Families in the Vale of Avoca: The Children of Thomas Watson, Sr. and Elizabeth Livingston Watson

Thomas Watson, Sr. was born to Joseph and Elizabeth Watson in the Vale of Avoca, Ireland.  In our family, he is known as “The Teacher” because of his 40 year teaching career in the Vale of Avoca area in Ireland.  Thomas Watson graduated from Trinity College in Dublin, a branch of Oxford University and widely known as one of the worlds’ greatest universities when he attended.  Though we don’t know the exact dates he was at Trinity College, we can guess that it would have been around 1810.  Thomas was an excellent mathematician, flutist and singer.  After graduating, Thomas Watson, Sr. worked in the Customs House in Dublin, and then moved back to the Vale of Avoca where he married, taught school, was the choir director of Castle Macadam Church and raised a large family before leaving the Vale of Avoca for Wisconsin in 1855.  He never reached Wisconsin, however, dying three days into the journey. 

Children of Thomas “The Teacher” Watson Sr (B:  1793 in Red Cross, Ireland;  D: 4/6/1855 at sea) and Elizabeth Livingston Watson (B: 1800 in Avoca, Ireland; D: 6/6/1881 in Grant Co Wisconsin).  Married 12/26/1821 in Avoca, Ireland:

1.      Joseph Watson (B: 9/20/1822 in Red Cross, Ireland; D: 1885).  Married Sarah Broadhead Watson (birthdate unknown).  Marriage date unknown.  Joseph and Sarah Watson emigrated to Crow Branch, WI, but then moved to Pennsylvania.

2.      John William Watson (B:  5/21/1824 in Red Cross, Ireland; D: 5/23/1876 in Livingston, WI).  Married Alice Barlow Watson (B: 9/18/1827; D:  3/21/1911).  John and Joseph first went to England to mine coal.  John arrived in New Orleans in 1848 from Blackpool.  He lost two children to “ship fever” on the way.  From New Orleans, they came up the Mississippi, stopping to mine coal in St Louis.  They arrived at Crown Branch, Grant County in 1849.  They are both buried at Rock Church.

3.      Thomas Watson, Jr.  (B:  3/4/1826 in Avoca, Ireland; D: 9/23/1895 in Livingston, WI).  Married Margaret Nelson Watson (B:  1824 in Glasglow, Scotland; D:  4/11/1873 in Livingston, WI).  Married 1/3/1847—some records give marriage date as 1/22/1846.  (Story elsewhere on website).

4.      Wingfield Scott Watson (B:  4/22/1828 in Red Cross, Ireland; D:  10/29/1922 in Voree, WI).  Married Jane Barbara Chisholm Thompson Burns Watson (B:  2/18/1824 in Durham Co., England; D:  4/1/1907.  Wingfield was born in the Vale of Avoca and left Liverpool, England for America on March 3, 1848.  His ship was bound for New York, but got blown off course and re-routed to New Orleans.  (Note:  Wingfield may have been travelling with his brother Thomas Watson). In New Orleans, Wingfield became ill several times but worked several jobs, including a cutting wood and in a cotton press.  At one point he travelled to St. Louis via steamer and worked in the coal pits there.  While there, a friend gave him the book “Voice of Warning to all Nations” by Parley Pratt.  Wingfield  converted to the Mormon religion, and Mormonism became a defining characteristic of the remainder of his life.   After St. Louis, Wingfield continued up the Mississippi River to Crow Branch, WI and worked in the lead mines in 1850.  It seems he married his wife Jane Burns Watson while there.  (The record about Jane Burns Watson is unclear.  Apparently, she was widowed twice before marrying Wingfield when she was about 26 years old.)  After a short time in Wisconsin, Wingfield and Jane joined a group of Mormons headed for Salt Lake City via St. Louis.  But Wingfield only made it to St. Louis, where he was baptized into the Mormon Church.  In St. Louis, he changed his mind and decided to head for a Mormon colony on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan headed by James Strang. On the way there, they stayed for a while at Navoo, a Mormon colony in Illinois before arriving in Beaver Island.  On June 18, 1856, Wingfield witnessed the assassination of James Strang.  Then the Beaver Island colony was burned.  Wingfield and Jane were then again on the move, heading to Crow Branch, WI and Black River Falls before heading to Boyne City, Michigan were they lived until 1891.  In 1907, they moved to Voree, the site of the first “Stangite” settlement.  Wingfield became an ardent and well-known spokesperson for the Mormon doctrine of James Strang, a doctrine that split from the Joseph Smith doctrine.

5.      William Watson (B:  3/17/1830 in Red Cross, Ireland; D:  3/23/1855).  William was murdered in St. Louis.  Apparently, he emigrated a few years after his brother Thomas Watson, Jr. and was on his way up to Crow Branch, WI to join his brother when he was murdered.

