Anna Watts

Mrs. Anna L. Watts, living at her home on the corner of 23d St. and Fifth Ave., Rock Island, had the following to say:

I celebrated my 90th birthday the 21st of June this year. I was born at Llangollen, in Wales, on the twenty first of June 1825. My people came to Pittsburg Penn, when I was four or five years of age. We were six weeks on the water to Baltimore, and on over the mountains to Pittsburg with great teams. They used to have five horses, driving tandem, hitched to great heavy wagons. There were eight children of us and our parents. I am the only one that is left now of my family.

When I came to Pittsburg, there wasn't anything there hardly, there were great big wagons with five big horses, hauling oysters and other things. Everything had to be hauled in wagons from New York to the other Eastern points. This was in 1832. They had the cholra there then, but none of our people got it. We were a fine lot of children, and our folks were well fixed in Wales. Father died three years after I got here. He couldn't live in such a place, broken hearted over the change. He was a Miller in Wales. Father had a life estate in the mill in Wales and after him it would go to his children.

There were five brothers in the family, and he thought they'd do better here. Everyone was going to the new country.

He wanted to go back, but mother wouldn't go, because she was afraid of the ocean. She lived to an old age, but father lived only three years in this country.

There wasn't a hearse in Pittsburg in those early days. A man by the name of Hamilton was the undertaker, and he'd go around and take the measure of the deceased then make the coffin to order and deliver it on his shoulders.

Pittsburg grew very rapidly on account of the ore, coal, coke and then there was a little trade. They used to take the coal down the Ohio river also.

I came here to Rock Island in 1855. I was an old settler here you see. There was'nt anything much here at that time. We've been here on this corner for the last forty years.

I came on the boat, by way of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. I did'nt know the railroad was completed to this point, and did'nt know how to come by rail, but I did know how to come by boat.

I was married in Pittsburgh. When I came here I brought four children with me. Two boys and two girls.

This used to be the prettiest place I ever saw in my life and I've been to California.

There was a crabapple orchard in the neighborhood of where the viaduct is now. The grass was two feet high here, where fifth Ave. now is,- at that time there was no fifth Avenue here.

I used to take the children down to the shore. There were big boulders and big forest trees. There were two trails there. They used to burn wood in locomotives, and had a one horse saw to saw the wood for them.

Little Bobby ran out one day when he was three years, and he came in and says, "see mama what I've got, he had climbed into the tree and got a birds nest with white eggs, I got him to take them back, and explained to him that there would be little birds after while, and we went back and placed the eggs in the nest, and all his life from that time on, he has been a great lover of birds.

Where you folks live up on the hill, was a beautiful place; there were all kinds of birds and trees there. We used to take a basket and our coffee, then we'd get wild strawberries up there and have a fine picnic. The place between here and the river was fenced off, and there were no streets through here, but there was an old road called the Moline road and had a sign, "Moline three miles".

There were large boats went up and down the river in those days. When I came however, the large boats stopped at Keokuk, and I had to change on to a smaller boat. I suppose it was on account of the rapids and low water.

My husband was a brick contractor, and there are a great many buildings here which he put up. He enlisted during the Civil War and died in Libby prison. He was a member, and joined here in Rock Island of the 14th Illinois cavalry, of which Major Connelly was a member.

I remember the Fort on the island just as plain as can be, I could see it from my back door. I never was over on the island to see it. We had to go over in a skiff, but somehow I never went over, I was at the back door of our house, and saw the first bridge burn in 1857.

Mrs. L. M. Haverstick came as a bride from near Baltimore, and she met our people, and wrote back to her folks that she had found a mother here in Mrs. Watts. We were very dear friends of the Haversticks, and after Mr. Haverstick died, Mrs. Haverstick presented me with their copy of Judge Spencer's early Reminiscences, and I'm going to give this book to you now for the Historical Society as I think that is the proper place for it.

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