Clarence Wayland Watson (May 8, 1864-May 24, 1940) was a prominent coal baron and U.S. senator. He was born in Fairmont, the third son of James Otis Watson and Matilda (Lamb) Watson. Clarence attended public schools in Fairmont and in 1886 graduated from Fairmont State Normal School, now Fairmont State University. In 1893, he joined his father and brothers in the family’s mining enterprises. In 1894, Watson married Minnie Lee Owings and moved into his father’s mansion, La Grange, which he remodeled in the Spanish Mission style and renamed Fairmont Farms.
In 1901, Clarence Watson combined the Watson mining properties with others in the Fairmont field to form the Fairmont Coal Company, which operated 28 mines and had 6,067 employees by 1902. In 1903, he played a leading role in the merger of the Fairmont Coal Company with the Consolidation Coal Company of Maryland, and was named president of the company at the time of the merger. In 1906, he headed a syndicate that purchased a majority share of the Consolidation stock. During World War I, Watson was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Ordnance Department of the United States Army and served with the American Expeditionary Forces in France until January 1919. He returned to the coal business after the war. Serving as president or chairman of the board, Watson made Consolidation Coal the largest independent bituminous mining company in the nation by 1927. In 1928, he was forced out of the company.
Watson, a Democrat, served in the U.S. Senate from 1911 to 1913, filling the unexpired term of Stephen B. Elkins. His brother-in-law, Aretas B. Fleming, was governor of West Virginia, 1890–93. Watson also bred race horses, had a private railroad car, and was an avid sportsman. Watson’s mansion, Fairmont Farms, was converted into apartments and still stands today.
This Article was written by Michael Edward Workman
Last Revised on November 12, 2010
Beachley, Charles E. History of the Consolidation Coal Company. New York: Consolidation Coal Co., 1934.
Caudill, Harry M. Theirs be the Power: The Moguls of Eastern Kentucky. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1983.
Watson, James O. The Valley Coal Story. Fairmont Printing Co., 1957.