Family Memories of Samuel and Susanna Lawrence


The following is the complete text of A Minute Man, by Mary Fosdick. Fosdick, was the daughter of Sarah Lawrence (Woodbury) Fosdick, daughter of Mary (Lawrence) Woodbury, daughter of Samuel and Susanna (Parker) Lawrence. I have included this in its entirety because, in spite of its children’s-book-like tone, and obvious license where dialogue is concerned, it as close as we will ever get to an actual oral history of our family during the Revolutionary War and the earliest days of the new United States.



By Mary Fosdick


Captain Amos Lawrence was an estimable farmer in New England, who was born in the first quarter of the eighteenth century, and at a suitable age married Miss Abigail Abbott. She brought him as part of her dowry various handsome pewter articles, among them several large plates, or platters, on which her initials were stamped or cut, as was the fashion in her day, a handsome hall clock with mahogany case and brass face, and other articles of household furniture; though, as her father was also a farmer, it is not probable that she brought Captain Lawrence very much else beside the bedding which every bride [was] expected to provide. As to her personal attractions I have no means of knowing. Though born in Boston’s neighborhood, Captain Amos Lawrence made his way to Groton, a thriving village farther inland, and there our minute-man was born in the spring of 1754. He was a bright boy, and “did well,” as people said, both as a son and brother at home and as a scholar in school; and when he had exhausted the best educational advantages the place then afforded, he went to work on a small farm, which he took on a mortgage, hoping probably to make it profitable enough to enable him to support a wife. Whether he had in mind the lady whom he afterward married, I am unable to state, but in his twenty-first year he became engaged to a handsome girl, a year younger than himself, whose acquaintance he probably made while visiting his grandparents Lawrence, as her stepfather lived in a town (Concord) adjoining the one in which his mother, Miss Abbott, had been born (Lexington); so we may naturally suppose that he desired to make the farm as successful as possible. His parents had other children, and having given him the benefit of the best educational facilities in Groton, could not afford to do more, though they must have realized that such a boy as he would have been glad to go through college, as at least two of his contemporaries did, and would be an honor to any profession, for he was beloved and respected by his fellow townsmen as few young men of his age were, and was as fond of books as if he had been a rich Tory’s son.

He was steadily making his way toward being known as a successful farmer, and toward the goal of his hopes, — marriage with his handsome sweet-heart— when the times began to grow so troublous that almost every one looked sober, and asked what was coming to the Colonies in the near future. The residents of Groton were always glad to meet Samuel Lawrence, with his bright, cheerful face, alert manner, and hearty laugh. “Don’t be discouraged,” he would say, “If the British want a taste of American powder, let them have it. They’ll not want a great many,” and he was one of the first to assist in recruiting a company of minute-men,” of which he was an officer. These minute-men were to be ready to start at a moment’s warning for the seat of war, wherever it was, whenever they were notified that the British had begun to show fight. Until then, he, like many another, was a peaceful farmer, eating his bread in the sweat of his brow; and he was looking forward to building a nest for the handsome Susanna Parker, who on her part was spinning and weaving sheets and pillow-cases, as well as blankets, for its lining. He was so popular in the town that he had no difficulty in persuading others to enlist with him, and no one of them grudged him the titles or offices he held, though many of them were older men than he; and after his day’s work they were drilled in a large barn belonging to one of them.

Major Samuel always had a pleasant smile and encouraging word for every one, which was remembered in after years by his townsmen.’[2] “I declare for ‘t,” one old man said years afterward, “ef Major Sam’s v’ice and laugh didn’t keep our hearts up, when we couldn’t hardly believe that the British soldiers wouldn’t ride over us with their fine horses and uniforms, and their harnsome guns. But he ‘d allers say, Come now, Mr.____, you are as good as a Tory soldier, any day, and, if I ain’t as tall as Goliah, I ‘m a servin’ the same Lord Almighty that David was, so let’s go ahead, and let ‘em see what Americans are made on, when the time comes. You’ve got a wife, and I’ve got a sweet-heart, and we don’t need to fight but one day at a time.’ He was a short man, but we never thought o’ that, his soul was so big. He’d a shared his last crust with his men, and I only hope that when I git my discharge in this world, I shall be ‘llowed ter be where I can serve with him in t’other.” This was said by an octogenarian after Major Lawrence’s death, and the respect in which the latter was held by the whole community increased as time went on. Whatever he did was done well, and he did a great variety of things, too, in the course of his life. He could go but seldom to see his lady-love; but when he did go he made good use of his eyes and ears, and for that reason his farm bade fair to become one of the best in the region. He had in his employ a boy, or young man, eight years younger than himself, in whom he had begun to feel interested in the first place because he seemed to have so few friends, his mother having died while Major Sam was finishing his education. When he heard that Oliver Wentworth’s mother was dead, and that there was talk of apprenticing Oliver to some one, he asked his father, upon returning from school, if he would not take the boy to help him on the farm, and he brought forward so many arguments to prove that Oliver would prefer working on a farm, and that his mother would have preferred it for him, that it would be better to take the few pounds that her effects would bring and put them into something that would benefit Oliver, that at length Mr. Lawrence said, ‘ Well, Sam, have your own way. If he does well, all right, but if he doesn’t, he shall be apprenticed to Mr. Smith, the wheelwright.” Oliver[3] never was apprenticed to Mr. Smith, however. He was a sturdy New England boy, and he was faithful to his duties, working with the better will because Mr. Lawrence had told him what had led him to take him. He was also much interested in Major Sam’s love affairs when the young man made a confidant of the boy, then in his fourteenth year. When Major Sam — though he was only “Mr. Sam” then — took the small farm on a mortgage, Oliver’s first question was, “Ain’t ye goin’ ter let me work for ye, Mr. Sam?” (or perhaps it was plain “Sam” until his employer had a military title, though of this I can only surmise), and when he was told that that was a part of the agreement with Mr. Lawrence, Sr., who was wont to keep his word, he said, “I’ll stick to you then, as long as I live, unless you tell me to cut,” which he did. He was at first quite content to attend to the farm while Mr. Sam was collecting his recruits; but at length he requested so earnestly to be allowed to “jine the militie,” so as to be able to accompany him into the army, that Major Sam overlooked the fact that he was too young to be enrolled as a soldier, and told him that if he himself went to fight he would take him as a personal attendant, which was all that Oliver desired. The days went on, and Major Sam drilled his men in the large barn and kept himself and them informed of the condition of things in Boston and elsewhere so far as was possible; though we may suppose that with his usual modesty he would ask the older men for whatever information they could give, before imparting his, and that when theirs had been received he said what he had to say as briefly and simply as possible, before going about the work of drilling his men.

When he and Oliver were engaged in shelling or husking corn, or in chopping or piling wood on the small wood lot belonging to the farm, he would express to the lad his opinions regarding matters and things in general, thus gaining more and more of Oliver’s confidence and affection; neither of which was ever withdrawn, and both of which were expressed when Oliver was nearing his fourscore years and ten, if not later.