6.      Elizabeth Watson Smith Thompson (B:  1/22/1832 in Red Cross, Ireland; D:  1869 Livingston, WI).  Married James Smith, was widowed and then married Joseph Thompson.  Joseph and Elizabeth’s cabin in Crow Branch cabin served as the school house. 

7.      Ellen Watson Nicholson (B:  1/22/1834 in Red Cross, Ireland; D:  1/18/1917)  Married Joseph Nicholson, Sr. on 4/20/1856.  Ellen came to Crow Branch, WI in 1855.  Joseph’s parents were born in England.  Ellen journeyed from Ireland with Bessie Mates, Margaret Mates and Margaret Livingston.  Joseph was a miner.  They are both buried at the Rock Church cemetery.

8.      Charles Watson (B:  9/1/1836 in Red Cross, Ireland; D:  8/22/1910).  Married Sarah Woodward Watson on 2/21856 in Clifton, WI.  Sarah was a sister of Rueben Woodward who married Charles’ sister Mary Ann.  They had no children.  Charles was elected to the Wisconsin State Legislature in 1880.  He owned the Livingston Lumber Co and a wagon shop.  Both are buried at the Rock Church.

9.      Robert “Smiling Bob” Watson.  (B:  11/30/1838 in Red Cross, Ireland; D:  9/13/1915). Married Hannah Sandeman Watson on 1/27/1862 in Hazel Green, WI.  Hannah was the daughter of Thomas Sandeman from England .  Robert Watson was a farmer according to the 1880 census.  They lived in Clifton Township, Grant Co., WI.  Robert bought his brother Thomas’ farm.  He came to the US with his parents  in 1855, when his father Thomas Watson, Sr. died at sea. 

10.  Hannah Watson Alcock. (B:  6/18/1841 in Red Cross, Ireland; D:  9/15/1919).  Married Thomas Alcock on 1/1/1861 in Grant Co, WI).  They left Grant County in 1891 for four years to go to Hurley, SD.  They returned to Arthur, WI where Thomas was a Free Methodist preacher.  They are buried in Arthur, WI.

11.  Mary Ann Watson Woodward. (B:  8/21/1843 in Red Cross Ireland; D:  2/20/1926 in Hurley, SD) (Note:  This is not the Mary Ann Watson who married John Hill.  This person would have been Mary Ann Watson Hill’s aunt – her father Thomas Watson’s sister.)  Married Rueben Woodward who was from Yorkshire, England.  Mary Ann came to Crow Branch WI at the age of 12.  Rueben was orphaned in childhood and raised by his uncle.  He served in the Civil War in Captain Wheelock’s Company, 47th Regiment.  They lived in Lima, WI before going to SD.  Rueben was a brother of Charles Watson’s wife Sarah. 


John Livingston and Eleanor Brady Livingston:

John Livingston (1754-1828), an early ancestor in the Vale of Avoca, Ireland, was born and died in the Vale of Avoca area.  Don Hill’s records show that John’s family came from Livingston, Scotland.  Though less is known about the lives of the Livingstons before they came to Scotland, we do know that John Livingston leased land in the Vale of Avoca near the copper mines where Joseph Watson was Captain of the Mines.  Though some of our family records suggest he had some skills in the mining industry, it seems John was largely a farmer in the Vale of Avoca. 

Eleanor Brady, the wife of John Livingston, was a Catholic who was also from the Vale of Avoca.  At the time they both grew up in the area of the Vale of Avoca, the Catholic/Protestant rift would have defined every part of their lives.  Our family record doesn’t give many details about how they came to meet and marry.  So we can only speculate that they would have had to overcome much to be together.  Eleanor did convert to John’s Protestant faith and they went on to lead the family from which many of the Wisconsin Livingstons descend.  They both lived and died in the Vale of Avoca.  Many of the their children, however, left Ireland, some for America and some for Australia. 

These are the children of John and Eleanor Brady Livingston:

(Please note:  1. Don Hill’s records show that some members of the family may have spelled their names Levingston; 2. There are three more children of John and Eleanor Livingston which I am currently unable to find.  Please check the website again as I will keep trying.) 

1.      Robert Livingston (11/21783-12/27/1865).  Married Mary Watson Livingston (Born near the Vale of Avoca in Red Cross Village in 1790; died Livingston WI 10/8/1874). This couple is half of the “Livingston-Watson” equation.  Mary’s brother was Thomas Watson Sr, who married Robert’s sister Elizabeth.  Robert and Mary Livingston were in the large group of Livingstons and Watsons who left the Vale of Avoca for Wisconsin (story elsewhere), leaving on 4/3/1855 (probably went through Liverpool, England) and arriving in Galena, Ill on 5/19/1855.  One of Robert and Mary’s sons was Hugh Livingston who went on to found Livingston, WI (story elsewhere on this site).

