Term: Lawler, John 1832 - 1891
railroad executive, businessman, philanthropist, b. Carlow County, Ireland. He migrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1836. As a young man he worked for various railroads in the East and, after living briefly in Chicago and Milwaukee, settled in Prairie du Chien in 1857, where he was station agent for the Milwaukee and Mississippi Railroad. A short time later he became general agent for the line; in 1861, it was taken over by the Milwaukee and Prairie du Chien Railway Company. In 1863 he became vice-president of the newly organized McGregor Western Railway Company, and in 1867 both lines became part of the Milwaukee and St. Paul. Recognizing the importance of the Mississippi River to the transportation system, Lawler gained control of the river ferry in 1859, received a contract to ferry rail traffic in 1863, and remained in virtual control of all rail traffic between Prairie du Chien and McGregor until his death. In 1864, he became president of the Northwestern Packet Company, which merged with the Davidson line in 1866. To meet the problem of transferring railroad traffic between Prairie du Chien and McGregor, Lawler at first utilized railroad barges and later financed construction of a pontoon bridge, which was completed in 1874. He was a director of the Northwestern Life Insurance Company and a regent of the Univ. of Wisconsin. Active in many local philanthropies, he was particularly interested in furthering Catholic education. He was one of the founders and financiers of St. Mary's College and Academy and St. John's (now Campion) College in Prairie du Chien, and gave liberally to Georgetown Univ. and the Catholic Univ. of America. Wis. Mag. Hist., 24; J. G. Gregory, ed., S.W. Wis. (4 vols., Chicago, 1932); Columbian Biog. Dict. . . . Wis. (Chicago, 1895); Milwaukee Sentinel, Feb. 24, 1891; A. W. Derleth, Milwaukee Road (New York, 1948).
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[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]