PIONEERS AND PIONEER BUILDINGS OF WATSON
No word in the dictionary has apparently been more abused and stretched than the word Pioneer. In Funk & Wagnall's dictionary it is defined: "one who goes before to remove obstacles and prepare the way for others." Webster's New International dictionary defines it: "one who goes before, as into the wilderness, preparing the way for others to follow." Any one who comes into a community from three to forty years after a township has been organized, roads laid out, and schools started, can not be classified as a pioneer by any one who has any respect for truth and consistency. And that also applies to the history of any village. - There can only be pioneers and the children of the pioneers and that is as far as the meaning of the word pioneer can be stretched.
It will be absolutely impossible at this time to attempt to trace the whereabouts of the numerous families who during the bygone years have lived in Watson, but it is partly possible to trace the movements and evolutions of pioneer buildings, that means the buildings built by pioneers. One can that way recall names of pioneers and other early members of Watson's population who once occupied those buildings.
The hotel was built by the Watson community pioneer A. M. Anderson who settled on a homestead south of Watson in 1869. A. S. Green was apparently its next short term proprietor. Then Ole Isaacson managed it for a short while. Then Dolvin & Bengtson were its proprietors during a saloonkeeping era on the west side that Watson experienced. Madison Owens was a subsequent owner of the hotel, and then George Webster moved to Watson and became its manager. Then Sam Fuller was its proprietor for many years until Ole Klefstad bought the building and wrecked it and erected the handsome building which is now Watson’s only hotel.
Dr. William Manderfelt born and educated in Prussia became shortly after his immigration a surgeon in the Union army. Before he moved to Watson he was stationed at a military camp in one of the southern states. He came to Watson and engaged in the practice of Medicine in 1880, but we are unable to ascertain exactly in what pioneer building his abode and office was located.
A man named Berg built a saloon building west of the hotel. It was a Watson pioneer building. It stood there, where it was built, many years. Then Martin Myhre bought it and had it moved to the east side. Then he was appointed post master and later telephone central manager and for many years this building was the home of the Watson post office and the local telephone switch board. - It is now Sigurd Olson's popular Billiard Hall.
Golie Brothers built a building for a saloon. This building was once Halvor Marken's furniture store. It was once Tom H. Onstad's drug store. It was once the home of the Watson post office, A. Raaum, post master. It was once Brekken Brothers Restaurant. It was once John Oddan & company's restaurant. Then it was Mrs. Arnt Waldum's restaurant. - Now it is the Farmers State Bank of Watson.
Hans Iverson and Helger Iverson built the second store building constructed in Watson. That too was sure a pioneer building. It was at first used for a general store and the home of the pioneer Watson post office started January 1st, 1880, of which Helger Iverson was the pioneer post master. After being used for a general store and post office several years it was also for many years Watson's outstanding hard liquor emporium. After the saloon eon had passed it became a Billiard Hall. Then it was wrecked to make room for the First State Bank of Watson building and Doctor Seth Gilkey bought the old lumber.
Where the old Watson Fire Department station stood, straight north across the street from the Eidem store, on the west side of the village. Ole Isacson built a store building and had a general store in it for some time. Then it became Pope's drug store. After its drug store days were over it became John Waldum's confectionery parlor. After Waldum retired from the business it was John Svenskrud's meat market for some time. Then it was moved across the railroad to the east side where it has been used principally for a restaurant building ever since. If you like to see what one Watson pioneer building looks like today, go in and look it over when you are in Watson. You are always welcome! It is now the home of the neatest and handsomest restaurant establishment that Watson ever had. - It is Fred Anderson's popular restaurant.
On the corner where Anton Dvergsten's store is George Beeman built the Watson pioneer hardware store and was in business there for some time. Then Heiberg's drug store was the next concern that occupied the building This store became famous for a certain R. & R. specific that the proprietor dispensed. Then the building was moved onto the lot occupied now bv Anton Solseth's store, and it became the abode of the Watson post office when Thorvald Kopsland was appointed post master. When Anton Solseth bought it he used it for a dry goods building until it was consumed in the fire that destroyed Peter Iverson's garage.
After Beeman's hardware store building was moved off the Dvergsten store corner Helger Iverson built a store building there. This building also housed the Watson post office with Helger Iverson the post master. Olaus Haugland was also a general store keeper in that building. Later on Baard Odegard bought the business and was the store keeper there until the building burned down one night. Then Odegard built the handsome brick building that the Dvergsten store is occupying.
The Eidem general store on the west side of the village was for many years the greatest trade getting store in Watson. Then Ole Eidem employed two men clerks regularly and they were busy at all times. His store, a pioneer store, was also once the home of the Watson post office, and Ole Eidem was the post master. After Ole Eidem's death Mrs. Estelle Eidem kept the store for a short while, and then Henry Christopherson was the store keeper there for a while. The building was wrecked about fourteen years ago and Alfred Sjoberg and Edward Stensrud bought the old lumber.
It is not known to the writer what became of the pioneer store building that Knut Steenerson built on the corner north-west of and nearest by the town well, where the low, square, little cottage now stands. There Knut Steenerson was a general store keeper during Watson's first years of existence. After Knut quit, Ole Isacson was the store keeper there, and after Isacson sold out a man named Hans Sandager had a store there a while.
Peter Loraas had a shoe shop on the lot where the new Watson Fire Department station now is and he moved it to Dawson when that village boomed in 1884. Ole Seam's jewelry store building is another pioneer building that was either altered or wrecked. It is stated that Ole Espeland's residence contains the lumber that was in it.
The Strong & Miller grain elevator which was the pioneer elevator was destroyed by flre during Watson's first years, but was rebuilt almost instantly. The first grain buyer managing that elevator that is known by the writer is Oluf Gjerseth, the Montevideo Attorney. He was also grain buyer for a while at the Hanson elevator.
S. K. Fosnes became the Strong & Miller Elevator Mgr. in 1889 and handled the business so satisfactorlly for thirteen years that when he resigned to go into meat marketing business the firm of Strong & Miller offered him their financial and personal support even unto building a new grain elevator and lumber yard in a new town if he would change his mind and enter the grain business again. The Strong & Miller grain elevator is now the house of The Watson Farmer's Elevator Company. And this company has a nation wide reputation for being the one cooperative famer's elevator company in the United States that holds the record for running the greatest number of consecutive years without a halt or cessation.