John Jay Watson

Biography of John Jay Watson, Jr.

The branch of the Watson family here under consideration has played an important part in Rhode Island history from colonial days to the present time, each succeeding generation adding fresh prestige to the family name. John Jay Watson who became a resident of New York City a few years ago, owing to certain developments in his business career, needs no introduction to the readers of this work; for he was prominent not only in the manufacturing and financial circles of his native State, but was also a very active participant in its political affairs. In this he carried out the tradition of the Watson family, generations old, that the measure of a man’s ability is the measure of his responsibility to serve his fellow-citizens in civic affairs.

(I) The Conanicut branch of the Watson family, to which John Jay Watson belongs, is descended from John Watson, whose name first appears on record at North Kingstown, this State, on November 7, 1673, when he and his wife Dorcas signed a deed as witnesses. He was constable in 1687, member of the grand jury in 1688, and in 1690 held the offices of conservator of the peace and deputy. He was a tailor by trade. His death occurred in 1728. His first wife was Dorcas, daughter of George and Herodias (Long) Gardiner. Herodias Long was a member of the Society of Friends, and it is said that she was so staunch and so uncompromising in her belief that she cheerfully walked to Boston with a young child in her arms to receive a whipping at the post for her adherence to her religion.

(II) John (2) Watson, their son, was born July 22, 1676, and is said to have been the first white child born in Narragansett after the Indian War. He was made a freeman in Kingstown in 1712, and he resided in that section which became known as South Kingstown. He served as deputy in 1718, and from 1721 to 1726 inclusive. He died November 8, 1772. He married for his first wife, April 8, 1703, Hannah Champlin, daughter of Jeffrey Champlin, and great-granddaughter of Jeffrey Champlin, born in 1671, who established the family in this country when he settled at Newport. She died in 1720.

(III) John (3) Watson, son of John (2) and Hannah (Champlin) Watson, was born March 13, 1710, and died in South Kingstown in 1791, having resided there all his life. He married, June 2, 1736, Isabel Sherman, daughter of Job Sherman, granddaughter of Samson, and great-granddaughter of Philip Sherman, who came from England to Massachusetts in 1633. He became a resident of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, as early as 1638. Mrs. Watson died May 22, 1753.

(IV) Job Watson, son of John (3) and Isabel (Sherman) Watson, was born August 7, 1744, and died at Jamestown, where he had made his home, October 12, 1812. He married, February 12, 1766, Sarah Hazard, born June 27, 1734, daughter of Robert Hazard of South Kingstown, and of the fifth generation from Thomas Hazard, founder of the notable Rhode Island family of that name. He was born in 1610, was a resident of Boston in 1635, and was one of the original proprietors of Newport. He was admitted freeman in Newport in 1639.

(V) Robert Hazard Watson, son of Job and Sarah (Hazard) Watson, was born February 28, 1769, and died October 13, 1840, in Jamestown. He married, December 30, 1790, Catherine Weeden, born September 1, 1770, died March 14, 1816, daughter of Daniel and Hannah (Hull) Weeden, of Jamestown. She was descended from James Weeden, who came to Boston in 1638 in the ship “Martin,” and later became a resident of Newport.

(VI) Robert Hazard (2) Watson, son of Robert Hazard (1) and Catherine (Weeden) Watson, was born in Jamestown, March 4, 1806. He was a successful farmer on a large scale and was recognized as one of the most able citizens of the town. He served many terms as a member of the General Assembly and was also a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1842. He married Catherine Congdon Carr, born in April, 1809, daughter of John and Mary (Cross) Carr, a descendant of Governor Caleb Carr.

Governor Caleb Carr Genealogy

In England the Carr family dates back to the Norman Conquest. A charter in Battle Abbey shows the name of a follower of William as Karre. Like most ancient patronymics this name has been, and still is, spelled in various ways: Carre, Carr, Care, Car, and similar spellings using K as the initial letter.

