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Colonel Thomas Dawson was born 12 September 1762 in County Cavan, Ireland, the son of Samuel Dawson and Caroline Stewart. In 1784, Thomas married his cousin, (Elizabeth) Frances Tate (b. September 1768). The couple would have eight children: Elizabeth (1785-1866), Ann Margaret (1789-1875), Samuel Edward (1791-1873), Thomas (1793-1878), Frances (1795-1886), Richard (1799-1897), Mary (1802-1862), and Benjamin (1804-1892).
Thomas joined the Irish military as a young many and served under Lord Cornwallis during the American Revolution. Upon returning to Ireland, he joined the Royal Irish Artillery and later the Battalion of Cavan Milita. Colonel Thomas left the army in 1799, and in March 1800 purchased 500 acres of land in Lot 39, Prince Edward Island, from Lieutenant George Burns. Thomas and his family left Ireland on 4 March 1801 to come to PEI via Philadelphia. Upon arrival, the family settled on the land he had purchased near the head of the Hillsborough River. Thomas called the property "Dawson Grove" after his family's estate in Ireland. Thomas had a strong Methodist faith and became a Methodist preacher on the Island. He traveled frequently, visiting the surrounding communities and holding prayer services in homes. In late 1803, Thomas became ill and died on 4 March 1804. He is believed to buried in the Elm Avenue Cemetery (now the Old Protestant Burial Ground) on University Avenue in Charlottetown.
Shortly after her husband's death, Frances and the children moved to a rented house in Charlottetown. Frances gave birth to their last son just weeks after Thomas died and named him Benjamin Chappell, after her husband's good friend. In order to support her family, Frances operated a private school out of her home. In 1806 she married Corporal John MacDonald and the couple had two children: Priscilla and Angus. John did not live long and Frances was soon a widow for the second time. She then moved in with her daughter Mary and her husband John Howatt. Frances would later marry for a third and final time, to a Mr. Stagman. She died 31 January 1849.