James and his family crossed the Atlantic on the ship Samuel Curling in 1855. Two children, Thomas and Janet, appear on the ship manifest, but they both died in Pennsylvania before coming on to Utah.
Evidence from emigration, church, and genealogical records proves the Watson family traveled to Utah in 1861.
He served as the Captain of the Guard in the Peter Ranck pioneer company.
His birth date is confirmed by his Scotland birth record.