- Written by Beth Jeffrey
- Drawing by Julie Stone.
- Colonel John Lawrence, the son of William and Ann Barrett
Lawrence, was born in Reading, Berkshire, England, the third of six children. The family
left England by board in 1845 and settled in Union, Canada, leaving there in 1864 to
settle on a farm in Antrim Township, Michigan.
John Lawrence came to Dakota Territory in 1858 and became one of the first settlers in
Sioux Falls. In the early 1860s, John became politically active when he moved to Yankton,
which he represented as a Dakota Territorial Legislator in 1863 and 1864. In 1868 he was
appointed Superintendent of the Sioux City-Fort Randall Wagon Road. He continued to
actively involved in politics and in 1872 and 1874 served as a member of the Dakota
Terrirotial Legislative Council. Later he held office of Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of
Representatives in Washington, D.C., and also served as Deputy United States Marshall of
Dakota. It was during service on the staff of Governor Faulk that Lawrence was given the
honorary title of "Colonel". It is unknown if Lawrence actually served in the
In April, 1877, Colonel John Lawrence came to the Black Hills as County Treasurer through
political appointment by Governor Pennington. At that time, all county positions were
filled by appointment. However, because so many people objected to political appointments,
elections were initiated so the people could select the various Lawrence County officers.
In November, 1877, just eleven days before election, John Lawrence announced himself a
candidate for Lawrence County Treasurer after receiving a petition signed by over 200 area
citizens requesting his candidacy. With little time to actively campaign against two
powerful opponents, and the fact that his name did not even appear on the ballot in a
couple of voting precincts, including Spearfish, Lawrence was defeated in the general
election, therefore only searving as treasurer until January, 1878.
- Colonel John Lawrence died on April 26, 1889 in Deadwood of
liver and heart disease. Per his request, his body was wrapped in the american flag and
laid to rest in Mount Moriah Cemetary in the county that bears his name.
The Lawrence County Historical Society declared Saturday, July 19, 1986 as Colonel John
Lawrence Day. A memorial dedication was held at Mount Moriah Cemetary and a granite
monument was placed on his grave. A reception for visiting members of the Lawrence family
was held at the Carnegie Library following the dedication ceremony