1942 Naval Disaster
In the pre-dawn hours of February 18, 1942, three United States Navy ships ran aground on the shore of the Burin Peninsula between Lawn and the nearby community of St. Lawrence. It was determined that the USS Pollux, USS Truxtun and USS Wilkes made a navigation error while en route to Naval Station Argentia. Eight residents of Lawn assisted in the rescue of survivors. 185 sailors survived and 203 died as a result of the disaster.
Prior to 1763 the English and French were continually at war with each other. These wars took a toll on both nations, as they fought for control of various colonial possessions. Newfoundland, with its abundant supply of fish, became a colonial prize, which both nations fought over. The two nations agreed to divide the island into two zones in which they were permitted to prosecute a summer fishery. The Burin Peninsula was part of the “French Shore” in which the French had exclusive fishing rights. In the 1760s the British gained the upper hand in their war with France and finally in 1763 the French were defeated.
In 1763 the French signed the Treaty of Utrecht, which forced them to abandon all territorial claims on the island of Newfoundland. The only possessions they were permitted to keep were the islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon. The banishment of the French made permanent settlement much more attractive in Burin Peninsula communities such as Lawn.
The first settlers to establish permanent residence in Lawn were the Connors (O’Connor) family who came from County Cork, Ireland. Michael and his brother Peter Connors were fish merchants who decided to stay in Lawn after the summer fishery. Many of these workers began to spend their winters in Lawn and eventually married women from nearby communities. The Connors, Murphy, Strang, Pike and Tarrant descendants planted family roots, which have survived to this very day.
The survival of Lawn in the late seventeen hundreds and early eighteen hundreds were influenced by two important factors. The most important factor was the supply of cod. The second factor was the availability of a market for the cod. In the late 18th century the Sir Robert Newman Company, one of the most powerful fishing establishments in Newfoundland, set up a business in St. Lawrence. This gave some sense of stability to the area and provided easy access to a market for fishermen from Lawn. The Sir Robert Newman Company also helped bring young men over from England and Ireland to work in the fishery. This along with the prosperous fishery made Lawn a very viable fishing settlement.
One of Newfoundland's first hydroelectric generators was commissioned in Lawn in 1930.