Martin Dawson

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Martin Dawson (1772- May 22, 1835) was a prominent scholar, magistrate, and financial advisor to Thomas Jefferson. Upon Dawson’s death, a large portion of the Bellair land was willed to UVA, which in turn sold it and utilized the funds to build the Rotunda annex, as well as six student dormitories now known as Dawson’s Row.


  • Lane High School - In November 1940, philanthropist Paul Goodloe McIntire provided funds to an annual scholarship award in memory of Martin Dawson in the sum of $15,000 invested with the Virginia State Board of Education. "To Lane High School students...the income from which $50.00 is to be paid annually to the student with the most interest in cultural activities."
McIntire retired from active business about 1918 and returned to Charlottesville, where he became interested in public school education and in the dissemination of cultural education for his fellow citizens, trying to provide for them the advantages lacking in his community in his youth. Over a period of years, beginning in 1917 and concluding in 1941, Paul Goodloe McIntire made gifts to the County of Albemarle, to the City of Charlottesville and to the University of Virginia in excess of $1.2 million dollars. Of that amount, $175,700.00 was gifted to the schools of Albemarle County ($14,258,253.28 in 2019 dollars).[1]


Dawson was the youngest of nine children of John and Sarah Carroll Dawson. He was born at the family home near Faber's Mills in Nelson County, not far from the Albemarle County line. When he came of age, he moved to Milton, in Albemarle County, and became connected with Brown, Rives, & Company. After amassing a considerable fortune, he moved his business from Milton to Scottsville. From 1808 until his death, Dawson was a county magistrate. He was also one of the first school commissioners in Albemarle County. He never married.[2]

Later life, death, will

Dawson helped found the Albemarle Educational Commission, supported the establishment of the University of Virginia, three academies in Nelson and Albemarle counties.

In 1822 Dawson purchased Belle Air, an estate on the Hardware River, several miles south of Carter’s Bridge, which is twelve miles south of Charlottesville. At Belle Air he made his residence until his death on May 22, [3]1835, at the age of 63. He was never married.


Dawson left a will so elaborately written, that it was twice taken before the Court of Appeals.

The Dawson Fund - A special school fund had been available since 1841 in Albemarle County, under the will of Martin Dawson, of that county Acts of Assembly, 1840-41, p. 52.
Dawson provided for the largest private donation to the University up to that time in his will. The Public Hall annexed to the Rotunda, and destroyed by the fire of 1895, was commenced in 1851, and in 1859 Dawson's Row was erected. These buildings were constructed with the proceeds of a farm devised by the will of Martin Dawson. By the sale of this farm, the sum of fourteen thousand dollars was realized.[4]

Family graveyard

By the 13th paragraph of his will, Martin Dawson, provided the following: “I hereby direct my executors (if not before purchased) to purchase ten acres of land where my father, mother and other relative are buried in the County of Nelson, to be forever held and know by the name of ‘John Dawson and Family Graveyard,’ and where (with?) a sufficient quantity of the same for the said object well enclosed with durable stone wall, in which it is my wish that my remains be decently interred.” Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia, by Charles A. Graves, 1918.


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  1. Web. [ The Gifts of Paul Goodloe McIntire], James Collier Marshall, Albemarle Historic Society, April 30, 1958, retrieved August 14, 2019.
  2. Web. Martin Dawson, Douglas Evans, "Jefferson's Neighbors," Monticello Research Report, Research & Education: Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia, 1995, retrieved August 14, 2019.
  3. Web. Died, Southern Religious Telegraph, Volume 14, Number 23, 5 June 1835, retrieved Feb. 10, 2024.
  4. Woods, E. (1901) Albemarle County in Virginia: Giving Some Account of what it was by Nature, of what it was Made by Man, and of Some of the Men who Made it By Edgar Woods Charlottesville, Va.: The Michie Company, printers.

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