By Kelly Warman-Stallings
The Ghost Towns of Central Missouri
Watkins Community from 1904 Atlas
In the 1840s and 1850s, a few families resided in the community that later would become known as Watkins. Situated in southern Miller County, Richwoods Township, these pioneer families (Bass, Livingston, McCubbin, Meyers, Watkins) were instrumental in organizing the small village of Watkins, named for the Watkins family.
When the gold-rush fever struck in 1849, William Shelton Watkins was like many other men of his time and found himself prospecting for gold in California. It was said that he did pretty well for himself and soon left his gold-diggings to return back east.
About 1854, Watkins once again was headed west on another prospecting spree. HE stopped in Miller County to visit his aunt, Margaret (Watkins) McCubbin and she persuaded him to stay and homestead. He bought about 240 acres in the area and donated about 20 acres to start a public school. He helped build the school, made of logs, and it became known as Hickory Point.
In the late 1800s, a famous Miller County teacher named Cynthia Hawkins Spearman taught for a few years at Hickory Point. The story of Cynthia Hawkins Spearman is a unique tale in itself. She lost both arms in a cane mill accident when a young child, but this was no hinderance to her. She could do anything anyone else could do…and then some! She was the first woman in Miller County politics, elected in 1898 as the County Commissioner of Education. Miss Cynthia was selected as "Pioneer School Teacher" in the county's Centennial Pageant of 1937.
Grace Livingston was the teacher at Hickory Point School during the early 1930s. I am not sure how long the school functioned, but by the late 1950s the building was no longer in use.
With the gold William Watkins had brought back from the California gold fields, he was able to finance the agricultural spread that gave the community its start. He set out a large orchard on his property with over 200 varieties of trees brought from Kentucky. The farm was stocked with cattle, hogs, sheep, and horses. Watkins was well known for his skill of building and shaping farm tools (plows, harrows, wagons, wheels, reap hooks, grain cradles, etc.).
When the Civil War hit Missouri, Watkins joined the Confederate forces under the command of Capt. William R. Wright (Rankin Wright). Legend tells us that Watkins buried the remaining gold from his earlier prospecting quest somewhere on his farm. He never told anyone where he supposedly buried the small treasure, which consisted of one large nugget and four smaller ones. Since he was killed in the Civil War, the secret went to the grave with him. Not even his widow, Mary Jane (Livingston) Watkins knew of the gold's whereabouts. Rumors remain today that the worthy cache still remains mysteriously hidden under the earth today, somewhere in the Watkins community.
In the years 1880-1882, Charles P. Myers was the sheriff of the county and served as county collector from 1886-1888. He was a resident of Watkins and married Nancy Bass, who had grown up in the community.
Prior to the turn of the century, the Hickory Point Church was organized. The old schoolhouse was most likely used first as the meeting place for the weekly religious services. The church's congregation has grown quite large over the last ninety years or so and still has weekly services. A general store was erected and was operated by the Watkins family in about the same time period. The store was in operation until the early 1950's. Today, the store building is no longer there.
In 1904, the post office was established and located on the original Wm. Shelton Watkins farm. It was discontinued in 1949 and became a part of the Iberia rural Mail route. By the late 1950s, Watkins had ceased to exist. Today, only the church (and perhaps William Shelton Watkins' buried gold) is all that remain of the Watkins community.
Regional Ancestral Names; Barlow, Barton, Bass, Bear, Burks, Casey, Karr, Kelsey, Lamb, Lewis, Livingston, McComb, McCubbin, Myers, Ponder, Spearman, Stone, Waite, Watkins