Businessman James Edwin Watson died in Fairmont on August 2, 1926, at age 67. He was the son of James Otis Watson, one of the first coal operators in northern West Virginia.
In 1852, James Otis Watson and future West Virginia founder Francis Pierpont opened a mine near Fairmont and shipped the first coal from Western Virginia on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
James Edwin Watson took over his father’s coal interests in 1885, at age 26. Over the next decade, he and his in-laws from the Fleming family acquired several more coal companies and renamed the enterprise Fairmont Coal Company.
In 1903, Fairmont Coal was bought out by the Consolidation Coal Company. The Watson and Fleming families soon acquired a majority interest in Consolidation Coal, which became one of the nation’s largest corporations. James Edwin Watson is also remembered for building High Gate in Fairmont. Erected in 1910, it’s one of West Virginia’s largest and most luxurious mansions. The house was sold to the Sisters of St. Joseph after Watson’s death to be used as a nursing home, and it was later a funeral home.