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Remembering a fallen hero this holiday; Kenneth Watson III enlisted to serve in World War I one hundred years ago; he passed away two years later from peritonitis

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Headstone from South Park cemetery. (Photo courtesy of the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico)

In a couple of days we will be celebrating the birth of our country. Let’s us take a look at two different stories regarding the remembrance of this great nation, the celebration of it, as well as those great leaders who made this country, the greatest in the world!

The first story is by Donna Ikard who has great ancestral ties to Southeastern New Mexico. Donna is a friend of mine and frequently shares her family stories with the archives. She is a great supporter of ours and supports the Historical Society of Southeastern New Mexico in every way she can, for which we are so grateful!
The second story is an article taken from “The Lincoln County Leader,” White Oaks, New Mexico, dated 1885.

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Etched in Memory
My great grandmother Ethel Lund arrived in White Oaks, New Mexico in 1900 with her mother, Eva and little brother, Guy. Ethel was 8, and Guy was just 6 years old. Ethel’s father, Fletcher, and three generations of family were living in White Oaks when the Lunds arrived. They were Canadians searching for gold in Baxter Mountain. Grandpa Robert Lund was the patriarch of the family, a minister and attorney.
Little Kenneth and Roy Watson were Ethel and Guy’s cousins and playmates. The four children were close in age, attending school together, riding wild donkeys and picnicking in the mountains with family.
The children had two more cousins to play with, Cecil and Don Bonney from Roswell, sons of C.D. and Sara Bonney, the first female school teacher in Roswell. The Bonney family visited White Oaks often, keeping the families close. The Lund, Bonney and Watson children were the first in the family to be born with American citizenship.
The Watson boys were the sons of Maud and William Watson. William was an attorney and one of the owners of the Old Abe Mine, the most successful gold mine in White Oaks. Kenneth and Roy were born in White Oaks in the 1890s. They joined their father and uncles mining for gold when they got a little bit older.
The Lund family relocated to Ranchos De Taos in about 1904 so the children could get a formal education at the San Francico De Asis Mission. All of the families kept visited and kept in contact and remained close over the years.
In 1917, Kenneth Robert Watson was called to serve in World War I at the age of 22 years old –– signing his draft papers on June 5, 1917 in White Oaks, Lincoln County, New Mexico. The Lincoln County & Mescalero Apache Tribe Honor List gives the following information about Kenneth’s service in the Navy:
“Kenneth was a Machinist’s Mate in the Navy. While returning from Brazil and Cuba, he was gravely injured by an boiler explosion onboard while in the line of duty at Newport News, Virginia.”

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The following newspaper articles give us the final clues as to Kenneth’s time in the Navy:
Carrizozo News, Feb. 28, 1919
Kenneth Watson Ill
“Kenneth, the younger son of Mr. and Mrs. William Watson, of White Oaks, is very ill in a hospital in Brooklyn, New York with peritonitis. Mrs. Watson, the mother, who was in Roswell when the message came, arrived in Carrizozo Wednesday and left that evening for Brooklyn. Kenneth joined the Navy last year and has been on sea duty for several months. About two months ago he was seriously scalded and was in a New York hospital until recently, when, upon returning to duty he was attacked by peritonitis. His condition, it is feared, is quite serious and fears are entertained for his recovery. The friends of the stricken young man and the family hope for the best.”

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Carrizozo News, March 07, 1919
Kenneth Watson Dies
“The sad news reached here this week that Kenneth Watson, whose serious illness we reported last week, succumbed to an attack of peritonitis in a Brooklyn hospital. We understand the remains will be interred at Roswell.
The untimely death of this young man is deeply regretted by a wide circle of acquaintances and all sympathize with the heartbroken parents. Kenneth was a splendid young man, had just reached manhood, and was highly respected by all who knew him.”