(1) The progenitor of this branch of the family in America was Governor Caleb Carr, a native of London, England. His tombstone inscription states that he “departed this life ye 17th day of December, 1695, in ye 73rd (79) year of his age.” From this, the Carr family historian figures the year of his birth as 1691, and the day December 9th; but Austin, the Rhode Island genealogist, states that Caleb Carr was aged eleven when he came to America with his brother Robert in the ship “Elizabeth and Ann” in 1635. This would place the year of Caleb’s birth as 1624. Caleb and Robert Carr settled in Newport about 1640. Caleb was commissioner in 1654, and 1658-62 inclusive. He was general treasurer, 1661-62; deputy, 1664, 1665, 1667-72, 1674, 1678, 1679, 1690; assistant, 1679-86, 1690, 1691; justice of General Quarter Sessions and Inferior Court of Common Pleas, 1687-88. He was admitted freeman in 1655, and was elected governor in 1695, but was drowned on December 17th of that year. He also served on a number of committees. Caleb Carr owned considerable land in Conanicut. His first wife’s Christian name was Mercy. She was born in 1631, and died September 21, 1675. The Carr family historian gives her surname as Vaughan; but in “Banker’s Long Island Genealogies” it appears as Easton.

(2) Nicholas Carr, the next ancestor in this lineage, was born in Newport, October 22, 1654. From his father he received by will the “farm in Conanicut, 140 acres, which I formerly leased him for about twenty years, with dwelling house &c., and right in Dutch Island, and 40 acres on west side of highway, over against my brother Robert Carr, his land in said Conanicut, and a quarter share in Gould Island, and 25 foot in length of land, west side of my warehouse upon breadth, and my great Bible, seal ring and little cabinet, he paying my now wife Sarah, yearly, 20’s.” Nicholas Carr married Rebecca Nicholson, born February 1, 1656, died May 13, 1703, daughter of Joseph and Jane Nicholson of Portsmouth. Carr and his wife resided in Jamestown. He was the first representative of that town to the General Assembly and served his fellow-citizens in many other public capacities. He was made freeman in 1679; ensign in 1680; deputy, 1680, 1685, 1696, 1699; overseer of the poor and grandjuryman, 1687; deputy warden, 1690; lieutenant, 1692; warden, 1704. He died, February 17, 1709.

(3) Thomas Carr, the next in line of descent, was born January 25, 1696, the eleventh of a family of twelve children. He married, February 23, 1720, Hannah Weeden, born April 14, 1699, daughter of John and Jane (Underwood) Weeden, and granddaughter of James and Mary Weeden.

(4) Nicholas Carr, son of Thomas and Hannah (Weeden) Carr, was born in Jamestown, December 25, 1732. An interesting incident occurred during the Revolutionary War which shows the spirit of the man. One day while he was plowing on his Conanicut farm, the captain of an English man-of-war, which was blockading Narragansett Bay, commanded him to stop his team. The command was ignored, and this so enraged the captain that he up with his cane and struck Carr upon the head. It is recorded that the pompous representative of John Bull “was a sight to behold after he had been rolled in the mud until he cried for quarter.” The captain returned to his ship in great fury and sent ashore a file of marines who took Carr back to their ship, where he was kept a prisoner in irons for three days. Every day a rope was placed around his neck, and he was given the choice of getting down on his knees and kissing the captain’s hand, thus gaining his liberty, or taking the alternative of being hanged at the yardarm. Finding that the fear of hanging had no effect upon the old patriot, the captain liberated him and sent him ashore. Nicholas Carr was afterwards appointed a judge of the Court of Newport County, which office he held for a number of years. He married, November 10, 1768, Mary Eldred, daughter of John Eldred, representative of another old Rhode Island family. She died, June 13, 1800. He died March 3, 1813.

( 5 ) John Carr, son of Nicholas and Mary (Eldred) Carr, was born May 5, 1774. He married, December 21, 1805, Mary Cross, daughter of Peleg Cross of Charlestown, Rhode Island. She died in Jamestown, December 24, 1822. He died there July 27, 1823.

(6) Catherine Congdon Carr, their daughter, was born April 23, 1809, and died May 1, 1890. She married Robert Hazard (2) Watson, and they were the parents of John Jay Watson, Sr.

John Jay Watson Family

(VII) John Jay Watson, Sr., was born in Jamestown, this State, March 17, 1841. He was educated in the public schools of his native town and at East Greenwich Academy. Then followed several years of work upon the homestead farm. In 1874, or ’75 he removed to the farm on Narragansett Avenue, which he named “Thorn Croft, and which he made one of the most beautiful spots in that section of the State. As an agriculturalist he belonged in that classification known as “gentlemen farmers.” But Mr. Watson was a socially-minded man. Everything that concerned the welfare of his community and State found an important place in his interests. He was always affiliated with the Republican party. In 1866 and 1867 he represented Jamestown in the State Legislature. He was elected State Senator in 1902 and 1903, and served on the committees on charities and corrections. He also held the following offices: town auditor from 1884 to 1890; town clerk from 1883 to 1884; collector of taxes in 1883; president of the Town Council; first warden of the peace; moderator of the town of Jamestown in 1882. He always took an active interest in educational affairs. He served for years on the school committee in Jamestown. He was a director of the Union National Bank of b. ewport, and he was senior warden of St. Matthews Episcopal Church in Jamestown.

