The Watkins farm dates from the 1860s and has been held by the same family since 1888. Records show eleven features including a house built in 1905, a small garage, a woodshed, a barn, a concrete silo, four round grain bins, a corn crib, a hog pen, and a small set of corrals. Many of these no longer exist on the site.
The Watkins Farmstead, aka Montgomery Homestead, was said to have been developed in the 1860, but ownership did not transfer to William N. Montgomery through homestead patent until September 1874. Montgomery augmented his holdings through a Cash Sale Entry four years later. In 1888, he sold the southern portions of his property to Peter A. (Archibald) Watkins. Watkins, who emigrated from Great Britain in 1871, was one of the original directors of the Middleton State Bank. He was said to have died in 1927 as the result of wounds received in a struggle with bank robbers at the bank. However, newspaper accounts describe him as a witness to the May 1926 bank robbery where he was assaulted. However, he appeared in the 1930 Middleton Census and his death was recorded in Orofino, Idaho on October 7, 1931. In 1929, the Metsker map of the area showed the farm to be owned by his wife Elizabeth Watkins. The farm was passed on to their son Melvin and then to their grandson Harold who is the current owner.
Little remains of the Montgomery development of the property. The oldest building is the barn which was built in 1896 by Watkins. In 1905, Watkins replaced Montgomery’s small homestead cabin with the large frame home that still stands. In 1907, the Interurban Trolley system placed a stop at the farm and called it the Watkins Station. The station was active until 1928 when the system ceased operations. The station site was then affixed to the front of the Watkins family home. In 1940, a large concrete silo was constructed on the north side of the barn. Other features include a corncrib built in 1943 and three round grain bins built around 2001.
The 1905 Watkins home is an irregular plan one and a half story building with a concrete foundation clad in aluminum clapboard style siding The roof has intersecting gables with boxed eaves, cornice returns and a half-hipped roof on the front and rear porches. The cross-gable ell has a three-foot “kick-out” ell extending from the west side. The roof is covered in cedar shingles (c. 1961) with two centrally located corbel brick chimneys. Mr. Watkins stated that the bottom portion of the rear building was used as a root cellar and the upper portion is known as the hired man’s house. The hired man’s house has a front gabled roof covered in cedar shingles, a one-story high brick foundation. It is clad in brick and aluminum clapboard siding. The wood sign reading “Watkins”, located over the top of the screen door is reported to have originally hung on the front of the Watkins Station trolley stop.
Located 208 feet south, southwest of the home is the barn. It is a rectangular plan “Prairie” style timber-frame barn originally constructed in 1896. The interior posts are set on low stone piers and the walls are vertical board and batten. The large gable roof has exposed rafter tails with fascia, the east end has a widow’s peak and the remains of a hay trolley. The roof is covered with wood shingles that were clad with metal. The east end of the barn faces the farm lane. This end is unusual in that it has no first floor opening, but has a side hinge loft door and an open hay loft window under the widow’s peak. The south side first floor has four vertical plank latch door entryways. The barn is no longer structurally sound as is evidenced by the sagging roof that is beginning to collapse. The family plans to demolish the barn in 2020 for safety reasons as the structure is no longer safe and is not fenced off. It should be noted that the barn originally had corrals on the south side to direct the flow of animals in and out of the structure. The large hay loft and adjacent silo and grain bins point indicate the building was constructed to serve as a dairy barn and did so through most of the 20th Century.
A concrete silo is located just north of the barn. It is approximately 35 feet high and 13 feet in diameter. Such silos were quite common and built throughout southwest Idaho in the first half of the 20th Century, but generally were constructed between 1915 and the start of World War II. Constructed around 1940, this silo would have been among the last to be built in the area. There are 3 steel hoops wrapped around the bottom third of the silo to counter internal outward pressures created by grain loaded in the silo.
When first recorded in 2001, it was recommended that the site be individually eligible for the NRHP as a historic landscape. SHPO notes on the form indicate that the individual eligibility was for its association with the history of farming in Idaho. In 2007, when recorded by Bionomics, recommended the site to be individually eligible for the NRHP under Criterion A for its contribution to agriculture. They stated, “The Watkins Farm site was considered under Criterion A because it is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of agricultural settlement history. The site has lost some integrity of materials and possibly workmanship, but has retained its integrity of design, location, setting, feeling, and association, which makes the site eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.”
A concrete walkway extends from the front entrance of the house, and extends north towards Highway 44. The Watkins Ditch and the South Middleton Drain are in good condition and both remain on their original historic alignments and are above ground. These waterways retain their historic integrity of design, location, association, and are eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and are an important contributing element in the overall historic integrity of the Watkins Farm despite an unfortunate placement of a cell-tower complex which was placed just south of the Watkins ditch crossing over the Lawrence Kennedy Canal.
The farm of today is only a partial remnant of the once thriving family farm, and has lost many of the components that illustrated the historic characteristics and processes that made it work. Its future is uncertain as much of the land has been sold off for commercial and sub-division development. The family is hoping to maintain the home dwelling as some type of community space if possible.
This information is taken from a historical report by Frontier Historical Consultants/Grand View, Idaho