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Monday, June 27, 2011

Early Residents - James Hunter Lawson (1836-1926)

James Lawson was born in the Scottish seaport town of Greenock on 22 April 1836. Little is known of his childhood and youth, though by the time he immigrated to Australia at the age of nineteen he had acquired the trade of cabinet-maker. He arrived in Sydney in 1855.

Two years later, on 27 November 1857, Lawson married Emma Glen in St Andrews Cathedral. The following year they had a baby daughter, also named Emma. That same year he successfully applied for a hotel licence and became the licensee of the Royal Oak Hotel at Pyrmont. By 1865 the family had grown by three more children and Lawson had re-entered the furniture trade, establishing a furniture warehouse in the centre of Sydney in partnership with another businessman.

This business expanded rapidly over the next two decades and a large factory at Newtown was added to the enterprise. Lawson was able to bring his sons into the firm when they reached maturity and in the 1884 Sands Directory the business was listed as ‘Lawson, James & Sons, Cabinet-Makers, Art Furniture Manufacturers and Carpet Warehousemen’. The eldest son James Robert, however, left in the mid-1880s and established his own business, the auctioneering firm that still bears his name.

With his increasing prosperity James Hunter, like many other Sydney businessmen at the time, decided eventually to buy land in the Blue Mountains and build a country residence. At the end of the 1880s he purchased 60 acres at Springwood, with a frontage along the Western Road (now Macquarie Road), extending east from and including the Springwood Hotel built by Frank Raymond in 1877. He completely rebuilt the old hotel and opened it in January 1891 as The Oriental.

In the orchard adjoining the hotel Lawson next began construction of a cottage that was completed in 1892 and became known as Braemar. The Lawson’s appear to have occupied Braemar for no more than a couple of years, moving sometime in the mid-1890s into another home they had built next door.

This home, Glen Lawson, became James and Emma’s permanent residence for the rest of their lives. James Hunter built extensively in Springwood and settled a large extended family around him and his wife. On the eve of a trip to Europe in May 1900, he was praised in the press for contributing to the progress of the town ‘by erecting substantial buildings that would be a credit to any district’.

The Lawson’s were active in the Presbyterian Church (some services were held on the veranda of Braemar before the Frazer Memorial Church was opened) and in the movement to establish a School of Arts in Springwood.  In 1926, following a period of gradually declining health, James Hunter died on Friday 23 April. He was 90 years old. Within 24 hours his widow, Emma, who had appeared to be in fair health, had also passed away. The couple were buried together in Rookwood Cemetery.

John Low
Taken from: The Making of a Mountain Community, A Biographical Dictionary of the Springwood District 

Braemar c1990s

1 comment: said...

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