the children born of this marriage Annie Bartlett alone survives.

At the date of this publication Mr. Watson continues actively engaged in the various business pursuits which have absorbed so many years of his life — banking, the manufacture of lumber, operations in pine timber lands, the production of petroleum, and grain growing.

While increasing his lumber interests, he has gradually become, probably, the largest land owner in the county of Warren, and latterly he has acquired extensive timber tracts on the Pacific slope.

These various and absorbing pursuits have not diminished his concern in public affairs, nor have they dulled his lively interest in the successes, or lessened his sympathy in the misfortunes of his neighbors, and his large and ever increasing circle of acquaintances. On the contrary, he contemplates the various political schisms of the time with all the ardor of earlier days, but with a judgment and wisdom ripened by wide and varied experience.

Happy in his own domestic life and successes, he is ever ready to contribute to the happiness of the less fortunate, by his quiet sympathy in their distress, or by extending the hand of unostentatious charity — the greatest of all the virtues— which adorns alike the prince and peasant, the private as well as the more conspicuous public citizen who may wear her mantle.

History of Warren County: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, J. S. Schenck, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co., 1887.  More Warren County History Books  Search Hundreds of 1880s-1890s Pennsylvania County History Books for biographies and historical information on your ancestors.  View the book page images on line and print them out for your genealogy file!  Free Access to the old history books - plus birth & death records, census images and ALL other records at ancestry.com.

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