WATSON WHEN STARTED
The final railroad survey of the H. & D. division of the C. M. & St. Paul railway was completed through Watson in the summer of 1878 and the construction of buildings on the right-of-way was started immediately afterward. Hence the earliest and oldest building in Watson, still standing, was built in the fall of 1878. It was C. V. Lang's grain elevator which for many years was managed by O. W. McKinstry. It was still longer known as the Hanson & Walstad elevator. It is still being run in the fifty-third year of its existence. It is now owned by the Farmers Union Elevator company and managed by Ed Anderson.
The second building erected in Watson was the passenger and freight depot completed in the spring of 1879. It is stated in a history published in 1882 that Lewis Peterson, a native of Denmark, who was a carpenter by trade, built the first store building early in the summer of 1879. It was built on the lot now occupied by Mrs. John Haugland's residence. It was a furniture store owned and managed by Lewis Peterson many years.
The second store building was built by Iverson Brothers on the corner lot where the First State Bank of Watson now stands. Hans Iverson and Helger Iverson started in the general store business there in the fall of 1879. And pretty near as early that fall Theodore Hanson of Benson had built his general store and lumber yard buildings west of the track, on the corner right south-east of the Watson town well, and had hired Ole Eidem as manager, and he started that business concern in the fall of 1879. These business places with a very few dwelling houses finished the building operations during the fall of 1879.
There was a district school ln session in the fall of 1879 either in Watson or in the near-by vicinity of Watson. That much is certain. One authority who attended school that fall claims that the school house stood on Iver H. Kanten's land. less than one mile west of Watson, and that it was, a little later, moved into the village and placed on the present school house site; another authority claims that school was held that fall in temporary quarters in Watson prepratory to moving the school house into Watson. And the writer can not tell because he was not among the living at that time. At any rate it is verltled that the school teacher was an amiable man named E. Mandt who was very much interested in the building and progress of the village of Watson, and thereto is attached an interesting little episode.
It appears that when the Watson station, what we commonly know as the depot, was built no name whatsoever had been painted on it, neither did any one know what the name was to be. The townsite was all platted; lots had been sold and paid for; buildings had already been erected and were having the finishing work done in them. The grading was all done: the railroad ties and rails had all been placed and connected up from Montevideo to Appleton. The work trains and their crews were picking up their tools and gathering surplus building material along the right-of-way prepartory to their departure from the locality and the commencement of the time-table railroad schedule service. In the crisp autumn air was the stimulating aroma of new pine lumber and shingles and fresh paint: and there nestling like a pretty baby in a dainty crib was the new depot; but it had no name.
The old teacher took this apparent neglect seriously and must have made up his mind that if no one else would give the village a name then he would. He hunted until he found a nice smooth clean piece of pine board and painted on it in tall glaring letters the name, "Tunsberg." He located himself a shovel dug a post-hole as close to the ends of the ties, or as near the rails as he dared. He nailed his sign across one end of a post and erected the sign post in the post-hole carefully; - and the towns first name was "Tunsberg."
And it was "Tunsberg" throughout the night. Dawn came and then the sun crept up over the eastern horizon, and it was still "Tunsberg." There were many watching that new name on the post when the brave teacher and his pupils saw the smoke of an approaching train to the S-E. It may be presumed that there were faint hopes that it was the railroad superintendent's train and that he might at least nod approvingly at the new name.
But, Alas! - It was only one of those construction trains going by again for something or the other. It stopped and the train crew stalled around the depot for a while as if though looking for something, and then the train moved on again. When the caboose drew by the name-post "Tunsberg" out on the caboose step trotted a vandal of a brakeman, out in the air flashed his lanky leg, and crack! - and the name "Tunsberg" flew off the post splintered and ruined.
It was not long then till the station was named Watson. And the teacher helped in a small measure to name it and to create the spirit of independence of the village. He was a good teacher, one who believed in leading towards progress when those empowered with leadership would not utilize their leadership, and Watson has been a progressive spirited village at all times. He may also by sticking up on that post the name "Tunsberg" have fired the combative spirit and authoritative zeal of the H. & D. railroad officials to the point where they got some action on choosing a name for the station.
One thing is conclusively evident, no matter what caused it, and that is, that Watson is the clearest sounding name, the easiest written name, the best looking station name on the C. M. & St. P. railroad between Chicago and Puget Sound. It Is a great deal handsomer and good deal handier than the bigger and heavier name "Tunsberg" that the pioneer teacher proposed. But if it had not been for good old friend Mandt the railroad officials might have named the station something like Koochiching or Schenectady. They were apt to get reckless in pioneer days!
Watson seems to have been lead by the omnipotent hand of destiny to be built upon the fertile flat land in its townsite, overlooking the beautiful Chippewa river, with the finest natural drainage at its doors, with an unlimited abundance of the best drinking water in the world less than forty feet under its building foundations, with ample level room for parking space for any number of automobiles, with the most practical by nature designed and constructed sites for aviation landing fields and airports that can be found any place on the globe.
When we as individuals pass each other on the sidewalks, or in other public places daily, it it not within the power of any human mental ability of comprehension no matter what cunning, clever, or foresighted minds we have, to fathom the thoughts that are functioning, and plans that are hatching behind eyes we look into in passing. It is only a sixth sense, or an instinct, that can do that for us. But there is one thing we all understand without our thoughts ever dwelling on experimental mind reading stunts, and that is that there are not two persons to be met with similar eyes and the same expressions in their eyes. Eyes are often truly the reflectors of a person's soul, and then again, just as truly, entirely the opposite. Every pair of eyes, however, be they of the revealing or concealing kind, express daily some part of the personality of their owner. And in as great a degree does the general structure, appearance, location and history of a village's buildings reveal a part of a villages personality.
Yes, Watson has a personality. To most casual travelers it may not look any different than any other Minnesota village of the same size but its old friends know differently. When the second right-of-way was graded westward from Montevideo along the bottom or sag, right by Watson, below the hill, not so long ago, Watson was invited by the railroad officials to move below the hill, but it replied, "No, this spot suits me fine. I want to see, I want to breath, I want to stay on the level, and here I stay!" So it can without fear or favor be stated that part of Watson's personality is a red blooded vitality in a friendly, hospitable, individualism.