In 1872 at the age of 17, the young artist Homer Watson began courting the daughter of a family friend, Roxa Bechtel. On the days of their courtship, Homer would walk a long eleven kilometers to her house in Waterloo, and then all the way back home at the end of the evening. After two years of courting, Roxa and Homer were engaged in 1874.
Homer would wait a long time before he and Roxa were married however, as he wanted to ensure that he could support a family with his work. He had successfully supported himself for two years at this point, but a family would be another matter. So, Homer spent the next seven years working and making a name for himself. Eventually, this would pay off for Homer when his painting The Pioneer Mill was purchased as a gift for the Queen of England. The confidence of this sale convinced Homer that he could sustain himself, and a wife. Using part of the money he earned from the momentous sale, Homer purchased a gold watch and matching chain for Roxa, and finally on January 1st, 1881, he and Roxa were wed.
Though we do not have a description or photographs from Homer and Roxa’s wedding, there are still plenty of well-recorded traditions and folk superstitions from the Victorian period that can give an idea of what may have been involved. For example, one common “wedding rhyme” tells the couple that if they are “married when the year is new”, their marriage will be “always kind, loving and true”. It was also during the Victorian period that white wedding gowns were popularized by Queen Victoria herself, whereas most women would have simply worn the nicest attire they had.
Following the marriage, Homer and Roxa would spend some time “Living In” with cousins. Part of the honeymooning process involved staying with friends and family for extended periods of time to introduce them to the new couple, occasionally with the couple’s in-laws in tow to help cover expenses. This practice was in the process of changing at the time however, as the industrial revolution allowed for new couples to start their marriage with extra spending money, and honeymoons in far and away places were becoming much more common. In Roxa and Homer’s case, they did not stray too far, and upon earning enough money from his painting career, he and Roxa realized they could afford a house of their own.
Starting out as tenants living on the top floor of a rental house, Homer would eventually earn enough money to buy the entire property, which we now know as the Homer Watson House and Gallery.
More gifts would follow through Homer and Roxa’s life together. According to Homer’s niece Myrtle Bean, for their 25th anniversary Homer gifted Roxa this lavaliere style necklace. Allegedly, it was made from the same gold chain that Homer bought Roxa all those years ago, right after his painting was bought for the Queen. This January 1st, 2023, would have marked their 142nd anniversary.