William Lawson

Graves in the Blackwood Cemetery.

WILLIAM LAWSON – died Blackwood,  6th December 1855.

Compiled by Margot Hitchcock, Historian for the Blackwood & District Historical Society.

The earliest grave found so far in the Blackwood cemetery with a headstone is that of William Lawson, whose headstone bears the inscription –

“Erected by Mrs. Mary E. Lawson in memory of her beloved husband WILLIAM LAWSON who was killed at Acre’s Hill 6th December 1855 aged 41 years.

William Lawson was from Perth in Scotland, and an inquest report tells of the accident William Lawson had while felling a tree at Blackwood, when a branch struck him on the head and killed him.

Acre’s Hill, is near the Albion Reef which is north of Blackwood past Barrys Reef near Yankee Reef.  Acre’s Reef was an early name for Yankee Reef on the Yankee Road.

The Argus – Melbourne Newspaper – 13th December 1855, shows a report of his death – Blackwood – (from our own correspondent)  10th December 1855.

Acres Reef: Lamentable Accident.  WILLIAM LAWSON

“William Lawson, a machinist, who lately settled at this reef with a stamping machine met with an untimely death on Friday last. (6th December)   He was intending to remove his machine to the top of the hill, to crush dry, (as water was scarce in the area.)

Lawson was engaged in felling some timber to clear a spot for the machine.  A tree in falling caught on another tree which caused some of the top branches to spring back again and fall off.  On its descent it struck poor Lawson on the side of the head, dashing his brains out.  He never spoke afterwards and shortly expired.  He has left a wife and four children and the scene presented, when his wife and family on being informed of the fatal accident rushed up frantically to the spot, one of the most painful description.  Lawson was buried on Saturday in the Blackwood cemetery.”

Of interest is some letters the family still have written in 1853 by William Lawson from the McIvor diggings to his wife Mary and his 4 children. Part of these letters read –

6th August 1853 – Saturday.

Dear Wife, I received your letter dated 19th June on the 30th and it cheered me much to learn that you and the little ones were all in good health.  I am out of a mate and I sink a hole like a well and I assure you it is not easy to throw up the earth and stuff from the bottom, it makes the sweat run.  I am sorry to say it is the worst hole I have sunk. I only got 2/- (20 cents) worth of gold on the bottom.  One day I made 20/- ($4). I am left alone (his brothers having gone to the Goulbourn diggings) yet I cannot say that I am weary except for seeing you and the little ones.  

The McIvor diggings are very poor – yet there are 100 lbs (Pounds) of gold in this locality if one could hit on it.  Drays last week were charging £80 ($160) per ton for carriage to Goulburn from here.  I shave every week and wash my clothes weekly and do it pretty well.

 I am your affectionate husband, William Lawson”

McIvor Diggings 11th August 1853. – Dear Mary, .. I am as you will think very lonely being in a tent by myself, far from neighbours in a wood, yet I don’t feel anyway alarmed.  If I had you and the dear little ones by me I could be comfortable enough, but I have no one to speak to, but thanks be to God I am in health and can write to you, but I cannot see your dear face and through your eyes read your kind heart.  I am longing to see you and to hear your dear voice my dearest friend.  If the Goulburn diggings does no good I don’t intend taking out another licence, so 20 days will settle the matter as it is useless waiting here and loosing time and money as very few are making expenses on McIvor. ….Yours ever, Wm Lawson”

It is not sure where William Lawson went after his stay at McIvor diggings in 1853 until his death in Blackwood in December 1855.

After her husband’s death, Mary Lawson married her husband’s brother, Charles Lawson in 1857 and they had 3 daughters.  Mary died age 73 yrs in 1893 and is buried in the New Melbourne Cemetery with her husband Charles who died in 1903.

Such stories tell of some conditions and hardships on the early goldfields, and we are lucky to have people who are willing to share these family stories of interest with us.   A full report will be published in the author’s next book ‘The History and Pioneers of Blackwood’, hopefully when it is published soon.

Grave of William Lawson buried Blackwood cemetery December 1855(Photo courtesy of Margot Hitchcock taken in 1982 before headstone was accidentally damaged in a cemetery clean-up)