Watson Forrest


Transcribed by Tina Easley

From :




Watson Forrest, better known as "Patter" Forrest, is one of the oldest settlers in Clay County at the present time. He left Gibson County, Tenn., in October, 1832, with his brother, Abraham Forrest, and Elisha Fly and their wives, all in one wagon drawn by cattle, and they soon fell in with James Kennedy, who, with his wife and four children, were in a wagon drawn by horses. They settled on Slavin's Creek, in what is Greene County now, and there they remained for three years. During this time Watson Forrest was married to Miss Sarah Crafton, of Gibson County, Tenn., and the daughter of John B. Crafton, of Tennessee. Mr. Forrest had returned to Tennessee to assist his father, Mark Forrest, to move to the farm picked out for him by his son, on Slavin's Creek, and here married Miss Crafton, and with her and his father he returned to Greene County about December 10, 1833. In 1835 he and wife moved to what is known as Clay County at the present day, settling about one mile from where he now lives, and there remained some five years. He then moved to Barry County, Mo., continued there but three months and then returned and bought a log cabin, where his present residence is standing. He paid $250 for the log cabin and the improvements, and $2.50 per acre for forty acres of land. To this he has since added 220 acres. The old log house he uses for a stable. When Mr. Forrest first came to this State there was no market for anything; neither was there any law, nor officers–neither squire, sheriff nor constable, and Mr. Forrest assisted in electing the first sheriff, Charley Robinson. A man by the name of Tucker was the first representative of Greene County, and there were only forty votes cast in the whole county. Stock had to be driven on foot to Memphis, Tenn., 125 miles away, but as there was but very little stock in the county, these trips were seldom made until about 1845. Previous to that time the only way of obtaining money was by selling the pelts of animals, deer, elk, bear, wildcat, panther, raccoon, mink and otter being plentiful at that time. Deer skins were the most sought after, and at Cape Girardeau were worth from about $1.00 to $2.00 each; coon skins from twenty-five to fifty cents each; elks, from $1.50 to $2.00 each; bear, from $1.00 to $3.00; wildcat, about twenty-five cents; panther, from $1.00 to $1.50; mink, from $1.50 to $3.00, and otter, from $4.00 to $6.00. Buffalo, in rather limited numbers, were in the State also. With the exception of the buffalo and elk, all the above mentioned animals are still represented in the woods, coon and deer being very plentiful. The next nearest trading-point was Pocahontas, on the Black River, which offered a market for the first time about 1835. This was twenty miles distant from where Mr. Forrest lived. The first railroad market to which Mr. Forrest went was Dexter, on the Iron Mountain road, in Missouri, and about forty miles from his residence. The first church built in what is now Clay County was at Salem, in about 1842, and was of the Baptist denomination. It was constructed by two men, William Nutt and Mr. Winingham, the latter preaching the first sermon. He was also the first Baptist preacher. The first preacher of any kind that Mr. Forrest heard was Rev. Fountain Brown, a Methodist circuit rider. The first school house in the county was built within a mile of where Mr. Forrest now lives, and a man by the name of Cyrus Owens taught the first session as near as can be remembered. Mr. Forrest has in his possession a stone which he took from the maw of a spotted deer killed by him thirty years ago, and which he believes to be a veritable mad stone. It is about the size and shape of a chicken's heart, of a dull, yellowish or brown color, and resembles a well worn molar. On one side is a decayed place which appears to be porous in its nature, while the stone has a smooth, polished appearance. Three people bitten by mad dogs have been cured by this stone. In each case, animals had been bitten by the same dog, and in every case went mad. It will also cure rattlesnake bites. In ease of the latter, or that of a mad dog, the stone adheres to the wound until saturated with the poison, when it falls, and by placing the stone in warm water or milk it will cleanse itself. When there is no poison in the wound the stone will not take hold.