LAWSON, James Easton


Born c. 1833, Plymouth, England. Died 27.09.1895, Umzinto, Natal.


Sailor, storekeeper.


1833 c.            Born Plymouth. Son of Thomas Lawson (b. 20.12.1812, St Perroc, Dartmouth, Devon. d. 20.03.1849, Port Adelaide) and Susannah Easton (b. 1813, England. d. 30.03.1849, Port Adelaide). (MK)

1833.04.07      bap. in Plymouth. (Ib.)

1839.00.00      His family emigrated to Australia. They sailed to Adelaide on the barque Cleveland. He was five years old. (Ib)

1861.08.05      James [Easton] Lawson, 23, b. Plymouth, now of Umzinto, and Frances Fayers, 19, b. Deptford, now of Lower Umkomaas, took out licence to m. Licence issued at Lower Umkomaas. (CSO 2283)

1865 c.            At about the end of 1865 James Lawson “an old sailor chap”, m. to Frances, niece of James Fayers, asked Charles Knox for a job – he was working for Capt. Grantham [Grantham, Maj. James*] making lime on the beach – and Knox gave him the job of managing his Dumisa store. Lawson had a wife and child – both he and his wife worked well in the store – the children increased very fast, as well as the business, till there were ten. Knox, at his own expense, sent tutors for the children, but none of them stayed any length of time because of the wife’s interference, so he eventually abandoned the idea. Mrs Lawson would not let her husband leave the place except in the company of Knox. Later Lawson had to have a cancer cut from his lip. When farms were sold under the 20 years’ system they bought one of 2 000 acres in the district and built a house on it. In the following year they decided to buy another, despite Knox’s plea that a good education for their children would be better. When they both died the elder boys educated the younger ones. (Knox pp 22-3)

1876.00,00      The Revd Thomas Jenkinson and his wife, on their return journey from Durban to Springvale Mission, went along the coast road and then inland from Umzinto. In her diary Mrs Jenkinson records, “…reached Lawson’s 22 miles [from Umzinto] at sunset. We had not bad quarters, but it was rather odd for host and hostess, very rough people, to hob nob with us. I believe they do not profess to keep an accommodation house but only a store”. (Jenkinson vol.2, p.71)

1895.09.26      James Lawson aged 66, of Dumisa, bur. in St Patrick’s churchyard, Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto). He was partially sighted and during the Boer war became completely blind. (SB)

1895.09.27      James Lawson d. Umzinto aged 66. (UGRD)

1903.06.21      Frances Lawson (b. Fayers) d. aged 66 [sic.] (UGRD). Aged 60, bur. in St Patrick’s churchyard, Umzinto. (R.St P., Umzinto)

1903.06.22      Frances, widow Lawson, d. at the home of her son-in-law F.E. Thorpe at Dumisa. [Surviving?]Children: James Fraser, Robert Charles, Charles, Henry Richard, Alfred Ernest, Frances Maria (wife of F.E. Thorpe) and Emma Jane Lawson. (MSCE 18/78)



Frances Maria (b. 18.02.1862, Umzinto***. d. ?)

1862.02.18      b. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1862.04.13      bap., dau. of James Lawson labourer and Frances Lawson. Sponsor: Frances Fraser. (Ib.)

1884.05.20      Frances Maria Lawson, 22, m. Frederick Emanuel/Emmanuel Thorpe, 29, transport rider [step-son of Frances Thorpe]. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1924.05.00      Frederick Emanuel Thorpe, 69, d. (UGRD)

1924.05.19      Frederick Emanuel Thorpe, 69, b. Cape Colony, married, cattle overseer, d. at Umzinto, his residence. (R.St P., Umzinto). Aged 69, bur. St Patrick’s churchyard Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

James Fraser (b. 01.11.1863, Umzinto. d. c. 07.11.1924, Dumisa)

1863.11.01      b. (MK)

?                      m. A. Willment. (MK)

1924.11.07      d. aged 63. (UGRD). Aged 63, of Dumisa, bur. St Patrick’s churchyard, Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

Thomas William (b. 17.06.1865, Umzinto. d.30.10.1929, Hibberdene)

1865.06.17      b. Umzinto. (R. St., P. Umzinto)

1865.09.17      bap., son of James, labourer, and Frances. Sponsors: Frederick and Frances Thorpe. (Ib.)

1929.10.30      Thomas William Lawson, 64, b. Natal, widower, cane farmer, d. at Hibberdene, his residence, bur. at St Patrick’s, Umzinto. (Ib.)

William Frederick (b. 10.04.1867, Umzinto. d. c. 1881)

1867.04.10      b. Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1867.12.29      bap., son of James and Frances of Dunisa. Father a labourer and storekeeper. (Ib.)