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Kenneth Robert Watson died on March 2, 1919 at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York. He was laid to rest in South Park Cemetery in Roswell near his grandparents Robert and Saphrona Lund, who preceded him in death.
It was exactly one hundred years ago this summer that Kenneth Robert Watson signed his draft papers sacrificing his future to serve his country. Kenneth had no wife or children at the time of his death but his family made sure he would never be forgotten passing his story down to us for generations.
We are happy to know that the Historical Society of South Eastern New Mexico takes measures to ensure that their community won’t forget him either by offering us an opportunity to commemorate Kenneth with an engraved Heritage paver to be placed in the historical museum garden. His paver will be placed with three other family heritage pavers that we have purchased.
Kenneth’s Heritage paver reads:
Kenneth Robert Watson
Navy 1896-1919 Hero
Son of William & Maud
Nephew of Sara Bonney
We encourage residents to purchase Heritage pavers to honor those who’ve served in the military. It’s a great way to recognize their contribution, as well as support the local history.
The Historical Society for Southeastern NM is raising money to support the museum operations and maintenance of the extensive selection of historical archives in their archive building. Heritage bricks will be placed in the historical museum garden. To purchase a paver for the Buy A Brick Program, please contact:
The Historical Society for Southeastern NM brick campaign at 575-622-8333, roswellnmhistory.org, or stop by 200 N. Lea Ave.
Donna Kout Ikard Family History Author Credits: Family historians Nancy Sutherland Hasbrouck and Kathy McCollum Richardson
Credits: Carrizozo News, Library of Congress

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The following article is dated Saturday, July 4, 1885. It was printed in “The Lincoln County Leader,” White Oaks, New Mexico.
The Glorious Fourth
1776. July 4, 1885
Gloriously dawned the sun on the morning of our Nation’s natal day! Alike upon all. With merry glee and smiling faces, the little folks danced hither and thither, making final preparation for the picnic they had been anticipating for so long.
Wagon after wagon, laden with young and old and the goodies for dinner, traveled the road bound for the White Oaks Spring. Upon the ground all was mirth and glee. Swings, croquet, football, Grace hoops, bean bags, burro and foot and sack races, all helped to enliven the day. During the afternoon Dr. A. G. Lane read the Declaration of Independence, and Mary Lane and Eugene L. Stewart sang a duet. Mr. and Mrs. Wells assisted by Jack, (everybody knows Jack) furnished an abundance of milk and ice water, and done all in their power to make everything pleasant. About noon as with one accord, all sought their dinner baskets, and soon the ground was dotted with groups doing justice to spreads that would delight an epicure.
During the afternoon a slight shower caused a scamper, but did no damage. As the day drew to close the tired but happy picnickers sought their respective conveyances, each thinking of the pleasure the day had brought them.
Determined to keep it up, a happy crowd assembled at the Town Hall, and there to merry tunes danced the Fourth away.
It was a fun party and heartily enjoyed by all who participated. As though the picnic and dance was not enough, a grand pyrotechnical display together with two meteoric balloon ascensions, were given in front of Bond & Stewarts.
No serious mishaps.
Jim Redman’s wagon broke down. A lighthearted but heavy bodied crowd did it.
M. Whiteman ran up the American colors and fired anvils at sunrise.
The small boy was in his element. The sound of the firecrackers was heard throughout the land.
A. J. Bond had a display of fireworks at his residence.
The Parker boys illuminated the town by an immense bonfire at the foot of White Oaks Ave.
The town was full of visitors, most of all them doing the picnic and dance.
A large crowd at Bond & Stewart’s kept the air ablaze for a while with a display of fireworks.
Dr. Ried set off some colored fires.
Being born on our national holiday, therefore on July 4th, 1890, Miss Bruce Lane will declare her independence. She was thirteen this fourth.
Miss Mildred Parker was out visiting on the fourth. It was her debut.
A great time was had by all!

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“Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have.” –– Harry Emerson Fosdick
“Then join hand in hand, brave Americans all! By uniting we stand, by dividing we fall.” –– John Dickinson
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.” –– Thomas Paine
Have a happy and safe Independence Day, from the Historical Society of Southeastern New Mexico!
Janice Dunnahoo is an archive volunteer at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico Archives. She can be reached at 575-622-1176 or email at jdunna@hotmail.com.