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Biographical obituary of Samuel A. Watters 

A founder of Wassonville, Iowa

From the Harlan, Iowa Tribune and Wellman Advance, April 10, 1913


The death of S. A. Watters, a resident of Harlan since 1880, occurred at his home Monday morning after a lingering illness, of the infirmities of extreme age.  Mr. Watters was a splendid type of the hospitable unassuming pioneer.  He stood considerably over six feet, and was a giant in the prime of manhood.  He was passionately devoted to sports in his younger days, an expert rifle shot, and a familiar figure at all the shooting matches which formed a very important part of Iowa's outdoor entertainment a half-century ago.  He was a friend of the home-made bullet, the grease patch and the muzzle loading rifle, and a deadly marksman with this weapon.  Iowa was full of game when he came to the state.  The writer has heard him say that the woods in the vicinity of Iowa City were full of wild turkey when he was a young man.  Deer and elk were equally abundant.  An interview with him about hunting invariably brought out many interesting incidents of the chase in which he had taken part in an early day, which included some narrow escapes from wild animals as well as dangers from being overwhelmed in some of the severe winter storms.  He was a devoted friend of freemasonry and attended lodge punctually as long as his health would permit.   He was made a member of the order in Dayton Lodge, at Wellman, Iowa, December 1862, which gives him a record of Masonic association covering more than half a century.

Samuel Augustine Watters was born in Fayette County, Indiana, July4, 1820.  On December 22, 1842 he married Arena Bevins in Washington County, Iowa.  The children born to them were Phoebe Watters Griffith; James William Watters, both deceased, Sarah E. Moore, Harlan; Dr. S. H. Watters, Irwin; Artemissa Watters Blandin, Western Nebraska, John Wesley Watters, deceased.  These children were born and reared in Washington County, Iowa.  Mrs. Watters died May 8, 1891.  On September 5, 1892 he married Mrs. Crawford, who survives him.

Mr. Watters had a brother who settled in Iowa in 1834.  The deceased walked from his home in Indiana to Johnson County, Iowa in 1837.  He stayed with him that year and the next spring walked back again.  A year later he moved to that locality in this state.  He settled on Deer Creek about 16 miles southwest of Iowa City, within a few miles of the Indian reservation established after the Black Hawk War.

By this time there were four brothers and a brother-in-law settled in this locality, each representing a different trade or profession.  One brother was a physician, our deceased friend was a gunsmith.  Among them they founded the village of Wassonville, named after the brother-in-law, later Dayton, afterwards, Wellman.  The site is on the English River, in the north part of Washington County.  It was an important point until the Rock Island Railroad passed through Iowa City to the south and west.

Among the brothers and their associates at Wassonville, they represented a saw mill, flour mill, operated by water power, brickyard, physician, gunsmith and furniture factory.  Wassonville in its early days was a great trade center for the country about for many miles.

The family originally came from North Carolina, then followed the tide of immigration into Ohio, Indiana, and lastly to Iowa.  During colonial times one of the women of this family helped to conceal Washington in one of his rendezvous, and thus prevented his capture by British troops.

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Feed Sack from Wassonville Mills

The old Wassonville Mill on the south side of the English River, the second mill that was constructed at Wassonville, Iowa.  This grist mill never had an external water wheel, but was built with a "mill race."  A steam plant was later added to turn the mill when the river was too low for grinding.  This mill was built in 1847 by Joseph Wasson and James Watters.   The first mill was built on the north bank of the river in 1841 and burned down in 1849, replaced by a saw mill.