WATKINS LAPHAM updated 2009

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  • ID: I0997
  • Name: Sidney Richard Watkins
  • Sex: M
  • Birth: 19 MAY 1885 in Trostrey, Monmoutshire, Wales
  • Death: 1957 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • Event: Job 1901 Apprentice mechanical Engineer
  • Reference Number: 997
  • Note:
    Hey Hugh:

    Have just renegaged in my gen search and was thrilled to discover your sites...a veritable goldmine of Watkins info for me. Thank you for sharing. Richard William Watkins was my great grandfather.(Which brother is your ancestor??) My grandfather was Sydney Richard one of the 3 children of RW and Sarah Mallet. Syd.and Godfrey homesteaded on the Canadian prairies.Gertrude came to Canada to try and get over consumption . but alas die in a year.Mary had it also and died back in Wales I think.

    I don't have a lot of info but would be happy to share what I have.

    Do you know the Watkins genes must be strong....you look so much like my grandpa.

    Please email me at bnrtoth@shaw.ca

    I'm always so thrilled to conect with a far flung cousin.

    Nona Toth


    Hi Hugh:

    Well I did get some stuff together...I am not a very professional genealogist but bear with me...some of this will be of interest to you no doubt. My mother is still alive and well (92) and for her 90th birthday I made her a memory book hence the format of some of the scanned pages.

    1. Death notice of R.W. Watkins from Raglan Newspaper.

    2. Vessel Sydney came to Canada on.

    3. My Mother Iva Watkins ( Willard)on her wedding day

    4. My mother last year

    5. Syd & Maggie's wedding

    6. Homestead info 6. Syd's house 7. Maggies Father: William Jones 8. My parents Wedding Iva and Harvey Willard.

    9. Myself and my husband Bob Toth (Not fair that I know what you look like and not vica-versa)

    Now for some background


    Sydney Richard Watkins was born in Trostry Wales May 19th 1885. His parents were Sarah Mallet and Richard William Watkins originally from Pontypool. His siblings were Gertrude, Mary and Godfrey known to all as Uncle Goff. Syd’s mother died young and his father remarried. His stepmother Emma

    Frost was kind to him but there wasn’t enough land to go around in the family and he wanted to farm. When campaigners from Canada offered free land to homesteaders Syd was lured to the New World. He came to Canada in March 1904 on the ship Ionia which landed in Halifax.

    Syd had experience but not much money so took work for a farmer in Balgonie for a couple years as a helper and horse handler.

    In 1904 he registered for his own homestead but continued to work for the Balgonie man too. That year he bought his first team… of oxen to work his own land. He was a horseman and found that oxen were ornery and hard to work with. He built a sod shack and somehow managed to live though a prairie winter.

    Geoff Yonge was homesteading nearby and they visited often, helped each other and made trips together to Mortlach the nearest supply centre. When Syd sold his first crop the first thing he did was sell his oxen and buy some horses. He got a few chickens too and would give his mare Emma an egg now and then for a treat. ( This from his diary…he obviously regarded Emma his stepmother highly to name his first prized horse after her… when I first read his diary he made no comment that Emma was a horse but mentioned her often)…. I figured he had made a woman friend Pre- my grandmother on the prairies…only reading on did I discover she was his horse.)

    Legal Land Description Saskatchewan













    Names: Sydney R Watkins

    In 1910 Goff and Gertie came over. Gertie had T.B. and the doctors had advised her that the dry prairie air perhaps could help. She kept house for Clair Wilke’s mother. ”Old Lady Wilke” befriended her and nursed her as she died. She died in Feb. of 1911 at the Watkins farm and had not even survived a year. She is buried in Tugaske Saskatchewan. Meanwhile her younger sister Mary had contracted the dreaded disease too so Syd made the trip back to Wales to see her before she died. There he visited his old friends the Jones brothers and fanned into flames a romance with their beautiful sister Maggie.

    Margaret Gwendolyn had been born in 1887 Llanddenny to William Jones and Emma James. They lived on a farm called the Cayo. Her brothers were Willy, Arthur, Reg, Trevor, Harold and Cecil. She had but one sister Ellen Mary, known as Nell, who was 2 years older than her. They were very close.

