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Henry Watterson

Henry Watterson with others waiting for a boat to take them to Fort Myers in March 1912. Some of the people
photographed include David Gilles, left standing, Bruce Haldeman, George Hendrie, Jack Hachmeister and Henry
Watterson seated in front. The others could not be identified. Photo courtesy of the Naples Historical Society

Larry Feldhaus’ note: Rebecca Ewing Watterson died in 1929, seventeen years after this picture, so it is
likely Rebecca sitting next to Henry Watterson in the front of this picture.

By Bonnie Jean Cousineau, Community Contributor

Dec. 07, 20090 
Visitors to Palm Cottage, a 3,500-square-foot historic house museum located in the
heart of Naples' historic district, are sometimes reminded that such luminaries as film
stars Hedy Lamarr and Gary Cooper were guests at the cottage a long time ago.
Indeed, their celebrity is part of the reason Palm Cottage is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. A far more illustrious guest, however, was Henry Watterson,
whose portrait hangs in the Palm Cottage library.

Watterson was a friend of newspaper publisher Walter Haldeman, who built the cottage
in 1895 and won a Pulitzer Prize. Haldeman stayed at Palm Cottage for several winters.
But what most visitors to the museum probably do not know is that Watterson was a
man of many parts and a nationally known figure. He was, in the words of one observer,
"One of the most eminent journalists ever produced in the United States."

Although his views were not always consistent, the current and irreverent term is flip-
flopping. He was always an engaging, deliberate and insightful observer of what was
happening in America from the mid-19th century through the early 20th century. Not
surprisingly, his opinions carried considerable weight.

Watterson was born in the nation’s capital in 1840, so we can safely say he was at the
center of political activity at a very early age. He served with the Confederate Army,
despite his objections to slavery and secession, and later became a reporter for
newspapers in Tennessee, Alabama, and Ohio. In 1868, he became the editor of the
Louisville Journal (Kentucky), which he subsequently merged with Haldeman's
Louisville Courier, creating one of the most influential newspapers of the time.
Jeffersonian in his outlook, Watterson argued in his editorials for a return of home rule
in the South, and for the civil rights of African Americans. Interestingly, in the next
century, he was not as tolerant of women's rights, and barely acknowledged their right
to vote.

Watterson served in Congress, albeit for only one year when he completed the term of
Edward Parsons, and supported Samuel J. Tilden for president. He also received, in
1882, a "smattering of votes for the vice-presidential nomination." An indication of how
close he was to the seat of power all through his life is that he met, knew, or was an
advisor to virtually every president from John Quincy Adams to Woodrow Wilson.
Adams, with whom Watterson met when he was only a child, was considered a "little old
bald-headed gentleman who was good to (Watterson)."

He attended the inauguration of Lincoln, lobbied against a third term for Grant, and was
offered an appointment by Theodore Roosevelt. Watterson was quite critical of the last
president he knew, Woodrow Wilson, for he was strongly opposed to Wilson's proposed
League of Nations. Earlier, in 1918, his series of editorials urging the United States to
declare war with Germany earned him the Pulitzer Prize.
It seems Watterson had much to say on a myriad of subjects, as a perusal of the
chapters in his autobiography, "Marse Henry,"attests. Among them: "The Real Grover
Cleveland;" "I Go to London;" "Mark Twain;" "Feminism and Woman Suffrage;" "Monte
Carlo, the European Shrine of Sport and Fashion;" "Stephen Foster, the Song Writer;"
and "Political Conventions, State and National." These are only a mere few among the
many commentaries Watterson wrote throughout his years as a journalist.

In addition to his autobiography, which is really a collection of vividly told anecdotes

concerning the people he met during his career, Watterson published "History of the
Spanish-American War" in 1899 and "The Compromises of Life" in 1902. Given these
dates, we can surmise that he might have worked on these while he wintered at the
now-historic Palm Cottage.
 Chattanooga also had an importance in Watterson's life for the friendships he made
there. Two men were to have great significance in his life: Albert Roberts and Walter N.
Haldeman, both future partners in Watterson's post-war journalistic activities. Roberts
served as assistant editor on The Rebel's staff during those months that the paper was
published in Chattanooga.

