Tuesday, August 2, 2011

He Was the Village Blacksmith

John D. Watton (1837-1913)
He was my mother’s great grandfather.



John D. Watton
Came to Iowa from Pennsylvania

John D. Watton was young and single when he left Pennsylvania in 1858 to come to southeast Iowa. He left behind coal-mining, an occupation that did not appeal to him. His step-father, Charles A. Callighan, was a miner, but not wanting to risk the frequent mining accidents and poor health conditions.  John hoped to find work of a different type. Instead of mining, he chose to apprentice as a blacksmith, first in Pennsylvania, then for a man by the name of Johnson in southeastern Iowa, perhaps in New London. Soon after, he went to the village of Lowell in Baltimore Township, Henry County, Iowa, where he started their first blacksmith shop.

John Watton took pride in his work.

In a pioneer village, the blacksmith was often looked upon as the most important person in town. Farmers relied on the blacksmith to repair their farm equipment and make horseshoes. John's carpenter plane was passed down through the family and is now in my possession. It is about 10 inches long, encased in a block of wood. We have used it, and it works quite well.


Here, a blacksmith is forging a horsehoe on the anvil.
Image courtesy of GenealogyInTime™ magazine www.genealogyintime.com


John D. Watton, son of David Watton and Sarah Davis, was born in Pittsburg, Allegheney County, Pennsylvania , in 1837,  shortly after the death of his father, David Watton. Ill with consumption, David Watton died at sea while attempting to return to England where his brother was a doctor. John’s middle initial D may have represented his father David or perhaps his mother’s maiden name, Davis.

 In about 1846, John’s mother remarried. She and her second husband, Charles Callighan (Calighan, Calihan), remained in Pennsylvania. John at age 13 was in their home in the 1850 census, the location being Moon, Allegheny, Pennsylvania. During the Civil War, Charles served for three years in the First Pennsylvania Veteran Battalion Volunteer Cavalry. After the war, Charles and Sarah also moved to Henry County, Iowa, and appear in the 1870 census there.

 John and his young wife Minerva Jane are shown in the 1850 federal census and in subsequent census, in Baltimore Twp., Henry County, Iowa. Their 1850 listing is brief but informative:           
John D. Watton, age 22, blacksmith,
Personal Property $100, b PA
Minerva, age 16, b Iowa

Their marriage as recorded in the Tryer Family Bible reads: "John D. Watton and Minerva J. Tryer was married March the 28th 1860."

Both John and his wife played an active role in the Lowell community during its peak years. Jennie operated the small hotel down the street from their home. John was enthusiastic about having a newspaper and became its editor and proprietor, naming it the Lowell Advance. His editorial notes for Thursday, March 13, 1873, were passed down through the family. John was a Methodist but the only church in Lowell was a Baptist church; Jennie and John attended regularly, and John led the singing there. Years later, I too would go there for church and Sunday School when visiting my grandparents.


--genieBev (genealogy Beverly)
For ideas about how to do Family History, visit:

No comments:

Post a Comment

Post a Comment