James Holliday Watkins

James Holliday Watkins

Robert & Rachel Watkins Family History

The earliest information on the Watkins Family genealogy and history was provided by Wells Watkins (1818 - 1906), an uncle of Kimmel K. Watkins. Additional information was added by Kimmel, and by distant cousins in the Kimmel line (ancestors of K.K.'s mother).

Extensive research in the family's ancestral state of Delaware was done by my second cousin Ralph Watkins, grandson of Dorr and Opal Richards Watkins, and son of Dick and Evelyn Pittman Watkins. Despite his efforts as well as work by other researchers, we have never been able to go back beyond Robert and Rachel Holliday Watkins, who lived in Kent County DE, and died in the late 1700s. We do have evidence that Rachel was the daughter of William Holliday and Phoebe Morris.

Ralph compiled the history below from various sources in 2002, and has graciously given permission to post it on line.

--Dick Estel, February 2012


Robert & Rachel     James & Sara     James H. & Nancy     Kimmel K. & Tillie

Other Family Members     Other Family & Genealogy Links


First Generation - Robert Watkins and Rachel Holliday

The earliest record relating to our branch of the Watkins family is from the eve of the American Revolution. One of the most important characters in the drama of the Declaration of Independence was a delegate from the state of Delaware, Cesar Rodney. As the break with England approached in early 1776, Rodney had returned to his Delaware home from the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. He organized local militia to prevent loyalists in Delaware from seizing power. In his absence, however, the Delaware delegation was evenly divided, with one delegate opposing independence and the other in favor. As the Congress had already agreed to declare independence only if every state voted in favor, it was critical to secure Delaware’s vote. The pro-independence leaders sent a message to Rodney to return to Philadelphia. He received the message on July 1 and rode his horse all night to arrive in Philadelphia on July 2, just in time to break the deadlock before the crucial vote. There are several statues in the state of Delaware showing Cesar Rodney on horseback, galloping toward Philadelphia and independence.

The Watkins connection to this story comes from Cesar Rodney’s role as a justice of the peace in Kent County, Delaware. Robert John Watkins and his wife, Rachel Holliday Watkins, lived in Kent County in an area known as the Duck Creek Hundred. On May 3, 1776, Rachel’s brother William Holliday died. Under his will, Robert Watkins was named as executor and Samuel Watkins, Robert’s oldest son, was named as a beneficiary. An accounting of the estate was signed by justice of the peace Cesar Rodney on June 29, 17761 - just shortly before the judge was summoned to return to Philadelphia.

Cesar Rodney statue

Despite this close brush with an historic figure, it appears that Robert Watkins played no role in the Revolution, as he and his increasing family were listed on the annual censuses conducted by Delaware. As a colony and in its early years as a state, Delaware had a head tax imposed on every male over 18 (including "free negroes" who were listed separately). The lists of people to be taxed, "levy lists," were assembled by "hundreds." In Delaware, there is a subdivision of the county called a hundred - originally in England, it was a group of 100 families, but it evolved into just a convenient subdivision of the county. Robert Watkins and his children lived in Duck Creek Hundred, the northernmost hundred in Kent County. On a map of Delaware, the middle county is Kent, and Duck Creek Hundred is a few miles along the northern border with New Castle County (you may see Duck Creek flowing through it). Although many of the records are lost, Thomas Watkins is listed in all the existing ones from 1773 up to 1797. Robert Watkins is listed from 1773 up to 1788. (No Watkins were listed in Duck Creek Hundred in 1774, but their absence appears to be temporary, as both Robert and Thomas Watkins are listed in years on either side.) The Thomas Watkins on the levy lists is probably a brother to Robert, however, since the 1782 Delaware census shows the Robert Watkins household with 1 male over 18, 4 males under 18, 1 female over 18 and 2 females under 18. (My guess as to the discrepancy in the number of boys and girls from 1782 to 1789 is that a daughter died and another son was born.) These tax records indicate that the family owned no land. Even if the family had money to buy land, the unsettled conditions of the Revolution may have interfered. A survey of the land records for Kent County revealed that no sales or purchases were recorded from mid-1776 until 1784, when the war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris.

