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Dawson, James

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Fast Facts
Type of person Individual
Date of birth 1826
Place of birth Knowefauld, Scotland
Date of arrival 1863
Principal occupation Flour Miller
Date of death 1882

Mayor 1877

Born at Knowefauld, two miles from Alloa, Clackmannanshire, Scotland, on April 26, 1826 to John and Margaret (nee Allan) Dawson, James Dawson was an asthmatic and came to South Australia in 1863 for relief of the symptoms. His father was a farmer, and as a young man James was an apprentice to an ironmonger and seed merchant in the town of Alloa, eventually starting a business in that town.

When first arriving in the colonies, he came to Gawler and stayed with Robert Fotheringham, a former classmate in Scotland, then shifted to Kapunda with Thomas Fotheringham. Mr. Dawson then toured through Victoria, NSW and New Zealand before settling in Gawler, where he built a wheat store at Gawler South in 1868, and began building the Albion Flour Mill, which burnt down in 1877 and had to be re-built. The mill was the first in the Commonwealth to have the roller-system installed; to ensure efficient operation a specialist worker was recruited from Scotland, along with the machine. James Dawson won the gold medal for flour at the Paris International Exhibition in 1878.

He married Helen Murray in February 1868 and they had two children.

Mr. Dawson was heavily involved in the town’s community groups - a member of the Gawler Institute Committee and a pillar of the Presbyterian Church, a Justice of the Peace, and a councillor for three years, including a stint as mayor in 1877 - although as a result of the Albion Mill burning down on January 14, 1877, he resigned the position – the shortest term of a mayor in the town.

James was a director of the Commercial Marine Insurance Company, and had mill business dealings in Stockwell, Bassett Town and Greenock, as well as a new venture at Hamley Bridge, where a mill had recently been completed just before his death.

George E. Loyau "The Gawler Handbook" [G.E.L.] pp166 and 167 "After McKinlay's death it was universally felt that something should be done to perpetuate his memory, and accordingly, meetings were held in Gawler and a Committee was formed to carry out the wish of the people - vis., that a suitable monument should be erected "to commemorate his personal worth and the services rendered by him to the colonies as an explorer." The site selected was at the terminal point of Murray-street, at its junction with Cowan-street, and adjacent to the old burial ground. The Committee chosen to carry out the matter, and who brought it to a successful issue, were as follows:- Chairman, W.F. Wincey, Esq., J.P., Mayor of Gawler; Treasurers, J. Thornley, Esq., J.P., Manager Bank of South Australia, Gawler, Richard Holland, Esq., J.P., Turretfield, near Gawler; Hon. Secretary, John Rudall, Esq., Gawler; Committee, A.H.F. Bartels, Esq., Mayor of Adelaide, E.M. Bagot, Esq., J.P., Charles Bonney, Esq., J.P., E.S. Burkett, Esq., J.P., W.R. Cave, Esq., John Chambers, Esq. ,J.P., Rev. Canon Coombs, Hon. J. Crozier, M.L.C., Walter Duffield, Esq., J.P., James Dawson, Esq., Samuel Davenport, Esq., J.P., James Fergusson, Esq., Robert Fotheringham, Esq., Thomas Fotheringham, Esq., Rev. James Gordon, Joseph Gilbert, Esq., J.P., F.A.Grant, Esq., J.P., E.L. Grundy, Esq., John Hope, Esq., Thomas Hogarth, Esq., J.P., G.W. Hawkes, Esq., S.M., J.H.Howe, Esq., Joseph Keynes, Esq., J.P., Hon. A.B. Murray, M.L.C., Rev. J.C. McMchael, James Martin, Esq., J.P., John Mitchell, Esq., J.P., H.T. Morris, Esq., J.P., W.F.H. Popham, Esq., M.D., Ross T. Reid, Esq., Henry Scott, Esq., J.P., Dr. Schomburgk, H.C. Swan, Esq., S.M., R.J. Turner, Esq., S.M., and George Warren, Esq., J.P.

Five years to the day of the Albion Mill fire, James passed away, and over 50 vehicles followed his funeral procession to the gravesite at Mount Crawford. The Gawler townsmen erected a memorial at the Willaston Cemetery. In his obituary in the Bunyip, it said of him: “As a gentleman his upright actions, sterling character and honesty of purpose yet unassuming manner, won him the respect of all who knew him.”

Please click here to read reference to James Dawson on page 11 in Gawler's Cemeteries, researched by Anne Richards.

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