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hiram who
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Street Well-Named

from The Long Road, Charlotte Bronte Perry, B.A. M.A., 1967

City fathers are often taken to task for their choice of street names, but about the recent [1963] decision to change the name of Lot St. to Watkins St. there was no quarrel. Homer Watkins was born in 1893 in the old town of Sandwich, now a part of Windsor. He lived near the Sandwich Street Baptist Church, the oldest Baptist Church in the city of Windsor. He owned a confectionary and grocery store at Lot and Peter Streets. Lot Street has now been named Watkins Street in his honour.

Howard Watkins, his son and a Windsor detective, spoke of the early period of his life and how they used to fish and hunt near his home, and look out of his window and see the wild animals.

Homer Watkins’ address will change to 375 Watkins Street when the change becomes official. The street has a history inextricably bound up with that of Mr. Watkins’ family for more than a century.

As his son Howard puts it: “From my own porch at 3603 Peter St., I could toss a stone and hit the house where I was born, or the house where my father was born, and if I had a good enough arm I could even hit the house where his father was born.”

All of these homes were built with the Watkins’ own hands, and going back still one generation further there is the house built by Mr. Watkins Sr.’s grandfather, Allen, still standing at 3540 Peter St.

It was Allen Watkins, an escaped slave from the United States in the 1830s, who founded the Windsor branch of the family. After emancipation, when a number of his children returned to the U.S., William remained.

Along with other members of the community, he turned his hand to construct a place of worship on the “homestead,” the northwest corner of Lot and Peter Sts. The Sandwich Baptist Church was originally a log cabin and the men who helped erect it were buried nearby. The gravestones marking their place of burial, however, have been missing for many years.

The existing brick church was completed in 1851, and on August 1 of that year, the 18th anniversary of the freeing of the slaves by the British, the structure was dedicated.

William Watkins also built his own home at 3616 Peter St. and like his father before him, his son Homer Watkins, just ending his ‘teen years, did the same at 375 Lot St. Now 70 years old, Homer Watkins has lived there for half a century.

The last survivor of all 11 brothers and sisters, Mr. Watkins has vivid memories of the area from when he was still a boy.

“I remember when there was nothing but woods on that side of Peter St. Up at the corner a family was digging to put in the foundation for a new house and turned up 1,500 dollars that someone buried there,” he recalled.

In addition to the street naming. Homer Watkins (centre) was honoured by annual Homer Watkins Days

For 30 years an employee of Ford of Canada and before that of the Windsor Salt Company, Mr. Watkins kept his family’s spirits high during the tough depression years with his songs and dances, occasionally bringing home a basket of groceries when he was declared winner of a vaudeville competition.

But there had always been at least one Watkins living on the street. With two sons, three daughters and an even dozen grandchildren there is an excellent chance a Watkins will be represented on the street that bears this name for many years to come.

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