The History of Otsego County, New York


D. Hamilton Hurd

Published by Everts & Fariss, Philadelphia


WATSON, Arnold B. - Unadilla 

Arnold Beach WATSON, the subject of the following memoir, 
was born in the town of Rensselaerville, Albany county, N.Y., Aug. 
12, 1798. His father's name was Josiah Watson. He was a 
respectable, responsible farmer, and at times held important offices 
in the town. His mother's maiden name was Mary BEACH, who 
died when Arnold was only two and a half years old, leaving him 
as her only surviving child. The sympathies and attachment of the 
father for his orphan son were very great, and continued through 
life. He was proud of his moral bearing and scholastic attainments. 
He was placed at school at an early age, and there was never a year 
of his life from the time he was five years old until June 1, 1824, 
but what he was either attending or teaching school. In school he 
often took the highest prize awarded to merit or proficiency in his
When Arnold was four and a half years old his father married 
his second wife, who was to him a kind and watchful mother. At 
eleven years of age he became an anxious inquirer after religious 
truth, and a hopeful convert to the teachings of the Bible. At the 
age of fourteen he was baptized, and soon after was confirmed by 
Bishop Hobart, of the Episcopal church, - neither of his parents at 
that time being professing members of any church. At fourteen 
years of age his father, at the urgent solicitation of the trustees of a 
very large district school in his native town, consented to let him 
take charge of the summer school which he, a mere boy, taught 
through a term of six months, with an average attendance of about 
seventy scholars, to the satisfaction of all. His father, at an early 
day, placed him in a select school, taught by a talented clergyman, 
where he was associated with young men much older than himself, 
who were pursuing the advanced classes. His classical studies were 
closed at the Greenville academy, in Greene Co., N.Y., and a very 
complimentary certificate tendered him by its principal. He taught 
with entire satisfaction a large school in Oakville, Greene Co., N.Y., 
and while there received an application to take charge of an academic 
school in Unadilla, Otsego County. The news of his leaving was 
received with universal regret in Oakville. The Masonic lodge of that 
village held a special session and conferred upon him, without charge, 
the three first degrees of that order as evidence of their regard. This 
was an agreeable surprise to the subject of our sketch. Not long 
after his advent in Unadilla he was elected Master of the Masonic 
lodge in that place, and continuously re-elected for fifteen years. 
He was also elected High Priest of the chapter of Royal Arch 
Masons, holding the office for nearly fifteen years. The grand 
royal arch chapter of the State of New York deputized him as an 
instituting and installing officer of that body for his vicinity.
Since the fall of 1821 Unadilla has been his residence. After 
teaching the academy two and a half years, a prominent merchant 
of Unadilla village, whose health was then quite delicate, solicited 
him to become a partner in his business. He accordingly dismissed 
his school and (June 1, 1824) entered upon his business career. 
The co-partnership, which continued six years, was only terminated 
by the death of his partner, Mr. WRIGHT, who esteemed him so 
highly that he presented him, just before his death, with a valuable 
gold seal, and by his will made Mr. Watson the executor of his 
estate. In fulfilling the wishes of his late friend and partner, and in 
closing up the estate, he received a valuable testimonial to his 
faithful services from the lawyer representing the widow and minor 
In the fall of 1840, without solicitation, he was elected a member 
of the State legislature, where he served not only upon several 
important committees, but while in "committee of the whole" was 
called to the speaker's chair to preside over the deliberations of 
the house.
For forty years he was interested in mercantile pursuits. In 1844 
he established the Unadilla bank, as an individual bank, with a 
capital of $50,000; this bank he owned and operated himself for 
twenty years, and during that time no bank in the State stood higher. 
In 1852 he became interested and actively engaged in the construction 
of the Albany and Susquehanna railroad. One of the original movers 
in the enterprise, Mr. Watson, at the first meeting, held in 1852, was 
elected a director, and it is but just to say that to no member of that 
body is more credit due for the successful completion of the road. 
He was offered, but declined, the presidency of the company in 
consequence of his own business, which required the greater portion 
of his attention. He was, however, chairman of the committee to 
locate depots and assess the amount for which each town on the 
line of the proposed road should issue bonds to secure the building 
of the same.
No man has done more to build up and advance the interests 
of his village than Mr. Watson. In his church for thirty years he 
was its senior warden and treasurer, and a liberal contributor to 
the purchase of the cemetery, parsonage, etc. The Unadilla 
academy passed through a long financial struggle, endeavoring to 
raise the means for building, etc., but without success, until Mr. 
Watson came to its relief; he raised the money in one day to buy 
the lot, build the house, and furnish the same with library, 
laboratory apparatus, and bell. The institution is now one of the 
most flourishing in this section of the country. There are few 
persons who, from early childhood, have spent so active and 
industrious a life as the subject of this sketch. In his family 
relations he has been peculiarly blessed, and his children have 
given unmistakable evidence of thorough education as well as 
religious and moral training.

Excerpt from History of Otsego Co., NY, page 349


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