Captain William J. Watson, postmaster of Pittsburg, Kansas, is a representative in the second generation of a family of soldiers and prominent citizens whose worthy endeavors have contributed much to the upbuilding and progress of the Sunflower state. He, although born after the storm and stress period of Kansas history, has found outlet for his patriotic energy and enthusiasm in the most recent war of our republic, in which he was an officer in one of the most brilliant regiments ever identified with the American army, and the wounds which he received in fighting for the island empire will be life-long marks of his valorous conduct. Outside of his connection with the pursuits of war, he has followed the profession of law, in which he has attained considerable eminence in his county and is ranked among the leading members of the Crawford county bar.
Captain Watson was born on a farm on the north line of Crawford county, near Cato, Kansas, in 1872, a son of Captain Alexander M. and Sarah Jane (Hadley) Watson, whose life history is given elsewhere in this volume. When he was quite young his father and family moved to a farm in Cherokee county, where he passed the years in farm and school work until the age of seventeen. He went through the high school at Pittsburg, and then took up the study of law in the office of John Randolph, of Pittsburg. He later attended the law department of the State University at Lawrence, where he graduated in 1896, being admitted to practice in the supreme court at the same time. He immediately began the practice of law at Pittsburg, and in April, 1897, was elected to the office of justice of the peace, being the youngest man ever elected to that office in this county. Up to the time of his election he had been a member of the law firm of Fuller, Randolph and Watson, but after his election the business of his office was of such magnitude that it took all his time and attention. His thorough knowledge of law combined with his judicial habits of mind so that he transacted with energy and expedition and utmost impartiality the large amount of business coming before him as justice of the peace.
April 27, 1898, two days after the formal declaration of war on the part of the United States, Mr. Watson left his office and went to the recruiting quarters in Pittsburg and enlisted as a private in Company D, of the famous Twentieth Kansas Volunteers, under Colonel (afterward brigadier general) Fred Funston. He enlisted on the first day that volunteer enlistments were received in Kansas. He was almost immediately elected first lieutenant of the company, and shortly afterward went to San Francisco, California, where the company remained in camp equipping and drilling for six months; then sailed for the Philippines and engaged in active service. He was with his company in the many trying marches, battles and skirmishes that fell to the lot of the brave and gallant Twentieth Kansas. On March 23, 1899, he was promoted to captain and assigned to Company E of the same regiment. On March 29 following he was wounded in the breast by a Remington bullet, at the battle of Guiguinto, Luzon, and he still carries that ball in his body. He was carried off the field, and at the time was not expected to live. He came home on the hospital ship Relief, arriving at San Francisco August 29. After recovering from his wound he was offered a commission in the Fortieth United States Volunteer Infantry, which was accepted to date from August 17, 1899. Shortly after joining his new regiment he was offered a detail as aide de camp on the staff of General Funston, but preferred to remain in the line command as captain of a company. He was accordingly assigned to Company M, Fortieth United States Volunteers, and sailed again for the Philippines November 17, 1899, having been previously mustered out of the Twentieth Kansas on October 28. At the siege of Cagayan, in Mindinao, on April 7, 1900, Captain Watson was again wounded by a bullet in the foot, and the wound was of such a serious nature, resulting in blood poison, that he was sent to the hospital at Manila, nearly a thousand miles away, where is was found necessary to amputate his leg just below the knee. He is thus the second member of the family to lose a limb in his country's service. Being permanently disabled for active field service, he returned home and received his honorable discharge from the army July 1, 1901, after three years and three months of honorable devotion to the flag of the republic borne into distant seas.
Captain Watson spent some time in recuperating his health, and then resumed his law practice in Pittsburg. He was building up a very representative and lucrative practice, when he was appointed postmaster of Pttsburg, receiving his commission on April 1, 1902. He still retains, however, his place in the legal profession, in which he intends to engage when he relinquishes his present office.
On November 11, 1899, before sailing for the second time to the orient, Captain Watson was married at Pittsburg to Miss Lotta Lindburg, a daughter of John R. Lindburg, president of the First National Bank of Pittsburg, whose history appears elsewhere in this work. Captain Watson is commander of the Wilder S. Metcalf Camp No. 3, of the Army of the Philippines. He and his wife are highly esteemed in the social circles of Pittsburg, and his talents and brilliant army record make him a person in whom the citizens of Pittsburg take a great deal of pride.Pages 572-575 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, in November, 2003.
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