Carleton Watkins                       End of Innocence


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followed by Oneonta House and Susquehanna House, the latter located side-by-side at Main and Chestnut streets [Fig. 3], shown here in a post card from around 1900 copied from a much earlier photograph. 

          Carleton's father built valuable experience managing McDonald Tavern in the 1830s, and by the mid-1840s became proprietor of Oneonta House and manager of Susquehanna House that was owned by the Emmons family.[3] By the 1850s Carleton's father had become a full-time hotel manager with responsibilities that involved his whole family.  Carleton's sister, Caroline, and her husband took over operation of Oneonta House about 1865, when Carleton's father, assisted by his son, Carleton's younger brother, Albert, became manager of the American Hotel in Albany, New York.[4] As a result of his father's work, the everyday routines of meeting-and-greeting people ran deep in Carleton's veins. 

          Young Carleton and his siblings were surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the hotel establishments, enterprises that had superseded his grandfather's lumbering as the source of the Watkins family prosperity.  By 1837 there were eight stages coaches—some operated by their uncle, Hezekiah—arriving and departing Oneonta daily.  The Catskill coach left Oneonta at 2:00 a.m., while the Albany coach left Oneonta House at four in the morning, which gave Oneonta the reputation of being up all night.   It was said that nearly every window of the two public houses at Main and Chestnut streets were lighted even at midnight, while the barrooms were crowded with people.[5] 

          The year 1840 marked another benchmark for the family of John and Julia Watkins, that had now grown to six through the birth of three sons—Albert, Charles, and George.  In 1840  Carleton's father experienced an attack of wanderlust and made a two month reconnaissance of the State of Ohio, where he contemplated moving his family, a move that could have been enabled by monetizing their substantial real estate holdings, but nothing came of the idea.[6] 

            A belief that growth and increased prosperity could be achieved by moving west was generally held by easterners.  For folks residing in Connecticut before the Civil War, the counties west of the Hudson River were considered "The West."  Expanding commercial opportunities in New York State were the attraction of Oneonta for Willard V. Huntington's father and mother, Solon and Harriet Huntington, who relocated there in 1840 from

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[3] Old Time Notes, p. 2013

[4] "John M. Watkins," Oneonta Weekly Journal, May 1, 1890.

[5] Old Time Notes, p. 2218.

[6] Old Time Notes, p.  2143.