Biographical History of Central Kansas, Vol. I, p. 253
published by The Lewis Publishing Co, Chicago & New York, 1902
ROBERT J. WATKINS
Grand View is one of the finest farms in Rice county and is the property of R J Watkins, a practical, enterprising and progressive agriculturist, whose possessions have been acquired entirely through his own efforts, resulting from capable management, untiring industry and keen discrimination in business affairs. He came to the county in 1879 and is there numbered among its early settlers, having been a witness of its growth and development for twenty-two years.
Mr Watkins was born in Logan county, Ohio, near Bellefontaine, on the 26th of April, 1855, and represents one of the old families of Virginia. His grandfather, John Watkins, was a native of that state, which indicates that at an early period the family was founded in America. Robert J Watkins, Sr, the father of our subject, was also born in Virginia and was reared near Wheeling, West Virginia, his boyhood days being passed in the usual manner of farmer lads of the period. The public schools afforded him his educational privileges. When a young man he went to Ohio and was married in Logan county, that state, to Miss Lydia Cowgill, a native of Logan county, where they began their domestic life, the father devoting his energies to farming and stock-raising until his death, which occurred when he was fifty-eight years of age. The political principles of the Republican party received his loyal support. He was a member of the Society of Friends, with which his wife was also identified, and in that faith they reared their children. Mrs Watkins died in Ohio, August 20, 1901, at the age of eighty-nine years. Her noble Christian life and her kindness of heart won her the love and esteem of all with whom she was brought in contact. This worthy couple were the parents of thirteen children, but only three of the number are now living, namely: John W and Ed, who reside in Logan county, Ohio, and Robert J, of this review. Those who reached mature years but have now passed away were Thomas, Deborah, Mary and Louisa, and the others all died in infancy or childhood.
Robert J Watkins, whose name forms the caption of this review, was reared upon the old home farm in Ohio and when old enough to handle the plow took his place in the fields, preparing the ground for cultivation in the early springtime, aiding in the work of planting as the season progressed and assisting in the harvest fields when the crops were ready for the garnering. He acquired a fair education in the public schools and supplemented his early study by a course in Earlham Academy, in Richmond, Indiana. He continued at home until twenty-five years of age, when he resolved to try his fortune in the west, believing that he might have better opportunities for advancement in the less thickly settled district beyond the Mississippi river. Coming to Kansas, he took up his abode in Wilson township, Rice county, in 1879, and secured four hundred and eighty acres of rich land. The soil, however, was rich in its latent possibilities, needing only the cultivating powers of man to make it productive. As the years passed Mr Watkins transformed the place into rich and fertile fields and added all modern improvements. He also secured the machinery necessary to facilitate farm work, erected substantial buildings and developed a farm which is well entitled to the name of Grand View. Upon the place is a fine grove of maple trees and box-elders. There is a good bearing orchard, commodious barns and sheds for the shelter of grain and stock, good feed lots and yards, rich pastures and grain fields which give evidence of coming harvests. Everything on the place is in good condition and the owner has every reason to be proud of his valuable farming property. In addition to the production of the cereals best adapted to this climate he breeds finest stock, including short-horn cattle and Poland-China hogs.
Mr Watkins was married on the 15th of February, 1898, in Lyons, Kansas, to Miss Lena E Cowdry, a cultured lady, who was reared and educated in Lyons a daughter of J A Cowdry, a prominent and well known resident of that city. Her father was born in Meigs county, Ohio, in 1847, and at the time of the Civil war responded to the call for aid, serving as a member of Company I, Second Ohio Infantry. He married Abbie Wolf, a native also of Meigs county, Ohio, and a daughter of John and Rebecca Wolf. They became the parents of four children, as follows: Mrs Lena Watkins; Elbert E, at home; J Ray, a dentist, who is engaged in practice in Lyons; and Herman, who is still with his parents. They also lost two children, Neil and Laurel, who died in childhood. The marriage of Mr and Mrs Watkins has been blessed with one child, a little daughter, Helen, who is the life and light of the household.
Mr Watkins is quite prominent in public affairs and his influence is strongly felt as a supporter of the Populist party. In the fall of 1895 he was elected sheriff and filled the position in such a capable and commendable manner that he was re-elected for a second term. An exemplary member of the Masonic fraternity, he has taken the degrees of the blue lodge in Sterling, Kansas, and also belongs to the royal Arch Chapter at that place. He is likewise a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. His disposition is cordial and genial, his manner friendly and courteous and his social qualities are such as have won for him a wide circle of friends, while in business affairs he is known for his reliability, and he has gained the confidence and good will of all.