Benjamin H., Job, and Polly (Strange) Lawton of Freetown, Massachusetts
The boy child was born on a cold November 14th in the year 1824. It was only ten days until Thanksgiving, but Job and Polly gave thanks that day that their fourth child and third son was born with ten fingers, ten toes, and all seemed to work as well as the lungs that were screaming after taking their first gasps of air. They named him Benjamin Henry Lawton, sort of after his grandfather, but grandpa’s middle name was Hall after his mother’s maiden name.
Young Ben grew up in the Quaker neighborhood in Freetown, Massachusetts where his parents and grandparents lived out their days also. He once wrote when he was 20 that he had spent most of his life in schools or academies of one sort or another. In fact, he could be found in 1841 enrolled in the Theological School of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, when he was 17 years old. However a life of the cloth was not to be, as on a warm spring morning during April of 1844, Benjamin, at twenty, was making his way to join his father on the Brig Monticello to make another Atlantic run to Havre, France, and back to New York.
We shall attempt to give you the feel of Ben’s journey as he saw it, through the pages of a journal he kept sporadically throughout his journey. He “Bought of William Pierce of Andover, Mass” his blank journal, and notated the first page as; B. H. Lawton’s Book, Freetown, April 9, 1842. Ben liked to doodle and made several drawings within the pages of his journal, the first being a pen and ink drawing of a stately house. Ben was often of a poetic inclination, and the journal is strewn with poetry, sometimes fragments, and at other times complete poems. Think of Me “Go, where the water glideth gently ever—Glideth by meadows that the greenest be, Go, listen to your own beloved river, And think of me. Wander in forests where the small flowers layeth Its fair gem beside the giant tree; List to the dim brook pining while it playeth, And think of me. Watch when the sky is silver, pale at even, And the wind grieveth in the lonely tree; Go out beneath the solitary heaven, And think of me. And when the Moon riseth, as she was dreaming, And treadeth with white feet the lulled sea; Go, listen as a star beneath her beaming.” And think of me. Andover: April 9, 1842B. H. Lawton
This home, located at 26 South Main Street, Freetown, MA, is known as the Strange/Lawton/Pierce home named for the families that lived in it. Job’s wife, who was Ben’s mother of course, was Polly Strange. It is yet lived in more than 175 years after that chilly November day when Ben was born within its walls. The paint may be a little checked on the clapboards, but I suspect it is as comfortable as it was for Polly and the four children when Job was gone on his extended sea-faring jaunts. The life of a seaman’s wife often was lonely, but Polly had the comfort of her own home.
Come along for the ride as our tiny sailing ship leaves Savannah in April for the long journey, marked in red, to that far off land of France, and then on its return some three and a half months later, marked in yellow, in August, to that huge American port named New York City. Left Macon, Wednesday April 10, 1844, & arrived in Savannah the same day At 6 oclock in the evening. B. H. Lawton Left Savannah April 19, 1844 The steamer Bocet Santee towed us just below four mile point –so called & the following day, which was the 20th of April we proceded to sea & at 12 p.m. passed the buoy on the bar. J. G. Lawton Sunday May 12, 1844 off Corvo, one of the western islands (Azores). Long. by time 31° 00’ 45” Lat. Obs. 42° 49’ 00”On board ship Monticello May 18, ‘44 Lat. by 48° 06’ Long. by time 25° 38’ Mid oceans waves now lie still & not a zephyr______oer its tranquil bosom. On board ship Monticello, observation was taken on the 3rd day of June & the time of observation noted by the chro. for the purpose of ascertaining our longitude. Time of obs. 11:29.3 S p.m. Lat. 48° 10’ Long. 8.18.15 B. H. L. This day sounded, & found the depth to be 105 fathoms, grey & red sand, & small shells. Sounded at 10:30 A.M. At 4:27.50 Lat 48° 17’ long 8.05.15 Ship sailed by log 12 miles. Course N.E. by E1/2 E. On board ship Monticello June 5,’44. 3 altitudes were taken & the time of each noted by the chro. My longitude by chronometer this day at 3.33.22 P.M. is 1° 37’.30” & Cherbourge bearing by compass S.S.W1/2W. Arrived in Havre dock at 2 oclock P.M.
