Jonathan Watson was born in Derby, Vermont on November 16, 1819, and moved to Hartfoed, Connecticut when he was 18. He built an interest in a lumber yard in Hartford, which he ultimately sold for $5000 and then bought an interest in a lumber mill company in Titusville, Crawford County, Pennsylvania, moving there in 1845. He sold that company in 1860, to go into the oil business full-time. He had at least nine children by two wives. On the 1850 census his wife was named Joanna Chase (9 years younger); on the 1870 census his wife was Elizabeth Lowe (23 years younger).
Jonathan Watson became the first oil millionaire in the 1860s, amassing a personal fortune of over $2.8 million. He had been a partner in a lumber business, and was a participant with Col. Edwin L. Drake in the drilling of the country's first oil well on Watson's land in Pennsylvania. He leased and bought oil-rich land, and he organized the Drake Oil Company. By 1870 he had four servants, a sewing girl, a nurse, a coach man, and a bookkeeper living with him and his family in Titusville. At one time it was said that Titusville had more millionaires per 1,000 population than anywhere else in the world.
In 1866 Watson bought a beautiful home in Rochester, New York, and having developed a strong interest in mineral wealth, commissioned Professor Henry A. Ward, the founder of Ward's Natural Science Establishment in Rochester, to prepare for him a cabinet of choice mineral and fossil specimens. (The catalog of the collection is on file at the University of Rochester.) But his missed the thrill of the oil fields, and moved back to Titusville in 1868. His second wife deserted him, taking his remaining fortune with her, and he died on June 16, 1894. The "Watson cabinet" either passed to his heirs after his death, or went with the Rochester mansion when it was sold. Finally in 1941 it was sold back to Ward's (as announced in their ad in the September 1942 issue of Rocks & Minerals).
GIDDENS, P. H. (1947) Pennsylvania Petroleum, 1750-1872: A Documentary History. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 420 p.
U.S. Federal Census, 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880.
STEGNER, C. B. (1951) Site of park rich in history from early days. The Titusville Herald, July 25, p. 7 and 9.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||Ward's ad in the September 1941 issue of Rocks & Minerals|