- Born: 1856, Manchester, Lancashire, England
- Marriage (2): Evangeline WEBB on 3 Nov 1916 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
- Died: 1917, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand at age 61
- Buried: Sydenham, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
James Watts was my great grandfather, son of James Watts and Anna Maria (or Ann Mary) Shilton. He was said to have lied about his age in order to get into the British army, and was apparently only about 14 or 15 when he joined up, circa 1869 or 1870. Family lore says he was sent off to India and was a skilled horseman and swordsman. He was also supposed to have been part of the Queen's Life Guard, presumably on his return from India. My father recalled seeing a portrait of him in uniform which included a sword and a helmet topped with feather plumes, but this picture was lost in a house fire. Interestingly, a distant Aussie relative also recalls her father having a similar picture of him, but this has become lost. I have never seen it. of course. Another place he was said to have been sent to was Ireland, as a policeman (still in the army?? - I don't know the sequence of events and have had no luck finding military records to confirm all of this. Might need to go to England for that!).
Family lore says he was so good as a horse/swordsman that he was quickly promoted. However, he didn't like the army and bought his way out of it. This surprises me as his family were trades people. Just when he emigrated to Australia I don't know, but the first mention I can find is 1875 in Collingwood, Melbourne (see file). One of his brothers (Joseph?) came out with him.
In 1879 James married Harriet Ann Ball in Collingwood. This marriage fell apart as James was a jealous husband and hit her, accusing her of an affair or flirtation with his brother, so around 1890 Harriet fled (with the help of one of James's brothers) with little Lillian, leaving the boys with their father. Harriet's mother and the family friends refused to tell James where his wife was. Heart broken, and said to have been bankrupted in the NSW depression, he came to NZ with his two boys James junior (my grandfather) and Samuel, but returned to Australia several times to try finding his wife. He never succeeded.
He and the boys first went to Auckland to live but my grandfather (James junior) didn't like the place so they came down here to Christchurch.
Eventually James senior and Eva Webb got together and raised several children (Arthur, George, Gladys, Walter, and baby Alma who died) but they couldn't marry until James was certain that his wife Harriet had died. This must have been difficult as he didn't know where she was. Presumably he eventually found out somehow that she was in fact dead (I can't find her death record) and he and Eva married.
Notes thanks to Irene Absalom 2010
1884, Sands & McDougall Melbourne Directory
Watts, James, with Mrs Jane Ball (his mother in law, Midwife), 237 Wellington Street, Collingwood, Chimney Sweep.
1893, Sands Melbourne Directory
Watts, James, 62 Perry Street AND 237 Wellington Street (Chimney Sweep). Two people or one? James was supposed to be in NZ by 1893, but maybe the Directory entries were running a year or two behind reality as was the case in NZ. Jane Ball (mother in law) no longer listed as living in the Wellington Street address.
1900 Wise's Post Office Directory (NZ)
Watts, James, Colombo Street, St Albans, Christchurch, Chimney Sweep.
In records held in the Christchurch Public Library, it states that a note attached to the register states "This marriage was solemnized under exceptional circumstances at the bedside of the bridegroom who was seriously ill", on 3 Nov 1919 at the residenceof Mr James Watts, 952 Colombo St., St Albans, Christchurch. This suggests that his children Arthur, George and Gladys were not children to Eva but to his first wife whose name and details have yet to be established. He and Eva are buried in Block 5C Plot No18 Sydenham Cemetery Christchurch
James married Harriet Ann BALL, daughter of Bennett BALL and Jane.
James next married Evangeline WEBB, daughter of William WEBB and Mary Ann DEAN, on 3 Nov 1916 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand. (Evangeline WEBB was born in 1866 in Duvauchelles, Banks Peninsula, Canterbury, New Zealand, died in 1936 in Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand and was buried in Sydenham, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand.)