    At any rate, though she had known Syd for years, this time she fell in love with him. He persuaded her to join him in Canada and to marry. She left her family and country behind and set out on the biggest adventure of her life. She sailed on the Empress of Ireland in April 1914. The crossing took about a week then she caught the train across Canada to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. The Empress of Ireland crossed the Atlantic only twice more. Tragedy struck 6 weeks after Maggies crossing. She was haunted by the fates of the stewardesses who had been so kind to her on her journey out.
    A Forgotten Disaster

    Fourteen minutes.

    That was all the time it took the elegant Empress of Ireland, pride of the Canadian Pacific’s North Atlantic passenger fleet, to go from sailing serenely down the calm waters of the St. Lawrence River to lying on the river bottom, taking more than 1,000 souls with her in Canada’s worst marine disaster. Yet the story of her sinking, which rivals the Titanic and Lusitania, remains largely unknown today .On the afternoon of Thursday, May 28, 1914, 1,057 passengers boarded the Empress at Quebec. Canadians made up about half the passengers. The 14,100-ton Empress pulled away from her berth at 4:30 p.m., with the Salvation Army staff band playing God Be With You Till We Meet Again. Ominously, the ship’s orange tabby, Emmy, deserted just before the ship sailed and could not be coaxed back aboard.

    Launched in 1906, the Empress became a popular liner on the 4,500-kilometre Quebec-to-Liverpool route. Some 185 metres long and 22 metres wide, she guaranteed a fast, pleasant voyage. CP boasted that the ship’s six-day crossing spent only four days on the open sea by using the sheltered waters of the St. Lawrence River and Gulf. The ship enjoyed a reputation for reliability and service. It had double bottoms and watertight compartments, and could remain afloat with several of them flooded. She carried a lifebelt for everybody aboard and sufficient lifeboats to hold everyone, a recent requirement imposed after Titanic’s sinking two years earlier. She also possessed the latest in wireless equipment, maintained a 24-hour wireless watch, and had crossed the Atlantic 95 times before and had an experienced crew of 420. There was no reason to expect this crossing would be other than safe, swift and sure. But in less than 10 hours, almost three-quarters of those aboard would be dead without ever having left Canada.

    The Empress made her way down the St Lawrence at a steady 18 knots, with Henry Kendall, an experienced seaman of 39 in charge. Fog, the most common and almost only hazard on this stretch of the river, drifted by occasionally, but when a long, low bank of dense fog suddenly cloaked the whole ship, Kendall became worried. Just before the fog came in, he saw another steamer approaching approximately 10 kilometres off the starboard bow, and then it disappeared completely. He intended to pass the other ship “green to green,” that is starboard to starboard, as indicated by the lights each ship carried. Then the fog closed in. Kendall immediately ordered both engines full astern, followed by all stop when his ship’s forward momentum ceased. He blasted out a warning whistle, indicating he was going astern. The other ship acknowledged, seemingly safely to starboard. The Empress sat dead in the water, waiting expectantly. Her clock showed 1:47 a.m. Eight minutes later, suddenly and without warning, the shadowy shape of the steamer materialized out of the fog off the Empress’s starboard bow less than a ship’s length away, making straight for her, its red and green lights glowing eerily through the mist like some bizarre sea creature’s eyes. She was the Storstad, a 6,000-ton Norwegian collier, inbound from Sydney, N.S., loaded with coal from the Dominion Coal Company. Built only four years earlier, she had a reinforced bow to help cut through pack ice. The finely pointed bow of the collier sliced more than seven metres into the side of the Empress like a giant meat cleaver, opening a cut seven metres high and five metres wide between her funnels. Much of it was below her waterline, rendering her watertight bulkheads useless. So neatly had she knifed into the Empress most of those aboard didn’t even feel it. Those who did, noticed only a slight jar.

    For hundreds aboard it was already too late. The onrushing water trapped several hundred passengers asleep in their berths below deck before they even knew what happened. Most of them drowned in their bunks. Others, clad only in flimsy nightclothes, joined a headlong, panicked rush for the boat decks, but became caught as rising waters cut out all electrical power and plunged them into darkness. Only one SOS got out before electricity failed at 2:01 a.m.

