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Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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LAWLOR, WILLIAM (1839-1905)

LAWLOR, WILLIAM, stonecutter, building contractor, and excise officer; b. Saint John, 19 Sep 1839, s/o Henry Lawlor and Elizabeth Dalton; m. 1861, Catherine Costigan, of Grand Falls, N.B.; d. Chatham, 4 Jul 1905.

William Lawlor (formerly Lawler) grew up in Saint John and was still living there in 1861, but the next year he and Hugh Holt began a monument manufacturing business on the Miramichi. The partnership was dissolved in 1870, and Lawlor continued on his own. Starting in 1876, the following advertisement appeared regularly in the Union Advocate: "Miramichi Marble Works, Water Street, Chatham, William Lawler, importer of marble and manufacturer of monuments, tablets, headstones, mantels, table tops, &c... Freestone work in all branches attended to."

Lawlor was also a builder and contractor, and in 1877-78 he and James Mowatt erected a lighthouse on Greenly Island in the Strait of Belle Isle, between Newfoundland and Labrador. Afterwards, he tendered for construction contracts for stone and brick buildings at different locations in New Brunswick. In 1880 he submitted the lowest tender for construction of the new legislative building in Fredericton and was awarded the contract. His responsibility as builder was to follow the architect's specifications, within the contracted price, and have the job completed by 15 October 1881. He was ahead of schedule during the construction, but the building could not be given the final finishing touches until the spring of 1882.

While still at work on the legislative building Lawlor renovated the interior of the customs house in Fredericton. In June 1881, although there were three lower bidders, he was awarded the contract to build a wing on the Provincial Asylum in Saint John to house an additional eighty patients. He completed the job, which required more than 600,000 bricks, early in 1882. A subsequent Saint John contract was for the construction of the Centennial Exhibition Building in 1883. With a floor area of 45,000 square feet, this structure almost doubled the indoor display capacity of the Saint John exhibition site.

A contract won by Lawlor in 1882 to build St Paul's Presbyterian (United) Church in Fredericton was one of his largest, with the construction work spread over more than three years. He finished the job early in 1886. Through the building of this "High Victorian Gothic Revival" church, with its "rusticated and polychromed stonework," he left the imprint of his craftsmanship on another of New Brunswick's finest stone buildings. In 1994 a plaque marking the architectural significance of this church was erected by the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.

In 1886 Lawlor made a decision to discontinue his construction activities in Fredericton and Saint John and return to the Miramichi. In August of that year he received an appointment as a preventive officer with the federal Inland Revenue Department, of which his wife's brother, the Hon. John Costigan, was minister. The district for which he was responsible extended from Shediac to Restigouche, but he was able to spend much of his time at home. He was still in the service in 1891 but left soon afterwards, possibly when Costigan was assigned a different portfolio in 1892.

Although both William Lawlor and his son John H. Lawlor were named as supervisors of the construction of the Sacred Heart Church in Bathurst, starting in the spring of 1887, it is probable that only John H. Lawlor worked on site. This huge church, which was later modified to serve as the cathedral of the diocese of Bathurst, took two years to build. Then a rectory of matching stone was added, with construction taking place between 1890 and 1892.

In 1894 Lawlor was hired to supervise the installation of the sandstone piers and abutments of the new steel bridge which was being built at French Fort Cove. In 1895 he was back on Greenly Island for three months with a crew of men moving a fog whistle. He was enumerated as a marble cutter in the census of 1901, working, it would seem, for his son John H. Lawlor, who had a monument-making business in Chatham at that time. His last position of responsibility was as inspector of construction of St Michael's Cathedral in Chatham in 1904. He was injured on that job when struck by a block of stone, and although he was soon back at work, it was thought that the blow may have hastened his death, which occurred only a few months later.

Lawlor sat on the County Council for a time and was warden in 1878. He was interested in education, and in the early 1890s was serving as secretary of one of Chatham's three boards of school trustees. In 1896 he was appointed to the first school board established under town amalgamation, and he sat on the board from that date onward. He was, stated the Chatham World, "a kindly, considerate man, moderate in his views, and a good citizen in every respect." He was "a musician of note" and an effective public speaker. As mentioned above, his wife,


[b] baptism certificate (Cathedral, Saint John) [m] Woodstock Journal 21 Nov 1861 [d] World 5 Jul 1905 / Advance 21 Oct 1880, 23 Jun 1881, 3 Nov 1881, 22 Dec 1881, 17 May 1894, 27 Jun 1895, 31 Oct 1895, 22 Sep 1904; Advocate 31 May 1876 (ad), 17 Mar 1880, 20 May 1885, 5 May 1886, 8 Aug 1888, 8 Aug 1894; Fraser (C); Gleaner 31 May 1862 (ad); Hist. RC Cathedral, Bathurst; Hynes; St Paul's United Church, Fredericton (brochure, 1994); Telegraph 8 Jun 1883, 15 Oct 1883, 4 Dec 1885; tombstone; World 26 Jul 1882, 1 Sep 1886, 8 Jan 1921