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  • Writer's pictureLawrence Lore

An Obituary for the Original Owner of "Hell's Half Acre"

Hell's Half Acre

Daily Record February 18, 1931: "A man who once had a fortune in his grasp died at the County Home at 11 pm Tuesday. He was Hiram Harrison Watson, 82, once the owner of the famous "Hell's Half Acre" at Petrolia five miles north of Bridgeport.

Little did Hiram Watson think, when he sold that 3/4 acre of land to Glenn Braden, that he had let the richest plat of oil land in the Midwest slip through his fingers for a song. For Watson considered $1000 a good price for his property-a property that produced over half a million dollars’ worth of oil.

Watson, a pioneer in Lawrence County, was born August 3, 1849. He received a fair education in Lawrence County schools and eventually became the mail carrier on the Star Route: then lying between Bridgeport and the Island Post Office, where Edwin Wiswall now lives. His route lay along what was then known as the Shelbyville Road, a road that now passes through Braden's camp, Bridgeport Corners, Petrolia and Millerville.

Since the farm where the triangular plot known later as "Hell's Half Acre" was located on the bend in the road, lay midway between Island and the Bridgeport Post Office, Watson decided that it would be the logical place for him to build a home.

So, he purchased the plot for $30, built a small home on it, and he and his brother settled there. Oil leasing was going on in that section, and there had been some drilling. One day Glenn Braden, a leasor, approached Watson and offered to buy the place. He offered $1000 for it, and to the mail carrier making $30 a month, that was big money.

Watson talked it over that night with Jim Bowers, who owned the property across the road, and Bowers answered him thus: "If it's worth $1000 to Glenn Braden, it's worth that and more to you--hold onto it."

Bowers held on to his own property and became wealthy, but $1000 was too big a spot before Watson's eyes and he sold-moved out, lock, stock and barrel, and Braden took possession."

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