From Ireland to Crow Branch: The Livingstons and Watsons in Wisconsin

According to Don Hill’s records, many of our ancestors settled in an area called Crow Branch when they first came to Wisconsin.  There was a community of cabins and mining sites called the “Crow Branch 40.” and were engaged in lead mining in that area.  Here is the directions to get to the Crow Branch 40 from Don Hill’s records:

“Crow Branch was about one mile south of Rock Church, which is 2 ½ miles west of Livingston, WI.  Most of the Livingston and Watson relatives are buried in Rock church cemetery.  About a mile south of Rock Church, there is a dead end narrow road to the right.  It follows along Crow Branch Creek, which starts about ¼ mile east of the Road (from an artesian well).  William Henry and Mary Vipand Howdle lived on the property where the well was located (later purchased by Arch Rundell.)  As you travel wewston this road, you can see the Mounds left by the Livingstons, Watsons, Nicholsons, Woodwards, etc.  in their search for lead and zinc.  To the left is the “Crow Branch 40.”  (SE ¼ of SE ¼ of Sec 22 TWP 5 Range I west).  Over half of north end of the 40 was high ground sloping southward.  The Crow Branch crosses the 40 east to west which was used by the miners.  In this section, were the cabins of our ancestors, who were digging for Lead or Galena (a type of lead??).  The ore was hauled to Mineral Point or Platteville for smelting.  The stream continued west near Pine Knob; continuing west is Wolf Hollow and further yet the stream joins the Big Platte River.”

Here is another set of directions found in Frank Livingston’s research about the location of where our ancestors first settled upon arriving in Wisconsin:

“…if you go about 1 mile south of Rock Church there is a dead end narrow road to the right.  It follows along a creek call Crow Branch which originates about ¼ mi east of the road.  It starts from an artesian well which has been running long before my childhood.  When a young lad, I visited it.  This well is on what I knew as the Howdle section—1 mile square—owned by the parents of my step mother Cora Howdle.  And later owned by Arch Rundell.  As you travel slowly west on this narrow road you can easily make out the mounds of dirt and rock left by our ancestors in their search for lead and zinc.  Now look to the left of this narrow road and in a southwesterly direction.  You now have a complete view of 40 acres—The Crow Branch 40.  Its location is SE ¼ of SW ¼ of Sec22Two 5 Range I west.  More than ½ of the north end of the 40 was high ground which slopes gradually southward.  The small Crow Branch stream crosses the 40 from east to west and was most valuable to our ancestral miners.  Under the brush and grass once can still find red clay thrown into mounds by the miners as they dug and tunneled veins of ore.  Here is where the cabins sprung up as our people came from the homeland—Ireland and we believe also Scotland and Wales.

Miners built their cabins close to the 40 so they wouldn’t have to walk.  But the 3 Livingston brothers (Hugh, Joseph, and Charles) lived for a time in the “stone house” about ¾ mi south of the present Livingston town.  This is the house where they welcomed Samuel Livingston when he came from Ireland to join them.

Located on the NW corner of the 40 was the cabin of Joseph Watson.  SW a short distance was the cabin of Joseph’s mother—”Granny Elizabeth “Livingston Watson, widow of Thomas Watson The teacher, who died at sea April 1855. She had also lived in a nearby cabin”

Don Hill’s research shows the following Livingston-Watson ancestors living on the “Crow Branch 40” during the mid-1800’s when they were newly arriving from Ireland:

  • Joseph Watson (1822-1885) had a cabin on the NE corner.
  • Elizabeth Ann Watson(1800-1881) –widow of Thomas Watson Sr who died at sea during the journey from Ireland.  Lived on the SW quarter in a cabin near “Granny’s Spring.”
  • Elizabeth Thompson(1832-1869).  Daughter of Thomas Watson, Sr. Sister to Joseph, Thomas, Jr., Wingfield Watson, etc.  Mother of Elva Drinkwater.
  • Charles Waring Sr. (1835 - ??) Father of Jane Waring who married Charles Watson, son of John William and Alice Barlow Watson.  He was also the grandfather of Reed and Ross Watson and Delphia (Graham) Biddick.
  • John Livingston (1816-1862).  Lived on east side. Wife was Jane Levingston.  Father of Robert (1853 – 1907) and daughter Mary Jane Livingston Watsonm (1856-1915).  “Billie” Livingston was born in this cabin.
  • Thomas Alcock (1842-???).  Occupied John and Jane’s cabin
  • Rueben Woodward (1830-1885).  And Mary Ann Watson Woodward.  Lived a little below and near stream.  Mary Ann was 12 years old when she came to Crow Branch.
  • Ralph Woodward (1809-1868). And Elizabeth Livingston Woodward (1812-1885).  Lived just under brow of hill where stream enters the Crow Branch 40.  Daughter Elizabeth Livingston (1849-1935) was born in this cabin.
  • Joseph Nicholson (1825 – 1900) and Ellen Watson Nicholson (1834-1917).  Near their cabin was a water wheeland from that ran a race down the hill to the creek; there was a wagon road between the race and the creek.
  • Joseph Manning (1812-1902).  And Mary Anne Livingston (1823-1885); Charles Livingston and Jane Grevell were married in this cabin on 7/3/1855.
  • Joseph Thompson and Elizabeth Watson Thompson (1832-1869).  Cabin had one door, 2 windows and also later served as a school house.  The pupil’s desks were a single board fastened to the wall on the two sides of the inside of the building.  No back to the bench.  The teacher had no desk but sat back of the pupils near the door.  Joseph Allen (1825-1898) was the teacher.  He lived in the house later occupied by Knute Knutson Sr and later Andrew Knutson. 

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