Dr. Thomas Morrison Lawton was born on the 8th of July, 1856 in Port Stanley (Elgin County). He was the 5th of 10 children born to James Lawton and the former Margery Sinclair. Dr. Lawton’s siblings included; Mary Ann, George, John, James, Angus, twins Mary and Isabella (Isabella died at the age of 21), Anna and another brother named John who appears on the 1881 census, but little else is known about him. After the birth of their twin daughters, Mr and Mrs. Lawton moved their family to a farm in Howard Twp (Chatham-Kent), around 1868. In 1870, the Lawton family were farming on the 4th and 5th concessions (Howard Twp). According to the 1881 census, Dr. Lawton is recorded as living with his parents and attending school.
Dr. Lawton graduated from Chatham Collegiate Institute prior to attending Trinity College. He graduated M.D.,C.M. in April of 1884. That same year he graduated L.R.C.P. in Edinburgh. After graduation Dr. Lawton was a ship’s surgeon on a boat travelling between England and India.
In May of 1885, he took over the practice of Dr. John Stalker in McKay’s Corners. (Dr. Stalker moved to Ridgetown and continued to practice medicine.) According to the 1928 Ontario Medical Register, Dr. Lawton joined the College of Physicians and Surgeons on the 20th of February, 1885. Dr. Lawton appears in the 1886 Business Directory, as well as the 1889, 1895, 1897 and 1900 Business Directory in Harwich Twp. (Chatham-Kent).
Dr. Lawton married Jane Green on the 22nd of August, 1885 in Ridgetown, Ontario. Mrs. Lawton was born in England on the 13th of January, 1868. She was the eldest of 9 children born to Sir George Green and the former Jane Haywood. Mrs. Lawton had 7 sisters and 1 brother.
Dr. and Mrs. Lawton were the parents of 6 children; George Morrison Lawton, James Frederick Lawton, Joseph Gladstone Lawton, Thomas Green Lawton, Shirley June Lawton and Margery Sinclair Lawton. Their 3 eldest children were born at McKays Corners and the last 3 children were born in Michigan.
Sometime prior to 1899, Dr. and Mrs. Lawton moved their family to Detroit, Michigan. In 1917 Dr. and Mrs. Lawton returned to Canada and Dr. Lawton practiced medicine in Ridgetown for 3 years before retiring in 1920. During the Spanish flu epidemic in Canada (1918-1920), Dr. Lawton was one of the few doctors in Southern Ontario who would still make house calls and his daughter Margery would often accompany him on his rounds. Approximately 50,000 people in Canada died during the pandemic.
Dr. and Mrs. Lawton and their children Thomas, Shirley and Margery appear on the 1921 Ontario census, residing at 79 Main Street in Ridgetown. Dr. Lawton would often complain that his porridge was too hot to eat. One morning his daughter Margery, got up from the table and took Dr. Lawton’s porridge put it in the icebox and left the room. Presumably he didn’t complain about the temperature of his porridge after that. Today this home is used as a funeral home and it is located at 76 Main Street. Dr. and Mrs. Lawton called their home Pinehurst.
Mrs. Lawton died on the 31st of December, 1933 in Ridgetown. After the death of his wife, Dr. Lawton moved to Michigan and lived with his son Fred. Dr. Lawton died on the 19th of December, 1940 at the home of his son Fred, 1811 Wiltshire Rd., in Berkley, (Oakland County), Michigan.
Dr. and Mrs. Lawton were buried at Greenwood Cemetery at Ridgetown.
*Dr. Lawton’s sons, James Frederick Lawton, George Morrison Lawton, Joseph Gladstone Lawton and Thomas Green Lawton all served with the United States Armed Services during WWI. His son, Joseph Gladstone Lawton also served with the United States Armed Services during WWII.
**Dr. Lawton’s son Fred Lawton and a friend Earl Vincent Moore wrote the fight song “Varsity” for the University of Michigan.
***Dr. John Stalker also appears on the Chatham-Kent Physician Tribute website.
Note: The webmaster is very grateful to Jennifer Margery Lawton Whitfield for her account of family facts and the photographs (including a wedding photograph) of Dr. and Mrs. Lawton.
The Lawton Family Home in Ridgetown