The young family did not have long to enjoy the new nation’s independence: On May 12, 1789, Rachel Watkins, James Scotton, and Acquilla Attic filed a bond in the county court on behalf of Rachel Watkins as the administrator of the estate of Robert Watkins, who had evidently died shortly before. The name "Rachel Watkins" is written at the bottom, with a mark between "Rachel" and "Watkins," and an annotation "her mark," indicating that she probably could not read or write.2 The young widow later married one of the executors, Clayton Curwell, on October 26, 1790.3

An accounting in the Orphans Court filed May 30, 1793, names as the children of Robert Watkins: Samuel, James, Robert, Sarah, Christopher, and Thomas. For all except Thomas, the costs included "4 months and 24 days board and schooling, 4 pounds, 15 shillings" followed by an entry for "Cash pd. Schoolmaster, 16 shillings, 8 pence." I surmise from the omission of schooling for Thomas that he was the youngest. It was interesting to note that the values of the estate were given in pounds, shillings, and pence, evidence that the new money system based on the dollar had not yet been accepted. Further distributions and corrections to the earlier distributions were filed through 1802, by which time James Scotton, one of the original executors, had died.4

1. Delaware Archives, Kent County, Register of Wills, A.24, 218-221, Liber L, Folio 180

2. Delaware Archives, Kent County, Register of Wills, Liber M, Floio 194

3. Delaware Archives, Kent County, Vol. 2, p. 73

4. Delaware Archives, Kent County


Second Generation - James Watkins and Sara Fisher

Economic conditions in Delaware were hard after the Revolution. A review of the census reports indicated that many people had migrated west in search of land. The Northwest Territories, land that is today Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, was just being opened to settlement. The Watkins brothers moved to Ohio early.

One clue that may explain why they moved to the area around Steubenville, Ohio is that John Holliday, possibly a relative of their mother, Rachel Holliday, had operated an inn across the river in Holliday’s Cove. That settlement is now known as Weirton, West Virginia. John Holliday was an early settler in what is now Weirton, West Virginia, arriving in 1776 along with two sisters, Sally and Ann. He was in his 40's or 50's at the time. He was sent by "the council at Fort Pitt" to find a location for a fort near the Ohio River. The fort was built and was referred to as Holliday’s Fort and the area around it became known as Holliday’s Cove. John Holliday operated his inn at the site until his death in 1787.1 Additional research is needed to determine if this John Holliday was related to Rachel Holliday.

On March 6, 1805, James Watkins married Sara Fisher in Jefferson County, Ohio.2 Jefferson County is today the area in and around Steubenville, Ohio. Sarah and her brother Stephen Fisher inherited and sold an interest in their father’s land in Jefferson County.3 Because the record of this transaction listed the spouses of both Sarah and Stephen, it confirmed their identities in the next land transaction record. On May 8, 1819, Stephen Fisher and his wife Elizabeth sold to James Watkins and his wife Sarah a quarter-section of land in Wayne County, Ohio, near what is today the town of RIttman.4

Reconstructed Fort Steuben

Stephen Fisher had purchased the land from the United States government in 1816.5 Land records show that James’ brothers Christopher and Thomas also purchased land nearby. They were pioneer settlers of the county. (See 1830 map of Milton Township, below, with large areas without ownership designated - indicating that this land was still unsettled.)

James and his wife Sarah had eight children: Susan, Elizabeth, John, Robert, Rachel Ann, Wells, James, and Benjamin. James Watkins died on August 6, 1836. I could find no record relating to the funeral or burial of James Watkins. Although the children’s shares in the family land were purchased by John Watkins (including a sheriff’s sale in 1840 evidently arranged to transfer the interests of the minor children), by 1850, the entire Watkins family had left Wayne County.6

1. History of Holliday’s Cove, Mary Shakley Ferguson, 1976, pp. 12, 25-26.

2. 1805: Marriage records - Jefferson County , Ohio: No. 96 James Watkins & Sarah Fisher

I do hereby certify that the marriage of James Watkins and Sarah Fisher was solemnized by me a Minister of the Gospel on the seventh day of March in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and five by virtue of a license issued by the clerk of Jefferson County bearing date the 6th day of March 1805.Given under my hand the 16th day of March Anno Domini 1805.

--Lyman Potter, M.G.  

Received and duly recorded the 16th day of March Anno Domini 1805. Jn. Ward, Clerk

3. Land records, Jefferson County , Ohio , deed recorded April 28 A.D. 1812

4. Wayne County, Ohio, Recorders Office records for 1819.Stephen Fisher had purchased the land from the United States in 1815, indicating his address as “ Jefferson County , Ohio ” in that purchase.