    As the Empress’ list worsened toward 30 degrees, passageways tilted crazily on their sides, creating a nightmarish labyrinth from which few escaped. A mob mentality took over as screams of children and adults could be heard from below, echoing through the ship’s ventilators The severe tilting caused objects of all kinds to break away and slide across the decks, injuring or killing many and knocking others overboard. This massive shift in weight speeded up the list. Then the Empress lurched violently onto her side with her decks vertical, throwing several people into the cold water and cruelly crushing a lifeboat, killing its 40 or more occupants. Hundreds scratched and scrambled over the port side railing onto the hull, where they sat shocked and shivering in the chilly night air, trying to fathom what had happened. For a moment, it seemed as if the Empress might continue to float on her side. Some thought she already lay on the bottom. But they were wrong. According to William Clarke, a fireman on the Empress who earlier miraculously escaped from the Titanic’s stokehold, waiting around for the end was the hard part with the Titanic. He later told reporters, “There was no waiting with the Empress...she rolled over like a hog in a ditch.”

    About 2:09 a.m., after only minutes on her side, water completely engulfed the Empress and she went down with “a hiss and a gurgle.” Survivors, mostly clad in thin nightwear, few wearing lifebelts, struggled to stay afloat on the cold, dark river, surrounded by corpses and debris. The ship sank so fast the crew had little time to launch her lifeboats. Although five or six got away safely, many on the starboard side went under before they could be freed from their davits, while several on the port side became impossible to launch because of the ship’s list. As soon as the burly, bull-necked Andersen hit the Empress, he prepared to launch his four lifeboats, convinced his ship would soon go down. When he realized he remained afloat, a low moaning that became agonized screams alerted him to the Empress’ fate. He sent his boats to rescue any survivors. The small boats took the trembling, terrified survivors to the Norwegian collier, where the crew, including Andersen’s wife, a large, matronly woman, treated them as best they could. They shared out their blankets and spare clothes, coffee and whiskey to warm them. A further 22 died of exposure, shock or injuries after being picked up. Miraculously, a few hardy souls swam through the frigid water to the Storstad, more than 200 metres away; one man even swam all the way to shore.

    An incredible 1,012 people had just succumbed in safe, sheltered Canadian waters within sight of land. In some cases, entire families ceased to exist. Ironically, Kendall survived, flung overboard when the Empress lurched onto her side. On the Storstad’s deck he confronted Andersen, exclaiming, “You have sunk my ship!” Several heroic acts took place amid the horror, as well as fewer incidents of self-preserving cowardice. The most common act of bravery was to give up a lifebelt to a needy passenger although, amazingly, some survivors didn’t even get wet.

    Maggie writes to a friend back in Wales:
    Box 4

    Mawer, Sask.

    June 4th 1914

    My Dearest Olive

    Here I am writing you at last, it is high time I did too, to be sure old girl. Somehow or other the time has slipped away & it is more than two months since I came over to Canada. Expect you are wondering how I like this country & the people etc. Up to the present Olive, I have found everything very good & like it very much indeed. I cannot tell you how glad I am I came out Olive my dear. The weather has been perfect the last two months, sunshine every day and a nice breeze blowing. Had three days of rain this week for which the farmers are devoutly thankful, everything was getting so dry & rain was badly needed to bring the grain through. The soil out here is very nice, black and so fine things grow remarkably quickly in it, in fact you can almost perceive grass and things growing.

    Syd’s farm is situated in one of the settled districts & is barely a mile out of town. I like this part very much and have some nice neighbours all around, several English people recently married.

    It is rather comical but nearly all the homesteaders here were bachelors less than a year ago and now there are very few left. The first night I went to church, I was actually one of four brides in one row of seats ! There are very few elderly people to be seen out here- it is quite a young man’s country.

    Our house of five rooms is close on the road, it is quite a change for me to be overlooked by the passers by. I should not like to be further away, now I am accustomed , it is quite pleasant to look out and see motion and lots of different vehicles passing. Some are rather odd looking & I had to ask Syd what they were. Farmers here have different implements to work & ride everything. All the land is divided into quarter sections with roads all around , each section is half mile square so when they are working, they just keep on and on and reckon on doing 8 turns between breakfast and noon.. I cannot help but admire their methods out here in many ways and can quite understand how it is no Canadian would like to go back to the Old Country to farm unless as a hobby. They are so free here they say, and can be their own masters entirely.

    Am wondering what the latest news is from Irongreen, mind and write me soon, there’s a dear, shall be so pleased to hear about you all again.. I have not written very many letters yet. I seem to have had little chance. We are three in family and it is the custom here to have three cooked meals in the busy season, so that I have plenty to do. Have a cream separator and make seven pounds of butter a week but will have more shortly. Have about twenty chickens and hope to have some ducks out next week. At present I am busy flower gardening, hope to have quite a show in a month. Have peas, lettuce, onions radishes up in the garden, how I long for them now that the weather is so hot.

