Oliver Lawton’s Farm

By: Leo Lawton

Peter Warren was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1703. By 1744 he was in command of a 16 ship squadron of the English Royal Navy. He had become a wealthy man. Using some of that wealth he purchased thousands of acres of land along the Mohawk River in central New York in the colonies in 1738. Peter hired his nephew William Johnson, born in 1715, to manage his property.

William sold farms to settlers, and then opened a store to sell goods to those farmers. He also began dealing as a fur trader which earned him vast sums of money. William took Molly, sister of Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, as his common law wife giving him special status with the tribe. In 1746 he became Britain’s Manager of Indian Affairs. That same year he was awarded a Chieftainship in the Mohawk Nation.

In 1760 he was “given” 66,000 acres of land by the Mohawks. He reciprocated with a gift of $24,000 and some trade goods. In 1763 a Royal Proclamation forbid individuals from purchasing Indian lands. William applied for a special confirmation stating he had not purchased his land, but that it was given to him, which was approved in 1769. His land then became known as the Royal Grant. In 1775 William died leaving the bulk of his estate to his son James.

The next year the Revolutionary War began, and James made the decision to side with the British, rather than the upstart rebels. After the war the heavily in war debt New York State confiscated William’s lands and began to sell the first allotment of them at public auction in 1784. They were all sold by 1789 at which time a second allotment was offered. Oliver Lawton, the great grandson of Thomas Lawton immigrant in 1638, of Rhode Island purchased 500 acres as the first lot, located in what became Herkimer County, of that second allotment. Oliver was my great grandfather’s great grandfather.