5. Wayne County, Ohio Recorders Office, deed recorded 23 day of July A.D. 1816.

6. Review of census records


Third Generation - James H. Watkins and Nancy Kimmel

James Holliday Watkins, born April 1, 1820, was only 16 at the time of his father’s death. James and his brothers Wells and Benjamin were minors and the Wayne County court appointed Christian Knup (or Krup) as a guardian. Accounts were filed with the court until April 4, 1841 for this guardianship.

James H. Watkins

James H. Watkins

Nancy Kimmel Watkins

Nancy Kimmel Watkins

(Click on photos for a larger view)

James H. Watkins married Nancy Kimmel in Wayne County, Ohio,[1] and the couple moved to Grafton Township in Lorain County, where they were listed in the census of 1850. At that time, their children were William, age 7; Oliver, age 4; John I, age 2; and Sarah E., aged 2 months. The family later moved to Fulton County, apparently in 1853.[2]   

On June 11, 1853 , James H. Watkins purchased from Wells Watkins, his brother, a parcel of land in Fulton County in the southwest quarter of section 2, township 7 north, range 8 east. This was located immediately west of Swanton, Ohio, north and east of Delta, Ohio in what is now Fulton Township. (See parcel marked “1" on the map.) This parcel had originally been purchased from the United States by Africa Spaulding, then sold to James’ brother Benjamin Watkins, who sold it to Wells Watkins.[3] James and Nancy evidently lived on this parcel for only 6 years, selling it in 1859 to the heirs of Mary Cowles.

A map of Fulton Township from 1858 shows the property owned by J. Watkins in the southwest quarter of Section 2 with the remainder of that quarter-section still owned by A. Spaulding.

James H. Watkins and his wife Nancy next purchased 35 acres in section 30 of Swan Creek Township (see parcel marked “2") on December 5, 1863 for $500 and sold it to Jacob Detwiler in 1865 for $750.The next land purchase occurred in 1866, as James bought land in section 25 of York Township from Martin Fernwald and sold it to

Richard Terwiliger on the same day.[4] The third transaction noted on the map is the purchase by Nancy Watkins from John and Margaret Watkins, on March 17, 1873, of 18 acres in the northwest corner of the northeast quarter section of section 5, in Swan Creek Township, marked as “3" on the map. This land was sold by Nancy and James on April 28, 1876, a mere three years later. On October 4, 1879, Sarah Garwood sold lot 13 of “Palmers Addition” to Wauseon to Nancy Watkins, for $500. Nancy owned this land until December 11, 1899, six years after the death of James and three years before her own death, but at that time it sold for only $50, a significant loss, perhaps due to a depressed economy.

The census of 1870 recorded a large family for James and Nancy: 6 sons (William, Oliver, John, Kimmel, George, and Frank) and 1 daughter (Nancy), ranging in age from 7 to 25 years, with the oldest two sons listed as farm laborers.[5]James Watkins lived until 1893, and was buried in the Fulton Union Cemetery , near the land on which he had made his living.  His wife Nancy survived him by about 9 years, dying in 1902.

Fulton County Courthouse in Wauseon, OH


1. Either on April 1, 1841 or September 1, 1841

2. History of Fulton County, Ohio, Frank Reighard, p. 253

3. Barber’s Abstract. Fulton County’s deed records were destroyed when the Ottokee courthouse burned in 1864, but duplicate records keyed to parcels of land (called “abstracts”) were accepted in the County Recorder's Office.) See Appendix , p1.

4. Fulton County deed records, Vol. 19, pp. 418, 419

5. Census of 1870, Fulton County, Ohio, Fulton Township, Family #260; Appendix, p. 2.


Fourth Generation - Kimmel Kyper Watkins and Priscilla (Tillie) Richardson

Kimmel Kyper Watkins was born June 16, 1859 in Lorain County. He was a son of James Holliday and Nancy (Kimmel) Watkins. Kimmel said that his parents did not give him a middle name, but allowed him to choose one when he came of age. As there was a family named “Kyper” in Fulton Township at that time, it is possible that he chose that name because the Kypers were neighbors and friends.

