John Elmer Lawton

Written By: Leo Lawton

John Elmer Lawton was born July 9, 1907 in the Shinglehouse area of northern Pennsylvania across the state boundary from Cattaraugus County, New York. I do not know how John was related to the Rhode Island Lawtons as that line is not known prior to 1801. John lived to the ripe old age of 104 and lived much of his life in Cuba, New York just north of where he was born. John’s parents were married in 1901 and between then and 1926 the 19 children were born. There was a quaint old-fashioned belief at the time that you first married and then had children. I knew John for possibly his last 15 years on this earth, and what a wonderful man he was. John wrote a book titled, “Mother and Her Nineteen Children.” It is a book about the trials and tribulations of a poor family growing on dirt poor farms. John paid to have the book published in 1999, and I duly received a copy of one of the most delightful books I have ever read.

John told me he could no longer raise his arms high enough to type so he rigged two bicycle tire tubes from the ceiling. He would place an arm in each and typed his entire book with his arms in the slings.

John and his wife had 6 children, all girls. He once asked me if I would consider being adopted by him as the boy he never had, but I answered I already had a father I was very proud of.

At some point he mentioned to me in one of his many letters that he had written a second book, but never published it. All he had was a typewritten manuscript. When I casually mentioned one time that I wish I could read it John took heed. One day his entire manuscript (the only copy in existence) arrived in my mailbox. What an honor to be entrusted with such benevolence. I had it copied, and promptly sent it back to him so now there may be two copies, his and mine.