Letters were few and far between in those days, but Samuel Lawrence managed to send a letter to his sweetheart now and then, and to receive some from her in return, in which she could give him bits of in. formation as to the state of things nearer the metropolis, as well as in her own home. But the winter passed, and no blow was struck by the British which was felt to warrant the calling out of t1 e militia. March went by, and April came, when one day as the young minute-man was busy ploughing, while Oliver guided the one horse, one of the selectmen of Groton rode up to the fence and shouted, “Samuel, notify your men. The British are coming.” The young minute-man did not wait for words. He drove the plough deeper into the furrow, saying,” Oliver, free the horse, and then go as fast as you can to tell my men in the town to meet on the Common, while I notify those farther off.” Oliver went, thankful that he could trust his young employer’s promise to let him accompany him into the war; and as the selectman had given a general warning, the bells of the meeting-house fronting the Common were ringing when the last man had been told and the captain came to take command of his little company.

It has been said that Colonel Prescott, who lived farther from the seat of war, passed them before his brother, who was chairman of the selectmen of Groton, with his fellow-selectmen, had given out all their arms and ammunition; but if so, there are two reasons that may readily account for the statement, for some of the annals of the Lawrence family distinctly say that “in less than two hours after the selectmen notified Samuel, he and his men were on the march for Concord,” and Colonel Prescott could scarcely have called out his Pepperell troops and marched them to Groton — five miles — in less time than that, unless they were already equipped when the messenger from Concord reached Pepperell. But local history says that the colonel himself did not wait for his men, but ordering some of those in Pepperell to take word to the rest, as well as to the minute-men in an adjoining town, he himself at once started for Concord. As he ‘was mounted, he would naturally pass the Groton men before they were ready to begin the march. Another reason, if the Pepperell men did pass through Groton while arms, etc., were being distributed, why they might have done so is that Groton had another company of minute-men, commanded by another man, an older man than Samuel Lawrence, who may not have been able to notify his command as speedily as Samuel notified the one in which he was an officer. 1-low- ever that may have been, it is declared by one of his. grandsons, on the authority of the minute-man’s third son, that he and his men were on the march in less than two hours, and as many of the men lived on outlying farms it must have taken time to notify them. The ploughshare was turned into a sword, and the man who had so lately been a peaceful farmer was on the way to defend his country in her need.

The battle at Lexington and the fight at Concord were both over when he reached the latter place, and though Susanna Parker lived close to one of the roads through which they passed to join Colonel Prescott, the young minute-man did not turn to the right hand or to the left. As he lacked a few days of being twenty-one years old on that memorable day, we may imagine how great a trial it must have been for him to pass so near without being able to tell her that he was on his way to protect her; and Oliver’s first real service for Captain Samuel after they left Groton may have been to carry a message for him to Mr. Parker’s house. But if such were the case, no record of the fact has come down to the writer of this little story.


Susanna Parker was called a very handsome girl, and her portrait, painted when she was more than fourscore years old by the best portrait painter known in America at that day, shows handsome, regular features and a rather stately bearing. There were later three copies of this portrait, one of which was in the possession of her daughter Elizabeth, a second owned, I think, by Hon. Abbott Lawrence’s family, and about the third I am uncertain. The original was, I am told, the one in the possession of Mrs. Mary Woodbury, having been given or bequeathed to her by Mr. Amos Lawrence, for whom it was painted. I am under the impression that a silhouette, which I frequently saw in the house of one of the latter gentleman’s sons was that of the minute-man, but I cannot be positive. It gave the profile and shoulders, with the hair drawn back and braided in a queue, and it showed regular features and a benign expression. I was so sure that it was Captain Samuel Lawrence, that I never asked about it, and it never occurred to me to doubt about the matter until I undertook to write this little narrative, which I wish to have true to facts.

Mrs. Lawrence’s sons all describe her as having been a handsome and dignified woman, and it is easy to believe that she might have been a belle in the place where she was born. Of her birthplace and early connections I can say little that has not already been said, but she had so many friends alter her marriage that it is probable she had a great many in her girlhood. Certainly she was very much in love with the young minute-man, in whose pathway she never put any stumbling-blocks. After he passed her by with his company, her mind was busy while her hands were spinning and weaving, and when some time later the question was raised as to how the town where she lived was to obtain its mail, she said, “Father, I can be mail-carrier, if you will let me.” Mr. Parker laughed. He was a practical man and did not expect grapes of thorns, so how could he expect that the British forces would allow one of the provincials to go unmolested through their lines, even if it were a young and handsome woman? “Nonsense, Susanna,” be replied; “your wanting Sam Lawrence’s letters is not going to persuade the British to allow you to pass their lines and go through Charlestown into Boston, and you would not get a sight of Sam, for he is not anywhere near Boston.”

“That is true enough, father,” replied Susanna, when be had ceased speaking; ‘4but will you let me take old Whitefoot and let Billy go with me on Mr. Savage’s Peggy, if Mr. Savage will lend her to us, to see the commander of the British forces? I’ll do the rest.”

“Do you mean it, Susanna?” asked Mr. Parker, looking at her in astonishment.

“Did you ever know me to say anything I did not mean, father?” was her reply, and her father yielded.

“Perhaps it is just as well that you should not know my whole plan, father,” she said as she thanked him. “It may save you some trouble sometime to be able to say that you did not; but I ‘II bring the mails.” And the next day she started for Boston to interview the British commander there. No one spoke unpleasantly to her, though more than one man, as she passed through the country between her home and her destination, asked her if she knew that the British bad cut everybody off from Boston.

“We know it,” she replied; ‘4but our business is urgent.” Her brother Billy was a nice-looking boy of fourteen, and very proud to be the esquire of his handsome sister; but when they reached the British lines and were ushered into the presence of the redoubtable commander, he felt that he should not have been equal to the occasion, as she was.

“We have a relative living in Boston,” she said, giving the name of an aunt of her mother’s, I believe, who was old, not rich, and apparently not in a position to do anything to aid the provincials or to injure the British cause, “and we came to ask you for a permit to go unmolested through your lines to visit her sometimes, as she is old and lonely, and naturally feels very sad at being cut off from her friends.”

“What is your name?” inquired the officer.

“Susanna Parker,” she replied, “and this is my brother William. We live in the town of Concord.”

“Ah!” said the officer,” I suppose your father and the rest of the family are among the men who are preparing to fight us whenever we make an onset.”

“No, sir,” replied Nancy; “my father is an invalid, and this is my only brother.” She did not think it necessary to state that her father’s invalidism bad been caused by a British bullet.

“Hum,” said the officer, “I can give you one pass, but it would be too much of a risk to pass two at the same time. I will make out a permit for Miss Susanna Parker of Concord, and whenever you choose to present it, you will have safe transit through our lines. If you meet with any disrespect from the Regulars at any time, be so good as to notify me and I will attend to the matter.”

