Joseph Hill lawrence

According to Beth Cope, based upon several facts gleaned from her exhaustive research, she is reasonably certain that the Lawrence Family came to Canada too late to have been United Empire Loyalist. Moreover, according to her, the family name is not included on the official list of known United Empire Loyalist families. Finally, in 1806, in the Town of York, Joseph’s father, Monis, married Joseph’s mother, Francis Crown, as his third wife. This evidence suggests that, contrary to what was stated in his obituary, Joseph Lawrence was not a member of a United Empire Loyalist family.

Historical Resources held in the Collingwood Public Library, notably Volume 1 of the Huron Institute Papers and Records (vol. 1-3. Published by the Institute: Collingwood, c. 1909), have provided additional information about Joseph Lawrence and some of his children. Apparently, the Wesleyan Methodist Church was the first organized religious institution in Collingwood. Its first permanent minister was the Rev. Edward Sallows who conducted the first service in August 1853 in the home of Mr. Leo Cathey at the foot of Pine Street. Joseph Lawrence was the first Superintendent of the Sunday School when it was founded in 1854. Through the kindness of Sarah Lawrence, Joseph’s wife, extra funds were gathered from the membership in order to provide additional financial support for the minister and his family. The Lawrence’s daughter, Fanny, was the organist in the new church building when it was finished in 1863. Another daughter, Susannah, was the first missionary sponsored by the Wesleyan Methodist Church and sent from Collingwood to British Columbia. The land for the congregational cemetery was purchased in 1872 and their daughter, Kate, was the first person to be buried in it.

George henry Lawrence. Son of Ira LawrenceIn 1869 a society known as “The Pioneers” was founded in Toronto. Its charter members were men who had lived in the Town of York before March 6, 1834 when its name was changed to Toronto. Subsequent member status could be established through association with another family member such as a father. 1811 was the date given for the affiliation of Joseph’s membership, his eligibility established by association with his father and paternal grandfather. At one time, Joseph’s father was the Clerk of Town of York and was the Innkeeper of the York Hotel on King Street.

Apparently there was considerable political intrigue during the early days of Collingwood in 1858. In preparation for her recent book about early Collingwood, The Chicago of the North, Anita Miles, formerly of the Collingwood Museum, unearthed additional information about Joseph Lawrence, generally considered to have been the first Clerk of Collingwood. In a personal communication, she informed us that although Joseph Lawrence was, indeed, the first official clerk of Collingwood who was not also a member of the Town Council, John Hogg had, in fact, held that office before him, but only for two months. Mr. Hogg founded the Enterprise, the first newspaper in Collingwood, which he later joined with the Bulletin. He was voted off the Council on a motion by Mr. Gibbard and Mr. McWatt and passed by a 4 to 3 vote. The reason was that he allegedly repeatedly published misstatements in his newspaper considered unacceptable by other members of the Council. On a second motion by Mr. Gibbard and Mr. McWatt, Joseph Lawrence was appointed Clerk of the town in his stead. Ironically, after the death of Joseph Lawrence in 1877, Mr. Hogg replaced him as clerk and was reinstated to the town council, eventually also becoming Reeve and Mayor. Joseph Lawrence’ obituary was subsequently published in John Hogg’s newspaper.

During the period of the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870, local volunteers joined the Collingwood Rifle Company and served along the Niagara frontier hoping to defend against Fenian raids across the border. In response to rumours that Fenians had sailed from Chicago to attack Upper Canada through the back door of Collingwood, John Hogg and John Rennie organized a home guard unit known as the Collingwood Rifle Company, with John Hogg serving as Colonel.