Buena Vista County, IA
USGenWeb Project

Extracted from:  Wegerslev, C. H. and Thomas Walpole. 
 Past and Present of Buena Vista County, Iowa
Chicago:  S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1909, p. 506-10.

Transcribed by Paul Nagy

Biography of  John F. Lawson

John F. Lawson, a prosperous and well known agriculturist residing on section 7, Poland township, was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, October 3, 1833, his parents being Henry and Elizabeth (Miller) Lawson, who were also natives of the land of hills and heather.  The year 1834 witnessed their emigration to the new world and, landing in New York, they sojourned in Buffalo for a short time, thence made their way to Cleveland, Ohio, and subsequently took up their abode in Beverly, Ohio.  The father, who was a stone-cutter by trade, followed that occupation in Beverly for about twenty years.  In the spring of 1853 the family removed to Winnebago county, Illinois, where the parents resided until called to their final rest, the father passing away in New Milford in 1874 when seventy years of age, while the mother's demise occurred in 1900, when she had attained the advanced age of eighty-four years.


Unto this worthy couple were born the following children:  Agnes, the wife of D. C. Miller, a banker at Newell, who passed away on the 10th of October, 1908; John F., of this review; Eliza, the wife of M. R. Waterman, of Marathon, Iowa; Isabelle, the deceased wife of Chauncey Gunsanlus, a veteran of the Civil war, residing in New Milford; Thomas F., who wedded Miss Sarah Zeek and makes his home in New Milford, his wife having passed away in February, 1907; George H., who married .Miss Lorena Wyrnick, and resides in New Milford; Agatha, who became the wife of George Litchfield, also a soldier, and lives in Kewanee, Illinois.


When a young man of twenty-one years John F. Lawson started out in business life on his own account.  On the 7th of November, 1858, he was united in marriage to Miss Lavina Pease, a daughter of Charles and Elmira (Benson) Pease, natives of New Hampshire and Maine respectively.  The parents were married in the latter state and in 1855 journeyed westward, taking up their abode near New Milford, Winnebago county, Illinois.  Charles Pease, who was a wheelwright and farmer by occupation, passed away in 1856 when forty-two years of age, while his wife's demise occurred in 1888 when she was more than seventy years of age.  Mrs. Lawson was the eldest in a family of seven children, of whom six still survive, namely:  Lavina, the wife of our subject; Eliza, the wife of William D. Kewish, of New Milford; Warren, who wedded Augusta Warner and also resides in New Milford; Orissa, the wife of D. J. Hawn, of Oregon, Illinois; Albert, who married Esther Hawkins, of Sheldon, Iowa; and Hannah, the wife of William Dunning, of Rockford.


Mr. and Mrs. Lawson have become the parents of twelve children.  The first born died in infancy.  Agnes, whose birth occurred May 12, 1861, resides in Newell, Iowa, and is the wife of George Ellison, by whom she has three children, Walter, Homer and Glenn, all at home.  Charles, born July 20, 1862, resides in Clay county.  He married Jane Gilmore and has one child, Roy.  Thomas, whose natal day was February 16, 1864, lives in Lee township.  He wedded Lula Gant and has seven children:  Orville, Cecil, Leslie, Maxie, Opal, Mary and Homer.  William, who was born September 6, 1866, and is a resident of Clay county, married Carrie Grewell, by whom he has six children:  Estella, Esther, Viola, Loren, Edna and Florence.  Isabelle, born June 20, 1868, makes her home in Amiret, Minnesota.  She is the wife of E. T. Fulford and has three children, Viva, Evelyn and Ivas.  Bertha, who was born April 19, 1870, is now a resident of North Dakota and is the wife of Herbert Dingman, by whom she has three children:  Glenn, Gwen and Roy.  Alice, born April 3, 1873, became the wife of George Collins and lives in Clay county, Iowa.  George, whose birth occurred November 25, 1875, is still at home.  Cora, born in June, 1878, is the wife of Judd Collins, of Sioux Rapids.  Harry, born June 20, 1880, is yet under the parental roof.  Elmer, born April 26, 1884, is also at home.


Subsequent to their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Lawson made their home in Illinois until 1870 and in the fall of that year removed to Cherokee, Kansas, where they remained for six years.  On the expiration of that period they returned to New Milford, Illinois, and during their three years' residence at that place Mr. Lawson was engaged in a mill.  In the fall of 1870 he landed in Newell, Iowa, having driven eleven hundred and seventy-five head of sheep from Rockford, Illinois, and averaging some ten or twelve miles per day.  He encountered thieves on the road who endeavored to steal the sheep.  During the first winter he lived on a farm within a mile of Newell, and in the spring removed to Fairfield township, making his home on his brother-in-law's farm for six years.  Subsequently he came to Poland township and located on his present farm of two hundred and forty acres on sections 7 and 8, where he has since successfully carried on agricultural pursuits.  In addition to the work of the fields he has also engaged in stock-raising, both branches of his business returning to him a gratifying annual income.  His name has ever stood as a synonym for honesty and integrity in all relations and he is widely recognized as a representative and prosperous citizen of his adopted county.


In the course of his life Mr. Lawson has had some interesting experiences.  During his youth he worked on the Mississippi river for a time, and at the age of fourteen assisted in taking a flatboat loaded with flour from Beverly, Ohio, to New Orleans.  At the age of eighteen he started down the Mississippi in charge of a cargo of flour, when the boat struck a snag and began to sink rapidly.  The skiff had broken loose and as there were three men on board who could not swim.  Mr. Lawson was forced to prepare a way for his companions to reach shore.  He seized a long plank, known as the "lazy board," and placing one man in the middle and the others at each end, he started for the shore, guiding the plank with one hand while he swam with the other.  After coming to Iowa his worst hardships were the severe winters.  The winter of 1881 was particularly severe, the snow completely covering his hay stacks, so that it was very difficult to secure feed for his stock.


Since casting his first vote for John C. Fremont, Mr. Lawson has ever supported the candidates of the republican party, believing its principles most conducive to good government.  Recognizing his worth and ability, his fellow townsmen have called him to various positions of trust and responsibility and he has served in the offices of school director, trustee and road supervisor.  He joined the Masonic fraternity of Ogle county, Illinois, on the 6th of July, 1866, and is a charter member of the Masonic lodge, No. 244.  In religious belief he is a Universalist and has the favorable regard and esteem of all with whom he is associated.  He has now passed the seventy-fifth milestone on life's journey, and an honorable and upright career has won him the veneration and respect which are so uniformly accorded him.