Commemorative bowl above, and model rudder below, are artifacts held by the Wishart family of Kittery, Maine, descendants of Benjamin H. Lawton, and his son Job George Lawton. Job lost his rudder on the way home, jury-rigged one he designed, and made his way home with it. This is a model of that jury-rigged life and ship saver.
Direct Descendants of George (1) Lawton0
George (1) Lawton b: Abt. 23 Sep 1607 d: 05 Oct 1693
+Elizabeth Hazard b: Abt. 1624 d: 08 Nov 1711
1 Robert Lawton b: Abt. 1649 d: 25 Jan 1705/06
+Mary Tripp Wodell b: 1665 d: 14 Jan 1731/32
2 George Lawton, Capt. b: 01 Sep 1685 d: 11 Apr 1740
+Mary Gould b: 29 Nov 1688 d: 14 Mar 1750/51
3 Job Lawton b: 13 Feb 1714/15 d: 08 May 1773
+Sarah Trude b: 1721 d: 04 Dec 1777
4 Job Lawton b: 22 Jun 1753 d: 05 Jan 1777
5 Benjamin Hall Lawton, Capt. b: 25 Jul 1774 d: 01 Nov 1838
+Elizabeth Betsey Padgett b: 12 Dec 1773 d: 07 Sep 1801
6 Job George Lawton b: 27 Dec 1795 d: 06 Jun 1860
+Polly Strange b: 23 Aug 1796 d: 29 Mar 1855
7 Lorenzo Lawton b: 19 Jun 1816 d: 04 Dec 1873
+Jane Evans b: 04 Dec 1812 d: 25 Dec 1853
8 Lorenzo Eldon Lawton b: 17 Mar 1849 d: 18 Mar 1937+Mary Ellen Norsworth b: Jul 1854 d: 27 Nov 1907
9 Abby J. Lawton b: 07 Nov 1875
+Gilbert Wishart b: Feb 1874
Freetown Jan 20, 1844 To his excellency John Tyler. President of the United States. Honored Sir; Being perfectly aware of the station which you now occupy, and doubting not, of your extensive influence over those who compose your cabinet, I now most humbly ask of you to intercede in my behalf in obtaining for me a midshipmens warrant, that I may occupy amid shipmans station, on board some one ofour United States vessels. I am now about 20years of age. The greater portion of my time having been occupied in being a member of some school or academy. I have crossed the Atlantic several times, & am not whole unacquainted with a seamans life. Would you but descend to intercede in my behalf, you would confer a great favor on one who would under evry circumstance endeavor to appreciate the favour.I remain sir, your most humble Servant, with evry mark of due respect(Signed) B. H. Lawton
Benjamin H. Lawton of the letter on this page is the son of Job George Lawton and Polly Strange, brother of Lorenzo Lawton in the above chart. He was born November 14, 1824. I am fortunate enough to have been provided a copy of a journal he kept while on a voyage starting in Savannah, proceeding to Corvo, Azores, and on to Havre, France, thence back to New York. The ship was the Monticello, commanded by Benjamin’s father Job. The ship’s cargo was probably cotton on its eastward run, picking up European manufactured goods for the return trip to New York. This letter, being yet in the journal must have been a rough draft. Whether a final draft was ever written or sent is unknown. All Lawton Ledger readers owe a debt of gratitude to Peggy Wishart, descendant of Gilbert in the above chart, for her unselfishness in providing the journal copy for our enjoyment. Thank you, Peggy.
Pen and Ink depiction of the good ship Monticello drawn by Benjamin H. Lawton in 1844. This would have been classified as a Brig, due to the mast and sail configuration. A Brig had two masts, the aft, or rearmost, known as the mainmast. Both were rigged with square sails. The triangular sails on the front were called jibs, while the aftmost sail was named the spanker. The below picture, looking south, is of Job Lawton’s wharf on Water Street in Freetown, Massachusetts. I do not know if this is Job’s ship, but I would assume so. Job, and his family, lived at 26 Main Street, three or four blocks north of his wharf, in the home shown on a previous page. It can readily noted though that his time there was limited.