“Thank you, sir,” said Susanna, making him a dignified curtsey; “good-day, sir.” And from that time on, through snow or over ground that was often frozen solid, twice every week until the evacuation of Boston she rode alone through the British lines to reach the house of her aged aunt. The mail from the village was sewed in small pockets made in the riding skirt which she wore, the pockets being so arranged in the facing that they could easily be sewed in and ripped out, and not likely to attract attention even if she were examined, which she never was. These letters were left to be taken in charge by a man who was interested in the American cause, who could come to the house of the old lady without exciting suspicion; and the mail for the residents of Concord was sewed into the pockets and carried back, while the few newspapers were concealed, I think, under the “postilion,” as it was afterward called, of the riding jacket which she wore. She always said that she never received a disrespectful look or rough word from either British or American soldier -or citizen, though she was several times stopped in Charlestown to be smoked or fumigated, lest she might disseminate the small-pox, of which there were some cases there. It was in this way that the people of her native town were kept informed of the progress of the war for some months, and there were doubtless many who had husbands or brothers or sons, if not lovers, in the army, who must have blessed her for her courage. Certainly her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren must all have felt proud to remember it, and to realize what her personal dignity must have been at the age of twenty or twenty-one. She was always a very reserved woman, never known to kiss any one outside of her own family, and rarely those within it, for she said that kissing always reminded her of Judas Iscariot. When told of the engagement of one of her granddaughters when she herself was nearly eighty-four, she said, shaking her head,—

“It is very shallow to be engaged so young!”

Why, grandma,” said the young lady, “how old were you when you were engaged?”

“I was — twenty — and a little over,” replied Mrs. Lawrence with dignity, though she hesitated a little, and she made no more demur regarding the present engagement when her granddaughter responded, — “And I am twenty-one and a half, grandma.” She was true as steel, and perhaps her reserve only made her more deeply loving; for none of her children ever felt any lack of the truest affection, which was returned without stint, her Sons delighting to recall the fact that she had a habit of coming to their rooms to kneel beside their beds for a moment of silent prayer, when she supposed them to be sleeping.

She did not see her lover between the time of the battle of Lexington and some period in 1777, more than two years later, though he was, until the battle of Bunker Hill, with Colonel Prescott’s troops, not many miles from her home; but his letters kept her informed as to his health, and so far as possible as to what he was doing.

Meanwhile the British forces were steadily increasing and making up their minds that victory would – certainly be theirs. How could those raw recruits with small means, and more knowledge of the plough and the hoe than of gun and. sword, hope to overcome King George’s well-trained troops, with their modern equipments for war, their handsome uniforms, and the king’s treasury to back them? And how could they dream that their ammunition could hold out against such men as Howe and Gage? So they were coiling themselves like some huge reptile ready to make the spring which should be fatal to the poor little provincial army, which could hardly hope for many reinforcements while the other Colonies were beginning to be in danger from British soldiers and British ships. And meanwhile, too, Susanna Parker was spinning and weaving for the men who were fighting, instead of for her future home. Her letters to her lover were not such as to depress the young minute-man, and must have brought comfort to his heart, as he recalled their words while on the march, or trying to sleep when encamped somewhere for a night.


As the days passed until the 17th of June, Samuel Lawrence remained with Colonel Prescott’s troops, and on the morning of that day their adversaries saw with amazement what the “raw recruits” had accomplished in the way of entrenchments in a single night. They were greatly dismayed as well as surprised, but they were not daunted, for they came steadily on to receive the terrible fire of the Americans under the command of Colonel Prescott. Samuel Lawrence was one of his aids, and it was from his daughter Mary Lawrence, who ‘was born in 1790, and who was alert and active until her sixty-ninth year, at which time the writer was sixteen, that the following information was received, though it was also given to her some years later by one of Major Lawrence’s grandsons, who was then a man of sixty one or two, and who remembered his grandfather well, having passed much time in the old homestead in his youth. Samuel Lawrence and another man stood beside Colonel Prescott almost throughout the battle, steadying him on his horse, as he was feeling ill and afraid to trust himself to keep his seat, though his eye was steady, and he gave his orders in a cool, commanding voice. There have since his day been those who tried to prove that General Putnam, being his superior in rank, must have been in command at Bunker Hill, and as a compromise some writers of history have said that both were practically in command; but the writer, who has known personally descendants of both gallant commanders, and has no reason for partisan feeling, can only say that Samuel Lawrence’s daughter heard from his own lips that as Massachusetts was not the only one of the Colonies where there was trouble, General Putnam did not reach the field of action with his reinforcements until the battle was practically decided, and that when Colonel Prescott offered to relinquish command, he said, “The fight is as good as over, and you had better hold your men,” which, it seems to the writer, reflects much more honor on the two officers, as well as on the battle itself, than does the idea that there was no particular head, but some parts of the battle were controlled by one,  and  some by another. Samuel Lawrence’s grandson, when a man of some-what over sixty, as has been said, remarked to the writer, “I don’t say anything about it, for I number — both Prescotts and Putnams among my friends, but that is what my grandfather always said; “— and as he was a boy of thirteen, and his father a man of forty-one when Samuel Lawrence died, they had every reason to know.

After the battle of Bunker Hill, Samuel Lawrence was one of the men of whom Washington took command under the Old Elm in Cambridge, and in 1777 he was granted a brief furlough, when he visited his sweetheart.

“Mr. Parker,” he said to her father, “I wish that you would allow Susanna and me to be married before I go back to the army. We have been engaged more than two years and a half, and she is willing to marry me now if you will consent.”

“And what is to become of her while you are fighting?” inquired Mr. Parker. “You do not expect to take her with you?”

“No,” said the young lover, “by no means, Mr. Parker. I expect that you will go on letting her live with you until I come to claim her; but I should like to think of her as my wife if I should be shot by a British bullet.”

Mr. Parker considered, and finally consented, saying, “Well, Susanna, you might as well be Sam’s widow as his forlorn damsel, if he should lose his life,” and the wedding took place, though the minuteman went almost from the marriage vows to rejoin the army; for while the service was in progress the alarm was given summoning all officers and privates back to their posts. This was in the latter part of July, 1777, and though later he was given another brief furlough, that second one was the last time he saw his wife until the term of his enlistment was over in 1778, at which period the battle-ground was no longer in Massachusetts, having taken to the south, so to speak. Upon returning to Massachusetts, he went at once to Mr. Parker’s, no doubt with his heart full of longing for a sight of his wife and the son who had been born to him in the autumn of 1778.

Well, Mr. Parker,” said he, after giving his accoutrements to Oliver to carry to his room, “I have come to claim my family.”

“Yes,” replied Mr. Parker; “but you don’t expect to camp out, do you? Where are you going to put your family, Sam?”

“That is the question,” answered the major. I have preferred to think that he was called “major” by his fellow-townsmen until he was made an officer in the church at Groton, and received the more peaceful title of deacon, which at that day was considered a very honorable one by the men of New England. It gave them the right to advise the pastor; to pass the bread and wine when there was “a distribution of the Lord’s Supper,” as they expressed it; to pass the long-handled contribution boxes down the many pews; and to rap over the bead any drowsy or inattentive boys, if it came in their way. The writer can remember those contribution boxes in Groton, though they were superseded by smaller ones when she was in her, teens. The deacons walked solemnly to the communion table, a  common mahogany one such as might be seen in the hall or parlor of some of the better houses, and took those boxes, from just where she never discovered, though apparently from some place beside the pulpit stairs by which the minister had ascended to the wide reading desk, which was a few feet, three or four at the least, from the long sofa on which at some great occasion, like an “installation,” as it was called, four or five reverend gentlemen might be seen seated together, while one or two more occupied chairs placed at the head of the two short Lights of stairs. Then with the boxes the deacons went each to one side of the church and began by presenting his box to the person at the inner end of the front pew, whom the long handle easily reached, then drawing it back to the next, and then to the next, until each occupant had made a deposit; and unless they were children, woe betide those who did not put a coin or a bill in it, for the deacon waited so long and patiently that people in the other pews took note of the one who failed to make his or her contribution. After visiting all the pews in the body of the church in this manner, the deacons returned up the aisles, presenting the boxes, which a wag of a later day called “cornpoppers,” to those in the wall-pews, and after the last ones had been visited, took them to the communion table, upon which they were placed with great solemnity, and the deacons returned to their own places, locking themselves carefully into their pews, after the manner of all the other worshippers, with the brass button which was on the outside of the door. But this was long after Deacon Lawrence’s day, though it was in the same building in which he was given his office. We must go back to him, as he said, “That is the question” to Mr. Parker.

