Carleton Watkins                         End of Innocence


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Connecticut.  The arrival of the Huntington family to Oneonta forever changed its destiny.

          In a single well-crafted paragraph, Solon and Harriet Huntington's son Willard, tells the story of his parent's arrival in Oneonta, and soon thereafter, the arrival there of his uncle, Collis P. Huntington, two events that occurred more than fifteen years before Willard Huntington's own birth even though he phrases the narrative in the present tense as though he was a bystander to the events:


"Toward the close of the current year [1840], Solon Huntington, commenced his long residence, covering a period of half a century, in this village. Married at Burnt Hills, Saratoga County, in the preceding June, to Miss Harriet Saunders, he commenced his business career with a cash capital of $12,000. Less than two years later, upon the arrival at Oneonta of his brother, Collis P., who had just attained his majority, he took the latter into mercantile co-partnership with him under the firm name of S. and C. P. Huntington. This lasted for twelve years, with a branch house in Sacramento, Cal., or until after the great fire of 1852 in the latter city, which caused a loss of $50,000 to the firm, and its subsequent dissolution."[7]


          The arrival in the Susquehanna River Valley of Solon Huntington in 1840 followed a few months later by his younger brother, Collis, also changed the destiny of Carleton, who was a young teenager in 1841, when Collis, at the age of twenty, arrived in the village to visit his brother.   According to Watkins family lore, Collis Huntington became a lodger at the McDonald Tavern, which also served as the residence for the Watkins family, and where Collis is said to have shared a room with Carleton.   Very little is known from Collis's nephew, Willard Huntington, about the specifics of the friendship that developed between the two, but more than a century after the events, Collis Huntington's residency at the Watkins hotel between 1841 and 1843 or 1844 was remembered by Carleton's daughter, Julia, in this way: 


"And [Collis] lived in that hotel for a number of years.  And the boys got very chummy with one another.  They played with each other, and they slept in the same bed with each other, and they fondled each other, and they kissed and hugged each other."[8]

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[7] Old Time Notes, p. 2143.

[8] Ralph Anderson and Donald McHenry, "Interview with Julia Watkins," 26 October 1949, Yosemite National Park Library, p. 18.