DR. JOHN WATKINS
BIOGRAPHY and GENEALOGY
(transcribed from History of Conecuh County, Alabama:
Embracing a detailed record of events…pub. 1881)
By Benjamin Franklin Riley
Dr. John Watkins was a distinguished physician, who removed at quite an early period, to Conecuh County, Alabama, where he found himself almost alone, for some time, in his practice. Dr. Watkins was born within a short distance of the scene of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in 1775.
Having received a liberal education, he pursued his medical studies in Philadelphia, whence he was graduated in 1804. He first located at Abbeville Court House, South Carolina, where he practiced in the family of Senator John C. Calhoun. He removed to Alabama in 1813, and located first on the Tombigbee river. Later we find him at Claiborne—the only physician between the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers. Notwithstanding his decided usefulness in his chosen profession, he was urged to represent Monroe in the Constitutional Convention in 1819, and during the same year was elected to the Senate from the same county.
W. N. Manning, Photographer, March 6, 1934. FRONT ELEVATION. – Watkins House, State Highway 30, Burnt Corn, Conecuh County, AL
At quite an early period after the settlement of Conecuh, he removed to that county, where his ability was speedily recognized as a physician. But here again he was destined to share in political honors, for in 1828 he was sent to the Senate from Conecuh and Butler. Several years afterward he was chosen to represent Conecuh in the lower branch of the Legislature. In 1812 his services were again demanded in the realm of politics, and he was chosen Senator from Conecuh and Monroe counties. His devotion to his chosen profession, however, continued unabated, and he was assiduous in the accumulation of scientific works, that he might be the more fully prepared to meet the advancing demands of medicine. Dr. Watkins died at his home, near Burnt Corn, in 1854. He was a man of extraordinary physical powers. In manners he was exceedingly plain, and oftentimes very blunt.
W. N. Manning, Photographer, March 6, 1934. REAR ELEVATION – Watkins House, State Highway 30, Burnt Corn, Conecuh County, AL
The following characteristic anecdote is related of him: He had a patient who had for a long time suffered from extreme nervousness. Dr. Watkins having learned that she had a peculiar fondness for coffee, admonished her to discontinue its use. Having been called to visit her again, he found her with her head resting upon her palms, and leaning over the fire-place, where he spied the coffee pot, poised upon a pedestal of glowing coals. Without ceremony, he knocked it from its position, causing the contents to flow out, and then proceeded to kick it across the room, through the door, and into the yard. But he was universally esteemed for his benevolence and hospitality. His memory will ever be cherished in Conecuh, because of his superior public worth.
W. N. Manning, Photographer, March 6, 1934. VIEW TOWARD FIREPLACE IN LIVING ROOM. – Watkins House, State Highway 30, Burnt Corn, Conecuh County, AL
Additional information from Brewer, W. Alabama: Her History, Resources, War Record, and Public Men From 1540 – 1872. Montgomery, AL: Barrett & Brown, Steam Printers and Book Binders, 1872, pp. 195 -196
“the memory of John Watkins lingers in Conecuh. He was born within five miles of the present Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, in 1785, and was connected with many of the best families of that State. He was liberally educated, and was graduated in medicine at Philadelphia in 1815. He shortly after removed to South Carolina, where he practiced in the the family of Hon. J. C. Calhoun in Abbeville. Around that time, he came to the Tombigbee settlement, and soon after made Claiborne his permanent home. (this home was built in 1812 and still stands today. It is now owned by Postmaster Sam Lowery. The plaque by the front door reads: The Watkins House…Built in 1812 by Dr. John Watkins, the only physician in this part of the Mississippi territory at that period. Gen. Jackson passed here in 1814 to fight at the Battle of New Orleans and is reported that he stayed at the Watkins house.)
At that time he was the only physician between the Alabama and Chattahoochee rivers, and he was fully employed. He represented Monroe in the convention of 1819 that framed the constitution for the would be State, and the same year was chosen the first senator from the county. He settled in this county soon after it began to be peopled, and in 1828 was elected to the senate from Butler and Conecuh. Three years later he served Conecuh in the other branch of the legislature. In 1842-45 he represented Monroe and Conecuh in the senate, which was his last connection with public life. He died in 1853 on the verge of 68 years.
He was a man of extraordinary physical powers, and betrayed his age neither in his faculties nor his appearance. His manners were plain, and rather brusque, but his benevolence and hospitality were proverbial. He never sought popularity, but the people of Conecuh and Monroe honored him whenever he was a candidate. His literary taste and devotion to scientific research led him to collate one of the completest private libraries in the State, and his range of information was wide.
He married Mrs. Hunter, sister to Hon. W. B. H. Howard of Wilcox, and one of his sons is a physician and planter of Lowndes, while another fell in defence of his country during the late war. (Note: The name of Richard Watkins is hand written in at the end of this section).pp.445 -List John Watkins as a senator from Monroe County in 1819 and 1842.
