A Death at Sea: The Emigration Story of Robert & Mary Watson Livingston and Thomas & Elizabeth Livingston Watson

Several years after Thomas and Margaret Watson’s journey, a large group of Livingstons and Watsons left the Vale of Avoca, Ireland bound for Wisconsin and for their sons and daughters who had emigrated several years earlier.   Don Hill’s research shows that this group left Ireland (probably going through Liverpool) on April 3, 1855 and reached Galena on May 19, 1855, coming through New York.  Undoubtedly, this group has several of their grown children who had already emigrated to Grant County, WI.  Robert and Mary Watson Livingston’s son Hugh Livingston (married to Grace Mates) was already in Wisconsin when they emigrated in 1855.  So when they left Ireland, they were heading to family already established in Grant County, WI.  The people emigrating in this group were: 

  • Robert Livingston, Sr. (brother of Elizabeth Livingston Watson) and his wife Mary Watson Livingston (sister to Thomas Watson Sr.)
  • Thomas Watson Sr., his wife Elizabeth Livingston Watson and their children:  Betty, Hannah, Mary Ann and Robert
  • Sarah and Joseph Wilson and their son Robert
  • Mr. and Mrs. Henry Ayres
  • An orphan: William Redman
  • Mr. and Mrs. Harry Greville and their daughters Jane and Isabel

Three days into the voyage, Thomas Watson Sr. died at age 62.  Some stories report him dying while waiting for the boat in Liverpool, England; other stories report him dying on the ship.  In any case, he would have been buried at sea a short time into the journey, leaving his widow Elizabeth Watson and his children to make the journey alone.  Though we do not know what Thomas Watson died of, we can only imagine that the trauma of leaving the Vale of Avoca contributed to his death.  Elizabeth Watson, his wife, was 55 when she was widowed.  She would have arrived in Wisconsin with their remaining children Betty, Hannah, Mary Ann and Robert.  Several of Elizabeth’s grown children were already in Crow Branch when she arrived.  Elizabeth went on to live until old age in Wisconsin and is buried in the Rock Church Cemetery.  Her husband Thomas has a memorial stone at Rock Church.  

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