“Of course my farm is run out,” he went on, “and my tools have rusted. I left my horse with one of the neighbors, who agreed to look after my cow, and the house was not fit for Susanna and the baby; but I have saved up my pay, and I will go to Groton tomorrow and look about for a proper house for them. Perhaps I can exchange my farm there for a better one, with some cash in addition to it; for some of my men had farms which were carried on by their sons or brothers while they were away. Will you be ready to leave your home here, Susanna, as soon as I can find one in Groton?”

“My home is wherever you think it best to make it, Sam,” was the answer, and in due time the young couple, with their baby and Oliver Wentworth, began their housekeeping on a pleasant old farm, in a comfortable dwelling. There was land enough to enable the captain to go on in the peaceful career which he had laid out for himself as a boy, and there his second son, Samuel, was born, in 1781. A third son was born in 1783, and baptized William, and in 1786 a fourth one came and received his grandfather’s name of Amos; and in them all Oliver Wentworth felt the deepest interest, while for them all he had the strongest affection. He doubtless mourned most sincerely, too, when Samuel, the second ;son, — and the only one of the minute-man’s sons who did not outlive boyhood, — died.

Oliver,” said Major Lawrence one day, “do you know how to make shoes 1”

“Yes,” replied Oliver; “I worked in a shoe-shop quite a spell afore mother died.”

“Well,” said the major, “I am thinking that if my children are to have shoes, I shall have to make them myself. I had to go to so much expense to stock the farm with tools and cattle, to say nothing of horse and vehicles, that I haven’t made much headway.”

“I can make ‘em some, if you’ll git the hides,” responded Oliver; “but they won’t be very harnsome ones.

“I expect to help you,” said Major Lawrence. “I want you to show me how, Oliver. I can get the bides, and you must tell me what else we shall need.”

“Lasts,” replied Oliver, “and awls and hammers, and lapstones, and luther aprons, with some coarse cloth for linin’s, and shoe-thread, and I guess that’s about all. I k’n make the wax and pegs myself.”

“Very well,” said the major. “Then I’ll be a shoemaker in the winter, Oliver, and you can help me. We shall have to have lasts for all the boys, and I guess I’ll  have to make my own boots, if not shoes for Mrs. Lawrence.”

And after that nearly all the shoes worn by the former minute-man’s family, and even some of those worn by his neighbor’s children, were made by him and his devoted assistant until the close of the century, if not later. In 1788 a girl arrived, and was baptized Susanna for her mother; and then Major Lawrence began to think that the house in which they lived was hardly adapted to the needs of his family. “Susanna,” he said one day, “this place has done very well so long as we had only boys, but if we are going down the line with a company of girls, it strikes me that we might do better.”

“Yes, Samuel,” replied Mrs. Lawrence, who, after having a son Sam, had begun calling her husband by the more dignified full name.

“I was thinking,” went on Major Lawrence, “of the old Bolter place, where there are already so many fine trees. How would you like to live there? It is in another district, but the school is close by, and the children will have a long walk to go to school from here.”

“Yes, Samuel,” answered Mrs. Lawrence; “I have often thought of all you say, but can we afford to build?”

“Yes,” replied the major; “I have been saving up all I could with that in my mind. Everybody doesn’t care as much for trees as we do, and that place is too good for some of the farmers to be able to buy it, and too far from the village for the people who could afford it. If you say so, I will make an offer for it, and begin to plan for a new house, so that we may sell this place as soon as possible. I shall build a shoe-shop in connection with it, too, so that Oliver and I can have a fire in the winter, and not need to be in your way in the house.”

So the land was bought and the house built, and the family, consisting of parents and children, Oliver Wentworth and a capable colored woman named Maria Hazard, who, though young, was strong and willing, moved into it, greatly to the comfort and convenience of all concerned; for it was well built, with fine cellar, dairy, and outhouses, besides accommodation for future sons and daughters. One of the latter, who was afterward my informant regarding many of the facts contained in this narrative, appeared on the scene in 1790, and was baptized Mary. She told me that her father never interfered with the discipline of his children, saying that their mother understood such things better than he did, and that he was always an affectionate father, as well as an indulgent one so far as his means would allow. The children, as fast as they were old enough, began attending the district school, and from that went to the Academy, which he bad himself been instrumental in establishing on a safe basis; but he must often have felt harassed with his small means and growing family. In 1792 a fifth son was born, and received his grandmother Lawrence’s maiden name of Abbott. In 1796 a third daughter was born, and was baptized Eliza, and, in i8oz, came a sixth son, who was named Samuel, the first Samuel having died early, as has been stated. At this time Major Lawrence’s son Luther had graduated from Harvard College, and was a handsome young man, with the dignified stature and bearing of his mother, as well as the fair skin and fine large blue eyes of both parents. Indeed, all the five Sons and two daughters, who lived until the writer’s day, were considered exceptionally fine looking, and had what some called “the Lawrence blue eye,” which was transmitted to their descendants, of whom I have known personally three generations. All but two of the minute-man’s children were tall and finely proportioned, and those two, Mr. Amos Lawrence, and the daughter, Mrs. Mary Lawrence, whom I knew best, and who was born in 1790, were well proportioned, though one was below the medium height for a man, and the other below that for a woman. Both had remarkably fine profiles, and were so full of interest in their kind that their expression was most attractive.


“Father,” said Mr. Luther Lawrence, after returning from his last year in college, “I have made up my mind to study law with Hon. Timothy Bigelow, if you do not object.”

“We will talk it over, — your mother and I,” replied the major, who was still busy making shoes for his children in the winter, though his eldest son had been promoted to city-made boots and clothing; and the result was that the young man went into Mr. Bigelow’s law office, from which in due time he moved into one of his own. Not long after opening his own office, he built a nice old colonial house which still exists in Groton, though since his day it has been considered large enough to accommodate two families. But Major Lawrence could not afford to send another san through college, though, as has been said, both sons and daughters received the education gained in Groton Academy, and he was probably not sorry that his third son, Mr. William Lawrence, had a taste for farming, and was contented to assist him on the farm after leaving the Academy, in or near 1800. Mr. Amos Lawrence, the next in age, said, when it was his turn to graduate from an academic course, —

“Father, I think I’ll go into mercantile life, if you can get Mr. Brazer to take me into his store.”

