WATTS, RICHARD, first schoolmaster of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Nova Scotia; born in Scotland, 1688; died at Bristol, R.I., 15 March 1739/40.
Watts was educated at Glasgow, where he received his m.a. He was a Presbyterian schoolmaster before entering the ministry of the Church of England, into which he was ordained deacon by Bishop Edmund Gibson of London on 6 Feb. 1726/27. On 7 May 1727, he was ordained priest, and soon afterwards was appointed garrison chaplain at Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia. The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel also appointed him its schoolmaster there.
Late in 1727, he left England for Boston, where he assisted the Reverend Samuel Miles at King’s Chapel for some time. Early in 1727/28, he went to Annapolis Royal and opened his school there at Easter 1728. This was an ordinary day school and not a Sunday school, as some have claimed. The old French chapel in the fort being almost in ruins, Alexander Cosby*, the lieutenant-governor of Annapolis, gave him the use of a former barrack room for his church and school.
Watts applied to the SPG, in November 1729, for appointment as its missionary at Canso (Canseau), but he was unsuccessful; in October 1730, with the full support of Governor Richard Philipps*, he petitioned the home government for a commission as an army chaplain. His request was refused. In July 1732, he applied to Lieutenant-Governor Armstrong and the council for the grant of the old French church lands in the lower town at Annapolis Royal, for the use of the Church of England. On 23 November a deed for these lands was granted as “Glebe Land for ever for the Chaplain, or, if a Parish be established, for the Parish Minister.” This land is still owned by the parish of St Luke’s, and was the first land granted for the endowment of a Protestant church in Canada.
In September 1737, Watts wrote to the SPG stating that he had been in the colony almost ten years, and wished to return home. Not receiving a reply, he left Annapolis Royal on 19 Jan. 1737/38 for Rhode Island, settling in Bristol, near Newport. For some months, he substituted for the Reverend James Honeyman, rector of Newport. He spent most of 1739 at Bristol as the schoolmaster; but late in that year he applied to the SPG for its vacant mission at Scituate, Mass. Before a reply could reach him, however, Watts had died at Bristol on 15 March 1739/40, in his fifty-second year. His wife Margaret returned to England in July.
Little is known of his career as a schoolmaster in Scotland, but in North America it was one of disappointment and frustration. Being the only Protestant clergyman in Nova Scotia at that period, and serving a small Protestant community in and around the fort, Watts showed remarkable fortitude in enduring ten years in Annapolis Royal, without any relief or change. Governor Philipps thought very highly of his services, as did the rector of Newport. Although life in Rhode Island was decidedly happier for him, the disappointments of his earlier career left their mark on him.
Guildhall Library, London, Ordinations register diocese of London, MS 9535/3, pp.227, 228; see also MS 10326B, box I, file I. PANS, MS docs., XXII. USPG, Journal of SPG, V, 21 July 1727, 29 Nov. 1729; VII, 22 Sept. 1737, 19 Jan. 1737/38; VIII, April 1740; Letters and reports of missionaries of SPG, A, XXI, 408–11; B, VII, pt.i, 29; pt.ii, 27 (copies in PANS, USPG microfilms, reels 13, 14). The Fulham papers in the Lambeth palace library, ed. W. W. Manross (Oxford, 1965). N.S. Archives, III.