Isaiah Watson Tracy, known as “Watson” to his family and friends, was born October 14, 1865 in Mt. Hope Township, McLean County, Illinois, merely months after the end of the U.S. Civil War. Mt. Hope Township is located outside and Southwest of the city of Bloomington, Illinois. Watson was the first son born to John Edward Tracy and Maria Artlysia Boblett Tracy. According the 1870 U.S. Federal Census, John Edward Tracy was a farmer and Maria kept house for the family. At the time of his birth, Watson had four older sisters, Mary Maria, Rachel Rosanna, Olivia Ann, and Amanda Elizabeth.
By the time Watson attained the age of eight, the Tracy family had grown further with the birth of two more boys, namely John Wesley and Charles Edward Tracy. During that year of 1873, the family left Illinois and moved to Nebraska seeking a permanent home. By 1876, when Watson was 11 years old, the family settled in York County, Nebraska, where Watson lived the remainder of his life. The Tracy family farm was located west of the town of York in Brown Township according to the 1885 Nebraska State Census.
By 1880, at the age of 14, Watson completed his formal schooling through the 8th grade while still living at home with his parents, one sister and two brothers. His father, John Edward Tracy continued to farm and Watson, as the oldest son, farmed with his father. There is little information on the period from age 14 through the age of 28, at which age, Watson married Mary Alice Rayles on March 25, 1894, when she was only 18. Mary’s family had also moved from Illinois to settle in York County, Nebraska. According to Watson’s published obituary, the couple was married in Charleston.
Watson and Mary began having children soon after their marriage with the birth of their son, Claude Edward Tracy on April 14, 1895, their daughter, Myrle Anna Tracy on October 29, 1897, their son, Lloyd Ernest Tracy (my great grandfather after whom I am named) on March 20, 1899, and their son, Ora Chester Tracy who died the year he was born, and their son, and Earl Eugene Tracy on October 30, 1903. The family lived and worked on their farm in Baker Township, York County.
By 1920, the Tracy’s had one more son, Glen Watson Tracy born on June 11, 1912, and according to the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, at age 55 Watson was then employed as a public fireman in York. Also living with the family at this time was Watson’s brother, Lloyd Tracy and his wife Mary (although this could be a mistake and it could be his son Lloyd Ernest Tracy who would also be 21 years old that year).
At the age of 64, Watson worked as a gas and electric worker in York and he is listed in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census as living alone (although there is nothing to indicate that he and Mary Alice were divorced). In fact, the 1940 U.S. Federal Census describes them as living together at the ages of 74 and 64 in York. A few years after 1940, Watson passed away at the age of 79 years old on December 3, 1944. Services were conducted by the Rev. Gardner R. Miller at the Metz Chapel in York. Watson was buried in the Council Cemetery in York near his parents and one son that had died in childhood.
Watson lived, farmed, and worked most of his life in York County, Nebraska during a period that saw the area grow from empty prairie to settled communities in the 20th Century. According to his published obituary, he was remembered as a quiet, unassuming man and a good father. He appreciated his family, friends and community.
Watson’s legacy was his family and children. His oldest son, Claude married Hazel Emerson and remained in Nebraska during his lifetime. His oldest daughter, Myrle, married Lloyd Kingsolver and lived in the state of Washington. His son Lloyd Ernest married Nellie Barker and lived in Long Beach, California, his son Earl married Helen Machovec and lived in San Bernardino, California, and the baby of the family, Glen, married Vera and also lived in southern California.