Lawler - John Carroll Lawler (1852-1872)


Lawler - John Carroll Lawler (1852-1872)

John Carroll Lawler was born to William and Elizabeth Cook (Carroll) Lawler on October 23, 1852. He was lost at sea with all hands (17 men) aboard Schooner William J. Dale on about December 3, 1872 while returning from a voyage to Newfoundland with a load of herring.

John grew up on the William Carroll homestead on Fernald Point Road in Southwest Harbor (then Tremont), Maine.

Letter from John Carroll Lawler (1852-1872), December 18, 1870:
"Uncle Jacob was married the 6th of December. We had a large serenade. They 'most eat a barrel of apples…" - Robert Lindsay Smallidge, Sr. Carroll/Lawler Genealogy - In the collection of Robert Lindsay Smallidge, Jr.

John appears to have gone to sea at a very early age witness the following letters from the Smallidge Genealogy:

John's mother, Elizabeth Cook (Carroll) Lawler, wrote to his older brother, James W. Lawler, 3 September 1869:
“A letter from John says, the Helen is ashore at Bristol. He says they dug a hole under her, and let her into it, but at extra high tide she didn’t float. So, they hauled her over the other way and started digging. The next low run of tides is in two weeks. She doesn’t leak much.” John would have been sixteen years old. - The Robert Lindsay Smallidge Genealogy - page 41.

In another letter from Elizabeth Lawler to James she gives more detail about the "Helen":
“I write to let you know that the "Helen" is ashore at Bristol. She dragged both anchors and went ashore that stormy night. She lays on a rocky shore, the rudder unhung, a piece of the keel split off and two of or three planks badly chafed aft. The boat was full of water when a sea struch her and tool the stem out. The vessel does not float, there was only 2 feet of water under her stern at high water. They are digging her off, which takes 8 or 10 days. The Captain says that he will go direct to Rockland, or Calais for repairing the damage (about $500.00) E.C.L” - The Robert Lindsay Smallidge Genealogy - page 42.

In February 1870 John wrote to James with his own account of the trouble aboard the "Helen":
"Dear Brother James, I thought I would write a few lines to let you know how we are getting along. Our school is going to commence again and Grace Clark is going to teach it. Frank has been in a small vessel, up the Sound, kiln wooding. This fall he went three of four trips but is home and is goint to school when it commences. They had a fair down to the Deacons [Deacon Henry Higgins Clark], Friday night.

When the "Helen" went ashore in Bristol it blowed some. We had hauled off from the warf, Friday afternoon and was laying at anchor, waiting for a vair wind for Philadelphia and the next morning the gale came on. There was a brig named the "Tanger" of Bangor. She came in when it started to blow. About 5 O’Clock she dragged down to us, and they gave her the other anchor, and that snubbed her, and then we let go our other anchor and gave her a good string of chain. There were only three fathoms of water. Then we went below.

In about twenty minutes, the brig commenced to drag right across our bows and we ran forward and hoisted the jib and sheered her off from the brig. Her flying jib boom went about ten feet from our rigging. When the "Helen" came up into the wind the jib went to pieces and she began to drag and we have her all the chain, and she would not look at the anchor and so she went ashore and we had to dig her off.

She was there for a month and cost $300.00 to get her off and repaired in Calais. (signed) John C. Lawler" - The Robert Lindsay Smallidge Genealogy - page 43.

John Carroll Lawler sailed on the "William J. Dale" at the age of 20 in the fall of 1872, bound for the Magdaline Islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for a load of herring. This was a common trip among ship owners who smoked the herring in their smoke houses along the shore, boxed and sold them in the cities to the South. On the return trip from the Magdalines the "Dale," loaded with herring, damaged her rudder. Another local vessel hailed her and asked if they needed assistance. The crew of the "Dale" answered that they were jury-rigging a repair and thought they would proceed to Port au Port, which was inhabited solely by Indians, without much more time lost. There is no record that "William J. Dale" was seen again.

Elizabeth Cook (Carroll) Lawler wrote several letters to Dodd & Tarr & Company of Gloucester, Massachusetts, owners of the "William J. Dale," to ask about the fate of her son.

The following letter from the owners of the Dale, apparently the last one, probably written in the Spring or Summer of 1873 was sent to John’s mother.

“Dear Madam: Your letter of the 2nd instance, duly recorded and noted. We regret to inform you that the time has elapsed, when the Dale should have been reported, had she been frozen in as we had been let to expect and believe from reports concerning her last fall. We are in receipt of a letter from F.C. Cook Esq., Cape Canso N.S. who states that a vessel arrived there recently from Bay Isles and reported no vessel was frozen in on the coast last winter. We are compelled to believe she was lost on the homeward passage. How she was lost will never be known, unless some outward bound vessel had taken her crew off. There is a possibility of this, but the chance is slim. We sympathize with you and others who had friends aboard. The captain was a competent, sober and reliable man. If we can be of service to you, please command us. We remain Respectfully Yours, Dodd, Tarr and Company" - The Robert Lindsay Smallidge Genealogy - page 46. - Robert Lindsay Smallidge, Sr. Carroll/Lawler Genealogy – In the collection of Robert Lindsay Smallidge, Jr.


“Lawler - John Carroll Lawler (1852-1872),” Southwest Harbor Public Library Digital Archive, accessed December 14, 2018, 15344