K.K. & Tillie wedding photo (1884)

K.K. & Tillie wedding photo (1884)

K.K. & Tillie, probably 1913

K.K. & Tillie, probably 1913

(Click on photos for a larger view)

Kimmel Kyper Watkins and Tillie Jeanette Richardson were married July 16, 1884 by the Rev. S.C. Garwood.[1]

I could not find land ownership records for the early years of their marriage. However, in 1910 they purchased land in section 5 of Fulton Township, 60 acres described as bounded by a line beginning 35 rods north of the southeast corner of the northeast quarter.[2] The approximate location is shown by an arrow at the top center of the map at right - a bit south of where the Ohio Turnpike now crosses County Road 5. (A “rod” equals 16.5 feet, so the property began about 1/10th mile north of the mid-point of the section.)

Frank Reighard’s History of Fulton County, published some time between 1918 and 1922, contained the following biographical entry for Kimmel Kyper Watkins:  

Kimmel Kyper Watkins. The Watkins family story embraces several Ohio counties, Kimmel Kyper Watkins, of Fulton Township, having been born June 16, 1859 in Lorain County. He is a son of James Holliday and Nancy (Kimmel) Watkins. The father was born in Wayne County and the mother in Somerset County. They married in Wayne and in 1850 they moved to Lorain, and three years later they removed to Fulton County, locating in Swan Creek Township. They cleared a farm, and a few years later they bought a timber tract in York Township.He died in 1893 and she died in 1902.

There were ten children in the Watkins Family: Milton, Oliver, John, Sarah, Mary, William, and Ella, deceased, Kimmel K. of this sketch, George, who lives in Swanton, and Frank in Toledo. When Mr. Watkins was thirteen he began working by the month, doing for himself. On July 16, 1884, he married Tillie J. Richardson, of Swan Creek. She is a daughter of George H. and Laura (Blake) Richardson. After two years in Fulton Township Mr. Watkins removed to Kane County, Illinois, where he worked as a broom maker and by the month on farms for four years.


When Mr. Watkins returned to Fulton County he rented land from 1892 until 1910, when he bought sixty acres where he has since lived, although since 1918 a son works the farm. The children are: Earl, who works the farm; Ethel, deceased; Opal, wife of George Mason, of Pike; Ross, of Pike, married Fern Sheffield; Orra, who was married February 7, 1920 to Florence Bruner; and Dorr, at home. The family are Methodists. Mr. Watkins is a republican, and he is a justice of the peace. He has been school director and township trustee. He belongs to the Berry Grange at Ai.

This is a brief reference to one of the families and one of the individuals who have played an earnest and hard working part in the affairs of Fulton
County for many years. It is a well known fact that in America success can be achieved by men who begin life without capital, and a case in point is that of Mr. Watkins, who had no other assets than a trade and the qualifications of industry and skill as a farm worker, and he raised himself through successive stages of farm hand and farm tenant to independent ownership of a good country home and a place of influence in his community.[3]

Kimmel and Tillie had four sons (Earl, Ora, Ross, and Dorr Clark) and two daughters, Ethel (who died in childhood), and Opal.

Kimmel Kyper Watkins served as a trustee of Fulton Union Church at the time its new building was constructed in 1910, following the burning of the original building after a lightning strike.

1. Marriage records of Fulton County, Ohio. See Appendix, p. 3

2. Fulton County deed records, Col. 112, p. 116.See Appendix, p. 4.

3. From History of Fulton County, Frank Reighard, p. 253



Other Family Members

Wells Watkins (Uncle of Kimmel Kyper Watkins)

Wells Watkins, born in Jefferson County, Ohio, April 7, 1818, left there in August 1838 and journeyed nine days to reach Fulton County. Here he settled and endured the hardships of pioneer life.

The first winter he carried his grist three miles on his back to a horse mill; walked to Perrysburg to market, starting on Monday morning and returning on Saturday evening. He paid $15 per barrel for flour, 15¢ a lb. for pork, $1.50 a bushel for potatoes, and at that time Wells had to chop two and a half cords of green wood for a day's work, for which he was paid 50¢.

The Indians were numerous, and the nearest village was Maumee, and this continued for some time after the early settlement of the township. Wells served in the Civil War, Co. H, 130th Reg. Ohio Volunteer Inf. in 100 days service.

(Delta Atlas, August 13, 1975, quoting Mikesell’s History of Fulton County, p. 183)


Robert Watkins (Uncle of Kimmel Kyper Watkins)

Robert Watkins was born in Wayne Co., Ohio, Oct. 20, 1810 and died Feb. 27, 1897, age 86y, 2m, 7d. He was one of the hardy pioneers of Northwestern Ohio and moved in 1838 to Fulton County and began life in the backwoods with no light at night save that of the open fireplace.

