Elizabeth Hudson, of the Hudsons of Hanover line, was the mother of two statesmen. One was Henry Clay, the Senator from Kentucky, who is well known in American history; the other was General Nathaniel W. Watkins, Sr., who may not be as well known nationally as his half-brother, Henry, but is well known in the State of Missouri.
Elizabeth Hudson was born in 1750 in Virginia, the daughter of George and Sarah Elizabeth (Jennings) Hudson. Her father, George Hudson, was born about 1717 and was the son of John Hudson, born about 1692. John was the son of William Hudson, "founder" of the Hanover Hudson Line.
She married the Reverend John Clay, Jr., with whom she had three children: Betsy, George and Henry. Betsy and George shared Hudson as a middle name. The Reverend died when Henry was an infant and Elizabeth married Captain Henry Watkins. Elizabeth and Henry had four children: John, Martha, Francis and Nathaniel.
Elizabeth obviously had an enormous effect on her sons' (Henry and Nathaniel) development into statesmen. Her demeanor was described by her grandson, in a letter of 19 September 1894, "she was rather below the medium in stature and of well rounded form, dark hair and eyes, and ruddy complexion; a woman of great determination, industrious, and economical..."
Elizabeth lived with each husband on her father's plantation. Reverend John Clay purchased the plantation, but died before he paid for it. The plantation was sold and purchased by [Capt] Henry Watkins, who had then married the widow of John Clay [Elizabeth (Hudson) Clay Watkins].
In an 1844 letter, Henry Clay wrote, "... in 1792 [Capt.] Henry and Elizabeth (Hudson) Watkins moved to Versailles, Kentucky, and kept an Inn in Woodford County on the west side of Main Street. The two-story building, built by Henry Watkins, was called Watkins Tavern." The letter also mentions the Watkins quit their tavern between 1815 and 1820 and settled on a farm they owned three miles south of Versailles.
"...Elizabeth died ten days after her husband 'Hal' and was buried in the country graveyard near the home farm in Woodford County. In 1851, one year before his death, her son, Henry Clay, had her remains removed to the family lot in the Lexington, Kentucky Cemetery."
Her monument, pure Italian Marble 9 feet high, is inscribed:
General Nathaniel Watkins
Nathaniel Watkins was born January 28, 1796 in Woodford County, Kentucky, the son of Capt. Henry Watkins, who married the widow of Rev. John Clay, the father of Henry Clay, the famous statesman and U. S. Senator from Kentucky, the author of the 'Missouri Compromise.' Gen. Watkins was the half-brother of Henry Clay and resembled him a good deal, it is said.
The Henry Clay letter of 1844, declares Nathaniel was born on the Hudson Plantation in a house built for his mother. Nathaniel, born in 1796, was likely born in the Watkins Tavern.
General Watkins was one of Cape Girardeau County, Missouri's distinguished pioneers. A sketch of the General's life was compiled by the State Historical Society and published in various newspapers over the state.
"...He [Nathaniel] spent his childhood in the famous Watkins Inn and had the influence of the many distinguished guests, in addition to that of his mother of whom it is said, 'She was gracious, sympathetic, an accomplished conversationalist and a person of strong character'"
"The Watkins estate, near Morley, Missouri, was of the old southern plantation type, but Gen. Watkins did not live there a great while. He moved there in the Civil War days from Jackson where he had practiced law for forty-seven years, and died March 20, 1876.
Gen. Watkins studied law at a university in Lexington and in the office of Judge Henry Davidge of Gallatin County, Kentucky. In 1819, when twenty-three years of age, he went to seek his fortune and settled at Jackson, Missouri.
The young Kentuckian soon became one of the best and most noted lawyers in Southeast Missouri. He was an orator and exercised very great influence over juries. No attorney in this section had a larger practice. He traveled every spring and fall on horseback from one county seat to another in Southeast Missouri. There was scarcely any important case in any of these counties in which he did not appear on one side or the other. He was a man of great personal magnetism, easy and polite in manners, and made friends wherever he went.
He took part in the organization of the old Southeast Missouri District Agricultural Society, which was organized for the purpose of holding district fairs and was its first president. He served Cape Girardeau County as representative to the state legislature in 1834, 1846, and 1850. He was elected Speaker of the House. In 1856 he was elected to the state senate and was a delegate to the St. Louis Convention of 1861.
During the Civil War, Watkins espoused the cause of the South and was proposed for president of the state convention in 1861, which met first at Jefferson City and then adjourned to St. Louis. The Unionists who commanded the majority of the delegates nominated Sterling Price, afterward a Confederate General, for president. Price was elected by a vote of 75 to 15. Watkins resigned from the convention after the fall of Camp Jackson.
Governor Jackson, who favored the cause of the South, appointed Watkins brigadier general of the first military district of Missouri, comprising the Southeast section of the state, and while serving in that capacity, he organized the Missouri State Guards in the district.
In 1862 General Watkins' property in Jackson was burned, newspaper articles record, by Federal troops and he was driven from Cape Girardeau County. Soon after this he resigned from his military services and took up his residence in Scott County. He was succeeded in the Military service by Gen. Jeff Thompson."
Harry Blanton, United States District Attorney at St. Louis remarked at the unveiling of a picture of General Watkins at the Scott County Courthouse in Benton that the destruction of General Watkins' property at Jackson during the Civil War by Federal troops (he was a Confederate General) brought a written protest to President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln's reply, instructed the Union officers at St. Louis to restore, as much as possible, the property damaged and seized
In the text of a letter of December 16, 1862 from the Executive Mansion, Washington, addressed to Major-General Curtis, Saint Louis, Mo., Lincoln directs: "...N. W. Watkins, of Jackson, Mo. (who is half-brother to Henry Clay), writes me that a colonel of ours has driven him from his home at Jackson. Will you please look into the case and restore the old man to his home, if the public interest will admit?" A. Lincoln
After the war, Watkins continued the practice of law. In 1875 he was elected as delegate from the 25th district to the state constitutional convention, and as vice-president of that body performed his last public service for Missouri.
General Nathaniel Watkins was in his eighty-first year when he died, March 20, 1876, at his home, "Beechland," near Morley. His body was buried on the farm. The little cemetery is today located on what was once General Watkins' plantation.
He had served Southeast Missouri as a lawyer for fifty-six years. He was said at the time to have been the oldest practicing lawyer in the United States. The Sikeston, Missouri chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy bears his name, the General having been an officer of the Confederate army during the Civil War.
The State of Missouri later established the General Watkins Conservation Area that includes "Beechland." A Conservation Brochure explains the area is named for a famous Missouri statesman and Civil War general, Nathaniel Watkins, who lived here and is buried in a small cemetery in the forest. A road leads from Highway 61 to the Watkins Cemetery.
"On Tuesday, April 4, 1876, second day of the term of Circuit Court of Mississippi County, Missouri, Hon. David L. Hawkins presiding, memorial services in memory of Gen. Nathaniel Watkins were held. An 'in memoriam' record was entered on record, which characterized husband and father; a generous and sympathetic associate; most honorable and honored member of the bar; a splendid genius; affable bearing; upright in conduct; worthy if imitation; an able and faithful advocate, and a useful and magnanimous member of his community..." (The History of Southeast Missouri by Robert S. Douglas, Vol. 1, Page 156)
His headstone inscription reads:
SOLDIER OF THE WAR OF 1812