Dr. John Watson was born on July 14, 1848, to John and Sarah Johnston Watson. They came to Utica, New York from Dormore, a village near Belfast, Ireland in 1855 with six older sisters. Family lore is that they came in a sailboat. He attended the Medical College of the University of New York City, then Bellevue College. As part of his training he spent a year at the Medical College of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, which was highly known for studies in anatomy. He interned at Bellevue Hospital and took his M.D. in 1874.
Watson’s first wife was Amanda Conkling; they married in 1880 in Utica. Amanda’s sister Adella developed tuberculosis, so Amanda, Adella, and their mother moved to what was thought to be a better climate in Minnesota. They settled in Red Lake Falls. There John and Amanda had a daughter Margaret. Tragically, Amanda (1891), Margaret (1885), and Amanda’s sister all died of TB. He moved his practice to Alden, Minnesota.
His second wife was Louise Hanke, 20 years his junior, whom he married in 1895 in a home on Officers’ Row at Fort Snelling. Their daughter Marie was born on November 22, 1897 in Alden. In 1901 they lived in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. Christopher Hanke died in 1903, and Louise and John Watson took possession of several acres of land on France Ave.
Watson practiced in the Truman Building in Hopkins for about three years until he moved his office to St. Louis Park. His house an office were in the vicinity of Excelsior Blvd. and France Ave. His daughter remembered a room in the back of their house that no one could enter. This was for epidemics and very contagious diseases. In fact, he disinfected things so well that she had few childhood diseases. He also had a high success rate delivering babies because of his attention to preventing infections.
Dr. Watson served as Village Physician in 1911 – 1914. His daughter remembered “oft-times at night he would roll up in a buffalo coat to catch up on his sleep while a farmer drove him via horse and buggy or sleigh to treat an ill family member.” In 1915 he was reimbursed by the Village for formaldehyde torches he used to fumigate homes. Dr. Watson tendered his resignation in 1916, but it was refused. He agreed to stay on when Dr. Tanner was appointed his deputy. Tanner took over in 1917.
Watson practiced well into his seventies. When he did retire from active practice, he continued in a medical capacity serving as a physician occasionally at Mudbaden Sulphur Springs in Shakopee. He also acted as a locum tenens for other physicians in the state, thereby enabling them to have a respite from their practices.
In 1931, at the age of 82, he built the house at 3800 France Ave.
Dr. Watson died on October 3, 1938 from uremia at age 90.