Jabez Bunting Watkins, lawyer, banker, land owner and prominent citizen, was born in Indiana county, near Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, June 25, 1845, son of James and Barbara (Sprankle) Watkins. His father, a native of Wales, immigrated to America when twenty-five years of age, and died in Pennsylvania when Jabez B. was only eight years old. The mother was born in Pennsylvania of German parents. The first fourteen years of Jabez B. Watkins' life were spent in Indiana and Blair counties, Pennsylvania. Then, with his mother, brothers and sisters he removed to Fairfax county, Virginia, where, in a cabin of two rooms and an attic, they resided during the stirring scenes of the Civil war. Many times young Watkins was forced to resist the depredations of the Confederates, and from his home he plainly heard the roar of cannon in both battles of Bull Run. Eight days after the first engagement at that place the Confederate "Black Horse Cavalry" took four of the Watkins' horses, but with the aid of a hired man, Mr. Watkins recaptured the animals, outran the four pursuers and safely hid the horses in the woods. A sister of Jackson, the man who killed Colonel Ellsworth, was Mr. Watkins' school teacher, and at the funeral of Colonel Ellsworthduring a delay incident to the forming of the funeral processionyoung Watkins rested on a wheel of President Lincoln's carriage. He never had a speaking acquaintance with Lincoln, but during those stirring times had many opportunities of seeing him, and he heard him deliver his inaugural address in 1861. He was in the rotunda of the capitol at Washington when the vote was taken upon the impeachment of Andrew Johnson.
In 1864 Mr. Watkins went North to attend school, and graduated in the law department of the University of Michigan in 1869. During his school days he taught six terms of school in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Wisconsin. From 1870 to 1873 he practiced law at Champaign, Ill., where he developed a large business in the examination of lands and real estate titles. In August, 1873, he removed to Lawrence, Kan., where he has continuously resided throughout a singularly prosperous business career. He established a branch of his business in New York in 1876, in London in 1878, at Dallas, Tex., in 1881, and in 1883 incorporated, his business as the J. B. Watkins Land Mortgage Company. Since 1872 he has invested $12,000,000 in land mortgages. In 1882, in London, he organized the North American Land & Timber Company. The next year he bought from the state and United States governments 1,500,000 acres of land in southwest Louisiana, and for the development of this tract, in 1890, he built, owned and operated 100 miles of railway from Lake Charles to Alexandria, La. He owned all of the town sites on this railway, and all of the deeds given for lots sold contain a clause forbidding forever the sale of intoxicating liquors on the premises. This provision has been sustained by the courts. Lake Charles owes its growth from a small hamlet to a thriving city largely to the activity and foresight of Mr. Watkins. He is president of the J. B. Watkins Land Mortgage Company and of the Watkins National Bank.
In 1911 he surrendered his interest in the North American Land & Timber Company for property and cash to the amount of $800,000. In the States of Kansas, Louisiana and Texas he owns and is largely interested in 294,000 acres of land. In 1911 he built one of the most modern and handsome residences in the country, situated on Mount Oread, overlooking as grand a view as there is in the United States. The residence is named "The Outlook." Mr. Watkins cast his first vote for Horace Greeley for president and since that time has affiliated with the Democratic party. In 1896 he published "The True Money System for the United States."
In Brooklyn, N. Y., Nov. 10, 1909, Mr. Watkins married Elizabeth Josephine, daughter of Dr. V. G. Miller, of Lawrence, Kan. Mr. Watkins was named in honor of Jabez Bunting, a noted Methodist minister, who is buried in the Wesley churchyard in London, England. Across the road from Rev. Mr. Bunting's grave lie the bodies of John Bunyan, Daniel DeFoe and Isaac Watts, authors respectively of "Pilgrim's Progress," "Robinson Crusoe" and "Gospel Hymns."Pages 1200-1202 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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