Frederick Watts

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Frederick Watts
United States Commissioner of Agriculture
In office
1871–1877
PresidentUlysses S. Grant
Preceded byHorace Capron
Succeeded byWilliam Gates LeDuc

Frederick Watts (May 9, 1801 – August 17, 1889), is called the “Father of Penn State University[1] and was a prominent agricultural reformer, lawyer and businessman who headed the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Commissioner of Agriculture from 1871-1877 under President Ulysses S. Grant.

He served as President of the Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University (originally known as the Farmer’s High School, then Pennsylvania Agricultural College) from its founding in 1855 through 1874[2] He was President of the Cumberland Valley Railroad from 1840 to 1873. This early, small-gauge railroad ran from Carlisle to Harrisburg in 1831 and introduced the first "sleeper cars" in America; the bunks were nothing more than three rows of upholstered boards that were folded up during the day and then hung from connecting leather straps at night for sleeping. The first such car, the "Chambersburg," began service in 1839 and the "Carlisle" followed soon afterwards.

Life[edit]

Watts was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, the son of a prominent lawyer David Watts, and the grandson of a Brigadier General in the American Revolution, also named Frederick Watts. The young Frederick entered Dickinson College in Carlisle in 1815, but did not graduate because of the temporary closing of the school.[3]

He practiced law and held positions in the local courts starting in the 1820s. In 1849 he was appointed as president judge of Pennsylvania’s Ninth Judicial District Court.

In 1827 Watts married Eliza Cranston, who bore three daughters before her death in 1832. In 1835 he married Henrietta Ege in 1835, who bore five sons and one daughter. He was a Whig and a member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Carlisle. He had a law office and residence at 20 East High Street, now part of the Fraternal Order of Eagles in Carlisle. He also lived with his family at "Creekside" on the Conodoguinet, an important example of brick Gothic Revival residential architecture, now on the Cumberland Valley Register of Historic Places, and also one of Carlisle's listed "Civil War Buildings." The covered wooden Watts Bridge spanned the Conodoguinet Creek near here, until it was destroyed by storm and vandals in the 1980s; it was then replaced by a concrete structure.

He organized the Carlisle Gas and Water Company in 1854, and served as a member of the Dickinson College Board of Trustees (1828-1833, 1841-1844).[3]

In 1838, he and a partner bought the Pine Grove Iron Works on South Mountain near Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.[4]

In 1840, with the help of Cyrus McCormick he demonstrated the operation of McCormick’s reaper for the first time in Pennsylvania.[5] On the day appointed for the test, between 500 and 1,000 people showed up at Watts' farm to watch the "new-fangled" machine be put through its paces. When the farmhand sent to collect the cut grain was having difficulty managing his task, a stranger stepped out of the crowd to demonstrate the proper technique; it was none other than Cyrus McCormick himself. His reaper proved to be one of the most important labor-saving agricultural devices of the nineteenth century.

In 1851 Watts was elected the first President of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society.

He lobbied for the passage of the Morrill Act, which became law in 1862 and founded land-grant universities.

References[edit]

  1. ^ [1] Archived September 1, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. ^ [2] and helped to organize many of the elements of what became the Land Grant College movement in America. Archived January 25, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b Default Entry. "Frederick Watts, Class of 1819". Chronicles.dickinson.edu. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
  4. ^ "Pennsylvania State Parks - Pine Grove Furnace History - PA DCNR". Dcnr.state.pa.us. Retrieved 2011-10-15.
  5. ^ "Explore Pennsylvania history". Retrieved 2011-10-15.

External links[edit]