|ROBERT J. McWATTY, retired, formerly sheriff of Dane county was born in Mercer county, Pa., March 26, 1848. His father was Wm. McWatty, a native of Ireland, who came to the United States in the early forties and secured work on the Erie Canal, after having farmed for a time in Mercer county, Pa.In September, 1948, William McWatty came to Dane county, taking a one hundred and twenty acre farm eight miles south of Madison. He was an ardent Whig while that party was strong and later became a Republican, and although he never held an office he was always keenly interested in politics.
His wife was Sarah Jane McBurney born in the north of Scotland. Both of them are strictly orthodox Presbyterians of the old school and believed in the rigid observance of the Sabbath. William McWatty died in the early seventies, at the age of sixty-two. He had never been ill a day in his life, and the last summons came suddenly.
His wife died ten years later at the age of fifty-four, after having borne Mr. McWatty sixteen children. They were Jane, Mrs. Ralph Ray, deceased; Ann Eliza, widow of Wendell Yeager, resides in Texas; Margaret, widow of Mark Canada, lived in Iowa; Susan, widow of Michael Hagen, lives in Oregon; Martha, Mrs. John McFarland, died in 1904, and her husband a year later; William, deceased; Ellen, Mrs. Edward Nicholas, of Iowa; Robert J., the subject of the sketch; John, a farmer in Michigan; Sarah, Mrs. Frank McGann of Madison; Maria, Mrs. Andrew Murphy, deceased; Hugh, a farmer in the town of Fitchburg; David, died in infancy; Andrew, farming in the town of Fitchburg; Almira, widow of Walter Graves; and another child which died young.
By a former marriage William McWatty was the father of two children, Mary, Mrs. George Gillin, deceased, and John Wesley, also deceased.
Robert J. McWatty received what education the common schools of the county afforded.
In March 1864, when but sixteen years of age, he enlisted in Company E, Eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. His regiment was assigned to duty with the Army of the Potomac and was in all the large engagements of that army in 1864 and 1865. He was in the division of Gen. A. J. Smith, who precipitated the battle of Nashville. In the last engagement in which his regiment participated, Mr. McWatty was wounded slightly in the shoulder.
In September 1865, he received an honorable discharge from the army and went to farming, continuing that pursuit four years. Then he went to Chicago and was employed for some ten years by the late Marshall Field. At the end of that period he went to mining near Omaha, Neb. and for several years successfully followed that labor.
On his return to Chicago in 1884 he drove stage for a year or more, and then once more turned his attention to agricultural pursuits in the town of Fitchburg. Here he remained until his election as sheriff in 1903, when he removed to Madison where he has since resided.
In 1882 he married Katie, a daughter of Peter and Bridget Kane, natives of Wisconsin. Mrs. McWatty was one of eight children, of whom she and a sister, Margaret (Mrs. Fred Kriger, of Milwaukee) are the only survivors. Mr. and Mrs. McWatty have no children.
The genial ex-sheriff is a member of the Presbyterian church, of the Knights of Phythias, of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows; of the Grand Army of the Republic, and of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks. His wife is a member of the Catholic church.
1906 History of Dane County, Wisconsin, p. 595-596.