Amos Adams Lawrence

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Amos Adams Lawrence
Born (1814-07-31)July 31, 1814
Groton, Massachusetts
Died August 22, 1886(1886-08-22) (aged 72)
Education Groton Academy
Alma mater Harvard College
Occupation Merchant, abolitionist
Spouse(s) Sarah Elizabeth Appleton
(his death 1886)
Children William Lawrence
Parent(s) Amos Lawrence
Relatives Samuel Lawrence (grandfather)
Luther Lawrence (uncle)
Abbott Lawrence (uncle)

Amos Adams Lawrence (July 31, 1814 – August 22, 1886), the son of famed philanthropist Amos Lawrence, was a key figure in the United States abolition movement in the years leading up to the Civil War, and instrumental in the establishment of the University of Kansas and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Early life[edit]

Lawrence was born in Groton, Massachusetts on July 31, 1814.[1] or Boston[2][3] He was the son of Amos Lawrence, a merchant and philanthropist.[4]

His paternal grandfather was Samuel Lawrence, who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolutionary War who helped found Groton Academy.[5] His uncles included Luther Lawrence, who served as Mayor of Lowell, MA from 1838 to 1839, William Lawrence, and Abbott Lawrence, a U.S. Representative who served as United States Minister to Britain from 1849 to 1852.[6]

He was educated at Groton Academy (now Lawrence Academy at Groton) and Harvard College.[4]


Following his graduation from Harvard, he entered business for himself as a commission merchant and eventually became owner of Ipswich Mills, the largest producer of knit goods in the country located in Ipswich, Massachusetts.

In 1858 and 1860, he was the Whig candidate for governor of Massachusetts. In 1862, he raised a battalion of cavalry which became the 2nd Massachusetts Cavalry, of which Charles Russell Lowell was colonel.[7]

Abolition movement[edit]

Lawrence was radicalized by living through the Anthony Burns affair in the spring of 1854: "[W]e went to bed one night old fashioned, conservative, Compromise Union Whigs & waked up stark mad Abolitionists."[8] Lawrence became a key figure in the United States abolition movement in the years leading up to the Civil War, during which he contributed large amounts of capital to the Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Company and John Brown's abolitionism, played a major role in the crucial border state of Kansas (see Kansas-Nebraska Act), and also contributed to funds for the colonization of free negroes in Liberia.[7]

He contributed personally for the famous Sharp rifles, which, packed as “books” and “primers,” were shipped to Kansas and afterwards came into the hands of Brown. During the contest in Kansas, Lawrence wrote frequently to President Franklin Pierce (his mother's nephew) in behalf of the free-state settlers; and when John Brown was arrested he appealed to the governor of Virginia to secure for him a lawful trial. He repeatedly urged the necessity of offering no armed resistance to the Federal government, and he deplored Brown's fanaticism.[7]


Lawrence financed the founding of the University of Kansas (in the town of Lawrence, named after him); founded in 1847 a college that evolved into Lawrence University upon 5,000 acres (20 km2) of land that he purchased in 1844 in the Fox River Valley, which became Appleton, Wisconsin (named for his father-in-law); and contributed large sums of money to Harvard and the Episcopal Theological School (now Episcopal Divinity School), in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Lawrence Academy, and the Groton School.

His farm outside of Boston became the campus for Boston College and from 1857 to 1862, he was treasurer of Harvard College, and in 1879-1885 was an overseer.

Personal life[edit]

Lawrence, a devout member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Boston, met and married his future wife, Sarah Elizabeth Appleton (1822–1891), at the Church. Sarah, a daughter of U.S. Representative William Appleton and Mary Ann (née Cutler) Appleton, and was a relative of Samuel Appleton. He was a trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital and president of the Young Men's Benevolent Society. Together, Amos and Sarah were the parents of:

  • Amory Appleton Lawrence (1848–1912)
  • William Lawrence (1850–1941), who became the Bishop of Massachusetts.[9]
  • Susan Mason Lawrence (1852–1923)

He died at his summer resort in Nahant, Massachusetts.[2]


Amos Adams Lawrence is credited with founding an Episcopalian dynasty in Boston, Massachusetts, which prompted many Boston Brahmins to convert from Unitarianism. His son, William Lawrence, took an even more avid interest in the Episcopalian church, and became the long-time bishop of Massachusetts.[9]


Through his son William he was the grandfather of William Appleton Lawrence (1889–1968), who was elected 3rd Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Western Massachusetts,[10] and Frederic Cunningham Lawrence (1899–1989), who was elected suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.[9]


  1. ^ Lawrence, William Richards (ed.). 1855. Extracts from the Diary and Correspondence of the Late Amos Lawrence. Boston: Gould & Lincoln, p. 15.
  2. ^ a b "Amos Lawrence Dead". Lawrence Daily Journal. August 24, 1886. p. 1. Retrieved December 26, 2015 – via  open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ Lee, Laura (ed.). 2001. The Name's Familiar II. Gretna: Pelican, p. 208.
  4. ^ a b Hunt, A.N., Freeman (1858). Lives of American Merchants, Vol. II. New York: Derby & Jackson. pp. 223–386. Retrieved 16 March 2018. 
  5. ^ Butler, Caleb (1848). History of the Town of Groton: Including Pepperell and Shirley, from the First Grant of Groton Plantation in 1655. Press of T.R. Marvin. Retrieved 16 March 2018. 
  6. ^ "LAWRENCE, Abbott - Biographical Information". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 16 March 2018. 
  7. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Lawrence, Amos Adams". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 305. 
  8. ^ James M. McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (New York: Bantam Books, 1989), p. 120.
  9. ^ a b c "DR. LAWRENCE DIES; BISHOP EMERITUS; Successor to Phillips Brooks as Head of Massachusetts Episcopal Diocese Was 91 FOUNDED CHURCH PENSION Known for His Liberalism and Tolerance Urged Inquiry Into Sacco-Vanzetti Case". The New York Times. 7 November 1941. Retrieved 15 March 2018. 
  10. ^ "William Lawrence, Retired Bishop, 79". The New York Times. January 6, 1969. Retrieved 15 March 2018. 


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