Haldeman, editor of the Louisville Courier, had fled before the advent of Union troops
into Kentucky's largest city, and in 1863 was editing his paper in exile in Chattanooga.
14 Watterson enjoyed the company of both men and impressed them with his
journalistic ability.
It was chiefly for its romantic significance, however, that Chattanooga was to be
remembered by Watterson. For here in the winter of 1862-3 he met the daughter of
Andrew Ewing, a former Congressman from Nashville, and an old friend of Harvey

Rebecca was also in exile, living with relatives while her father served in the
Confederate army. To Henry, who always had a keen eye for the beautiful, she
appeared at once to be the loveliest girl
he had ever seen. With her dark curly hair piled high on her head, her thin aristocratic
nose and proud almost regal bearing, she belonged to the old romantic South of ballad
and legend. Yet there was a softness and gentleness about her, too, in her delicate,
sensuous mouth and in her large deep-set eyes with their faint expression of distant
sadness. Shy and reserved, Rebecca was lonesome in
Chattanooga. She must have been flattered by the interest shown by the dashing young
editor and former raider in Forrest's cavalry. They were married 20 December 1865 at
the First Church of Christ in Nashville. 

Henry Watterson (February 16, 1840 – December 22, 1921) was a United States
journalist who founded the Louisville Courier-Journal. He also served part of one term in
the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat.


Born in Washington, D.C., the son of Harvey Magee Watterson, a journalist and
Congressman, Watterson became a newspaper reporter early in his life. He fought for
the Confederate States of America under General Nathan B. Forrest during the
American Civil War, and edited a pro-Confederate newspaper, the Chattanooga Rebel.
After the war, Watterson edited newspapers in several states before settling down in
Louisville, Kentucky to edit the Louisville Journal. When that paper merged with
the Louisville Courier in 1868, the Courier-Journal was formed. This paper soon gained
national attention for its excellent reporting.  He was a leader of the Liberal Republican
movement in 1872. By 1876 he was a Democrat; his proposal for hundreds of
thousands of Democrats to march on Washington to force the election of Tilden
angered President Ulysses S. Grant, who noted that nobody threatened Grant.
Watterson was elected to fill the rest of Edward Y. Parsons' term in the house when
Parsons died in office.
Watterson was called "the last of the great personal journalists", writing colorful and
controversial editorials on many topics under the pen name "Marse Henry". He won the
Pulitzer Prize in 1918 for two editorials supporting U.S. entry into World War I, and he
remained the editor until 1919, retiring after conflicts with Robert Worth Bingham, who
purchased the paper in 1918.
During his tenure as editor, Watterson was a Democratic representative in Congress
from 1876 to 1877 and was a five-time delegate to the National Democratic Convention,
where, in 1892, he received a smattering of votes for the vice -presidential nomination.
He became widely known as a lecturer and orator. His publications include History of
the Spanish-American War (1899) and The Compromises of Life (1902).


The portion of I-264 from the junction with US-31W to it's notheastern terminus at I-71 is
known as the Watterson Expressway.
The Jefferson County Public School is named Watterson Elementary School.

Enduring quote

"Things have come to a hell of a pass, when a man can't whip his own jackass." (i.e.
Democratic Party)[1]


 Joseph F. Wall (1956) Henry Watterson, Reconstructed Rebel, New York,

 Encyclopedia of Kentucky. New York, New York: Somerset Publishers. 1987.
pp. 189–192. ISBN 0-403-09981-1.
 Daniel S. Margolies. Henry Watterson And the New South: The Politics of
Empire, Free Trade, And Globalization (2006)

 The Courier-Journal
Morning daily newspaper published in Louisville, Kentucky, long recognized as one of
the outstanding regional newspapers of the United States.
It was founded in 1868 by a merger of the Louisville Courier and the Louisville Journal
brought about by Henry Watterson, The Courier-Journal’s first editor, who also became
a part owner. Watterson was an eloquent writer and a veteran of the Confederate army
in the Civil War who greatly admired Abraham Lincoln and who believed in political
participation by blacks. His half-century tenure as editor brought The Courier-Journal
nationwide distinction for its thorough coverage and for having the strength of its
sometimes unpopular convictions. It was a leading voice in the creation of what
eventually became known as the New South.

 Liberal and Democratic in its editorial outlook, The Courier-Journal supported

progressive causes while stressing national and international news coverage. Under
Watterson, and later under the Bingham family, it was an influential force in Democratic
Party presidential nominations and in the politics of the state and region. Its support of
equal rights and opportunities for blacks, progressive in the context of southern politics,
was as conspicuous in the 1960s and 1970s as it had been 100 years before during the
Reconstruction era. The newspaper was purchased by the Gannett Co., Inc., in 1986.

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