15 December 2013

Wealthy and Arrested

Mortimer J. Lawrence sure was an interesting man. 

As I've worked recently to locate his fraternal story, I've learned quite a bit more about Mortimer than I knew before. Unfortunately, I have not had any further progress in the fraternal specific research, but I have identified a few other sources. 

The first piece that caught my attention was his entry in The 1893 Denver Directory: A New Version of the Historical Classic, edited by Charles O. Brantigan (Vol I, Canzona Publications, Denver, Colorado, 1992).  This text is essentially a reprint of the original, but with a bit more historical and social articles included. On page 196 I was able to find Mortimer, and his son, M Lyman Lawrence, both listed. 

"Lawrence, M Lyman :: asst cashier Peoples National Bank 1615 Downing av"
"Lawrence, Mortimer J :: pres Peoples National Bank, Brown Palace Hotel"

People's National Bank, Denver, Colorado.
Personal archives of author.
The fact that they both worked at the Peoples National Bank in Denver was not a surprise to me; we've know this for some time. What caught my attention was the residence of Mortimer: the Brown Palace Hotel.  This Denver landmark is still in operation today, and has an incredibly significant role in the history of the city. I knew that Mortimer was affluent; but I did not realize that in 1893 he was actually living in the most luxurious hotel of its day in this area.  According to the Brown Palace Hotel website, they were charging anywhere from $3 - $5 per night when they opened in 1892.

The business did not succeed in the long run, and Mortimer eventually went  back to the newspaper and publishing industry, though he did remain in Colorado for a few more years. I know already from various sources that he was a significant supporter of building the Masonic Lodge in Denver, constructed after the turn of the century; and of course, he was an original member of the El Jebel Shriners, which was organized in 1894.

So far, none of this new information is all that alarming. It is all wonderful to have, and I can reinforce previous conclusions with more data. What happened in July of 1893 was a bit of a shock, and I located it in the New York Times:


The article actually describes the arrest of two businessmen, one in Ohio, and my own Mortimer in Denver. Two completely unrelated events, except that they happened around the same time and both involved banking, so the New York Times published the stories together. Mortimer was accused of "grand larceny in connection with the failure of the bank."  (New York Times, 26 July 1893, Page unknown.)

Mortimer must have done ok for himself in this situation, because less than a year later he was known to be involved in the El Jebel Shrine organization.  I have not taken the time yet to see if I can identify any more newspaper articles on the situation, but it will certainly be added to the to-do list!

The other clue I mentioned above, and have so far left out of this summary, is the address listed in the 1893 Directory for Mortimer's son, Lyman. I have seen this address before, and several years ago, my sister kindly photographed the home now at that address as well. I will be adding that residence to the research agenda, as well.

Of the Lawrence family, two were not-so-lucky. Mortimer's son, William, was a victim of a murder-suicide in a Denver hotel after a dispute with his mistress. In 1901, Mortimer's brother, John, was shot and killed in a land dispute in Brighton, Colorado, while attempting to remove a disgruntled employee from Mortimer's property. The two crimes were within just a couple years of each other, and the newspapers detailed both thoroughly.

There seems to be much left to learn about Mortimer and his family. Part of the process this week has been re-examining the newspaper articles from these crimes, as well as reading through the various texts that Mortimer was included in outlining Denver history. There are more clues there in regards to his fraternal life, and that will require a more comprehensive study, to ensure that I have pulled every detail.