“Ask your mother what she says, Amos,” was the reply. After saying, “I hope you have considered the dangers of such a life, Amos, and will seek higher counsel than mine,” she put nothing in the way of the fulfillment of his wishes. Mr. Brazer’s store was the most important one for miles around, and numbered among its customers people from many of the surrounding towns, and for some time the young man remained there; but his fellow-clerks, of whom there were five, were not altogether congenial, so with a very small sum of money in his pocket he decided to seek employment in the city, where he secured a situation as clerk with a firm with whom Mr. Brazer, who was ready to give him a good character for honesty, sobriety, industry, and capacity, had dealings frequently. There he discharged his duties with care and fidelity until invited to become a partner in the firm, when he announced his intention of going into business for himself, which be did. He was very successful, partly, no doubt, because he was true to the teachings of his father and mother, and gave away a certain portion of his income (much more than the Jewish tenth) yearly, besides adding in various ways to the comfort of his parents, so that Major Lawrence could say with truth, “Well, Susanna, we are surely very much blessed in our children.”

In 1804 or 1805 Mr. Luther Lawrence, the lawyer, married the sister of the Hon. Timothy Bigelow, with whom he bad studied for his profession, and built his house in Groton, as has been stated already, where he lived for some years before removing to become an honored resident of a city of which he was mayor at the time of his death, when he left a widow and at least two daughters. A son and, I think, three other children had died before that date, which was 1839. At the time of his marriage the little shoe-shop adjoining the L of his father’s house was still used by the minute-man and Oliver in the winter, and there were various little shelves existing in it when the writer was a child, on which were little blocks of wood, sawn transversely from a hardwood stick, which had been put there more than forty years before by either Major Lawrence or Oliver, to dry for shoe-pegs. I have heard that the neighbors said “Major Lawrence’s pegs never drop out because be dries them so thoroughly before he uses them.” But besides these little blocks and various other relics of shoemaking, — lasts, hammers, awls, etc., — the shop contained all the old iron that had accumulated in the household for as long a time as the shoe pegs had lain there, — old gridirons, candlesticks, pots and kettles, wheel-tires, an old harrow and tools of various sorts, antiquated ploughshares, besides out-of-date lamps and a variety of old tin-ware, and it was for the purpose of ferreting out an old candlestick of brass or iron that the old lady who had been a baby in 1790 took me into the shop with her. I had often v sat on one of the steps leading up to the door and wished that I could see inside, that being the only’ place so locked from intrusion, apparently; and as I had seen something, I cannot now recall what, but something that had pleased my childish fancy, which some one said had been “rummaged out of the shop,” I had an idea that it was a sort of Arabian Nights cavern, and was much disappointed to find it only a rubbish room.

In 1811, Major Lawrence’s son Amos was married to a city-bred young lady, whose father wore a powdered wig and silver knee-buckles, with the finest of coats and knee breeches, an embroidered waistcoat, and lace ruffles, while her mother wore a high crepe turban and a handsome brocade dress over a satin petticoat with a hoop, or something that made her skirt very bouffant. I have often seen their portraits, owned by one of their grandsons. This grandson, when old and infirm, used often to sit for hours listening to his reader, with his right leg crossed over the left, holding the right ankle in his hand, exactly as his grandfather was painted, and as it had been the older man’s habit to sit, according to the statement of the old lady, Mary Lawrence Woodbury, who gave me so much of the foregoing information. In fact, it was she who introduced her brother to the lady whom he afterward married; for the city girl, Miss Sarah Richards, had been one of her schoolmates in Groton Academy, having, I think, boarded in the family of the pastor of the church. It was in 1811 or early in 1812, that two young men came one day to see Major Lawrence, who was at that time called Deacon. Lawrence. They bad been, for some time studying law with his son Luther, and had previously been fellow townsmen and later classmates in college, and the elder one went at once to the point for which he had come.

“Deacon Lawrence,” he said, “I came to ask you if I may have your daughter Susanna.”

“My Susanna!” exclaimed the deacon in astonishment. “Why, she’s not — Why, I don’t want to get rid of her!”

“No, sir,” replied the young suitor, “but I am ready to start as a lawyer, and I love Miss Susanna. Will you give her to me?”

“I’ll ask her mother,” replied Deacon Lawrence. She is the one to say.

And then the other young man spoke. He was a few weeks younger than the first speaker, and he said:

“And I came to ask you for Miss Mary, Deacon Lawrence. I have been for a long time looking forward to asking you. I fell in love with her when I first heard her and Miss Susanna sing in church. They are both fine singers, Deacon Lawrence.”

“Yes, yes,” replied the amazed father, “but I haven’t thought them old enough to marry yet awhile. To be sure Mary is as old as her mother was when I married her, and Susanna is older! Well, I’ll ask their mother and let you know. My son Luther thinks a great deal of you, and we haven’t any fault to find with either of you.”

And the result was that at as speedy a date as possible both the young ladies were engaged. I can well believe that a lover of music might have been attracted by their voices, for it was recorded that a distinguished man of that day wrote later to a friend that Deacon Lawrence’s two older daughters were fine singers. The other daughter may have had a musical ear, but I never heard of her giving it vocal expression, which does not prove that she never did. If the daughter Mary sang as well for a young girl as she did for a lady of sixty, her voice must have been remarkable; for at that period and even later it was true and clear and sweet, not only in such hymns as —

“Hush, my dear, lie still and slumber!

Holy angels guard thy bed.

Heavenly blessings without number

Gently fall upon thy head.”


“When I can read my title clear

To mansions in the skies,

I’ll bid farewell to every tear,

And wipe my weeping eyes,”

which she sang to an old revival tune that involved the repetition of the third line, when the fourth line came again, and then the words

“Oh! that will be joyful, joyful, joyful,

Oh! that will be joyful, when we meet to part no more,

When we meet to part no more,

On Canaan’s happy shore;

T’is there we meet at Jesus’ feet

When we meet to part no more;”

which two hymns I often heard her sing through to her infant grandchildren; not only in these but in some spirited hunting songs which I never heard sung by any one else, her voice was well worth hearing. The songs were as follows:

The dusky night rides down the sky,

And ushers in the morn.

The hounds all join the jovial cry,

The hounds all join the jovial cry,

And the huntsman winds his horn.

Then a-hunting we will go,

A-hunting we will go,

A-hunting we will go to-day,

A-hunting we will go.

“The wife about her husband throws

Her arms, to make him stay.

‘My dear, it rains, it hails, It blows,

My dear, it rains, it hails, It blows,

You must not go to-day.’

But a-hunting we will go,

A-hunting we will go,

A-hunting we will go to-day,

A-hunting we will go.

“Sly Reynard now like lightning flies,

And speeds across the vale.

But when the hounds too near he spies,

But when the hounds too near he spies,

He drops his bushy tall.

Then a-hunting we will go.

A-hunting we will go,

A-hunting we will go today,

A-hunting we will go.

“Poor Reynard now to faintness worn,

In terror ceases flight.

And happy homeward we return,

And happy homeward we return,

To feast away the night

And a-feasting we will go,

A-feasting we will go,

A-feasting we will go to-night,

A-feasting we will go.”

The next one was, though. I recall but one verse:

“At dawn Aurora gaily bnaks,

In all her proud attire,

Majestic o’er the grassy lakes

Reflecting liquid fire.

