Patrick Samuel Gideon Watson (1816–1890)

Patrick Samuel Gideon Watson, the father of Baptist history in Arkansas, was one of the state’s early itinerate ministers and the editor of Arkansas’s first religious newspaper in 1859.

Watson was born on May 2, 1816, in Falmouth, Kentucky, the son of local farmer Joseph Watson and Ann Anderson Watson. His writings indicate that he received an excellent classical education.

He married Catherine Oldham Harris on March 14, 1839, in Kentucky. They were the parents of eleven children, only three of which were living by the time the family moved to Texas in the 1870s.

In 1843, he was licensed to preach by the historic Forks of Licking Baptist Church in Falmouth. Shortly afterward, he and his family joined an emigrant party bound for Arkansas. He first settled near Reed’s Creek (Sharp County) and spent the next twenty years working to establish churches throughout the state. During this period, he organized Baptist churches in Batesville (Independence County), Lexa (Phillips County), Marvell (Phillips County), Yellville (Marion County), and New Hope (Sharp County), many of which are still active. During his travels he collected material on the early history of Baptists in the state in hopes of writing a history. However, other than a few articles published at the time, his collection of church histories was lost during the Civil War.

About 1855, while living in Helena (Phillips County), he led a successful petition to outlaw the sale of liquor in the community. After leaving there, he settled in Little Rock (Pulaski County), where he taught school. In 1858, he organized a Baptist church in Little Rock. It ceased to exist during the war. In 1859, he began publication of Arkansas’s first religious newspaper, the Arkansas Baptist. The paper ceased publication in 1861.

During the Civil War, Watson’s thoughts turned to the study of end-time prophecy. Shortly afterward, he returned to his home state, where he founded a monthly magazine devoted to this subject and published at Versailles, Kentucky, called Prophetic Key. By 1877, he was living in Texas, where he finished his masterwork, titled Prophetic Interpretations, an independent exposition of many important prophecies of both the Old and the New Testaments.It was published in Turneville, Texas, in 1880. Between 1881 and 1882, Watson wrote a detailed account of his life and work in Arkansas called Reminiscences of Arkansas. It was serialized in the Little Rock Arkansas Evangel and is a valuable source for researching the history of antebellum Arkansas.

Watson died on July 2, 1890, in McGregor, Texas, and is buried next to his wife in the McGregor Cemetery.

For additional information:
Allsopp, Fredrick W. History of the Arkansas Press for a Hundred Years and More. Little Rock: Parke-Harper Publishing, 1922.

Ashcraft, Robert. Pioneer Faith: The History of Missionary Baptist Associations and Churches in Arkansas from 1818 to 1920. Malvern, AR: State Association of Missionary Baptist Churches in Arkansas, 1994.

“Rev. P. S. G. Watson.” Individual File. Arkansas State Archives, Little Rock, Arkansas.

“Rev. P. S. G. Watson.” (Little Rock) Baptist Advance. November 30, 1911.

Watson, Rev. P. S. G. “Baptist Churches—Phillips County, Arkansas.” American Baptist Memorial. Edited by Basil Manly. N.p.: 1855.

Russell P. Baker
Arkansas History Commission and State Archives

Last Updated: 10/01/2020