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Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of Kent, Ontario
Neil Watson


NEIL WATSON, one of the most prominent citizens of Mull, County of Kent, and who has been an import factor in the advancement of that place, is a worthy member of one of the most respected families in the country.  He was born June 10th, 1853, on the old farm in Harwich township where his parents settled in 1839, and has passed all his life in the country.  The Watson family was established in 1830, by three brothers, Robert, John and James Watson, who came from Argyllshire, Scotland, where the late James Watson was born in January, 1800.   His parents were James and Jane (Ferguson) Watson, both also natives of Scotland.

Landing at Quebec, James Watson soon afterward settled on land near Toronto, and there engaged in farming for five years.  In February, 1833, he was united in marriage with Miss Mary McVicar, daughter of John and Mary (McNair) McVicar, the former of whom was born in Argyllshire, Scotland, in 1782, and the latter a few years later.  They came to Canada in 1832, on a sailing-vessel, and settled in Vaughan township, near Toronto, where they were among the first settlers.  There John McVicar died in June, 1864, and his widow in September, 1865.  Of their family three died young, in Scotland, and the others were:  Neil emigrated to the West Indies and died there; Margaret, the eldest daughter, came to Canada, and married John McEachran, who settled and died near Toronto, leaving two surviving children – Colon, of the State of Washington, and Donald, of near Toronto; Susan, born in Scotland, is the deceased wife of Colon McEachran, who settled and died near Toronto; James settled as a farmer on Lake Huron, and died there (he married Bell Maloy, and their only daughter, Mrs. Mary Livingston, lives in Briston, Ontario); Angus, who was a merchant at Kingston, Ontario, married Susan Birmingham, of Kingston, and died there, leaving children – John, a prominent journalist of Detroit, and Annie, the wife of John Armor, of Detroit; Donald, born in Scotland, married Mary Armour, of Vaughan township, and moved to Harwich, there both died, leaving children – John, who died in Toronto (unmarried), and Mary, who married and settled in Canada; Flora, deceased, married Donald Armour, who is also deceased, lived near Toronto, and was the mother of twelve children – Donald and Angus (twins), Alexander, Maggie, Flora, Susan, John (deceased), James (deceased) and four who died young; Mary, who married the late James Watson, was born May 29th, 1815, and was educated in the schools of Scotland.

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Watson settled for three years in Raleigh township, coming to the County of Kent in 1839.  In 1846 he purchased 100 acres of land in Harwich township.  The changes which he wrought during his life of industry are almost magical, for his efforts never ceased until almost the whole of this large tract was under cultivation.  Here, in this pleasant home, made through his own efforts, Mr. Watson passed away, in November 1878.  His name will ever be associated with the agricultural, educational and religious progress made in Harwich township.  For many years he was a member of the Methodist Church.  Mrs. Watson was reared a Presbyterian.  Mr. Watson was identified with the Conservative party.

A family of thirteen children was born to James Watson and his wife, as follows:  Mary the eldest, died in young womanhood.  Jame died in childhood.  Margaret, born in Raleigh, in July, 1838, married Jabez Newcombe, a farmer in Harwich, and they have had children – John, Jabez, Robert, Mary, Asa and Elijah, and James, deceased.  James, born in January, 1840, died in August 1902; he married Elizabeth Ross, of the County of Elgin, and they lived for twenty years in Harwich, for two years in Gosfield, and then moved to a farm in Dakota, where he became prominent and wealthy, and died, leaving a widow and children – Maggie, Ada, James, Meredith, David, Susan and Edna.  Jane, born in February, 1842, married Wesley Conn, of Aylmer, near St. Thomas, where he is engaged in the hardware business, and they have children – Mary, Arkison, Susan, Lottie and Jane.  John, born in January, 1844, learned civil engineering at Chatham, was in the locomotive works of Illinois for three years, located at Bloomington, moved to Pittsburg and engaged in oil engineering; he married Anna Brown, of Canada, who died in Detroit, and since then he has traveled all over the world, crossed the Pacific three times, visiting Japan, Hawaii, South America and Australia, made a visit to the old home of his ancestors in Scotland, went again to Japan, thence to China, and after a sojourn in Colorado is visiting with his mother.  Susan, born in 1846, married Neil McCorvie, who resides on Concession 10, in Harwich.  Flora, born in September, 1848, married James Conn, of London, and they have children – Maggie, Mary, Martha, Emma, John and Susan.  David, born October 9th, 1849, married Ada Palmer of Toronto,and they reside at Chatham; they have children – Bernice, Veva, Winnie, Ormond, Amy, John and Jean.  Angus, born July 27th, 1851, is on the home place.  Neil, born June 10th, 1853, is in business in the village of Mull, in Harwich township.  Robert, born in April, 1855, graduated from the London College, for twenty years has been a teacher, and is also engaged in a prosperous insurance business.  Barbara, the youngest, born in 1857, married Henry Hamil, of Harwich, a son of Robert Hamil, and they have four children – Guy, Roy, May and Veda.  The family has been reared in the faith of the Methodist Church, and politically they are strong workers in the interests of the Conservative party.  Mrs. Watson has reached the age of eighty-nine years, but time has touched her lightly.  She is the center of a large family of admiring relatives.  Her recollections of pioneer days in Harwich are most interesting, and would form an entertaining volume by themselves.

Neil Watson was reared on the old homestead and was educated in the public schools.  He remained on the home farm until 1881, after which he worked out on farms for two years.   For the next two years he was with H.C. Reece, of Buffalo, New York, buying and shipping staves and heading bolts, which were sent by water and rail all over western Canada.  In 1885, he contracted with Sutherland & Innes, of Chatham, for the getting out of timber to be manufactured at Mull, continuing thus until he purchased the plant from the firm in 1896.  The plant covers ten acres, and Mr. Watson also has 130 acres more, which he keeps under a fine state of cultivation.  He does a prosperous business in his saw and stave mill, giving employment to twenty men, and in connection carries on a general store and deals in grain and produce.  He made the clearing for this store, which he built in 1879, renting it until 1887, since which time he has conducted it on his own account.  In addition to his business property he has eleven houses in Mull, being the principal real-estate holder in that thriving village, which is on the line of the Michigan Central railroad in Harwich township.

Though his business interests have necessarily absorbed so much of his attention, Mr. Watson has found time to aid the community in other ways, but he has declined to take much active part in the local administration.  He has been postmaster, however, for the past twenty-four years, and was school trustee for six years, but he has refused nomination to a number of positions because of the pressure of business cares, in 1901 declining the nomination for Member of Parliament.  He is well known all over the county, and is popular among all his acquaintances, but especially in the community where the busiest years of his life have been passed, and where he has proved his usefulness and efficiency in so many ways.

Mr. Watson has always been active in religious work, attending and supporting both the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, and has sung in the choir for the past twenty-four years.  For fourteen years past he has led the choir in the Presbyterian Church.  Fraternally he is a member of the Free Masons, and for the past twenty-six years he has been master of Ridgetown Lodge, No. 391.  In political faith he is a Conservative.  He is a representative, progressive business man, typical of the best in the old Dominion pioneer stock and the modern enterprising Canadian, and holds a high place in the esteem of his fellowmen.

p. 128 - 130


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