Watkins was born in 1855 in Nooselane, Willenhall, Stafford, England. His father moved the family to New York City soon after Watkins was born. His father then moved the family to St. Louis. Charles was eight years old when his father died.
Three years after his mother remarried in 1867, they moved to the Bear Lake area at the border of Idaho and Utah. In 1884, Watkins married Emily Horsley of Paris, Idaho (also in the Bear Lake area). They were the parents of four daughters.
When Jacob Spori resigned from Bannock Academy in 1891, Watkins was sent to replace him. He did not have the education or training that Spori had, but he worked hard to keep the school open and build upon the high standards Spori had set. Only Watkins and one other teacher kept the academy going, with Watkins serving both as teacher and administration. He resigned as principal in 1894 due to health problems, but he continued to teach until his death in 1896. He is buried in Paris, Idaho.