Philip Sidney “Sid” Watson married Annie Lister, somewhere in Queensland, in January 1898. Annie was 31 years old and a suffragist with a BA from the University of Melbourne and Sidney was 39 years old. (there is also some suggestion that she may have been a nurse prior to attending university – Lew Blackmore re-called in July 1989 that he could remember his mother telling him about Sidney marrying a nurse). They may have met in Melbourne, or more likely when she visited Sid’s sister Francis Maria “Frankie” at one of the family properties on the Upper Murray River, around the mid 1890’s.
Annie, unchaperoned, had followed Sidney to Burketown in 1897 not long after reports of gold being discovered in British Columbia reached Australia. Maybe it was her intent was to tell him of the Klondike gold find and discuss plans to join the rush, both for the possibility of riches as well as for the excitement. Immediately after the wedding they travelled back to Melbourne.
Sidney had been suffering from “fever and ague” (malaria), and in January 1898, they left Melbourne for a complete change of climate and adventure in Canada and Alaska during the Klondike gold rush.
They travelled by ship via Vancouver to Wrangell and then up the Stikine River about 150 miles to Glenora before overlanding another 150 miles to Teslin Lake where they bought a boat for the 600 mile trip down river to Dawson City.
However, before setting out for Dawson, and hearing stories of people leaving Dawson, they decided to overland to Atlin, closer gold fields, where they built cabins and possibly set up a store/restaurant.
They stayed for two summers with Annie returning to Melbourne over the winter and Sid boarding in Vancouver.
They returned to Australia in late 1899 and lived at Woodend near Mt Macedon in Victoria on a 69 acre property they named “Atlin”. Some members of Sid’s family had speculated that, due to his illness before departing Australia, the harsh conditions in Canada might kill him. Instead he returned a healthier man with great plans for the future.
Following the death of Annies’ mother in 1904 they returned to live at “Iona”, the Lister family home in Kew.
They had no children of their own and involved themselves with the welfare of others and the healing practice of Christian Science.
For further information on P S Watson and Annie Lister see book by Norman C Hutchinson titled “The Suffragist and the Squatter” ISBN 978-0-9585179-5-9 (pbk)
This historic biography is not just the story of Melbourne woman, Annie Lister, who helped get the vote for women in Australia, but also the story of her husband Sidney Watson who as a teenager with his twin brother Harry and younger brother Greg had travelled from Walwa on the Upper Murray in Victoria settled at Gregory Downs in Queensland’s Gulf County in 1877.
The book draws on information in the Dairy of Greg Watson to detail the hardships of their overlanding with cattle and the early days of their settlement on the picturesque and continuously flowing, spring fed Gregory River, now better known as the gateway to Lawn Hill Gorge and Boodjamulla National Park and also for the canoe race held on the May Day weekend as well as the annual Gregory Downs Jockey Club Race Meeting held on the same weekend.
Anyone who has experienced a Canadian Rockies and Alaskan Cruise will relate to the landscape and what they may have endured, when, just after they were married they went off to Vancouver to join the Klondike Gold Rush of 1898. They travelled north via the “Inside Passage” and the Stikine River to then overland to Teslin Lake where they bought a boat for the 600 mile trip down river to Dawson City. However, before setting out for Dawson, and hearing stories of people leaving Dawson, they decided to overland to a new gold strike at Atlin, where they built two cabins and set up a store/restaurant. The White Pass rail (on the Dead Horse Trail) that is now a must do for tourists visiting Skagway was just completed whilst they were there.
The letters home that are included as well as the many photographs taken by Annie in the Alaskan and Canadian wilderness give life to the story.
Link to Wikipedia on the Klondike Gold Rush below:-