Naming the Village
John Samuel James Watson was born October 30, 1822 in what is believed to have been India and to have grown up at the ancestral home in Rockingham, Northampton, England in a Norman castle built by William the Conqueror nine hundred years ago. For over 500 years, it was one of the residences of the kings of England. It is believed that Charles Dickens stayed at the castle many times between 1848 and 1852. The Watson family was of a high social class with title and when John became of age, he married below his social status to Mary M. Martin, a scullery maid in the castle. Mary was 10 years John’s junior. Their marriage was totally unacceptable for the times and as a result, John’s father Richard banished him to Canada where he ultimately ended up in Renfrew Co. with the equivalent of L10, 000 on the condition that he had to settle in Canada. That was a lot of money for that time – probably now worth the equivalent of many hundreds of thousands of dollars or possibly over a million dollars.
St. Leonard’s Anglican Church was built about 1867 on land donated by John Watson – 8 years before St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Combermere was constructed. It cost several hundred dollars to construct the church. Anglicans from Combermere had to walk or take a horse and buggy to the Rockingham church on Sundays. The first priests held service at both churches from 1885 on for many years. The last service was held in 1941 and the church was closed in 1967. In 1972, it was leased for ten years to a Madawaska Association for the Developmental Ecology, which was established to maintain the cemetery. It remained closed for many years and then a group of interested individuals from the greater Rockingham area wanted to keep the church and grounds as a heritage site and renovate the building. This renovation started in 1999 and was completed in 2000.
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