Revised 29 September 2013.
Eliza Ann Graham was the older sister of John Henry Graham. She was born on Saturday, 5 September 1868 somewhere in Alabama to parents Jesse and Sarah Graham. Jesse and Sarah were apparently quite the vagabonds since by 1870 they had moved to Texas where John Henry was born, and then by 1880 they had all settled in Searcy County, Arkansas.
The 1880 census recorded the Graham family living in Bear Creek Township. Eliza was 13 years old, living with her parents Jesse and Sarah, 15 years old brother William, 8 years old brother John Henry, and one year old sister Mary. Everyone’s birth place was recorded as Alabama, except for John’s as Texas, and Mary’s as Arkansas. It was indicated that Sarah and the children could neither read nor write, and that William and Eliza had not attended school during the census year.
Recorded on the census next to the Grahams was the family of William Alexander Watts, Junior.
On Thursday, 5 August 1886, Mister James Newton Siler Watts of Red River Township, with his father William A. Watts, Jr. as security, paid a $100 bond to the county for a license to marry Miss “Louisa A. Graham”, as her name was erroneously recorded by the county clerk, M. Dampf. James and Eliza were married on the same day, the ceremony having been conducted by Calvin T. Cotton.
Thursday, 17 November 1887, their daughter Ola Elizabeth Watts was born.
On Wednesday, 2 October 1889, James signed as security for Eliza’s brother John Henry Graham when he purchased a license to marry Mary Matilda Bohannon.
Data on James and Eliza is not available from the 1890 census, as it was destroyed in a fire in 1921.
James and Eliza’s second child, James Madison Watts was born 0n Monday, 2 February 1891.
Emma Sarah Watts, their third child, was born on Saturday, 1 October 1892.
Mary Ausidine Watts was born to the couple on Friday, 1 September 1893.
Tuesday, 28 May 1895, the land office in Harrison, Arkansas issued a land patent to Siler Watts for a parcel located at “the North West quarter of Section fourteen in Township thirteen North of range sixteen West of the Fifth Principal Meridian in Arkansas, containing one hundred and sixty acres…” Since homesteaders had to occupy their land for five years before being issued a patent, Siler and Eliza had settled this parcel sometime around 1890, perhaps even as soon as following their marriage in 1886, allowing for the inevitable governmental delays in processing paperwork.
Their last child, William Jesse Bell Watts, was born on Thursday, 7 January 1897.
On Friday, 4 March 1898, James Newton Siler Watts died at the age of 30 from a ruptured appendix. He was buried at Rambo Cemetery, Red River Township, Searcy County, Arkansas.
The 1900 census recorded the widow Eliza living on the farm in Red River Township, mother of five children with five living.
Note that Sarah’s birth date was recorded as October 1891, barely eight months following James’ birth in February 1891. Other sources give her birth year as 1892, which is probably correct.
Eliza and Elizabeth could neither read nor write; it is unrecorded if the other children could do so.
Renting the farm beside Eliza’s was Robert Savage and his wife Armelta Bellzora Watts, Siler’s sister.
Around 1904, Eliza apparently settled a new homestead, also in Red River Township.
Thursday, 26 September 1907, eldest daughter Elizabeth Watts married Pearl Forest Wilkey. Signed as security was “D. P. Watts” – probably Doctor Perry Watts. He was not actually a doctor. That apparently was his full name, as documented on his draft card in 1918.
In Washington, D.C., the Ozark National Forest was established on Friday, 6 March 1908 by a proclamation from United States President Theodore Roosevelt. The forest covered parts of 18 counties in Arkansas, including Searcy County, from the land north of the Arkansas River. Eliza and her children were living on land inside the new boundaries of the forest, but pursuant to the presidential proclamation, those lands “upon which any valid settlement has been made” were excepted.
Wednesday, 4 August 1909, sixteen years old Emma Sarah Watts married thirty-one years old George Washington Thompson, Junior.
On 9 December 1909, Eliza was granted a land patent for “the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section five and the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section six in Township fifteen north and the southwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section thirty-two in Township sixteen north all in Range seventeen west of the Fifth Principle Meridian, Arkansas, containing one hundred twenty-seven and seventy-six-hundredths acres…”
On the 1910 census, Eliza was still on the farm in Red River Township, Ozark National Forest Reserve, with three of her children: James, Ausidine, Jessie. Her name was recorded here as “Lizan,” a conflation of Eliza Ann. It was recorded that Eliza could read but not write. Her three children could both read and write. The occupation for all four of them was “farmer.”
Residing on the farm beside Eliza’s was “Doc” Watts and his wife Callie, which supports the above suggestion regarding the identity of “D. P. Watts.”