    Well now Olive dear, I must wind up, it is nearly suppertime and my boy will be coming in tired and hungry from the field. We are going to town tonight for a football match. Syd is keen on the game and plays awfully well. By the way…your photo is much admired by all and sundry, including Syd. I have it up on a cabinet in the dining room and it looks so nice, can almost imagine you, yourself are there sometimes, you ought to be, to see one or two nice boys gazing up on it.

    Please give my love to Ethel when you see her & Gertie, am so sorry I missed them when they called at the Cayo. Oh wasn’t it an awful thing for our boat The Empress of Ireland to be wrecked last week. It was such a shock to me. I wonder what was the fate of some of our nice stewardesses on board. Have not told you much about the trip this time but will again. I enjoyed it hugely & had good company all the way. Will try and muster up a paper cutting of our wedding for you. Au revoir dear.

    P.S. Kindest regards to everyone at Irongreen. Fond love to yourself and the girls.

    Yours ever affectionately,

    Gwen (Maggie Watkins)

    Syd had built a frame house before Maggie’s arrival. They were married in Moose Jaw in 1914. They soon filled the house the pitter- patter of 8 little feet. Iva Gwendolyn...was born Feb. 20 1915,(alive) Mary Evelyn Oct. 25th 1916 (Alive)and the twins Kathleen Lucy (alive)and Richard William June 20th 1919.(Richard died in the summer of 1987..will get that date) Syd had his hands full, farming, breaking and proving his land. Maggie now had hers filled too.

    A cousin of Syd's Colin came over around this time... (all the following is according to my mother.)..He was the son of Thomas Watkins and Francis Holmes.He had a eight brothers back in Wales. His mother died in 1921 from a broken heart after she had lost 3 of her sons in WW1. Syds brother Goff also fought in the trenches but was one of the lucky ones and returned home.(Goff died in 1978 and is buried in Tugaske Sask.Cemetary) Colin Watkins farmed for awhile and then moved to Trail B.C. to work in the smelters. In later life he ran a flower shop in Calgary Alta and died a recluse in Vancouver. (He fell off the seawall but I don't know the date of his death.)

    Sydney Richard died in 1957 and his beloved Maggie many years later Feb 2 1991..a few days short of her 104th birthday. They are both buried in The Tugaske Cemetary.

    And that's all for now. I will send more on my parents later...

    P.s. I work in a medical lab..taking and testing blood doing E.C.G.s etc. We have a lot of health care people in our family..many nurses Kathleen Lucy...my sister Wendy my sister in Law Myrna and 3 nieces.

    Sad that you lost your father so young...do you remember him?


    10 attachments
    Death R.W. Watkins.jpg
    127K View Download
    56K View Download
    Iva Watkins.jpg
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    Iva Willard 2006.jpg
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    Wedding Syd and Maggie.jpg
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    Syd's Frame House.jpg
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    Wm Jones 1870.jpg
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    Harvey Iva Wedding.jpg
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    Bobby and me.jpg
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    Father: Richard William Watkins b: 18 JAN 1851 in High Meadow, Llanvair Kilgeddin, Monmouth, England - Abergavenny 26 31 c: 16 FEB 1851 in St Mary's church Llanfair Cilgedin
    Mother: Sarah Elizabeth Mallett b: SEP 1855 in Soho London Strand 1b 370 Westminster, Middlesex, England

    Father: Richard William Watkins b: 18 JAN 1851 in High Meadow, Llanvair Kilgeddin, Monmouth, England - Abergavenny 26 31 c: 16 FEB 1851 in St Mary's church Llanfair Cilgedin
    Mother: Emma Jane Frost b: ABT 1858 in Landenny, Monmouthshire, Wales

    Marriage 1 Margaret Gwendoline Jones b: MAR 1887 in Llandenny, Monmouthshire, Wales - Monmouth 11a 41
    • Married: 1914 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada
    1. Has Children Iva Gwendolyn Watkins b: 20 FEB 1915 in Mawer, Saskatchewan, Canada
    2. Has No Children Mary Evelyn Watkins b: 25 OCT 1916 in Mawer, Saskatchewan, Canada
    3. Has No Children Kathleen Lucy Watkins b: 20 JUN 1919 in Mawer, Saskatchewan, Canada
    4. Has No Children Richard William Watkins b: 20 JUN 1919 in Mawer, Saskatchewan, Canada
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