1881 c.                        d. aged 14. (MK)


Charlotte Ellen (b. 21.10.1868, Umzinto. d.?)

1868.10.21      b. (MK)

?                      m. James Walton. (MK)

Benjamin Henry (b. 15.06.1870, Umzinto. d. 06.01.1900, Ladysmith)

1870.06.15      b. (MK)

1900.01.06      Lawson, Benjamin Henry, convict guard, Umzinto. Wife [possibly in error for mother] is Frances (née Fayers). Will dated 1899.09.07 at Umzinto and he was killed in battle at Ladysmith serving in the Border Mounted Rifles. (MSC 26/1900). Lawson, Benjamin Henry, son of James, killed in battle of Ladysmith Jan. 6, 1900. 29 yrs. (Tomb St P., Umzinto)

Robert Charles (b. 28.06.1872, Umzinto. d. c. 1975)

1872.06.28      b. Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1872.09.08      bap., son of James and Frances of Dumisa’s location. Father a storekeeper. (Ib.)

1975 c.            d. aged 103. (MK)

Emma Jane (b. 31.07.1873, Umzinto. d.c. 1909)

1873.07.31      b. Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1873.09.15      bap., dau. of James and Frances Lawson. Father a storekeeper. (Ibd.)

1909 c.            d., aged 36, unmarried. (MK). d. unmarried. (SB)

Charles (b. 02.11.1875, Umzinto. d.?)

1875.11.02      b. Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1876.04.02      bap., son of James and Frances Lawson. Father a shopkeeper). (Ib.)

?                      m. Mary Ashwell. MK)

George (b. 23.06.1877, Umzinto. d.?)

1877.06.23      b. Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1877.08.26      bap., son of James and Frances Lawson. Father a storekeeper. (Ib.)

?                      m. Ethel Seager. (MK)

Henry Richard (b. 23.04.1879, Umzinto. d.?)

1879.04.23      b. Umzinto. (R. St P., Umzinto)

1879.07.27      bap., son of James and Frances Lawson. Father a storekeeper. (Ib.)

?                      m. Ravinia M. Duval de Villener. (MK)

Alfred Ernest (b. 08.10.1881, Umzinto. d.?)

1881.10.08      b. (MK). He was the youngest of the family. (SB)

?                      m. Lillian Johnstone. (MK)



*After a surname indicates that person as the head of a family and therefore qualified for an entry in Shelagh Spencer’s biographical register.

**The Gwalior arrived at Port Natal from London, Cape Town and Algoa Bay on 24.12.1848. (NW 29.12.1848)

***Umzinto, the district in which the Lawson children were b. is given, in preference to Dumisa which is seldom specified.




Books, Periodicals and Directories

Gordon. R.E. Dear Louisa: history of a pioneer family in Natal 1850-1888. Ellen McLeod’s letters to her sister in England from the Byrne valley. Cape Town: Balkema, 1970.

Knox, Charles. An old sailor-boy’s log book… Privately printed, 1909.

Spencer, Shelagh O’Byrne. British settlers in Natal 1824-1857: a biographical register. Vol. 6. Pietermaritzburg: University of Natal Press, 1992.


Tomb St M., Byrne – Gravestone, St Mary Magdalene, Anglican Church, Byrne.

Tomb St P., Umzinto – Gravestone, St Patrick’s, Anglican Church, Umzinto.

Church Registers

  1. Bellair – Register All Saint’s Anglican Church, Bellair.
  2. St P., Umzinto – Register St Patrick’s Anglican Church, Umzinto.


Jenkinson, Mary Emily. Diaries 1873-1877 (Natal Archives Repository, Pietermaritzburg)


NM Natal Mercury.

NWNatal Witness.

Personal Communication

BS – Brian Spencer.

MK – Maureen Kruger (g.g.grandaughter of James Easton Lawson).

SB – Mrs Sheila Bizley (Deceased, granddaughter of Frances Maria Lawson and Frederick Emanuel Thorpe).

Unpublished Official Papers

EI 65 – European Immigration.

MSC – Master of the Supreme Court. Wills. (Master’s Office, Pietermaritzburg)

MSCE – Master of the Supreme Court. Estates.

RSC – Registrar of the Supreme Court.

SGO – Surveyor General’s Office.

UGRD – Umzinto Government Register of Deaths.

(All but RSC in Natal Archives Repository, Pietermaritzburg)


Neither Frances Fayers nor James Easton Lawson qualify for an entry in Shelagh Spencer’s British Settlers of Natal 1824-1857. Nevertheless, the above biographies were compiled from information contained in her settler research as connections of James Fayers.