07 August 2012

The Family of John H. Lawrence and Sarah Evans


John Horatio Lawrence and Sarah Evans came together about 1835 in Lockport, Niagra County, New York. They had ten children, and both lived to their mid '70's.

Let's get the facts out of the way:

  • John Horatio Lawrence, born 2 Jan 1806 in Birmingham, West Midlands, England. Died 29 Apr 1880 in Colfax County, Nebraska.
  • Sarah Evans, born 7 Aug 1816 in New York, and died 22 Feb 1892 in Brighton, Adams County, Colorado. 


John H. Lawrence, Sr.
Personal archives of author.
The family story tells us that John served in the English Army, including at least one tour in India, and eventually made his way to the U.S. in June 1829 at the age of 26. He was the youngest son of the family, with only one surviving sibling, Ann King, who was ten years older than he. His parents are said to have had ten children, the other eight all died in infancy. The father was a silversmith in the English middle class, and his uncle was knighted, prior to 1830, "based on his achievement as an artist." In 1840, the legend continues, John's mother died in England, and he traveled back home to attend the funeral. His money was stolen from him on the boat, and it took him twice as long to come home.

The couple moved from the Lockport area to Pennsylvania, then finally to Ohio, eventually setting in Wakeman. John was said to be a shoemaker, learning his trade from Sarah's adopted father.

Sarah Evans. Her early life is a mystery. Again, we return to the family oral history. Sarah's birth father was killed when she was three years old, by a man who was the former property owner of the family farm. There is not mention of her mother, but the large family was supposedly scattered, and the Kaiser's adopted Sarah as their only child. They were well off, and she had a good childhood. When Sarah and John married, Mr. & Mrs. Kaiser offered them property and income, as a partner in his business, if they remained in the area. It didn't last too long, because by 1841 they were in Pennsylvania. She must have been well educated, as later in life, she wrote for a newspaper in Silver Creek, Nebraska. Other sources name her as the "daughter of a Methodist minister."

Sarah Evans Lawrence
Personal archives of author.
Lafayette was the first, born in 1838. Then came Sarah Ann, John Horatio, Jr., Mortimer James, Blanche, Augustus Warner, Edward, Mary Josephine, Frances Elizabeth, and finally William Henry in 1856. Soon after William's birth, John and Sarah separated, and he left the family. Sarah and the elder children struggled, but were able to adapt. Thanks to the success of son, Mortimer, and his biography in A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical. Illustrated, Volume II, by Samuel Peter Orth.  (The S.J. Clarke Publishing Co, 1910, Chicago-Cleveland. Page 596), we have more details about that time in the life of the family. Mrs. Lawrence supported her family through carpet weaving and "other work".


In 1896, A Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve was edited by Gertrude Van Rensselear Wickham, (Published under the auspices of the Woman's Department of the Cleveland Centennial Commission 2 volumes, 1896; reprint, Middleton, KY.: Wihiporwill Press, 1981, pages 559-563). In it, this quote: "Mrs. Lawrence (Sarah Evans) came later. She must have been a bonnie lass, for in middle life she was fair to look upon, she was a constant reader, and wielded a ready pen. It was to this intellectual mother, probably, that her son. M. J. Lawrence of the OHIO FARMER owes his many gifts." (Transcribed by Cathi Vannice 01 January 2002, www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ohhuron/pwakeman.htm.)



As their children began to marry and move, John and Sarah did also. For a time, both lived near the Colfax County area of Nebraska, and they appeared to reunite as a married couple again in their later years. John passed first, and is buried in Nebraska. Sarah moved farther west to live with son, Mortimer and his family in Colorado. Here, she wrote a letter to her daughter Frances back in Nebraska, talking about the home and its extravagance in running water, indoor baths and toilets. She talks of her son and daughter-in-law's busy lives, and her loneliness as she sat in her upstairs room, watching the world go by on the street below, with no one to keep her company.


The Lawrence home in Denver, where Sarah spent her last years.
Personal archives of author. 

John and Sarah left a legacy of intrigue and just plain great genealogy. Their children were involved in newspapers, politics, wars - including at least two recorded prisoners of war, held by the Confederates - and murder.