LA GRANGE — Joseph Lawrence was 15 when he left North Carolina. He spent several years at Nashville, Tennessee before arriving in Texas, still a province of Mexico in 1835. He joined a group of volunteers at Washington-on-the-Brazos when William B. Travis sent messengers from San Antonio de Bexar seeking men to come and provide relief at the Alamo.
Most of the volunteers stopped at Gonzales where they joined Erastus “Deaf” Smith and Henry Wax Karnes on March 1, 1836 and were sent to San Antonio by Sam Houston, commander of the Texian Army.
“We started from Gonzales with 25 or 30 men under the leadership of Deaf Smith,” said Joseph. “We camped at the Powder House in sight of the city of San Antonio and waited for the signal gun to advance.”
“Hearing that the Fort had been taken, we retreated to Gonzales followed by Santa Anna and his army. At Gonzales we spread the news, and together with Sam Houston retreated toward the Brazos, crossing Lavaca County at Rocky Creek at the ‘Old Pine Tree Crossing,’ and the Navidad where the bridge on the Hallettsville and Schulenburg Road now stands,” Joseph said.
Lawrence transferred to Captain Henry Karnes’s company on March 20. That unit was part of the cavalry that joined the skirmish at San Jacinto on April 20, according to the Handbook of Texas Online.
Lawrence said: “Santa Anna came on, burning everything in his path. Houston, hearing from two Mexican prisoners that Santa Anna was cut off from the main army, resolved to crush him. The next day (April 20) we had several sharp skirmishes, and on the morning of the 21st of April, Deaf Smith chopped and burned the bridge over the river, cutting off the enemy’s retreat.”
“We were camped about a quarter of a mile from the enemy in some large timbers. There was a ridge between us obscuring our view,” Lawrence said. “About three o’clock in the evening we were ordered to parade. I was in the cavalry on the right wing. As we advanced, they did not see us until we were within a hundred yards from them, then they fired a terrific volley of small shots at us. But fortunately, they shot over our heads.”
“It seemed at one time that if one had held his hat two feet above his head, it would have caught 20 bullets or more. As we closed in and began the work of the two small cannons (The Twin Sisters) on them, they retreated in disorder towards the bridge. We followed the Mexican cavalry.”
Lawrence’s company chased the Mexican cavalry for 12 miles on the day of the battle of San Jacinto. The next day, he captured a Mexican soldier who was carrying William Travis’s saddle and blanket. The saddle sold for $20 and the blanket for $10.
Santa Anna had slipped away during the battle. Search parties were sent out the next morning. They found Santa Anna hiding in the grass, dirty, wet and dressed as a common soldier. They didn’t recognize him until one of the Mexican prisoners addressed him as “el president.” He was brought to Sam Houston, who was wounded and lying under an elm tree on the bank of the bayou.
“Santa Anna would have been killed, but he gave the Masonic sign and several men rushed up and defended him,” Lawrence said.
After receiving his discharge on June 28, Lawrence returned to Washington-on-the-Brazos. By 1837, he acquired some money and property. He received a bounty warrant for 320 acres in Fannin County and in 1853 he received 640 acres in Caldwell County for his services at San Jacinto.
Joseph Lawrence was born June 15, 1800 in Buncombe County, North Carolina. He married Mary Eleanor McGary on March 22, 1839. Mary was born March 4, 1820. They had 10 children: William Lawrence, Bettie Lawrence McCown, Cameron Lawrence, Margaret Lawrence Chrisman, Mary Lawrence Smith, Susan Lawrence Sewell, Martha Lawrence Brown, Joseph Lawrence Jr., and Jack Lawrence.
In 1848, Joseph established a plantation at the Old Pine Tree Crossings on Rocky Creek and actively overseeing his ranch and livestock for the next 40 years. He was founder of the Hallettsville Masonic Lodge in 1850. He died on October 9, 1897 at age 97. Mary McGary Lawrence was 44 when she died July 7, 1864. They are both buried at Andrews Chapel Cemetery at Hackberry in Lavaca County.
Joseph and Mary Lawrence’s son, William, born December 13, 1839, continued the family interest of farming and ranching near Hallettsville in Lavaca County. In his youth, education was rather practical. In August 1861, he was enrolled in the Confederate service and Captain Whitfield’s company. He reported for duty to Gen. Ben McCulloch, in Northern Arkansas. He fought at the Battle of Elkhorn, armed with a Mississippi rifle, which he had brought from Hallettsville.
In April 1864, an order was made that one man from each company should be furloughed home. When the hat came to William, he went to the bottom and pulled out a “furlough” slip. At the end of the furlough, he joined a company in Horton County for duty on the frontier.
After the war, William returned to his 560 acre estate and focused on his farm and ranch operation.
William Lawrence and Henrietta Josephine Coffey (1838-1916) were married May 11, 1864. Her father, William Saunders Coffey, was born and reared in Kentucky, but came from Jackson County, Alabama to Texas in 1844. He first settled in Titus County and came to Lavaca County in 1859.
William and Henrietta Lawrence had six children: Mary Ellen Lawrence (1865-1865), Ellen Lawrence Griffith (1869-1957), Willie L. Lawrence English (1872-1971), Lula A. Lawrence Simpson (1875-1962), William Leonard Lawrence (1877-1888), and Joseph Leon Lawrence (1877-1902).
William Lawrence was 86 when he died January 2, 1926. — email@example.com