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City of Moses Lake

Posted on: April 21, 2017

Spring Salon Series: North Western Journeys with John W. Lawton

North Western Journeys
Join John Lawton on Wednesday, May 3 at 3:00 p.m as he talks about his new book about a family saga of westward migration that is told through the voices of people who lived 100 years ago by means of letters, diaries, oral history and photographs. It includes a memoir of the author’s improbable discoveries as he found the stories of the grandfather he never knew. The Lawtons’ first ancestor arrived in Massachusetts in 1635. Its succeeding generations followed forest cutting to the west, across the northern states, until one branch of the family arrived in frontier Spokane in 1890. Will and Irene Lawton followed a string of settlers from Wisconsin, where the pine forests were playing out after a quarter century of logging. They established homes and businesses in Spokane, then left in 1906 and settled a few miles west in the scablands of the Columbia Plateau, where they bought land, took up a homestead, and commenced farming and storekeeping. The dream worked until misfortune and flawed assumptions eventually led to the loss of all they had built. The family had been multi-generational and closely knit. But by 1920 the family had scattered because of untimely deaths and the collapse of homesteading. As a fatherless boy, Walter Lawton, Will’s son, spent years in Idaho’s mountains herding sheep to get by.

John Lawton grew up in Yakima, Washington. He holds degrees from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and Washington State University in Pullman. He spent his career in city finance and management with positions as City Manager of Great Falls, Montana, and Assistant Administrator in Billings. He was appointed by two governors to consecutive terms on the Montana Heritage Preservation Commission. He won an international award for professional work in done in Central Asia, traveling extensively there.

Purchase a copy of John Lawton’s book, North Western Journeys: Spokane Pioneers and Scablands Settlers, in our Museum Store and have it signed after the presentation!



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