George Lawton Of Canada
Written by: Leo Lawton
On February 27th I wrote a little about Sylvester A Lawton of Lyme, Jefferson County, New York being hung for his participation in the Battle of the Windmill during the Patriot War in Canada. Here is a bit more about another Lawton, also caught up in the Patriot War, from a different perspective.
George Lawton was born August 27, 1786 in Staley Wood, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, England. About 1810 George married Mary Wolley. They had four children before sailing across the Atlantic about 1817. About 1818 the family left the Philadelphia area to settle in Upper Canada along the shore of Lake Erie near what is now Dexter. Their original homestead was gradually disappearing into Lake Erie so by 1830 George was trying to save money to purchase another farm for the family which now numbered eight children.
The Upper Canada government was an entrenched group considered by the general population to be nearly dictators. George became one of several outspoken reformers, supporting the cause of William Lyon Mackenzie. Open rebellion was undertaken but quickly defeated, and Mackenzie and others escaped to the United States. A warrant for the arrest of George Lawton was issued. In December 1837 he rode a horse due west for two days until he arrived at the St. Clair River. Leaving the horse behind, George crossed the river into the United States on foot, not knowing if he would ever see his family again. In the next two months 15 and a 12 year old sons died leaving Mary with a loss of three of her men in a three month period.
As time passed an investigation was completed by Britain which substantially agreed with the program endorsed by the reformers to the dismay of the entrenched government. A formal pardon was issued by Queen Victoria to George Lawton on September 29, 1841, nearly four years after he had left Canada. He returned home after learning of his pardon to find that Mary and his remaining three sons had flourished on the farm. The previous year from the farm’s 160 improved acres of the 200 total acres, they had harvested 700 bushels of wheat, 150 bushels of oats, 100 bushels of peas, 200 bushels of corn, and 50 bushels of potatoes. They owned a hive of bees, 11 horses, 22 cattle, 4 sheep, and 70 hogs, placing them among the more substantial farmers of the area.
As a testament to hard work this farm is yet in the Lawton family today.