Businessman, MP (1882-1887), MP (1887-1891), MP (1891-1892), MLA (1892-1895), MLA (1896-1899), Senator.
Born at Elora, Ontario on 29 April 1853, son of George and Elizabeth Watson of Edinburgh, Scotland, who came to Canada in 1847. A millwright by trade, he came to Manitoba in 1876, built mills at Portage la Prairie and Stonewall. In 1889, in partnership with his brother, he established a machine shop and planing mill under the name of R. and J. Watson. He was President of the Manitoba and Saskatchewan Coal Company and the Central Electric Company.
He was a member of the Portage la Prairie town council for two years. He was elected to the House of Commons for Marquette in 1882, re-elected in 1887 and 1891, resigned in 1892 and was elected to the Manitoba Legislature for Portage la Prairie in 1892, taking on the portfolio of Public Works in the Greenway government. Re-elected in 1896, he was defeated in the 1899 provincial general election, then was called to the Senate in January 1900.
On 15 July 1880, he married Isabella Brown (1861-?), daughter of Duncan Brown of Lobo, Ontario and they had five children: Elizabeth Mabel Watson (1881-1972, wife of Arthur Sidney Swinford), Florence Eleanor Watson (1883-?, wife of Robert Ollerenshaw), Alice Isabel Watson (1886-?, wife of William Henry Barker), Frances Mary Watson (1891-?, wife of James Hilton McGregor), and Robert Wilfrid Watson (1894-1923). He was a member of the Presbyterian church and AF & AM.
He died at Brandon on 19 May 1929 and was buried in the Portage Hillside Cemetery. His correspondence (1893-1900) is at the Archives of Manitoba.
Historic Sites of Manitoba: Watson House (139 Dufferin Avenue E, Portage la Prairie)
Birth registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
The Canadian Album: Men of Canada or Success by Example, Vol. III, Bradley, Garretson & Co., Brantford, Ontario, 1894.
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
A History of Manitoba: Its Resources and People by Prof. George Bryce, Toronto: The Canadian History Company, 1906.
Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.
Obituary [Robert Watson], Winnipeg Tribune, 3 December 1923, page 3.
Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba, Winnipeg: Canadian Publicity Company, 1925.
“Senator Robt. Watson dies at home of his daughter in Brandon,” Manitoba Free Press, 20 May 1929, page 1.
The Canadian Directory of Parliament, 1867-1967, edited by J. K. Johnson, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa [Library and Archives Canada], 1968.
Obituary [Elizabeth M. Swinford], Winnipeg Free Press, 25 August 1972, page 16.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
Members of the Legislative Assembly (deceased), Legislative Assembly of Manitoba.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 4 July 2020
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