George A. Dawson (1839 – 1894)

“Dawson St. was named by and after George A. Dawson. A neighboring street Carrie draws its name from his wife. Dawson was recognized as a leading respectable citizen of his day, who was a successful lumber man of the area.

Dawson runs a length of 2,240 feet from Ashmun to Johnston.”

Source: “On the Streets Where We Live

A history of the streets and avenues of Sault Ste. Marie – A Tercentenary and Michigan Week project of the seventh grade students of Sault Junior High School – 1968.



Few of the sterling citizens of the Upper Peninsula have contributed in more generous measure and beneficent way to the civic and industrial development and progress of this favored section of the Wolverine state than did George Dawson. He located in Chippewa County and identified himself with the great lumbering industry in this section. He was also involved with various other lines of enterprise that had potent influence in advancing material and social progress. He became the owner of a large amount of real estate in the county. He was the founder of the village of Detour. At the time of his demise, he was one of the most honored and influential citizens of the city of Sault Ste. Marie. He established his home in the early days and exemplified that loyal and practical public spirit that indicated his faith in the splendid future of the city. He was a man of fine mental equipment and splendid administrative and business ability. Above all, his entire career was marked by the most inviolable integrity and honor in all the relations of life. He commanded at all times the high regard of his fellow men. Such was his position as one of the representative citizens of the Upper Peninsula. He accumulated a substantial fortune through his own efforts and mature judgment. He left the gracious heritage of an unblemished reputation.

George Dawson was born near Kingston, province of Ontario, Canada, in 1839, and his death occurred at his home in Sault Ste. Marie on the 21st of March, 1894, – in the very prime of his strong and useful manhood. His accomplishment, however, was not to be gauged by years but by results, and into his half-century of life he crowded more effective service and gained greater rewards than come to the average man whose life is prolonged to venerable age. Mr. Dawson was reared to manhood in his native province, where he received such educational advantages as were afforded in the schools of the period, and he early initiated a business career that was to be marked by consecutive advancement and by eventual accomplishment that made him a man of large affairs and much influence. In 1869 he became prominently concerned with lumbering interests in the province of Québec, Canada. While thus engaged he exploited the improved system of turning out squared timber, and he owned and operated three vessels, which were utilized for the transportation of his products to the city of Québec, from whence they were shipped to Liverpool, England.

Around 1860, Mr. George Dawson began cutting pine in the Big Bay area just east of the Huron Mountains. He cut large timber, squared them, and shipped them to his brother, Thomas, at Sault Ste. Marie. Thomas transshipped the timbers to England, mostly for ship building, to help Britannia rule the waves. Dawson and his crew were restricted to areas near water – the lake or large rivers – as they had no other way to move the heavy timbers. Meanwhile, American loggers were chewing their way through the forests of Maine, New York, Pennsylvania, and on toward Michigan. By the 1870s, these eastern loggers were moving into the Upper Peninsula.

Mr. Dawson’s connection with industrial enterprises in the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan had its inception in the year 1871, and his lumbering operations, which attained wide scope, were principally in Chippewa County, which then comprised a large part of the Upper Peninsula. He was among the first to institute lumbering operations at Two Heart River, Grand Marais and Tahquamenon River, and later on Drummond Island in 1880, at which time he also purchased dock property, covering more than a mile, at Detour, and in 1884 he bought ship property in the Soo. As early as 1877 he had purchased property in the straggling village which was the nucleus of the present thriving city of Sault Ste. Marie, where he eventually acquired large and valuable holdings and thereby laid the foundation for his substantial fortune. He was the founder of the village of Detour, as has already been stated, and owned the entire tract on which the village was located. Upon coming to the Upper Peninsula he brought with him one hundred men, a number of whom had been in his employ in Québec and who accorded to him uniform loyalty and esteem. In 1877 he erected a fine residence in Sault Ste. Marie, and the building at the time was surrounded by brush and scrub timber, making the entire environment of the most primitive order. His action showed his confidence in the growth and development of the city, in whose welfare and progress he ever maintained a most vital interest. His was the first pretentious dwelling to be built in Sault Ste. Marie.

Here also he was the pioneer in the construction of large docks, owning a water frontage of four hundred and twenty-two feet. He was also one of the first three to engage in dealing in coal in the “Soo,” and in many other ways did he exemplify his progressive spirit and his interest in furthering the welfare of the community. In the village of Detour, which was plotted by Mr. Dawson, his supply store and hotel were the first buildings erected in the now thriving town. He did an extensive coal business on his dock there, and he was the leading business man of that section of Chippewa County, and there conducted large and successful lumbering operations. When the late Guy H. Carlton, in his official capacity, laid out the streets of Sault Ste. Marie he named Dawson street in honor of the subject of this memoir and Carrie street in honor of Mrs. Dawson, who was familiarly known by this abbreviation of her name, Caroline. Mr. Dawson retired from active business in 1888, and thereafter gave his attention to the management of his large real estate and capitalistic interests.

He continued to reside in Sault Ste. Marie until his death, and here his name is held in gracious and appreciative memory. He was independent in his political allegiance, and never a seeker of public office. He supported all measures tending to advance the general welfare of the community.

On the 7th of July, 1875, Mr. Dawson was united in marriage to Miss Caroline A. Cunningham, who was born in Jefferson County, New York, and who is a daughter of Henry and Mary (Kenwood) Cunningham. Mr. Cunningham was engaged in the insurance business, and he and his wife passed the closing years of their lives in Watertown, New York. Mrs. Dawson, a woman of most gracious personality and distinctive culture, was a successful and popular teacher in the schools of her native state, a teacher in the Watertown schools and for some time prior to her marriage, principal in the high school in Cape Vincent, New York. Mr. Dawson is also survived by one daughter. Miss Georgiana Marion, and she and her mother pass the summer seasons in their beautiful home in Sault Ste. Marie, while their winter place of sojourn is California. They have traveled extensively throughout the United States and Canada, but they retain deep affection for their old home and many friends in Sault Ste. Marie, where the attractive residence on Spruce Street is a center of gracious hospitality.

The length of Dawson Street is 2,244 feet starting from Ashmun Street to Johnston Street. This recent information was provided by the staff at the City of Sault Ste. Marie Engineering Department.

Source:      A History of the Northern Peninsula of Michiganand its People, its Mining, Lumberand Agricultural Industriesby Alvah L. Sawyer