Select Dawson Miscellany

Here are some Dawson stories and accounts over the years:

Sir Marmaduke D'Ossone and the English/Irish Dawsons

According to Burke’s Peerage, Dawsons in England and Ireland claimed descent from Sir Marmaduke D'Ossone, a soldier of fortune who accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066.  For services rendered in battle he was said to have received a grant of an estate in England and to have remained there for the rest of his life.  It was said that the original seat of the family was in the county of York.

Many generations later came Alexander Dawson who lived at Spaldington in Yorkshire in 1584.  The line from him passed to
William Dawson who came to Ireland as a tax collector in the reign of Charles II.  His son Ephraim acquired the Portarlington estate in Queens (Laios) county and the family was later made Earl of Portarlington.

Early Dawsons in the Grewelthorpe Area

The following Dawson families were recorded in the Grewelthorpe area of north Yorkshire in the 1500's and 1600's:

Gilbert Dawson of Azerley Hall near Ripon (1535?-1587) and Catherine  
- son George (born in 1558) who married Margaret Conyers
  (they were believed on have come originally from Cumberland) 

George Dawson of Grewelthorpe (1625?-1672) and Judith (died in 1657)  
- son Richard (born in 1656)  
John Dawson of Pateley Bridge (1635?-1688) and wife (unknown)

- son John of Ripon (born in 1659) 
- son Christopher of Ripon (born in 1661)  
Thomas and Ann Dawson (married in Ripon in 1660)  
- Thomas of Ripon (born in 1663)  
Charles Dawson of Grewelthorpe (1645?-1696) and Anne  
- George Dawson (born in 1675) 
Richard Dawson, yeoman of Grewelthorpe (died in 1693)  

George, Charles and Richard Dawson appeared on the Wapentake hearth tax list of 1672.

George Dawson of Harrogate

George Dawson was a prominent personality in Harrogate in the late 19th century.  As alderman he added materially to the architecture of the town.  He built the Post Office buildings, known as Prospect Crescent, Cambridge Crescent, rebuilt the Crown Hotel, the Crown block, and some of the finest residences.  A passionate Methodist preacher of the hell-fire school, Dawson himself threw drunks and hecklers from his meetings and allowed nothing to stand in the way of his plans to beautify Harrogate. 

However, on the eve of him becoming Mayor of Harrogate in 1889, he died of overwork at his mansion, Vanderbilt Court, in Victoria Avenue.  Today a plaque there records his life and achievements.

On the Death in 1737 of James Dawson of Aherlow

The Dawsons had come to the Glen of Aherlow in county Tipperary in the 17th century.  They were the local landlords, often resented.  Colonel James Dawson of Ahelow died in 1737 and the poet Sean Clarach Mac Domhnaill of Rathluirc composed some satirical verses on his death.  They began as follows: 

"Taiscighidh, a chlocha, fe choigilt i gcoimead criaidh,
Ann feailairefola, is an stollaire Dason liath."

"Squeeze down his bones, o ye stones, in your hall of clay,
You reeking, gore-sprinkled boar, old Dawson the grey."

The poet was forced to leave the district after the verses came out. 

The Dawsons were still landlords in the 19th century and still unpopular.  But this time the anger was directed at their agent, “limping” Tommy Saunders.  The Dawson home at Ballincourty House was destroyed at the time of the Irish Civil War.

Sir William Dawson's Forebears in Scotland

Sir William Dawson, the great 19th century Canadian scholar, gave the following account of his family history in Scotland:

“My father's people were agriculturists in the north of Scotland, connected with an old family, the Dawsons of Crombie, but, being descended from a younger branch, were themselves of the class of well-to-do tenant farmers.

The tradition was that the family originated with an Irish officer who had come over in the interests of James the Second, and who, when the effort to excite a rising in favor of the exiled king had failed, consoled himself by marrying a Scottish maiden dowered with some landed property.  He was a Roman Catholic and the family continued for some generations to adhere to the old faith and to Jacobite politics.

