Joseph Lawson is a son of Richard and Louisa (Wise) Lawson, and was born in 1852 at Buffalo, where he received a common-school education at Public School No. 3, on Perry street. Richard Lawson was a machinist by trade. His wife was a very industrious woman, and for twenty-one years did the laundry work for the passenger steamers of the Western Transit line.
Joseph Lawson was early prompted by generous motives to turn his hand to helping his mother, and at the age of twelve years began the work of his life. He started by peddling the Penny Post, following that enterprise with a more prosperous one, that of boss of a gang of bootblacks at the Central wharf, foot of Main street. He continued in this occupation about six years, succeeding it by about seven years as master of a Buffalo creek ferryboat named the Fenian Girl. His first experience on tugs was as fireman of the Jim Jackson, of Buffalo harbor. During his time he has been in many tugs and in all capacities; he was fireman eight years, engineer ten years and master eight years - twenty-six seasons in all. His last employment was as master of the tug Conneaut for the seasons of 1895-96, in the tug Sill at Racine, four months at Chicago in the tug Ingraham, and about the same length of time at Cleveland in the tug George Sickerson, In 1881 he became engineer of the Erie county jail, and continued in that position two years and three months, during which time his brother, W. W. Lawson, was sheriff of Erie county. Mr. Lawson is a charter member of Local Harbor No. 41 of the American Association of Masters and Pilots. He has also been a member of the Buffalo Harbor Tug Pilots Association five years, and of the Catholic Mutual Benevolent Association sixteen years.
Mr. Lawson was first married in 1881, to Miss Kittie Bennet, by whom he had one child; both are now deceased. He was married the second time in 1894, this union being with Miss Katherine Fay, and they have one child, Theodore J., now (1898) aged twenty-one months. The family reside at No. 422 Fargo avenue, Buffalo, New York.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.