Henry M. Watchorn


Henry M. Watchorn. A resident of Sapulpa, Creek County, Oklahoma, since 1901, Henry M. Watchorn is the type of successful business man who gives his energies and time freely to promote every movement connected with the best welfare of his home city. He was the third incumbent of the office of mayor at Sapulpa and has been a most prominent and influential factor in its material and civic upbuilding.
Under the guiding of an ambitious mind and spirit he has for years been one of the world’s productive workers, and wherever found has proved a loyal and useful citizen. There are many facts about his career which may be read with interest, and his individual history has its proper place in the history of Oklahoma.
He was born in Queens County, Ireland, May 27, 1860, a son of Thomas and Mary (Diamond) Watchorn. His father was lodge keeper in Ireland for a wealthy widow and land owner, Mrs. Margaret Gibson. Having no children of her own, she legally adopted Henry M. Watchorn when he was about three years of age. She wanted to make him a Presbyterian minister, and personally together with a governess assisted in instructing him. He received all his education while in Ireland, and although only about thirteen years of age when he came with his parents to the United States he did not attend school in this country. Mrs. Gibson furnished the money for his parents to emigrate to the United States in 1873, when Henry was thirteen years of age. She also gave her consent for her adopted son to accompany them, but with the understanding that he was to return to take up his studies and eventually inherit the large estate. Up to that time Henry Watchorn had enjoyed the companionship only of a governess, his adopted mother and other elderly ladies. He played no boys’ games and had no boy companions. It was perhaps only natural therefore that when he arrived in the New World he soon decided that he would rather remain here and make his own way than to return and inherit eventually a fortune. Thus he had to disappoint the old Irish lady who had such cherished plans for his future.
He is in fact one of those vital and progressive sons of Ireland to whom success comes as a natural prerogative though his earnest and well directed personal efforts have also been a conspicuous part in his advancement. His parents on coming to America in 1873 first established their home near Detroit, Michigan, but later moved to Tuscola County in the same state, and made a home on a farm not far from Bay City. When about sixteen years of age Henry M. Watchorn went into the lumber camps in Northern Michigan, saved his money and helped his father pay for the Michigan farm. His mother died on the farm in 1884 at the age of forty-four, and his father spent the rest of his days there until his death in 1904 at the age of seventy-two. Henry was the second among three sons and three daughters.
In 1884, shortly after the death of his mother and as a young man of twenty-four, Mr. Watchorn left home and drifted into Missouri, and later his activities extended into Louisiana and Texas and finally into Oklahoma. In 1886 he took up railroad work and continued in that line until after coming to Oklahoma. He was first in Oklahoma in 1901, and until 1905 served as roadmaster for the Frisco Railroad System. At the same time he also was interested in the lumber business. On first going to Missouri he constructed twenty-two miles of narrow gauge and fourteen miles of standard gauge railroad, which he afterwards operated as general superintendent of construction for the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis Railroad. Incidentally he assumed charge of the extensive timber interests of the company in Southwest Missouri, and while maintaining his headquarters at Willow Springs in Howell County of that state, served two years as mayor. During his administration an electric light plant and water system were installed.
When he gained information in 1905 that the Frisco Railroad was to make Sapulpa a prominent division terminal Mr. Watchorn took a long sight ahead, foresaw the splendid opportunities in store for the city, and soon afterwards resigned his position with the railroad and entered the real estate business. As rapidly as he could he purchased land and is credited with the platting and development of a number of excellent additions and subdivisions to the city, including the Forest Park Addition, the principal street of which bears his name. His real estate operations have done more than make him individually prosperous, and has contributed in large measure to the development and upbuilding of the city and its tributary territory.
In 1905 he was elected mayor of Sapulpa as the third mayor after the municipal government was established. His was a most efficient administration. That was not the only public service he has rendered. He was one of the men who led the campaign at statehood and brought success to the movement for making Sapulpa the county seat of Creek County, and whether as a business man or as a citizen he is liberal minded, keen, energetic and progressive.
In 1910 he erected the Watchorn apartment building 60 by 150 feet and two stories in height, the ground floor being used for business purposes and the upper floor fitted up as some of the most attractive and modern apartments in Sapulpa. He owns other valuable realty in Sapulpa.
Long prominent in politics, he is a democrat and assisted in the organization of the democratic forces in Oklahoma. He was treasurer of the Third Congressional District Campaign Committee when that body so effectually maneuvered the political forces for the election of Hon. James Davenport to his first term in the United States Congress. In Masonry he has attained the thirty-second degree of Scottish Rite and is a member of India Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Oklahoma City. He and his wife belong to the order of the Eastern Star, Mrs. Watchorn being worthy matron of the chapter in which she holds membership. She is also active in the Presbyterian Church, and one of the very active members and an ex-president of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
In 1885 Mr. Watchorn married Mrs. Lou (West) Myers, a native of Tennessee. At the time of her marriage she was a widow with one son, Edson H. Myers. The latter is now a farmer in Creek County and his son Harry since infancy has lived in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Watchorn, who have reared him, and while never legally adopting him his home has been their home and he is known by the name Watchorn. In fact Mr. Watchorn plans to make him his legal heir. Young Harry Watchorn since early childhood has had a mania for firefighting apparatus, and worked with the local firemen without pay until given a regular position in the department. He is now only eighteen years of age, and is regarded as one of the best drivers of fire engines in the state, and is absolutely devoted to his work.