Almost two hundred years ago, an Englishman made his way into the Guyandotte Valley and soon found himself fully engaged in the fur trading business and the creation of a new county.
Anthony Lawson was born on October 31, 1785 in Stanton, Northumberland, England. He was the son of Anthony and Margaret (Carse) Lawson. On May 26, 1806, Lawson married Ann Bilton, a daughter of Lewis and Jane Bilton, at Saint Helens Church in Longhorsley Parish, Northumberland. Ann was born on March 17, 1783 in Fieldhead, England.
In the early summer of 1817, Anthony and his family left England for America aboard the ship Active. “They left England on account of religious persecution,” according to the late Dr. Sidney B. Lawson, who spoke some years ago with historian Fred B. Lambert. Accompanying Lawson were his wife and four children: John Lawson, born in 1807 in Woodcraft, Northumberland; Lewis Bilton Lawson, born in 1808 in Stanhope, Northumberland; James B. Lawson, born in 1808 in Northumberland; and Anthony Lawson II, born in 1813.
On July 12, 1817, the Lawson family arrived at Philadelphia. They settled in Alexandria, Virginia, where Anthony’s uncle, John Lawson, operated a store on Cameron Street. While there, Ann gave birth to a fifth child named George Wilborn Lawson in 1818.
At that time, according to Ragland’s History of Logan County (1896), Lawson was persuaded to move to the Guyandotte Valley. “Col. Andrew Bierne, of Lewisburg, soon made his acquaintance, and induced him to come to the wilds of Guyandotte River and engage in the fur and ginseng trade,” Ragland wrote. “Mr. Lawson first settled near the present site of Oceana, where he remained about four years and then moved to the present site of Logan C.H.”
At Logan, which was then called the “Islands of Guyandot” and situated in Cabell County, Lawson ran a mercantile store. “Anthony had many buying and selling trips to Philadelphia,” writes James Avis of Albuquerque, New Mexico. “He would travel by horseback to the town of Guyandotte and from there by boat to Philadelphia. It is believed that he would visit with relatives living in Philadelphia.”
In 1824, when Logan County was formed from Cabell, Lawson served on the first County Court. His store was chosen as the seat of government for the new county. He also donated land for the construction of a courthouse. Reportedly, Logan was originally named Lawsonville but later had its name shortened to Lawnsville. Later still, it became Aracoma, then Logan Court House.
In 1830, Lawson was listed in the Logan County Census with his wife and four children, as well as two slaves (one female aged 10-24 and one male aged 0-10). His oldest son, John, was enumerator of the county census.
In 1840, Lawson was listed in the Logan County Census with his wife, son Anthony II, and three slaves. In that same year, sons John and James were also living in the county, with no slaves.
In 1847, Lawson became ill while on a return trip from Philadelphia. He was taken from a boat at Guyandotte, now Huntington’s east end, where he died of cholera on May 20. He was buried in the city cemetery. “Col. Anthony Lawson Sr. — Logan County — died at Guyandot aged upwards of 60 on his way home from Philadelphia,” the Richmond Whig wrote on June 17, 1847. “He often spoke of his birthplace as the vicinity of Alnwick Castle, the seat of the Percies in Yorkshire, England. He accumulated a large fortune which he left his children.”
On December 27, 1847, Ann Lawson was murdered by two of her slaves in Logan County. “Ann was mending a shirt for one of the slaves so that he and another slave could go to town for supplies,” Avis writes. “Thinking that they could be free after Anthony’s death, the negro she was mending the shirt for struck her on the head with an iron poker and she died.” After the murder, the slaves robbed Lawson. “The slave knew that money was kept in one of the drawers in the bureau,” according to Avis. “The poker was again used to pry open the drawer and take the money.” Two slaves named Bill and Hardin were accused of the murder. “The one that killed her was hanged, probably on the courthouse lawn,” Avis writes. “The other slave was severely punished.”