All Nature smiles to usher in

The blushing Queen of Morn,

And huntsmen with the day begin,

To wind the mellow horn,

The mellow horn, the mellow horn,

And huntsmen with the day begin

To wind the mellow horn.”

A third was:

“A southerly wind and a cloudy sky

Proclaim It a hunting morning.

Before the sun rises, away we’ll fly,

Dull sleep and a drowsy bed scorning.

To horse, my brave lads, and away!

Bright Phoebus the hills is adorning.

The face of all Nature looks gay,

‘T is a beautiful scent-laying morning.

Hark I Hark! Forward!

Tantara, tantara, tantara!

Hark! Hark! Forward!

Tantara, tantara, tantra!’”

And all were sung with the spirit of a young girl

Not long after the engagement of their two daughters came the heaviest blow that had ever fallen upon the minute-man and his wife; for the eldest one, Susanna, went to visit her brother, Amos Lawrence, at his city home, was taken suddenly and seriously ill, and died before they could be informed of her illness in time to reach her. It was a very severe shock to all the family; for she was, her sister Mary told me, much like their mother, and they all looked up to her as the eldest daughter. Perhaps Mary felt her death even more than the others, and it certainly produced a great change in her views of life and in her habits. The family had been a very hospitable one, and for the times a rather gay one, as so many good-looking young people were sure to be in demand, and Susanna and Mary, as well as their brothers, William and Abbott, and very possibly their lovers, had often helped to make up a merry party which drove to some neighboring town for a ball or smaller gathering. But after her sister’s death Mary preferred home to any such gayeties. Very soon, too, she had a trial of her own, to which only one other beside her older brothers had the key, and of which she never spoke to any one. The young lawyer to whom she was engaged, having in some way come into possession of land in one of the then Western States, wished to begin upon his legal career there, and expected her to go with him, which perhaps she might have done, as she was but a little over twenty- two, had not the advice of her older brothers led her to feel that, as the eldest living daughter, she had a duty to her mother, as well as to her lover. It seemed to them almost as much a cutting herself off from her parents as it would now if Australia, or at least Japan, were the country in question, and they all three said: “Father and mother are both nearly sixty years old, and Eliza is scarcely more than a child. You would regret very much going so far away from home, if anything should happen to either of them,” and as her lover felt that he could not view the case with their eyes, her engagement was, by mutual consent, broken. No one of the next generation had ever heard of this engagement until one of the younger members of it, singularly enough, married a son of the rejected lover, and through her husband’s father, who before his death put her in possession of some old letters, learned not only of that, but that after be had married and become a widower, he offered himself to her again years later, when she was a widow with one child. She had always disliked the idea of widows who had children marrying a second time, especially when, as in this case, there were children on the other side, and she refused him. When after having heard from the lady. mentioned above the account of her early engagement, the writer asked her a meaningly leading question about a book with his name in it in her library, though she blushed like a girl, she answered as briefly as possible, which looked as if she had not altogether outgrown her early romance. Before her marriage she had refused another offer from a gentleman who was later a very prominent man in his native State, as her first lover became in his own State and in Washington also. She was said to have been remarkably good at repartee, which usually makes a pretty girl attractive, and though I was told that when young her repartees were sometimes mixed with sarcasm, she had either overcome or outgrown it before I knew her. She was a bright, alert, and kind-hearted old lady, a great reader, too, enjoying such books as Macaulay’s Essays and histories  and Prescott’s works, with Irving’s “Life of Washington,” much more than she did stories, though she was familiar with the old-fashioned novels of Miss Austen, Miss Edgeworth, and Madame D’Arblay, and was an admirer of many of Sir Walter Scott’s works.

Within the next year or two another gap was made in the minute-man’s family circle by the departure of his son Abbott to go into business in the metropolis with his brother Amos, leaving but four of the nine children he had had, still in the homestead: two sons, one of them over thirty and the other about fourteen; and two daughters, aged respectively twenty-four and eighteen. But Amos had been so successful, and was moreover so thoroughly faithful to every smallest duty, as well as to the larger ones, that it was doubtless a constant source of thankfulness to his parents that his younger brother could be with him, instead of going to a stranger. Certain it is that the younger brother also showed remarkable capacity in business affairs, as well as in whatever he undertook, and was a power in his day. In 1819 he married a niece of his eldest brother’s wife, Miss Katharine Bigelow, daughter of Hon. Timothy Bigelow, before mentioned, and considered by every one an unusually “good match,” as the saying was, for any one.

The young lawyer who had been engaged to Miss Susanna Lawrence had been so much overcome by her death that he gave up his legal profession and studied for the ministry, going, after his ordination, to be settled over a small country parish at some distance from Groton; but he had always kept up by correspondence and otherwise his connection with Deacon Lawrence’s family, certainly with Mr. Luther Lawrence, and five years after his fiancée’s death he came to Groton for a visit. Either then or shortly afterward he found the younger daughter, Mary, who had given up his friend, so attractive, that he asked her to marry him, and as his parish was not so far from her parents that she could not go home easily in case of emergency, as her sister was now a grown woman, and, furthermore, as the experience of the past few years had deepened her own character, making her more thoughtful of the needs of others than she was at the time of her earlier romance, and more desirous to do something for the spread of religion, she accepted him after due consideration, was married in the late summer of 1818, and went to be the mistress of a small country parsonage, with only one young girl as assistant.

And then another sorrow fell upon the minute-man and his wife; for in the following spring a chaise arrived at their door, and in answer to the “Who ‘s there?” which Deacon Lawrence called from his chamber window, his daughter’s voice said, “It is Samuel [Rev. Samuel Woodbury] and I, father; Samuel is ill.” He hastened to admit them, but the minister, who had inherited, as people thought in that day, the seeds of consumption, was so worn out from the inroads it had made upon him that early in July he died in the house where ten months before he had been married, and where late in September his little daughter was born. His widow had no other home from that time until her death more than forty-one years later, for after the death of both her parents three of her brothers bought the estate, and three years after, one; seven years after, the second, and ten years after, the third, arranged by will that she should have a home there for life, if she wished, besides leaving her such large legacies that she was able to live in affluence. Her little girl, the only one of Deacon Lawrence’s granddaughters who ever passed much time in the house before his death, was a great pleasure and pet for both him and his wife, who were both nearing their threescore and ten years, he being sixty-five and Mrs. Lawrence sixty-four when she was born; and I remember hearing her say more than once that they were most gentle and affectionate grandparents, neither of them ever interfering with her mother’s methods of bringing her up, excepting that he would sometimes wish to give her at the table something that he considered a dainty, and if her mother objected, would respond, “Tut, tut, it will do her good, Mary,” though he fore-bore to proffer it again. As in one instance, at least, it was a bit of bacon, and her mother had to the end of her days a horror of every sort of fatty food, it is not strange that the little girl was not fed upon such dainty morsels, which would hardly have left her the beautiful, clear, red and white complexion shown in a portrait of her painted at sixteen by the same artist who painted those of her grandmother and her mother, a man quite noted at that day. This portrait she never liked herself; for she had, I have heard, a remarkably beautiful smile, which the painter desired to catch for his picture, to which end he told her some amusing stories, and paid her same audacious compliments, producing a result which most people admired, but which she and her mother also always declared to be unnatural. I have heard that she was considered a very handsome girl, not only in her native town, but by those who saw her at the homes of her uncles in the metropolis. When she was born, she was Deacon Lawrence’s tenth grandchild; as he already had three grandsons, — one being the son of his eldest son Luther, and the others Amos’s sons, aged respectively seven and a half and five and a half years; while Luther had had four daughters, one of whom died in infancy, Amos one, and Abbott one. In 1822 there were eleven grandchildren, another, a boy, having been born in Abbott’s household, and during that year William Lawrence, who had, soon after his brother Abbott’s marriage, left the farm and gone to Boston to become a successful merchant, married the only daughter of his partner in business, a rich man who was past sixty and willing to. have the business in younger hands.

