It’s not a mystery to compare with, say, the meaning of life or the final resting place of Jimmy Hoffa. But, still, I’d like to know.
The portrait of War of 1812 and Mexican War veteran and Civil War Gen. Nathaniel W. Watkins, gifted to the Cape Girardeau County Bar Association 100 years ago and hung on a wall in the Circuit Court room in Jackson’s monolithic courthouse, has disappeared. Like the location of the tunnel running from the Minton House on Washington Avenue to Old Lorimier Cemetery, or the whereabouts of the Sturdivant Bank clock, the portrait’s current home is a mystery.
My county contacts have tried, but are as mystified as I am. Perhaps someone reading this blog will be able to solve this mystery.
These two articles tell of the gift to the bar association and the ceremony that saw it hung in the county courthouse. The drawing included here is most likely NOT the same as the portrait that’s gone missing. I obtained this likeness from the Stoddard County Historical Society’s website, courtesy of Paul Arnold. He obtained the drawing from Doris Minner, a descendant of Watkins.
Gen. Nathaniel W. Watkins
Published Nov. 22, 1921, in the Southeast Missourian:
GENERAL NATHANIEL WATKINS’ PICTURE
TO BE PRESENTED TO COUNTY BY JUDGE CHARLES DAUES
The officers of the Cape County Bar Association have issued the following statement:
“Honorable Charles H. Daues of the St. Louis Court of Appeals has very generously caused to be made at his own cost a fine portrait of the late Gen. Nathaniel W. Watkins and desires to present it to the Cape Girardeau County Bar Association on Saturday, Dec. 3, of this year.
“This picture is to hang in an appropriate place on the walls of the Circuit Court room at Jackson.
“Judge Frank Kelly has kindly consented to hold court on Saturday, Dec. 3, for the purpose f receiving the portrait and observing the ceremonies attending this generous gift and to hear appropriate addresses on that occasion.
“Gen. Watkins was a half-brother of Henry Clay and his old-time friends used to say that he was a more eloquent orator than Clay himself.
Came from Kentucky
“He came to Missouri from Kentucky at an early time and settled in the city of Jackson, where he continued to live until the breaking out of the Civil War. After the war he moved on a farm about midway between Benton and Morley, where he died.
“In 1850 Gen. Watkins was speaker of the House of Representatives.
“In 1875 he was vice-president of the Constitutional Convention that prepared our present constitution.
“He was a great lawyer and it is most fitting and appropriate that his portrait should grace the walls of the Circuit Court room in the county of his adoption.
“The Bar Association of this county has extended an invitation to the lawyers throughout the whole of Southeast Missouri, through the press, to be present and to take part in the ceremonies on the 3d of December.
“The Bar Association has also extended, through the press, an earnest invitation to all the descendants of Gen. Watkins to be present on that occasion.
“The public, and especially the bar of this county, are deeply indebted to Judge Daues for this generous gift and the interest that he has taken in perpetuating the memory and the visible expressions of this old and distinguished statesman and lawyer.”
Published Dec. 3, 1921, in the Southeast Missourian:
BAR OF COUNTY GIVEN PORTRAIT OF N. WATKINS
JUDGE DAUES, FORMER RESIDENT HERE, MAKES PRESENTATION
JACKSON — A portrait of Gen. Nathaniel W. Watkins, presented to the Cape Girardeau Bar Association by Judge Charles A. Daues of St. Louis, was unveiled with appropriate ceremony today in the Circuit courtroom here.
The portrait was presented by Judge Daues after he had been introduced by Judge Frank Kelly, who opened curt. Judge Daues, in opening his speech, stated that he “was happy to acknowledge the presentation of a portrait of such a distinguished lawyer, to the bar. He was a man of sterling qualities and was liked and respected everywhere,” the judge said.
The portrait was then unveiled by Judge Daues and formally presented to Judge Kelly, who in a short talk thanked the donor for it and ordered a record be made of the presentation. He said that it would hang on the walls of the courthouse to be an inspiration to attorneys.
R.H. Whitelaw, called upon for a speech, said that he saw Gen. Watkins one time in his life at Commerce, at a political meeting. He was a man regarded highly, he said.
Judge Daues thanked
Judge John A. Snider thanked Judge Daues for the interest manifested in the Cape County association and said that to the best of his knowledge the first session of the state Supreme Court was held in Jackson. The lawyers of this district at the time of Judge Watkins were the best in the state, he said.
R.B. Oliver, outlined the history of the general’s life. “I only saw him one time,” the speaker said, “but I remember him for a keen, piercing glance, but not an unkindly one.” He told how the general came to Missouri in 1820 after being admitted to the bar in 1819, in Kentucky. How he previously had enlisted at the age of 16 in the War of 1812.
He came to Jackson when he moved to Missouri and all his children were raised here, the speaker said. A resolution of thanks to Judge Daues for the portrait was read by the speaker and after being seconded by Wilson Cramer, was unanimously adopted.
Several relatives of the ceased general were present. One son, William B. Watkins, 82 years of age, who lives at Crowder, Missouri, was present. A son, W.L. Watkins of Rodgers, Arkansas, who is 85, was unable to be present.
Other relatives present were: Mrs. Anna Butts, of Conran, a granddaughter; Harry C. Watkins, a grandson; Maude E. Stubbs of Sikeston, a granddaughter; Louis Paul Stubbs of Sikeston, a great-grandson; Susie Watkins of Sikeston, a granddaughter; Paul Butts, a great-grandson; W.F. Wilson of Cape Girardeau, a grandson; Eloise Wilson of Cape Girardeau, a grand-niece; and W.F. Wilson Jr., of Cape Girardeau, a grand-nephew.
The living relatives are:
Grandchildren — H.C. Watkins, Oran; Louis Watkins, Vanduser; W.F. Wilson, Cape; R.G. Watkins, St. Louis; Miss Susie Watkins, Sikeston; Mrs. Maude E. Stubbs, Sikeston; Mrs. Annie Butts, Conran; Mrs. Effie Page, Crowder; Mrs. Emma Page, Crowder; Mrs. E.W. Williams, San Diego, California;
Great-grandchildren — Heloise Wilson, W.F. Wilson Jr., Myron Watkins, Harry Watkins Jr., Sterling Watkins, Carsen Watkins, H. Clay Stubbs, Joe Stubbs Jr., Jack Stubbs, Louis Stubbs, Richard Stubbs, Hazel Stubbs, Albert George Wilson, Thelma Wilson, Lela Wilson, Mrs. Mattie L. Wilson, Batesville, Arkansas, A.W. Williams, Black Rock, Arkansas;
Great-great-grandchildren — Madeline Martin, Elizabeth Martin and Charles Martin, children of Mrs. Elizabeth Martin of San Diego.
The attorneys present were: Frank Kelly, John A. Snider, H.E. Alexander, Wilson Cramer, Orren Wilson, A.M. Spradling, E.A. Mason, R.H. Whitelaw, T.D. Hines, D.B. Haynes, R.B. Oliver and Frank Hines.
In May 1961, Paul E. Butts of El Paso, Texas, a grandson of Gen. Watkins, stopped in Jackson on his way to Portageville and asked to see the portrait. After a search by courthouse custodian Alvin Lohman, the 27-by-21-inch portrait was found tucked away in a tower storage room.
There is no later mention of the portrait in the files of the Missourian.
A duplicate of the picture at one time hung at the county courthouse in Benton, Missouri.