|Birth: ||Feb. 12, 1848|
|Death: ||Nov. 15, 1937|
San Joaquin County
William Alexander Dawson was born on 12 Feb 1848 in Gasper, Logan, KY. "William" was his paternal grandfather's name and "Alexander" was his maternal grandfather's name. He was the only son of Caleb and Caroline Dawson.
He grew up on a farm, reaching adulthood as the Civil War ended. Just before turning 21, he married Mary Ann Spencer, and they had their first son, Tom, in November of that year, who died when he was five.
William apparently didn't want to follow in the family tradition of farmer. He found work with the railroad. By 1871, the family was in Kansas, where their daughter, Lonora was born. By 1880, they are in Weld County, Colorado, and he's working for the railroad. William and Mary Ann are apparently running a boarding house. There are three young men, all "labourers on the Rail Road," living in their home. The likely railroad employing William would be the Union Pacific. It started in Kansas City, Missouri and moved on to Colorado.
By the time he was 34, William and his family were back in Logan County. In 1882, he sold property in Logan County to Mary Ann's brother-in-law, Thomas E. Hall. (Thomas was married to Mary Ann's sister, Sarah Spencer Hall.) His father, Caleb, had inherited extensive property from his father, William. By the time William was back in Kentucky, Caleb was 74, and he may have given some of his land to William, who decided to sell it. In 1883 he sold 45 acres in Russellville to T. W. Maxwell. (Mary Ann's mother was Sinia Maxwell Spencer. Sinia's brothers may have had sons, and T. W. Maxwell may have been a first cousin to Mary Ann Spencer.) In 1888, William and his wife sold 12 2/5 acres on Gasper River to John J. McLeMore.
Selling this land may have been William's preparation for moving to California. By this time, the Central Valley was actively promoting available land for farming to states in the South. In 1888, he may have resided in Alila in Tulare County. There is an advertisement in a Tulare County directory by "W. A. Dawson, well borer." William would have been about 40 years old. Alila was located on the Southern Pacific Railroad.
In 1890, his wife gave birth to their fifth child, Duffie in Logan County. There is a 13-year gap between Hattie's birth in 1877 and Duffie's birth in 1890. In one of the census enumerating William and Mary Ann, she says she gave birth to six children and five are alive. The 13-year gap between Hattie and Duffie could be explained by William's travels to California in search of a new home.
In 1913, William's son, Clinton, moved to California. By 1920, all three of William's sons had settled in Tulare County, a rich farming area.
William didn't follow them. He was living in Kentucky from 1890 to about 1919. By 1920, he was in Jefferson Davis County, Louisiana, living with his grandson, Walter Turner, and his family. In the census data, he's listed as a widower. This, however, is untrue. His wife, Mary Ann, was in Tulare County with her sons. Family stories say the couple divorced, but they did not.
William came to live with Clinton for a few years in the 1920's. His grandson, Downey, remembers him being with the family when he was about seven years old. Downey and Euzell "Speed" Dawson, his grandsons, in separate conversations said that William would "take to singing at the top of his lungs" when strolling the streets of 1920's Dinuba. At the time, the family was embarrassed by the singing. Willamina's exuberance was evidently not brought on by drinking--"he just felt like singing!"
After his sojourns living with various family members, 82-year-old William is back living with Mary. She died that year, and the family moved him into a nursing home, the Old People's Home, in Visalia. There, he met 74-year-old Marilla Hathaway. They married two years after his wife's death. Four years later, Marilla died, and he was sent to live in a nursing home in Stockton. (Why he was sent to live 150 miles from the rest of his family is not known.) He died on 15 Nov 1937, at the age of 89. There are family stories that William, who was considered difficult, died a homicide rather than a natural death at the nursing home. There were signs of a struggle, including his broken glasses, in his room.
William was buried next to his wife on 17 Nov 1937 at Smith Mountain Cemetery in Dinuba.
© Pat Conwell, 2012
Caleb D Dawson (1808 - 1891)
Caroline Moody Dawson (1815 - 1872)
Mary Ann Spencer Dawson (1852 - 1930)
Lonora Bell Dawson Turner (1871 - 1959)*
Clinton Buto Dawson (1875 - 1951)*
Hattie Elizabeth Dawson Barrows (1879 - 1930)*
Duffie D. Dawson (1890 - 1948)*
Susan Dawson Chastain (1845 - 1915)*
William Alexander Dawson (1848 - 1937)
Smith Mountain Cemetery
Created by: Pat Conwell
Record added: Jan 07, 2011
Find A Grave Memorial# 63848614
Added: Aug. 5, 2014
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Jonathan Robert De Mallie
Added: Oct. 22, 2013