Early in their settlement, the wolves howled outside, but he felt safe with his faith. In 1843, he married Rachel Zimmerman, who preceded him several years ago in death. In 1869, he united with the United Brethren Church. He lived to see the Indian trails over which he carried his grist to distant Maumee on his back crossed by a network of railroads, and the slow mail coach give way to telephone and telegraph lines. No wonder this man in his declining years was often heard to say, "I thank God with all my strength to have lived in this great age." He is survived by three children, seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. The funeral was held at the Fulton Union Church on Monday, conducted by Rev. William Clark.

(From “Old Obituaries” in “Pioneers Around Delta, Ohio,” column in the Delta Atlas, November 15, 1978.

George Watkins (Grandson of Christopher Watkins, second cousin of Kimmel Kyper Watkins)

George W. Watkins is another of those worthy citizens who were born and reared in Fulton County and have here upborne the high reputation of a name honored in the county from the early pioneer days, and his has also been the wisdom to hold tenaciously and effectively to the great basic industry of agriculture, through connection with which he has met with a measure of success which stands to his credit and which can not be other than a source of gratification to him.

He is one of the representative farmers of Fulton Township and not far-distant from his present fine homestead, in the same township, was the parental home in which he made his debut in the drama of life, on the 25th of November, 1847. He is a son of Wesley and Catherine (Fesler) Watkins, the former of whom was born in Wayne County, Ohio, February 23, 1816 , and the latter was born in Pennsylvania, January 3, 1825. Their marriage was solemnized in Fulton County, in January 1846, and they became the parents of six children, of whom George W. was the first born.

Julius Alonzo, born February 13, 1848, died September 20, 1878; Thomas, born August 8, 1851, is a successful farmer of Pike Township; Lewis C., born May 21, 1856 , is identified with railroading operations in the South; William W., born January 24, 1871 , is a resident of Nebraska and is a railroad man; Libbie Jane, born September 19, 1863 , is the wife of Thomas H. Fraker, a farmer near Delta, Fulton County.

The honored father died on the farm now owned by his eldest son, on the 24th of September, 1869, and his wife died September 16, 1889. They were well-known pioneers of the county, where they lived lives of signal honor and usefulness and they held the unqualified esteem of all who knew them. George W. Watkins was educated in the district schools of his native township, where he has maintained his home from the time of his birth, and he has been continuously associated with the work of the old homestead farm, of which he became the owner in 1880, having purchased the interest of the other heirs. In politics, Mr. Watkins was originally a Democrat, but in 1884 he transferred his allegiance to the Prohibition Party, whose cause he supported for a number of years by ballot and influence, and in the election of 1904 he exercised his franchise in support of the Republican candidates, National and State.

As touching the genealogy of Mr. Watkins it may be said that his grandfather, Christopher Watkins, was one of four brothers, and his brother Robert came to Fulton County in the early 1830s, securing, in association with his son, Christopher, one thousand acres of land in Fulton and Pike townships.

March 20, 1880 was solemnized the marriage of George W. Watkins and Miss Mary E. Biddle, who was born in Wayne County, Ohio, May 23, 1854, being the youngest of the children of George and Nancy (Lawrence) Biddle, the former of whom was born in Wayne County, and the latter in Pennsylvania, the respective dates of nativity having been March 11, 1808 and January 25, 1813 . Mr. and Mrs. Biddle were married in Wayne County whence they came to Fulton County in 1860, locating on a farm near Delta, and they passed the closing years of their lives in York Township, the father passing away in August, 1878, and the mother was summoned to the life eternal, August 21, 1902 .

Concerning the children, the following brief data are entered: Henry, born January 4, 1833, died December 5, 1888; Nancy, born September 9, 1835, is the wife of Adam Geitgey, a farmer of Wayne County; Rachel, born December 18, 1837, is the wife of Simon Snyder, of Delta; Benjamin, born April 28, 1840, is a resident of Toledo; Jacob, born February 5, 1843, died in Delta, February 7, 1885; John L. born March 21, 1846, resides in Delta; Samuel, born November 11, 1848, died in infancy; George W., born November 23, 1851, is a resident of Clinton Township; and Mary E., the youngest, is the wife of Mr. Watkins.

(From The County of Fulton, Thomas Mikesell, editor, Whippoorwill Publications, 1905, pp. 612 – 614.)

Kimmel & Tillie Watkins

Kimmel & Tillie Watkins

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Updated July 22, 2017