Aaron Ball Watson

Aaron Ball Watson

Aaron Ball Watson, Feb. 28th 1835-Feb. 4th 1909  Courtesy Chase County Historical Museum

Aaron Watson, born in Indiana[1] of Scottish ancestry, came to Cottonwood Falls with his family in summer of 1859. In a history written by Carrie Breese Chandler, it is related how the Watsons came from Atchison by oxen, as that was the nearest rail station.  They built and lived in a modest dirt floor cabin, in which they hosted Charles Robinson and John Mack overnight, the former being Kansas’ first governor, the latter Sam Wood’s brother-in-law. Watson was a carpenter and plasterer by trade, and soon built a more comfortable home for his family.

On December 4th 1861, Watson put aside his saw and square for the saddle, and enlisted in Company H of the 8th Kansas Volunteer Regiment at Lawrence, Ks. Most of the men of that company were from the Emporia area. As was typical when seeing off a new company, the ladies of Emporia presented company H with a flag. In his book about the 8th Kansas, Keep the Flag to the Front, Bill McFarland recounts the speech given by Miss Mary Jane Watson (unknown if related) to the men of company H.

“A little over three months ago, the ladies of Emporia presented to Company H of the Kansas Second, a flag, as a testimonial of the sympathy in behalf of the cause of Constitutional Liberty, now imperiled by traitors.

That flag has since waved over one of the most bloody conflicts ever known in this country.  That flag, all bullet torn as it is, will, we hope, be returned to its donors, and be carefully preserved as a mute and eloquent memorial of the patriotism of those who fought beneath its folds…It is a consolation to know that the flag has not been disgraced.

You citizen soldiers, are about to take the place of your slaughtered neighbors, and the ladies of Emporia have with their own hands made this beautiful emblem of our national power, and have deputed me to present it to you-and in their behalf, I charge you to guard it well! Rather would we receive our brothers enshrouded within the folds, than that they should desert it in the hour of danger.

Go then, and take with you this flag and with it our blessing and our prayers. Strike for your country! Let Liberty and Union be your inspiring watchword, God and Humanity, your battle-cry!” [2]

The following February found Watson stationed at Osawatomie with his company, no doubt relishing a sublime Kansas winter at fifteen bellow.  The regiment was reorganized on the 28th of the month, transferring the regiment’s two cavalry companies D and H to the 9th Kansas Cavalry, becoming A and B respectively, where it appears Watson served in company B until he mustered out.

Back in civilian life, Watson remained active in events such as Decoration Day, where he served as grand marshal, ceremoniously wearing the army hat of Billy Lyon while leading the parade. Lyon was Sam Wood’s brother-in-law, who enlisted in Watson’s company with the 9th Kansas, but died two weeks after of pneumonia.

Watson was also a caller for dances in the community. It was said that “No merry-making was complete without his calling to the accompaniment of the fiddle of John Scribner or John Doolittle.” [3]

Watson and his wife Sarah celebrated over 50 years together and had six children[4], all except the first being born at Cottonwood Falls. It appears Watson’s health was not the best late in life, his Army Invalid form noting heart disease and rheumatism. He departed life February 4th 1909, and rests in Prairie Grove Cemetery.

[1] Family Search shows Pennsylvania as birthplace.

[2] Keep the Flag to the Front, Bill McFarland pgs 9-10

[3] Chase County Historical Sketches Vol. I

[4] Family Search shows there may have been 11 children, entries may be duplicate.

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