I've loved this two-story house in Watson for a long time. Many years ago I went to Watson Homecoming with my Dad, Richard Loy. Dad ran into Agnes Martin, the sister of one of his classmates from Watson High School, Merle Martin. Dad and Agnes started visiting and reminiscing.
The Martin family had lived in this house for many years and now it was owned by Agnes Martin. Dad told Agnes that I'd always loved her house. Agnes graciously invited my sister, Robin, and me to go through her house. I remember a beautiful melodion in the parlor and the full length windows that opened onto the front porch. The woodwork was gorgeous and there were steep stairs going up to the second floor. It was a lovely home inside and out. I sure wish I'd had a camera with me that day.
Many years have passed since that day and I've finally had the opportunity to research this house and the owners who built it, William and Eliza (Wayne) Abraham.
Much of the information on William, Eliza and their children comes from the 1910 "History of Effingham County, Illinois". The desire to research this home came from my years of admiring this house and the gracious tour given by Agnes Martin so many years ago.
William M. Abraham was born July 26, 1842, in Clermont County, Ohio, the son of John and Martha (Barkley) Abraham. In 1860, William moved to Elliottstown, Illinois, with his mother to help her start a store. He worked in the store and was Deputy Postmaster until he enlisted during the Civil War in 1861.
William enlisted first with the 21st Illinois Regiment and served in Company K for a 100-day enlistment. He then re-enlisted for three years under the command of General Grant. He was promoted to 1st Sergeant on Nov. 21, 1861.
Some of the campaigns 1st Sgt. Abraham was involved in were Frederickstown, Pittsburgh Landing (Shiloh), Perryville, Corinth and others. William was severely wounded during the Dec. 31 to Jan. 2, 1863, battle of Stones River, Tennessee. He lay on the battlefield until the next day when he was moved to a field hospital. The hospital was captured by the enemy leaving the care of the wounded to the Confederates.
Back then there was very limited nursing care available and whenever possible family members traveled to take care of their injured soldiers. His mother, who was not in good health, traveled down to take care of him but sadly after a week of tending to him, Martha Abraham died. William remained in a Nashville hospital until he was discharged from the Army in July of 1863. He then returned to Elliottstown. William still had one sister living there but I couldn't find any more information on her nor could I find where William's mother is buried.
In November of 1863, William went into partnership with J.F. Barkley in a mercantile store. (I'm thinking that since William's mother's maiden name was Barkley that this man was a relative of hers but I couldn't find any further information on J.F. Barkley).
William married Eliza Wayne in 1865. She was born June 21, 1842 in Kentucky. They moved to Watson, Illinois. In 1873, he bought out Barkley's share in the store. Over time, William bought up lots of land and at one time owned 3,000 acres in Effingham County. He gave liberally to charity and was especially interested in establishing good schoolhouses throughout the county.
William was also active in the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), a Civil War veterans' organization named after Palemon Schooley. He served as the commander of the GAR P. Schooley Post 418 in Watson several times. William was very concerned about his fellow Civil War veterans. He was also active in the Masonic Lodge with Watson Lodge 602 AF & AM.
William and Eliza had five children but two died in infancy. Miltie Abraham was born in 1866 and died in 1870. Charley Abraham was born in 1868 and died in 1869. The three who lived were Ida, Arthur and Eda.
Ida married John Curry and they ran the Pacific Hotel on Banker Street in Effingham. Arthur married Edith Gladson and they lived in Watson, where he worked in his father's store and later took over the business and became a banker. Eda married Frank Austin and they lived in Effingham, where Frank raised dairy cattle and started the canning factory.
Circa 1875 William and Eliza built a new home in Watson. The style of this home was selected by Eliza Abraham. It is a Gothic Revival with a steeply pitched roof, asymmetrical, with elaborate vergeboards in the gables and arched window headers. (Information on house from "Effingham County: A Pictorial Survey of Distinctive Structures More Than 50 Years Old".) Fortunately, this house is still standing in Watson, Illinois.
In 1878, William Abraham was elected to the 31st General Assembly of the Illinois House of Representatives. He represented Effingham, Cumberland and Shelby counties. Upon the completion of his term, he returned home and served in many local offices. In 1887, he became the treasurer for the newly formed Watson Fair Association. William Abraham was always very conscientious and always gave his best in whatever job or office he held.
In 1903, William turned his business interests over to his son, Arthur. He continued to be prominent in Watson and stayed involved with his fellow veterans in GAR, as well as working with Masonic Lodge 602.
William M. Abraham died on June 28, 1914, and is buried in Watson Cemetery. His beloved wife, Eliza, died on Jan. 27, 1927, and is buried by her husband. Ida (Abraham) Curry and Eda (Abraham) Austin are buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Effingham. Arthur Abraham is buried in Watson Cemetery.
I'm sharing pictures of William and Eliza Abraham, their home in Watson, the home of Arthur Abraham in Watson, the Pacific Hotel in Effingham, ran by John and Ida (Abraham) Curry, and the canning factory managed by Frank G. Austin, husband of Eda. I hope you enjoyed learning about the Abraham family of Watson.
Remember, I am always collecting photos of veterans, homes, schools, farms, people and businesses of Effingham County. If you have some that you would let me copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 217-821-2427. We are also looking for volunteers to help with many different opportunities in the museum. Contact me if you'd like to volunteer. We'd love to have your help.