2.      William Levingston (B:  1791 in Vale of Avoca, Ireland; D:  6/11/1822 in the East Indies).  Married Mary Wright Levingston in the Vale of Avoca.  William and Mary Levingston lived in Avoca where William worked with Joseph Watson in the copper mines.  William was a foreman prior to joining the British Army.  He was killed at age of 31 while serving in the East Indies. There is some evidence that his wife Mary was related to her mother-in-law, Eleanor Brady. William and Mary’s son, Robert (B:  1812), emigrated to New South Wales, Australia in about 1840.

3.      Hugh Levingston (B:  1797 in Cherrymount near the Vale of Avoca; D:  unknown).  Married Mary Ann Fitzimmons Levinston (B:  9/7/1798).  Marriage date unknown.  NOTE:  This is not the Hugh Livingston who emigrated to Wisconsin and founded Livingston, WI.  This Hugh would have been the Wisconsin Hugh’s uncle.  Hugh and MaryAnn lived in Knockanode and Cherrymount, Ireland near the Vale of Avoca.  Hugh was in interested in horticulture, especially the raising of cherries.  He supervised a large cherry orchard.  Their home was alongside the river, the spot made famous by the poet Thomas Moore in his “Meeting of the Waters” song.  MaryAnn was deeply religious.  Hugh and MaryAnn did not go to America, but stayed in Ireland where Hugh was an Anglican Rector.  He also was the horticulturalist for the wealthy Oliver Estate.  NOTE:  Hugh and MaryAnn were the parents of Samuel Henry Harkwood Livingston who emigrated first to Livingston, WI and then went on to become a founding settler of Calgary, Alberta.  Sam pleaded with his parents to leave Ireland, but they never did.  Sam Livingston’s story is elsewhere on this site, and here.

4.      Sally Levingston Hall.  (Birth and death dates unknown).  Married Ned Hall.  Sally and Ned stayed in Ireland and did not emigrate to the US.  

5.      Elizabeth Ann Livingston.  (B:  1800 in the Vale of Avoca, Ireland; D:  1881 in Crow Branch, WI.)  Married Thomas Watson, Sr. on 12/16/1821.  (Story elsewhere)


Hugh died at knockenode in 1862 his will published in 1865 shows his benefactor to have been his son Thomas one of the eight children; william 1821-1905, Elizabeth 1827-?, John 1829-1905, Samuel Henry 1831-1897, Thomas 1826-1897, Richard 1835-, Elija-1837, Martha 1839-.

My own father was a church of Ireland clergyman and I am curious to know where the information about Hugh being a rector came from and of which church he was rector. Can you help?

I am in the process of trying to trace the family root back to Scotland, as the story passed from my grandfather to my father and to me was that the family originated from Appin in the west highlands and had a connection with the monastery of St Columba and the island of Lismore.


By Gideon Levingston

Hi Gideon,

Thanks for your comments.  I will try to look this up over the next few days and post another comment.  I believe this information came from my uncle Don Hill's research on the family and will have another look at his records to make sure I understood correctly that he was a "Rector."  I do wonder if the word "rector" is correct.  Perhaps instead of a rector, he had some sort of layman's position in the church, but that somehow this became translated as a "Rector." Perhaps he was a Deacon. 

Your tracing back to Scotland and Appin is really interesting.  I will try to scour again through Don Hill's research to see any more clues to this.  Others in our family have put our "Livingstons" from what is now Livingston, Scotland (a newer town that apparently was built upon an older village).  But I'm not sure what they based this assumption on. 


By Hannah Hill Rudstam

Hi, my ancestor John Watson born circa 1795 and his wife Jane baptised a number of children in Castlemacadam parish

Maryann b1825, John b1831, Thomas b1834 and Rebecca b1839  (my ancestor)

John was a shopkeeper. I don't have any other information on John & Jane. I can't find a marriage for them or when they died or where they are buried.  It's possible John was a brother to your Thomas. Do you have any other information on the Watson family of Avoca?

By Chris Walker
Admin's picture


Thanks for visiting the site and posting a comment.

We do plan to add more to the website on the Watson branch. In the mean time, though, it seems doubtful that your John was directly related to Thomas.  I did not find that my ancestor Thomas had a brother named John. The Thomas Watson you refer to (born 1793, married Elizabeth Levingston) had brothers Charles and Joseph, and sisters Hannah, Dorothy and Mary (b. 1790). The parents were Joseph Watson and Elizabeth Cooper. Maybe another visitor to this website will post an answer, though, so be sure to check back from time to time. 

By Admin

Received following e-mail from Pamela R<pamela.on.the.hill@gmail.com>

regarding the 'Levingstons'... Don't know if we have this information. FYI -


saw your email and you had missed Alice daughter of John and Jane Berne. She married Batholomew Cooke a Cork merchant. He ran a business in the main street of Cork with his brother which was passed down to his son William Cooke. William married a Stoker of Douglas House who was a granddaughter of Charles Beamish partner in the Beamish Crawford Brewery. He was a scion of illustrious families living at Delacour Villa. William Cooke was shot by the Sinn Fein in 1922 so his widow and family sold up and left for NZ.



By Kathy Anderson