H. Watson (1835-1897)
In July, 1859, a former subject of Queen Victoria made his
home in Washington County. William Watson and his wife Sarah
Warren immigrated from Ireland to settle in Brenham. Watson
had established his nursery "Rosedale" by 1860,
but he interrupted his horticultural career to serve in
the Confederate Army. After the War, he hurried to resume
his business. Sarah died of yellow fever during the terrible
epidemic of 1869, and Watson later re-married Carrie J.
Thomason. In 1870, he purchased sixty acres near Brenham
from J.E. Shepard which he paid for with products from his
In 1871, Mr. Watson was one of
the incorporators of the "Victoria Society of Washington
County" to encourage British immigration into Texas,
and was instrumental in bringing to Texas the horticulturists
William Falconer, John T. Herbert, and W.A. Yates.
During the 1870s the reputation of Rosedale grew, and Watson
purchased additional acreage adjoining his original homestead.
His foremost introduction was the Rosedale arborvitae, an
evergreen shrub, which he sent out in 1874. According to
the 1899 William Watson Rosedale Nursery catalog, this plant
was their own garden hybrid between the golden arborvitae
(Biota aurea) and Rentinospora squarrosa.
In 1875 he was vice-president of
the Texas Horticultural and Pomological Association, and
a member of its board of trustees.
In 1876, Watson's ad in the Brenham Daily Banner proclaimed
that, "The Gardens, Grounds, and whole Nursery Stock,
are free for inspection at all times to the public."
Besides ornamental plants, he stocked "A large and
choice selection of Apple, Pear, Peach, Nectarine, Apricot,
Quince, Almond, Chestnut and other trees."
Some of Watson's sons helped him in the business: David
H. Watson who developed the "Nona" (named for
David's wife) and "Watson" plums, John and Stanley
who owned and managed Rosedale after their father's death
and perhaps Archie Watson and W. E. Watson. Other helpers
at Rosedale were of a high caliber, among them Wm. A. Yates,
John T. Herbert, William W. Haupt, D.R. Eldred, William
Falconer and William and James B. Baker.
Because of William
Watson's preeminence in his chosen field, he was elected
president of the Texas State Horticultural Society in 1889,
and hosted its third annual meeting at Rosedale.
The opening excerpt from the 1899 catalog reads: "To
the Memory of William Watson, the founder of the Rosedale
Nurseries, one of the pioneers in Southern horticulture,
who devoted the best years of a long and useful life to
the upbuilding , and the development of horticulture in
Texas, we lovingly dedicate this Catalogue of the Rosedale
Nurseries, in which he took such pride, together with our
earnest endeavors to be worthily his successors. Stanley
H. Watson, Proprietor, John Watson, Manager."
"Just a word to those
who receive this catalog. We have great pleasure in presenting
to our friends and patrons, and to those we hope to make
friends and patrons, this new edition of our Illustrated
Descriptive Catalogue. At the beginning of this, the thirty-ninth
year of the existence of our business, only a few words
of introduction will be neccessary."
is intended especially to be distributed among our old friends
and customers, some of whom, for the past thirty years and
more, have regularly favored us with their orders. We do
not pretend to give in the following pages a list of all
the varieties that will do well in the South, but only a
few that we have fruited here at Rosedale, and that we recommend
to our customers in Texas."
"The Rosedale Nurseries are the oldest in Texas, and
among the oldest in the South. We refer, with pardonable
pride, to the fact that we numbered among our customers
last season some of those who bought trees from us a third
of a century ago. We are proud of the record. It is evidence
of fair dealing with our patrons, a high standard in our
products, and prices consistent with the quality of our
"To those not personally acquainted with us, we will
say that this is the second generation now conducting our
nurseries. When the founder of the business, the late William
Watson, after a life spent in the study of the possibilities
of Texas horticulture, rested from his labors, he left Rosedale
Nurseries to the care of his sons, Stanley H. Watson, the
present proprietor of the business, and John Watson, the
manager,--the ownership of the Rosedale Nurseries and all
property connected therewith resting in their mother. Our
highest aim shall be so to conduct the nurseries as to merit
the same confidence and trust imposed in our father by thousands
of friends and patrons throughout this state and elsewhere.
Being under our personal direction, every department of
this nursery business will be carefully conducted."
William Watson died in Brenham on August 19, 1897.