Mary Jane Lawson (nee Katzmann) was born in 1828 at Maroon Hill, Preston. Mary made her mark on history as a writer and as one of Dartmouth’s earliest historians. She had a love of literature from an early age. After her father passed away in the late 1840s, her family moved to Dartmouth.
As a young woman, she became a regular contributor to various periodicals and newspapers. In her early twenties, she became the editor of The Provincial Magazine or Halifax Monthly Magazine, a literary publication. This was quite an unusual occupation for a woman in the mid 1800s. She wrote a great many articles and poems for The Provincial, including the series “Tales of Our Village”, where she would chronicle stories of the area. This series was later published as a collection in the form of the book History of Townships of Dartmouth, Preston and Lawrencetown. Mary would listen to the stories, traditions and histories shared by those around her and recorded them. Her book is one of the earliest historical records chronicling the history of this area. Mary also worked as the manager of Provincial Book Store on Granville Street in Halifax until 1869 when she married William Lawson. In 1887, she received the Akins Historical Prize of King’s College, Windsor, for her book.
In 1958, a new school in Westphal was named in her honour. The school has, unfortunately, since closed.