John Jay Watson, Sr., married, December 23, 1870, Gertrude T. Stanhope, born in Newport, daughter of George T. Stanhope. The following children were born from this union:

  1. Elizabeth S., born April 15, 1872; married Alfred R. Cory.
  2. John Jay, Jr., of whom further.
  3. Mabel Catherine Gertrude, born December 26, 1883. She became a musician. She married Allerton A. Chandler.
  4. Mary Helen, who died in 1897 at the age of eleven.

John Jay Watson, Jr. Family

(VIII) John Jay Watson, Jr., was born in Jamestown, Rhode Island, November 12, 1874. His education was begun in the country school of his native town, was continued at the Rogers High School of Newport, after which he pursued a course in the famous old Bryant and Stratton Business College in Providence. His first employment was with the Industrial Trust Company of that city, where he remained until 1899, when he was elected a director and treasurer of the Joseph Bannigan Rubber Company, which was closely affiliated with the United States Rubber Company of New York. As a result of this relationship, Mr. Watson was soon made treasurer of the latter company also. He became very active in the development of that company’s business. He became a member of its board of directors, of its executive committee, and president of the Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company and of the General Rubber Company, two of the most important subsidiary organizations of the United States Rubber Company. He organized its European branch, and his was the leading influence in starting the rubber plantation for the company in the Federated Malay States, Java and Sumatra.

In 1910 Mr. Watson retired from the manufacturing business to engage again in the banking business, becoming senior partner in the firm of Watson and Pressprich, investment bankers. New York City. In 1913 he was elected vice-president and treasurer of the International Agricultural Corporation, one of the important agricultural chemical companies, owning potash mines in Germany and is the largest miner and producer of phosphate rock in America. At about the same time he organized the Lee Tire and Rubber Corporation. A few years later he organized the Martin-Parry Corporation. In 1923 he was instrumental in the reorganization of the International Agricultural Corporation and was elected president and chairman of its board of directors. He still holds those offices. In addition to these interests and responsibilities, Mr. Watson is chairman of the board of directors of the Martin-Parry Corporation; president of the Lee Rubber and Tire Corporation; president of the Prairie Pebble Phosphate Company, and a director of the Fidelity-Phenix Fire Insurance Company, Lawyers’ Trust Company, Lawyers’ Title and Guaranty Company, and the Phosphate Recovery Corporation.

During his residence in this State Mr. Watson wrote his name indelibly in its political and legislative history. He was elected to the Legislature on the Republican ticket in 1899 and served continuously until 1904. During that period he was prominently identified with a number of important legislative measures. Among the committees of which he was a member were those on corporations and finance. In 1904 he served as an alternate delegate to the National Republican Convention at Chicago, which nominated Theodore Roosevelt for the Presidency. Mr. Watson later served a seven-year membership on the State Board of Charities and Corrections of Rhode Island and helped to work out a series of teforms and general improvements.

During the World War Mr. Watson acted as assistant to the Alien Property Custodian and also served as comptroller of the Second Liberty Loan in the Second Federal Reserve District.

Mr. Watson is a member of St. John’s Lodge, No. i, Free and Accepted Masons; Providence Chapter, No. 7, Royal Arch Masons; and St. John’s Commandery, No. i, Knights Templar, all of Providence. Among other organizations of which he is a member may be mentioned: Metropolitan Club, Union League Club, Riding Club, New York Yacht Club, Nassau Country Club, Congressional Club of Washington, District of Columbia, Chamber of Commerce of New York, Chamber of Commerce of the United States, Society of American Wars, Society of Colonial Wars, Sons of the Revolution, New England Society of New York, the famous Squadron A, Cavalry, New York State National Guard, Porcupine Club of Nassau, Bermuda Island, and the Union Interalliee of Paris. In 1926 Mr. Watson was decorated with the Cross of the Legion of Honor.

On November 14, 1900, Mr. Watson married Eliza J. Ralph, daughter of John Ralph, of Providence.

Source: Carroll, Charles. Rhode Island: Three Centuries of Democracy, vol 3 of 4. New York: Lewis historical Pub. Co., 1932.

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