According to Dictionary of Alabama Biography, p. 1789 John Watkins,…, son of Richard and Elizabeth (Parish) Watkins, the former a native of Virginia, who lived in that state and in Tennessee; grandson of William and Martha Watkins, who lived in Chesterfield and Charlotte County, Va.
pp.1681 Mark Butler Travis , son of Mark and Jemima (Stallworth) Travis read medicine under Dr. John Watkins and while en route to a distant state to prosecute further study on this subject, though only seventeen years of age, he enlisted in the famous “Palmetto Regiment: of South Carolina, on their way to join General Scott in Mexico.
According to Brantley, Mary E. Early Settlers Along the Old Federal Road in Monroe & Conecuh Counties Alabama. Baltimore, MD: Gateway Press, 1976, p.99 Dr. Watkins came in a caravan from South Carolina to the Fort Mims area shortly before the Massacre in 1813. He administered aid to the surviving victims.
He continued to live in this section for awhile and then moved to Burnt Corn where he reared his eight children. p. 7 The earliest doctor in these parts was Dr. John Watkins. He served the “Bigbee” Settlement and Claiborne Community before moving to Burnt Corn. At one time he was the only doctor between the Alabama River and the Chattahoochee River.
An anecdote about Dr. Watkins concers the Stroud family as follows: The death of Capt. Butler occurred about a week after the Ogly Massacre which took place March 13, 1818. This attack on the Oglys and the Strouds occurred at the Ogly home, on the Federal Road, some four miles west of Fort Dale. Mr. Ogly attended a military muster on the 13th of March, 1818, and on his way home that evening met an old acquaintance, Ell Stroud, who with his wife and children was passing through the country, & he persuaded them to accompany him to his home. That same night the house was attacked by Indians who robbed the settlers and murdered Mr. Ogly and four children. Mrs. Stroud was wounded as well as were two or three of the children. One of these, a girl who had been scalped, recovered and lived for many years at the home of Dr. John Watkins of Burnt Corn.
Mrs. Stroud died on the way to Claiborne where she was being carried for medical attention.
Note: The girl’s name was Elizabeth Stroud.
Prominent physician and farmer. Delegate to the Constitution Convention in Huntsville, Alabama in 1819.
He Lived one mile north of Burnt Corn on the old Federal Road. He was born in Virginia, within 5 miles of the present Appomattox Courthouse and was connected with many of the best families of the state. He was liberally educated and graduated in medicine at Philadelphia in 1804. Moved to South Carolina where he practiced medicine in the family of the Hon. J.C. Calhoun in Abbeville, South Carolina. In 1813 he moved to Tombigbee Settlement and soon after made Claiborne, Monroe, Alabama his permanent home. On the way to Claiborne, they spent the night at Fort Mims in Baldwin, Alabama. They learned some time later of their fortunate escape from death – not many hours after their departure, Indians attacked the fort, massacred the residents, and burned the buildings.
Dr. Watkins bought a plantation at Burnt Corn, named for an Indian battle. (John Watkins and sisters owned this 1700 acres in the area). During the Civil War, the Yanks came through Burnt Corn. They took all the farm animals and shot the chickens and other fowl, destroying what they could not use. The slaves buried the china and silver upon word of their coming. At that time he was the only physician between the Alabama and Chattahoochee Rivers.
He represented Monroe County in the Convention of 1819 that framed the Alabama constitution and was chosen the first senator from the county. He settled in the county in 1828 and was elected to the Senate from Butler and Conecuh counties. Three years later he served Conecuh in the other branch of the legislature. In 1842-45 he represented Monroe and Conecuh in the Senate.
He was a man of extraordinary physical power and betrayed his age, neither in his faculties nor his appearance. His manners were plain and rather brusque, and his benevolence and hospitality were proverbial. He never sought popularity, but the people of Conecuh and Monroe honored him whenever he was a candidate. His literary taste and devotion to scientific research led him to collect one of the most complete private libraries in the state.
He married Mary Thomas Hopkins Howard of SC. And they had at least one known son John Polk Watkins (mar. 15, 1846-July 11, 1897) who had Susie Cumming Watkins. (1878-1879)
FROM: Burnt Corn The Bethany Church was established in 1821 in nearby Conecuh County; moved to Puryearville (Monroe County) on Camp Ground Creek right outside Burnt Corn in 1846; and then in 1874 built a new building in the town of burnt Corn which is the church’s present day site.
The second location was where today the African-American Bethany Baptist Church States. After the War between the States the congregation divided, with the black congregation buying the church. The white congregation moved up the road and built another Bethany.
They also exhumed many of the dead burned behind the church and reburied them at the new location. Dr. John Watkins was one of the “exhumed” who was reburied in the Bethany Church Cemetery. Dr. Watkins was the first physician in this area. He came to the Tombigbee settlement in 1813, moved to Claiborne in 1817, and moved to Burnt Corn about 1825.
In 1996 the last remaining members donated the church to the Monroe County Heritage Museums.
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