Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Oran Datus Watson of Washington and Milam Counties, Texas

Oran Datus Watson (the name Oran was pronounced as “Iron” in the family) was born about 1814 - 1816 in South Carolina and was the son of James and Rhoda Watson. He accompanied his family to Bowie County, Republic of Texas in December 1836 and was awarded a second class land grant. Since he was an unmarried man, he received 640 acres. This land was located near the Bowie-Cass County line, adjoining his father’s 1280-acre grant. In 1853, he sold his land grant to his brother-in-law Azariah Moss, who married Christiana J. Watson.

Oran Watson left Bowie County in the late 1840’s and moved to Washington County, where his sister and brother-in-law, James and Mary (Watson) Holt lived. On March 3, 1850 in Washington County, Texas, he married Mrs. Minerva Margaret (Nunn) Gambill, widow of George W. Gambill, who died in 1849. She was the mother of three children: John T. Gambill, Hannah Eliza Jane Gambill, and Green P. H. Gambill. There were no children were born to Oran and Minerva Watson.

Oran Watson and his wife are recorded on the 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses of Washington County, Texas and the 1880 census of Milam County, Texas. All of these census records show that Oran was “deaf and dumb.” He was probably born with this disability or perhaps acquired it as the result of childhood illness. Oran could not speak, read, or write, except to write his name. According to documents relating to the lawsuit described below, he communicated with others by “making signs with his hands.”

Land transactions in both Washington and Milam counties show that Oran and Minerva Watson purchased a number of tracts during the years 1854 - 1883, all of which were later sold at a profit. Many of these tracts were rented, bringing in regular income over the years. It appears that Oran and Minerva had a profitable partnership during their thirty-eight year marriage, in spite of the obstacles related to his deafness that they no doubt faced.

After Minerva Watson died intestate in October 1888, her children and minor heirs filed suit against Oran Watson in Milam County District Court. The suit was filed one month after her death and alleged that Oran refused to provide the Gambill heirs with their mother’s estate, both real and personal. Oran died sometime between January and April 1891, while the suit was still pending; his place of burial is not known. Prior to his death, he engaged his brothers, Cary and Rodger Watson, to act on his behalf in defense of the lawsuit and conveyed all his property to them. When the suit was finally settled in November 1891, one-half of Oran’s lands were awarded to his wife’s heirs and one-half to his brothers, Cary and Rodger Watson.

© 2008, copyright Stephen Mills

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