My grandfather was said to have been present as a stripling on the side of the Pretender at Culloden Moor but, having escaped that dangerous day, afterwards married a Protestant wife, and in his later days went over to her religion.  Their children were educated as Presbyterians.”

The Irish connection seems unlikely.   It may not have been his grandfather but his great grandfather who was present at Culloden on that fateful day in 1746.

Thomas Dawson, Methodist Preacher

It was said that during his younger days Thomas Dawson had been "wild and profane."  Then he read Doddridge’s Rise and Progress and realized the error of his ways.  It is not exactly sure when he became a convert of John and Charles Wesley’s Methodism.  However, convert he did and he was soon a preacher.

He had joined in the British army in Ireland, serving as a young man in the American Revolutionary War.  When that employment ended in 1799, he began to think about emigrating.

On March 4, 1801 Thomas and his family set sail from Dublin and finally reached their destination of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island some three months later.  Once settled there, Thomas felt that the spiritual destitution of the Island was so great that he should set out to become the first local preacher in the colony.  During 1801 and the following years, prayer meetings were held regularly in Charlottetown and on Christmas Day Thomas would preach in the Coffee House.

An interesting diary note of his friend Benjamin Chappell for July 1, 1803 raised the following question:  "Mr. Dawson, was he drunk with Mr. Palmer or not?"  Maybe the preacher did slip back temporarily into the wildness of his pre-conversion days and went on a "bender" with Mr. Palmer.  However, the diary indicated that conditions did improve during October and November.

Thomas Dawson was a man of strong constitution and powerful frame.  But he could not long sustain the rigorous tests to which he subjected himself.  In December 1803 he was seized by a severe cold which terminated in quinsy.  On January 22, 1804, though very ill, he walked from Charlottetown to his home at the Head of Hillsborough.  Benjamin Chappell was with him for his last few days.  Thomas Dawson died six weeks later on March 4.

William Crosby Dawson of Greene County, Georgia

William Crosby Dawson of Greene county, Georgia was called "the first gentleman of Georgia."  He was described as follows by a contemporary:  

"He was a man of much suavity of manner; one of that class of Southern statesmen who felt it necessary to carry every measure by the influence of personal kindness, and an expression of horror at all agitation of the slave question, under the apprehension that it might dissolve the Union.”  

The following marker was erected at the Greene county courthouse in Greensboro in 1971, commemorating his life as a Freemason:

"A native of Greene county, then on Georgia's Indian frontier, he was educated in the law and admitted to the Bar in 1818.   The remainder of his exemplary life was spent in public service as legislator, captain of the Volunteers in the Indian War in Florida in 1836, judge of the Oolmugee judicial circuit, Congressman, and US Senator from Georgia from 1849 to 1855.  

Brother Dawson served as Grand Master of the Masons in Georgia from 1843 until his death in Greensboro in 1856.  Two cities and one county in Georgia are named for him.  Also named in his honor are two Masonic lodges.

One of the most beloved, respected and distinguished Grand Masters in Georgia's long Masonic history, his honored remains lie in the city cemetery near this spot.  His entire life was a testimonial to his devotion to his fellow man, his country, and to the sublime precepts of Freemasonry.  His name will always be revered by the Freemasons of Georgia."

Brit Dawson of Dawson, Texas

Brit Dawson gave his name to Dawson, Texas.  He was a cattle rancher and was said to have had the largest herd of cattle in all of Navarro county.  He died in 1903 and was buried beside his wife Susannah in the family cemetery just north of "the Big House."

Brit had eighty six exciting years and had witnessed changes he could never have imagined as a child.   He had lived in the territory of Alabama, Mexican territory, the Republic of Texas, and in the thirty-eighth state of the United States, Texas.  His father had fought in the War of 1812 and he had joined Sam Houston's army and fought Indians.  He had driven ox carts and ridden trains pulled by huge steam locomotives.

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