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HAWS, JOHN, shipbuilder, justice of the peace, and office holder; b. c. 1798 in the Highlands of Scotland; m. 18 Oct. 1823 Calista Calvert, youngest daughter of Richard Calvert, a merchant of Saint John, N.B., and they had four sons and four daughters; d. 11 Dec. 1858 in Liverpool, England.

Little is known of John Haws’s early life except that he grew up in Halifax, N.S. Haws, who spoke Gaelic as well as English, apparently acted as a translator and interpreter among the Scots and Irish coming to the colony. He probably worked for a few years at the naval dockyards in Halifax. Following the War of 1812 he spent some time trading in the West Indies and then, in 1819, settled in Portland (Saint John), N.B. Five years later he began to build ships. Esther Clark Wright has determined that between 1824 and 1848 Haws constructed 32 vessels representing 15,896 tons of shipping.

Like most Saint John shipbuilders of the period, Haws began producing vessels under contract for local shippers such as John McNeil Wilmot* as well as for shippers in Liverpool. Only rarely before 1840 did he build for himself; Wright records but one instance. After 1840, however, he did construct ships mainly for his own use: sometimes he acted as a broker on specific sales to British shippers and at other times he used the vessels for several years before selling them. According to some sources a partnership was created in 1853 between Frederick Smith and John Haws but the latter was most likely John Haws Jr.

Haws joined the masonic order while he was still living in Halifax and went on to become a prominent freemason in Saint John. From some point in the early 1840s he served as a magistrate for Saint John County, and he also acted in the capacity of firewarden for the Portland area. While travelling to England in 1858 he suffered a stroke on 1 December and died ten days later of paralysis in Liverpool at the age of 61.

His estate was valued at more than £20,000. The assets included a shipyard worth approximately £4,000, a brick house and lot in Saint John which brought a further £4,500 to the estate, other real estate in the town valued at £2,100, and the ship Calista Haws, which sold for £8,000. His will provided that a trust of £6,000 be invested for the benefit of his daughters, who were to receive the interest through their lifetimes and also were to have the power to distribute the trust by will at their deaths. The remainder of the estate was divided equally among his sons.

The family continued its close links with the shipping trades. Three of Haws’s daughters married shipbuilders or ships’ officers and all four of his sons were associated with shipping. His two eldest sons, John Jr and Richard Calvert, eventually moved to Liverpool, probably because of the depressed condition of the shipbuilding industry in New Brunswick in the early 1860s. In Liverpool, Richard was to establish the Haws (Diamond H) Line.

T. W. Acheson

BLHU, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 9: 31. GRO (London), Death certificate, John Haws, 11 Dec. 1858. Liverpool Record Office (Liverpool, Eng.), Toxteth Park Cemetery, reg. of burials, no.5008. N.B. Museum, Reg. of marriages for the city and county of Saint John, book A (1810–28): 312 (mfm. at PANB). PANB, RG 7, RS71; 1859, John Haws. G. W. Haws, The Haws family and their seafaring kin (Dunfermline, Scot., 1932). E. C. Wright, Saint John ships and their builders (Wolfville, N.S., 1976).

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Cite This Article

T. W. Acheson, “HAWS, JOHN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 28, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/haws_john_8E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/haws_john_8E.html
Author of Article:   T. W. Acheson
Title of Article:   HAWS, JOHN
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   November 28, 2023