Alexander DAWSON Junior

Alexander Junior was the third of eleven children born to Alexander Senior and Hannah Dawson nee Sutton. He was born on 11 February 1884 at Gladstone in the Ringarooma district in Tasmania.

Alexander’s siblings were:

  • William John Alexander  1882 – 1884 – died by drowning in Gladstone
  • Albert William 1883 – 1981
  • Catherine Mary 1886 – 1973
  • Henry George 1891 – 1916 – died in WWI
  • John McKay 1892 – 1915 – died in WWI
  • Olive Maud 1894 – 1972
  • Myrtle Amy 1894 – 1975
  • George Byron Matthew 1896 – 1982
  • William Percy 1898 – 1945
  • Frederick Roy (James) 1900 – 1982
  • Half sibling Eileen Blanche CAREY 1905 –

On 27 March 1884, his Lordship Bishop Sandford visited Gladstone. One of his duties there was to administer rites of baptism to Alexander Dawson’s infant child. This was probably Alexander Junior.

The Dawson’s were a mining family first at Gladstone and then they moved to Queenstown.

At age 17, Alexander’s father passed away .

Alexander senior passed away from inflammation of the lungs due to working multiple extended shifts in succession. This was not normally permitted due to the poor quality air in underground mining known to cause lung complaints. But in this case it was overlooked because they’d lost all their belongings in a housefire associated with the nearby bushfires. Alexander was trying to rebuild his home and contents for the family. They lived in a poorer area of Queenstown known as The Pigsty, adjacent to the current football ground. [1]

His wife was left to bring up 10 children of which only one was an age to get a job at the mines. Hannah married again fairly quickly as she had five children under the age of seven when her first husband passed.

At some stage in late 1908, Alexander spent at least one evening with Irene Nellie Somers/Clark and in July 1909 his daughter, Irene was born on Bruny Island. This has been proved through DNA matches. Alexander had no knowledge of this daughter as far as I know.

Married life and children

His marriage to Sarah Jane HAWKINS occurred on 17 July 1912 in Queenstown, Tasmania.

Their first child Alexander Charles was born in September 1912 but unfortunately died three weeks later on 7 October at Preston Street, Queenstown.

Just five days later Alexander was involved in the famous North Lyell Disaster. A Royal Commission into the disaster was held in December 1912 and Alexander was called as a witness.

Alexander Dawson deposition about 1912 Mt Lyell mining disaster

Two of Alexander’s brothers were also involved in the disaster – Albert and Henry.

Alexander and Jane’s second child Ronald was born in 1913 and their first daughter Eileen in 1916 at Austin Street, Queenstown.

Alexander was still mining at Mount Lyell North in 1917 when he was brought up on charges of personal negligence in endangering the safety of two miners working in the mine.

In October 1923, their second daughter Olive was born in Queenstown.

His wife, Jane (also known as Jenny), died on 7 November 1924, from an allergy to a bee sting. [2]

Two weeks later Alexander was charged with indecent behaviour in Little Orr Street, Queenstown.

After Sarah died, Alexander continued to work to feed & clothe the family. The eldest son Ron (Adrian’s grandfather), from age 11, looked after his two sisters in his father’s absence. Alexander was known to ‘touch the bottle along’ after Jenny’s death. After Alexander’s death, Ron continued to care for his sisters until they found their own lives as adults. [3]

Ron with his sisters Eileen and Olive

Alexander died in 1933 from fatal injuries after falling at a sideshow and not regaining consciousness when taken to hospital. A fantastic obituary was written in the local paper. An inquest was held and the coroner gave the verdict of accidental death.

Both Jane and Alexander are buried in the Queenstown cemetery


  1. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  2. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  3. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021

Dawsons and disaster

The Dawson surname is a new find in my father’s tree. We thought his grandfather was Robert Edward Smith, son of a half Samoan whaling captain William Smith who I have done a lot of research on. But neither dad nor I had any Polynesian ethnicity, while all dad’s cousins on the Smith side did. I tested another Smith relative who came down the line of a sibling of Robert Edward. Dad and I didn’t match her at all yet all dad’s Smith cousins did.

Dad also had a person in his DNA matches that was a 1st or 2nd cousin but we had no idea where he linked in. He wasn’t on dad’s paternal side as we have a half brother to dad tested and any matches with both of them will be the paternal side. So this high match must be maternal, but he doesn’t match any of dad’s Smith cousins, so who is he? I checked his tree back to his  great grandparents – Alexander and Hannah Dawson  nee Sutton. Lots of dad’s matches come through this couple or their siblings. So which of Alexander and Hannah’s sons is going to be my dad’s grandfather? I am still not exactly sure but have it down to three possibilities.

But how does the Dawson family feature in a post about a disaster? My post from last week was about my great great grandfather Thomas Somers, a miner in the North East of Tasmania; the Dawsons were miners on the West coast of Tasmania.

West Coast mining

The west coast of Tasmania but particularly the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area, has some areas still not explored by humans; you can only get in there by boat, very few walking tracks and you would need to bash through scrub to get anywhere. But the mining area around Queenstown and Zeehan does have road linkages unless snowed in. There is an airport at Strahan but only small planes. There are many mines in the district but the most famous is the Mount Lyell Mines in Queenstown. It is here where a huge disaster happened in 1912 and members of my Dawson family were involved. In total 170 men entered the mine that morning and 42 did not come out alive. Luckily my relatives did. When rescuing the miners, the company had to wait for more smoke helmets to be steamered over Bass Strait from Melbourne taking a bit over 13 hours.

Dawson involvement

Dad’s great grandfather Alexander Dawson died in 1901 but he also had a son called Alexander. In 1909 when dad’s mother was born on Bruny Island, Tasmania, Alexander Dawson was still living in Queenstown as a single man. In 1912 he married Sarah Jane Hawkins Griffiths and in mid September, their first child Alexander Charles was born. He died three weeks later on 7th October. Only 5 days after his son’s death,  Alexander was involved in the fire at Mt Lyell Mines. He had only been working in the mine for about a year.

Alexander Dawson deposition about 1912 Mt Lyell mining disaster

Here is the first newspaper report of the fire including names of those rescued. The next day another report also mentions that Alexander’s younger brother Henry is also one of those still entombed. At 3.30 on Wednesday 16 October, Harry Dawson walked out of the mine. According to the newspaper article:

Henry Dawson appeared to be very weak as he walked from the drive to the change house.

Also mentioned in the 16 October paper was that Alexander Dawson and Albert William Dawson were alive on the 1000ft level in the number 40 stope.

A comment about the Dawson brothers in the same newspaper article:

The Dawson brothers, both comparatively lads, are spoken of as maintaining great cheerfulness all through the awful ordeal that was experienced from Saturday through Wednesday.

These three Dawson brothers are the possibles for being my father’s grandfather. Albert born about 1883, Alexander born 1884 and Henry born 1891. My dad’s grandmother was born in 1889, so age wise she could have been seeing any one of the three Dawson brothers. I will have to keep checking the DNA matches to try and prove which one is most likely but dad has a match of 346 cMs across 17 segments with a grandson of Alexander and a match of 136cMs across 6 segments with a great granddaughter of Henry.