In 1823 there was another grandson in Deacon Lawrence’s family line, for William’s first child was born. During that year Miss Eliza Lawrence, who must have been a strikingly handsome young woman, as she had perfectly regular features, large blue eyes, and wavy hair, with a tall and dignified form in her later years, was married to a very fine looking young man of old and aristocratic antecedents, whom she had met while visiting her brothers in the city, and the home family was reduced to the two old people and the widow and her little daughter; for the youngest son had some time previously left the nest to fit himself for a business life.

Oliver Wentworth was still one of the household, though growing old like his employers, and he felt a most affectionate interest in the rising generation of Lawrences. The sons of Mr. Amos Lawrence, and some of the other grandsons of Deacon Lawrence, always spoke of him and addressed him as Uncle Oliver in his later years, and gradually that became the name by which he was alluded to by many others of the minute-man’s descendants, who as long as he lived were in the habit of going to see him, and have a little chat with him about old times, whenever they were near enough.

There was also a colored woman, a descendant, or at least a connection of the Maria Hazard who had been in Mrs. Lawrence’s service in the early days of her housekeeping, who had been the nurse of the widowed Mary’s little daughter, and who remained in the family in some one capacity or another for several years. Her brother, whom the writer remembers as the oldest negro she ever saw, and a most respectable man, who was as regularly in a seat in one of the wall-pews at the right-hand side of the pulpit as the minister was in his place in the pulpit itself, was, so far back as 1823, often called upon for various services in the Lawrence household, and once saved a grandson of the Deacon’s — a somewhat venturesome little lad — from drowning, by jumping into the river on which the boy had gone out in a leaky boat, and swimming ashore with him. The victim of the accident, Amos Adams Lawrence, told me the circumstances himself, saying that at the time the reproofs which he. received from his grandparents and aunts made much more impression, upon him than did the fact that he, owed his life to the kind-hearted negro; but if that were so, be made up for it in later years, for he bought and gave to Peter Hazard the little farm which he (Peter) had hired and become attached to, and when Peter was too old to be able to work it, sent a sum of money regularly to a responsible person in Groton, to be used for Peter’s support until the old colored man died at the age of one hundred years. It was questioned by some of the residents of the town whether Peter would have been so regular an attendant at public worship had it not been that his benefactor, in his desire to make up to him for the lack of helpful surroundings, kept Mrs. Joshua Green (Deacon Lawrence’s youngest daughter, who had, after living for a few years in the interior of the State, come to occupy a pleasant house in Groton, which was in 1850, or thereabouts, replaced by a more convenient and handsomer one) supplied with tobacco, of which she was instructed to give Peter a certain amount whenever he had been at church and came to claim it after the services were over. However that may have been, his well dressed and well-built figure was seldom missing in its accustomed seat when I attended what was called the Orthodox Church in Groton; but as Mrs. Green was also a most charitable person, and doubtless supplemented her nephew’s gift with tea, sugar, and even with more substantial things, as I have heard she did, it must have been a powerful addition to the attraction of his seat in the meeting-house. His wife was included in his benefactor’s bounty, as his support and hers as well were considered in its amount, and both Mrs. Green and Mrs. Woodbury were in the habit of visiting them, and keeping their nephew informed regarding them, though when he passed a day in Groton he always went himself to see him. Peter’s sister, Lucy Hazard, once told the little girl whose nurse she had been, and who repeated it to me herself, that she would thankfully be skinned alive if she could only turn white by the means; which shows how much unhappiness Noah’s second son was probably accountable for.

The minute-man lived on his quiet, useful life, beloved and respected by every one, and helping, so far as lay in his power, every good cause, until the year 1827, when he had an attack of apoplexy or paralysis,—I think the latter, as his illness was a brief one, — and he died in November of that year, at the age of a little over seventy-three years and six months. He had lived to see all his five sons successful and honored in their various positions; three of them were on the way to be ranked among the richest men of their day, and one of them was destined to serve his country in a high office; while there was not one of his children who could not count “hosts of friends” among the cultured and the educated, the rich and the poor, the honored and the unknown. What wonder if he said to the wife who had shared his joys and his sorrows, his cares and his successes, for within a few months of half a century, “Susanna, we have had the best blessings of this world, and we will look forward to sharing some of those which the next can give.” He rested from his labors, and his works followed him. After his death his sons felt that it was not right for their mother and sister to have the care of Oliver in his old age, especially as he had begun to be sadly afflicted with rheumatism. As he himself expressed it, when asked by people in the town, “How are you nowadays?” “I’m pretty well as to my bodily health, but I’m most eat up with the rheumatism So they built a convenient little house for him on the grounds and fronting the road, as did the homestead, and gave the rent of it to a respectable widow with three daughters, with the understanding that he was to have the best of care. That he received it there is no reason for doubting, and there until his death, which took place at the age of ninety. five, Deacon Lawrence’s children, grandchildren, and even some of his great-grandchildren, often visited him. I myself saw him more than once in the pleasant room which had been designed especially for his own use; but at that time he was so infirm that if I had asked him any questions as to the past he would hardly have -been able to give me much information, and I can only remember that he said, “So Miss Woodbury said you might come to see me! Well, well.”

As I have said so much about this one of Deacon Lawrence’s family, Mrs. Mary Lawrence Woodbury, whom I knew best, it seems right to add something about those of his other children whom I remember. Mr. Luther Lawrence died before I was born; but I recall perfectly seeing his widow in 1849, at which time I was five years old and living in Groton, where she came with Mrs. Woodbury to call on my mother, who had been an intimate friend of a daughter of hers, whose death had occurred a year or so before. She won my heart by having brought me an exquisite little fan, with carved ivory sticks and a delicate gilt pattern on a white ground for the fan part, and, though I was not allowed to use it, excepting on the very infrequent occasion of a children’s party, I was exceedingly proud of it. I recall her as tall, rather portly, dressed in the deepest black I had ever seen, with a long crêpe veil. Mrs. Woodbury always wore black, but it never impressed me as did Mrs. Luther Lawrence’s. Mr. William Lawrence I can just remember, though I fear I should have no recollection of his handsome, kindly face, had it not been for a portrait and bust seen later. His figure I seem to see perfectly as it looked when I was between three and four years old, nearer three than four. He had asked my parents to bring my older brother and myself to see a procession which was to pass his house, fronting Boston Common, and on our way thither we had stopped to call on a friend of my mother’s who had a little boy a few months younger than my five and one-half year old brother. This boy was in his nursery, playing with a large Noah’s ark, which he showed to us, and when we left he very politely presented me with a green bird which had attracted my fancy. I can see it now, stiff and unshapely and of a peculiar shade of green which I do not think any bird’s plumage ever exhibited, but at the time I thought it beautiful, and when, as I sat in my mother’s lap in Mr. William Lawrence’s window, watching the procession, with my hands on the sill, it suddenly slipped from my’ grasp and fell into the little grassy yard, enclosed with an iron fence, below, I was quite heartbroken. I can remember crying, and that my mother tried to hush me, and I can distinctly recall Mr. Lawrence’s figure as he climbed over the iron railing which ran up the steps, and then climbed back again with the little bird. He was then sixty-six years old, and though I did not until I was older know that all those who saw him were much distressed that a man of his years, and as heavy as he was, should attempt such a feat, I always loved him from that day. I do not think I ever saw him again, for he died in the following year; but even a child of the age I had reached remembers such a kindly act. His widow I remember seeing once afterward, when I may have been seven or eight years old, and I recall a gentle, sweet-faced woman; but as she was delicate, her companion devoted herself to me while my father talked with her. This companion, a handsome young lady, whose father, a rich and prominent Southerner in his lifetime, had died, leaving two accomplished daughters thrown upon their own resources, I always recalled with great regard; for she. not only gave me some very delicious candies on that occasion, but she more than once sent some boxes of confectionery to my brother and myself, and I remember being greatly pleased when some time later I was told that she was engaged to be married to a cousin of my mother’s.

