At the time of the 1860 census. when he was two-and-a-half, his parents were living with a relation of his mother (probably her mother), 49-year-old Susan Poteet in McDowell County, North Carolina. His older brothers Elisha, 12, Bulow, 10, Ruphus, 7, and George, 4, are listed in the household, as well as 1-month-old brother, William.
By the 1870 census, John’s father had passed away. The family is listed in Jamestown, North Carolina. His oldest brother Elisha, 21, is farming the land. Bulow lives nearby with his in-laws. Ruphus, George, John, and William are still in the household. They also now have two younger sisters, 7-year-old Missouri and 8 month old Rhoence.
I have not yet found an 1880 census with John, but he did marry Margaret Roxanna Radford 27 May 1883. They had their first son Waits Ervin in August 1888. Two years later came Carrie then Eva two years after that. My great-grandfather, Augustus, was born two years later in 1895. In 1898 Myra was born. Then in 1901 John and Roxanna had their last child, Maude. Sometime between the 1900 census and the 1910 census, their daughter Carrie passed away.
John’s brother, Elisha M, was listed on the census with the family in 1900 and 1920. A brother, Miller J, was listed with them on the 1910 census. I have not found a brother named Miller. It is possible Elisha’s middle name was Miller and this is the same brother.
In January 1907, John sold two acres of land for the building of the Macedonia Baptist Church and cemetery and at some point moved the family to High Shoals/Caroleen Township, Rutherford County, North Carolina. Before this, John had always worked his own farm. In Caroleen, John worked as a weaver in a cotton mill, alongside his 17-year-old daughter Eva, also a weaver, and his 15-year-old son Gus, a doffer in the mill. In my blog about John’s son, my great-grandfather, Augustus Samuel Watkins, I conjectured that they worked in High Shoals Mill. Persistence and delving deeper pays off. Almost anything is available on the internet these days. I found a website about the Rutherford County cotton mills. The original mill was built in Henrietta in the late 1800s. However, Henrietta Mills No. 2 was built a little later in Caroleen. We can be pretty sure this is the mill they worked in.
Volume 25 (year 1904) of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Bulletin states that these two mills had 75,000 spindles, 1,876 looms, and used 26,000 bales or 13 million pounds of cotton. This looks to be the second or third largest cotton mill operation in North Carolina at the time. According to LearnNC.org, the job of weaver, which John was doing, made about $5.40 per week. This was one of the highest paying jobs other than being an overseer of some kind. For more information on the actual process and occupation, see LearnNC’s website.
By 1920, John and Roxanna were living in Green Hill, Rutherford County, NC. Maude, at age 19, was the only child still living at home. Sons Waits and Gus lived nearby with their growing families. John’s brother Elisha was still living with them and John was back to farming. Was indoor mill work and not being your own boss just not for him after years of farming?
At age 69, John Merido Watkins passed away from pneumonia on 19 December 1926 in Bracketts, McDowell County, North Carolina. He was buried in the cemetery of the church he sold the land to nineteen years before, the cemetery which sparked my interest in genealogy as a child.