LAWRASON, LAWRENCE (the name often appears as Laurence Laurason), merchant and politician; b. 10 Aug. 1803 in Ancaster Township, Upper Canada, youngest child of Lawrence Lawrason and Rachel Pettit; m. 21 May 1827 Abigail Lee, and they had four children; d. 14 Aug. 1882 at London, Ont.
At age 14 Lawrence Lawrason became a clerk for the dry goods merchants James Hamilton and John Warren, working at the mouth of the Grand River, at Queenston, and finally at Sterling (St Thomas). In 1819 Lawrason returned to his father’s farm but three years later purchased, with two of his brothers, over 550 acres in London Township, a few miles northwest of the land reserved for the town of London. In addition to farming he established a general store, ashery, and distillery in imitation of the activities of Hamilton and Warren. In 1825 Lawrason was appointed London’s first deputy postmaster, a position he held until 1828 when the post office moved closer to the town.
In 1832 Lawrason moved into London and in September opened a general store and dry goods business, both retail and wholesale, in partnership with George Jervis Goodhue*. Like many of the early London merchants Lawrason engaged in large-scale land speculation in the region. He was also involved in attempts to promote local projects. Throughout the 1830s he unsuccessfully supported a scheme to make the Thames River navigable between London and Chatham. Lawrason was also an original shareholder in the London and Gore Rail Road Company incorporated in 1834. He was commissioned a justice of the peace in 1835 and three years later was appointed one of three boundary line commissioners for the London District to adjudicate both public and private boundary disputes.
Goodhue left the partnership in 1840 but Lawrason continued on his own until 1845 when he formed a partnership with his wife’s nephew, Hiram Chisholm. From 1842 to 1850, with the exception of 1846, Lawrason was one of the representatives of London Township on the London District Council. In a provincial by-election for London in January 1844, necessitated by the resignation of Hamilton Hartley Killaly*, Lawrason, a staunch Conservative, overwhelmed the Reform candidate, Simeon Morrill*. In the general election in October he defeated a more liberal Conservative opponent, John Duggan of Toronto. Lawrason, however, relinquished his seat to William Henry Draper* in January 1845 so that Draper would be able to lead the government party from within the assembly. Also in that year Lawrason was named a rebellion losses claims officer for the London District.
During the 1850s Lawrason continued to be involved in local affairs. In 1850 he was elected to the town council in London for St Patrick’s Ward. He also served as president of the London and Port Stanley Railway Company from 1853 to 1857 and was honoured by having the first locomotive purchased by the company named the L. Lawrason. As well Lawrason was a director of the Bank of Upper Canada, a trustee of the London Savings’ Bank, and president of the Proof Line Road Company and the London Building Society. He retired from his partnership with Chisholm in 1855 at which time the business was dissolved. According to R. G. Dun and Company he had “retired rich.”
After his retirement, Lawrason lent large sums of money to his son-in-law, Lionel Augustus Ridout*, a hardware merchant in London (brother of George Percival* and Joseph Davis Ridout), and also gave security for a further $72,600 in loans and credit received by Ridout. The combination of the depressed economy in the late 1850s and the death of Ridout in 1859 seriously injured Lawrason’s financial position. Finally, in 1864, he declared bankruptcy. During the late 1860s and early 1870s he was the local agent of the Edinburgh Life Association Company and further supplemented his income by serving as London’s first full-time police magistrate.
An active member of the Church of England, Lawrason served as rector’s warden of St Paul’s Church in London and had played a leading role in the erection of both the original church, which was officially opened in 1834, and the second church (now the cathedral) in 1846. He was also active in the local militia and by 1856 had risen to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the 1st Battalion of London militia. Although Lawrason was to suffer bankruptcy he had been a cautious and successful businessman who placed a high value on fairness, selflessness, and compassion.
Baker Library, R. G. Dun & Co. ms reports, 19: 26. UWO, Laurason, Ridout, Penington families papers; Middlesex County Court, Insolvency cases, 1864, docket no.4; Lionel Ridout papers. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1844–45; Parl., Sessional papers, February–May 1863, III: no.9; January–March 1865, III: no.9. London Advertiser (London, Ont.), 15 Aug. 1882, 1 April 1886. Canadian biog. dict., I: 519–20.