James Watson, from Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania, was an officer in the Revolutionary War, and participated in the battles of Germantown, Long Island, & Monmouth.

Conflict Period:
Revolutionary War 1
1743 1
Leacock, Lancaster Co., Penn. 1
02 Jul 1831 1
Greencastle, Franklin Co., Penn. 1

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Personal Details

Full Name:
James Watson 1
1743 1
Leacock, Lancaster Co., Penn. 1
02 Jul 1831 1
Greencastle, Franklin Co., Penn. 1
July 1831 1
Moss Spring Graveyard, Greencastle, Franklin Co., Penn. 1
Elizabeth Long 1
25 Jan 1766 1
Lancaster Co., Penn. 1

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  1. Contributed by gersonyfam1217



1)  Five Typical Scotch Irish Families of the Cumberland Valley, by Mary Craig Shoemaker, published in 1922, the chapter on the Watson family:  "COLONEL JAMES WATSON (1743-1831)"

2. D. Watson Rowe letter

3. DAR Lineage Book, Vol. 145 (1919), page 118, DAR # 144363 (Mrs. Emily Fletcher Carl), and page 246, DAR # 144764 (Miss Mary Lillian Carl)

James Watson was born in 1743 in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His father, John Watson, drew up his will disposing of a considerable estate 16 days before he died on February 4, 1757. James was 14 at the time, and his father's will stipulated that that his real estate would go to his eldest son, David, and that James was to receive 60 pounds, to be paid to him when he reached the age of 21 (along with all interest). David was also directed to "duly maintain and decently clothe him [James] and give him one whole year's schooling of such lawful learning as of son James shall choose."

Like his brother, David, James Watson took an active interest in public affairs and was among the first of the patriots to withdraw his allegiance from George III and pledge his faith to the Colonies in their struggle for freedom. And also like David, he was an officer (eventually reaching the rank of colonel) of the Army of the American Revolution. According to the Pennsylvania Archives (2nd Series, Vol. 12, page 502, also 2nd Series, Vol. 13, page 353, also 2nd Series, Vol. 15, page 630), he received a commission as captain of a company of foot in a battalion raised in Lancaster County for the "Flying Camp" on July 8th, 1776, this being the third one issued after the signing of the Declaration of Independence (at which time he was 33); the commission was signed by John Morton, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly. He commanded the 2nd company in Col. James Cunningham's battalion of the "Flying Camp", which participated in the battle of Long Island on Aug. 27, 1776 under the command of Major William Hayes. The battalion remained faithful in the "famous retreat" through New Jersey.  He was commissioned Colonel July 1st, 1777 of the 2nd battalion of the militia of Lancaster County. (The DAR Lineage Books, source #3, records his service as "colonel of 2nd Battalion, Lancaster County volunteers.)  He also participated in the Battle of Germantown and in the Battle of Monmouth.

He married Elizabeth Long, of Chestnut Level, Lancaster County, in 1766, when he was 23 and she 20.  They had 12 children, most of whom lived to adulthood.  He also helped raise his three grandchildren by his daughter Martha Watson Prather; these were Henry, Watson, and Elizabeth Watson Prather (see copy of letter, below).

After the Revolution, he took up residence along the Chambersburg road in Franklin County, Pennsylvania.  It was five miles from his home along this same road that his friend and brother officer, Colonel Allison, had laid out the town of Greencastle in 1782.  Colonel Watson purchased two lots (Nos. 5 and 8) in the new town of Greencastle and acquired 1,000 acres in adjoining territory. He was appointed Justice of the Peace of the township of Greencastle in 1795, and when the town was incorporated in 1805, he was elected first burgess; he also acted as postmaster for more than 30 years. He frequently spoke with much indignation about the abuse of the pension laws, and commented, "My income is sufficient to support me. Pensions are not intended by the Government for men who have the means of self-support."

James Watson is buried in Moss Spring Graveyard, Greencastle, Pennsylvania. This old graveyard is located on East Grant Street (off Allison Street) behind the treatment plant. The following is a copy of a letter written by D. Watson Rowe, James Watson's great-grandson, about some of the recollections of his mother (Martha Watson Prather):

Chambersburg, Pa., July 28, 1891

My dear Cousin Mattie:

I send with this a copy of the commission of Colonel James Watson of Lancaster County, Pa. dated the first day of July 1977.

His commission as Captain is dated 8 July 1776 and is in the possession of my sister Lizzie Stover [NOTE: born Elizabeth Prather Rowe, in 1844]. The Colonel's commission, I have.

He was my Mother's Grand-father. She was brought up in his household from 3 years old, when her father died. [NOTE: Her father was Abraham Prather, who died July 31, 1818.]

On his death [NOTE: i.e., that of Abraham Prather], his widow, my mother's mother, by name Martha Watson Prather, came to live with her father, bringing my mother and her brothers Hanry Prather and Watson Prather, __________ father.

I have often heard Mother relate what she had heard from the lips of her grand-father Watson -- or his family after his death -- about his being in the Revolutionary War. He had been in the battle of Germantown and with Washington on Long Island, and as she understood him he was at the Battle of Monmouth.

He was born in 1743, and lived during the war of the Revolution at Chestnut Level in Lancaster County.

In his old and much worn and torn family Bible, in his own hand writing, are found these entries: 'James Watson married Elizabeth Long, daughter of Hugh Long of Chestnut Level the 25th. of June in ye year 1766 -- age when married 23 years and her age 20 years.' 'Martha Watson was born ye 16th. day of December A.D. 1773 at 4 o'clock in ye morning and baptized by ye Rev'd Jas Latta.' His daughter Martha was born in Lancaster County, Pa.

After the close of the Revolutionary War, Colonel James Watson removed from Lancaster County to Franklin County, Pa., and settled at Greencastle, which town was laid out in 1782.

He was appointed by General Washington as its first Postmaster and Justice of the Peace. Here he died July 2, 1831, and was buried in Moss Spring grave yard.

Here Martha Watson, his daughter, was married to Abraham Prather, son of Henry Prather, in the year 1809, Sept. 7. The Prather family, of English origin, had settled at Rockville, Maryland, at a very early day.

Abraham Prather and Martha Watson, his wife, had issue three children, namely -- Henry P. Prather, James Watson Prather and Elizabeth Prather. Abraham Prather died on the 31st day of July 1818, and Martha Watson Prather on May 28, 1841. Both lived and died near Greencastle, and their bones rest in Cedar Hill Cemetery, marked by a Marble slab.


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