Mr. Amos Lawrence I remember seeing once or twice before his death in 1852, but he was an invalid at that time. Both my brother and I had to thank him for more than one entertaining book in our juvenile library. His widow I saw in 1864, when she was so gratified by a spontaneous call which I paid her, which she said she should not have expected from a young girl not quite out of her teens, that she gave me some money with the request that I would buy a handsome hand bag, as she was an invalid and could not go out to select it. She was not Mr. Lawrence’s first wife, but his children all respected her and treated her as they would have treated their own mother, who had died when the eldest was a boy of but seven years old. She died in the late fall of 1866.

The next one to Mrs. Woodbury, of Deacon Lawrence’s children, Mr. Abbott, was, I believe, the handsomest one of all, and certainly I never saw a man of his age as handsome as he was in 1854, when I saw him last. Even at ten years of age, he struck me as a very remarkable looking man, with his beautifully cut features, which, however, had nothing of effeminacy about them, his fine eyes, smooth face, well- proportioned figure, and elegant manners. He had then but lately returned from a high diplomatic position in Europe. His wife I saw once or twice after his death, and both my brother and I had a number of things which were proofs of her thoughtfulness of others. Among other things there were a small book; with several illustrations in colors of a “Lord Mayor’s Show” which she had witnessed in London, and in which there were Beef-eaters and Highlanders, and others, so accurately depicted, that I at once recognized one of the former (who admitted me with some friends to the Tower in 1885), and a “Thumb Bible,” a tiny, book .about two. Inches square with an embossed leather binding and silver clasp. This little book contained a verse from every book in the Bible, each one being put down in its order, — Genesis, Exodus, etc. I was told by an English lady in 1895 that it would command a high  price in England then; for there had never been but  the one edition, which was gotten up by an enterprising bookseller just after America’s celebrated dwarf,  Tom Thumb, had paid his first (and last, I think)  visit to England, and had been presented by Queen  Victoria with the little coach and two white ponies  with which he entered Groton in 1850, a little before Mrs. Abbot Lawrence sent from London by mail  the two books mentioned above.

Mrs. Joshua Green comes next in order to Mr. Abbott Lawrence. As I have said, she was a very handsome woman, and after her death I was told that in her youth her band and arm were considered particularly beautiful, both in shape and proportion. I know that her bands were beautiful, even in old age, and I admired her very much. Her gifts to me were apt to be flowers, of which even as a child I was very fond; but there were few with whom she had even a speaking acquaintance who could not have told of some kindness received from her. Her husband was  always more or less of an invalid, but he was a strikingly fine looking man till the close of his life, or  until I saw him last in 1870, after which time I never  saw Mrs. Green, who died in 1874. Mr. Samuel Lawrence, the last of the minute-man’s children, died in 1880, in his eightieth year. He was also a very fine looking man, and one of the tallest of the brothers. One of his daughters and I had been playmates and warm friends as children; but I did not see her for seventeen years, until, in 1872, a cousin, or rather a second cousin, of mine went to live in the place where Mr. Samuel Lawrence soon after took a house, and in the spring of 1874 I was invited to visit my old playmate. I had always heard that Mr. Lawrence had a peculiarly winning manner, and a power of attracting people to him, and one could not be in the house with him without becoming aware of it. Genial and affectionate, unselfish, and with a cheerfulness that had borne up against business disappointments, as well as other personal trials, it was a delight to talk with him, and to witness the respect in which he was held by the residents of the pretty country town in which he had come to end his days, and apart from his unvarying kindness to myself there were many things which drew out my respect and affection. I recall, for one thing, that he was late for dinner one Sunday, a most unusual thing with him, for he was, and liked to have others, perfectly punctual. Upon coming in after the meal had been some time under way, he answered his wife’s remark that she should have been anxious about him in a few moments, with, “You see I wanted to be sure that that little Comstock girl was not seriously ill, and it was farther than I thought.” The little girl in question — the daughter of a man who owned a saw-mill in the place — had been faint and her parents took her out of church and did not return, so that old gentleman of nearly seventy-four had walked a long distance: to see about her. I can only wish that the minute-man might have lived to see this son’s beautiful wife, the only one of those who married into his family whom he did not know; but Mr. Lawrence did not marry as early as most of his brothers and sisters did. In 1833 he married a Baltimore lady (Miss Alison Turnbull) of a little over twenty, who was the light of his eyes and the joy of his heart for almost fifty years. Lovely in face and character, accomplished and winning, she made innumerable admirers in her Northern home, which she gave up bravely to share her husband’s misfortunes when a sudden shock overthrew his business; and in a smaller sphere she won the love and admiration of all, and my every recollection of her is of a most beautiful woman, a tender and devoted wife, a loving and sympathetic mother, and a bright, entertaining friend, while the latter part of my acquaintance with her gave me an insight into the deep religious principle which had sustained her through more trials than fall to the lot of most.

I might go on to relate pleasant things about the grandchildren and two other generations of descendants of the minute-man, and their husbands and wives, but they numbered so many that I must refrain, merely stating that his lineal descendants in 1844, when his widow was still living, were forty-five, while those who had married into the family were fourteen. In 1889 the former had increased to one hundred and seventy, and the latter to fifty-one, there being seventy-two of his great-great-grandchildren. His faithful wife died in 1845, having outlived him eighteen years, so that she was in her ninetieth year. Her strongest wish, at her life’s close, was that her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren should serve the same Master who had been hers and her husband’s, and surely they had every right to arise and call her blessed.”


Susanna Lawrence.  Oil on canvas. Unknown artist and date.


[1] Under this title is here given a story of Major Samuel Lawrence and the members of his family.—Mary Fosdick

[2] Samuel Lawrence was a corporal at the time of the Lexington alarm, and by successive promotions attained the rank of major. —Mary Fosdick

[3] Whom he would employ himself as soon as he had a farm of his own.—Mary Fosdick

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