Sunday, 24 December 1911, daughter Mary Ausidine Watts and Jasper Newton Luttrell were bound in holy matrimony on Christmas Eve by Justice of the Peace J. H. Phillips.
Sunday, 22 September 1912, James Madison Watts married Sylvannia R. Bohannon, the daughter of Patrick Bohannon and his first wife Rixey Watson, in a ceremony also conducted by Justice of the Peace Phillips.
Sunday, 9 January 1916, youngest child William Jesse Bell Watts married Zetta Mae McCutcheon of Booster, Arkansas. “W. M. Watts,” possibly William McKinley Watts (Doc’s brother, who was one year older than Jesse), signed as security on the bond. The ceremony was conducted by Justice of the Peace H. D. Barnes.
With all of her children now married, Eliza found herself with an empty nest. At some point, Eliza and her mother Sarah Graham began living together.
In 1920, Eliza’s residence was recorded as Shady Grove Township, Searcy County, Arkansas. (It’s not yet clear to me if Eliza actually moved from Red River to Shady Grove, or if a realignment of the township boundaries took place.) Eliza’s age was recorded as 45 – she would’ve actually been 52 in 1920. Her mother Sarah Graham, 76 and widowed, was living with her. Eliza could read, but not write, and mother Sarah could do neither.
Wednesday, 14 November 1928, Eliza’s mother Sarah Graham passed away.
By 1930, Eliza had moved in with daughter Mary Ausidine and her husband Jasper Newton Luttrell, who were renting a farm in Red River Township. Here she was recorded as “Watts, Lizza A.” Her age was given as 56, but her real age was 62. Whether she was able to read and write was “no,” which contradicts the previous two census.
Jasper and Mary had five daughters if you believe this census. The first two children listed were actually twin boys Allen C. and Ellis G. Luttrell. The other children were daughters Christina, Geneva, and Jewel.
By 1935, Eliza was living with her eldest daughter Ola Elizabeth and husband Pearl Forest Wilkey, who were renting a farm in Big Lake Township, Mississippi County, Arkansas.
Friday, 26 April 1940, the 1940 census was enumerated in Big Lake Township, Mississippi County, Arkansas and recorded Pearl and Lizzie Wilkey living on a rented farm. With them was their son Millard Wilkey; a nephew, O. W. Hobbs; Pearl’s mother-in-law Eliza Ann Watts, here recorded as “Lisa Ann”; son Ruben Wilkey; and daughter-in-law Thelma Wilkey. Eliza’s age was given as 74, which was closer to the truth than the two previous census – she was actually 71 on this date. Her highest grade of school completed was “0.”
Wednesday, 24 April 1946, Eliza’s brother John Henry Graham passed away at his home in Red River Township. His obituary referred to her as “Elisan Watts… address unknown.” Perhaps she was still in Mississippi County.
Sunday, 3 August 1947, Eliza Ann (Graham) Watts died at the age of 78. She isn’t listed in the Arkansas Death Index, so it’s not clear where she died. She was buried beside her husband at Rambo Cemetery, Red River Township, Searcy County, Arkansas.
I’ve encountered several variations of Eliza’s name. The 1880 census recorded her as “Graham, Eliza”; the 1900 census as “Watts, Eliza A”; her land patent as “Eliza A. Watts”; the 1910 census as “Watts, Lizan”; the 1920 census as “Watts, Eliza A”; the 1930 census as “Watts, Lizza A”; and the 1940 census as “Watts, Lisa Ann.” Her brother John Henry’s obituary called her “Elisan Watts.” Her grave marker rendered her name “Elizan N.” Eliza’s grand daughter, Corene Daniel, whom I met at the Graham Reunion in Arkansas in 2011, explicitly stated, “Grandma’s name is Eliza Ann. They called her Lizan.” So, there.
However, on Eliza’s marriage record her name was recorded by the county clerk as “Louisa A. Graham”, likely mishearing her name spoken to him. As a result of this, I have seen her in many, many other family trees as “Louisa ‘Eliza’ Ann Graham” or “Eliza ‘Louisa’ Ann Graham,” so be forewarned. To be clear, Louisa is not nor was it ever part of her name, nor was she ever called Louisa, except perhaps by a hard-of-hearing county clerk.
Variations for James include: “Wotts, James S.” with what looks like a small N inserted above the end of James, on the 1870 census; “James S. Watts” on his own marriage documents; “J.N.S. Watts” on the marriage documents of John Henry Graham; “Siler Watts” on his land patent; “Watts, James S.” on his grave marker. Many family trees also tend to put Siler in quotation marks, possibly to indicate that he preferred to be called by that name.
A complete list of sources appears on Page 2.