JOEL G. WATKINS well represents one of the principal industries of the United States, that of agriculture, which must of necessity flourish, or no other industry can flourish, and which therefore is at the base of prosperity and progress. Mr. Watkins has a farm of one hundred and thirty-five acres in the town of Lenox, Madison County, upon which he has lived since 1854. He was born at Kirkville, Oneida County, January 22, 1830, a son of Truman Watkins, a native of New England, and, it is believed, of Connecticut, by occupation a farmer. The mother of Truman Watkins died when he was fifteen years old. He married Maria Prosser, who on her mother's side was of Dutch descent. She was the second wife of Mr. Watkins; and he was her second husband, each of them having had children by a former marriage. The first child born of this marriage was Joel G. Watkins; and besides him they had the following children: Garret, a farmer of Chittenango, and a reliable, religious man; William, who died in Ovid, Mich., in 1892, at the age of fifty-nine; Harriet, who died in infancy; Phebe, who married Henry White, and died in middle life, leaving no children; and Edwin and Edward, twins, who died within a few hours of each other, when eighteen months old. Truman Watkins died March 21, 1862, at the age of sixty-two, leaving a farm of two hundred and fourteen acres, which belonged to him and his son Joel jointly, and which had an encumbrance of nine thousand dollars. His widow was afterward married again, and survived him many years, dying in her daughter's home at Filer Settlement in 1884, at the age of seventy-six. She was the mother of ten children, and a most worthy woman, being of a retiring disposition and devoted to house-wifely and motherly duties.
Joel G. Watkins was reared to farm work, but in early life began to learn the carpenter's trade with Jacob Schuyler, thinking that he was a natural mechanic. He worked three years before finding out that in this supposition he had made a mistake. He has, however, worked at this trade to a greater or less extent all his life, though his principal occupation has been farming. In politics Mr. Watkins is a Republican, believing that party the most competent by experience and by principle to manage the great and varied interests of the nation. On his farm he raises a variety of crops, including tobacco, and has been a hop-grower for fifteen years. Of late he has kept a dairy of about eight cows, making butter in his little creamery at home. In 1873 he built a new farm-house, which was one of the finest dwellings in the town of Lenox; and its destruction by fire, January 1, 1891, was a severe loss to Mr. Watkins, as, besides being a handsome and commodious house, which was but partially insured, it contained many souvenirs and relics, articles precious from association, that can never be replaced. He now lives in his tenant cottage, and the old house erected by his father is still doing duty as a carpenter-shop and creamery. It is built, as houses always were in those days, with a very strong and heavy frame, its timbers being eight inches square and the sleepers four feet apart. It has been the scene of many a jolly frolic, such as the pioneers knew how to enjoy, but which now appear to have lost their charm.
Mr. Watkins was married November 11, 1854, to Miss Minerva I. Hopkins, a well-educated and capable young lady of about seventeen years, an adopted
daughter of Albert Cook, of Pompey Hollow, Onondaga County. Mr. and Mrs. Watkins are the parents of three children, namely: Ida W., wife of W. L. Chapman, of Bradford, Pa., by whom she has one son and one daughter, Will R. and Beatrice; Laura, wife of Robert L. Brophy, a grocer of Canastota; and Vinal A., a farmer, living at home, married to Hattie Weiner, daughter of Bernhart Weiner, whose wife was Catharine Rice, of Syracuse. Mrs. Hattie Watkins has two sisters living, namely: Julia, wife of Wellington Green; and Eva, wife of George Poland. Mrs. Ida W. Chapman is well known in Madison County as a reader and elocutionist. She is a graduate of the National School of Oratory and Elocution at Philadelphia, having received therefrom the degree of Bachelor of Elocution; and she is still a popular and successful teacher of elocution and Delsartism.
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