1836: Anne (Townsend) Lawrence to Henry Effingham Lawrence

What Henry Effingham Lawrence might have looked like

This letter was written by Anne (Townsend) Lawrence (1786-1845) to her son, Henry Effingham Lawrence (1810-1875). Anne was married to Effingham Lawrence (1779-1850). In the letter, Anne mentions “our little Edward and Hannah.” These were her youngest children, Edward Arthur Lawrence (1832-1883) and Hannah Townsend Lawrence (1833-1898). Edward served in the New York State Senate during the Civil War. Anne also mentions another child, Lydia Ann Lawrence (1811-1879).

Anne’s son Henry was yet unmarried when this letter was written in 1836. He would marry Frances Emily Brashear in 1844 in Lexington, Kentucky.

Anne also mentions a sister named Lydia suffering from dropsy. This was probably her husband’s older sister, Lydia Lawrence (1773-1837) who died the following year. She also mentions Phebe Lawrence (1770-1839).

Stampless Cover


Addressed to Messers Lawrence & Legendre
Henry E. Lawrence, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bay Side
March 13, 1836
Sunday Evening

My Dear Son Henry E. Lawrence,

It is now some time since I have written to either of you and in the meantime we have had the satisfaction of receiving several letters from you both. Thy Father has wrote, and the little boys would write too, and Mary writes – and I think you must keep well apprised of our little proceedings at home. Robert, I trust will continue to write often. His father was very much pleased with his letter to him and I think it was excellent, breathing as it did in every line, his interest for home. And as practice makes perfect, he will soon be one of the first letter writers so long as he keeps the head and heart pure, for which he has had mother’s prayers.

William Augustus Muhlenberg

Edward Parker is still with us and very well, has grown quite fat. Mr. [William Augustus] Muhlenberg has procured a situation in the Jamaica Academy, to board with the principal teacher, Mr. [Henry] Onderdonk – Judge to Brother of New County – a very fine man and very capable. Edward set off to go there on Monday last but we heard the varioloid was there and Mr. Muhlenberg nor we would consent to his going. He will now stay with us until it has entirely subsided. He is in great hopes of seeing his parents next summer. I think they ought to come and see him. He says he is afraid he shall forget his mother’s looks.

We still have very cold weather for the season. Last week we had a thaw for a day or two and some thunder. Since then, very cold and freezing , which has made the traveling wretched — neither sleighing nor waggoning and impossible to do any thing at farming. Thy father was busy last week carting manure in sleighs from the heap at the water side that he was so fortunate as to get up last fall. And those two warm days, we had twenty loads of ice saw’d, and filled the Ice House to the brim. Our Bay is still firmly closed and only a narrow place in the Sound opened on Thursday last so the vessels passed. We all feel tired of these Icy fetters, as our snow all fell with rain and sleet, so that our land at present is a glaze of ice, and the boys say they can ride down hill or skate all over the farm.

As to farms, the principal thing doing with them is changing owners. Thy father, I believe, wrote to Robert that he had purchased the first part of Dewlett’s Farm that was offered for sale, and is now expecting to buy the mill. The old place at the head of the Bay belonging to the Bourn’s is offered for sale for 15000 dollars, 240 acres of land. Noonan’s was offered at auction last week but did not sell. N. Landford has bought Joseph Dillitt’s Farm adjoining his place to make his elegant square, and what thy father will do there is no knowing.

The turnpike will be commenced as soon as the frost is out of the ground, and a Bill is before the House to extend it to Huntington – which will pass they say without doubt.

Thy father informed thee I had been to New York where the good sleighing was an inducement, and my friends were very anxious to have me, and I can truly say it was gratifying to us all. Since I left, Lydia and Caroline have had a large party for the Townsends as they attended the wedding and the parties afterwards. When I was down, Aunt Alice was so polite as to invite all my old friends to meet me there, with many more, had a fine supper and I was not well enough that night to go as I had been riding in the morning and the constant pitching of the sleigh caused me to be the same as sea sick. That, however, was soon relieved.

View of the “burnt district” following the December 1835 Fire in NYC

Cousin T. B. Lawrence feels pretty rich, I expect, this Spring as his Manhattan Ville Estate is rising in value so rapidly and the lucky old gentleman owning so much real estate, lost nothing by the fire worth naming. The citizens of New York do not appear to be much injured by the fire as the lots in the burnt district sell for more than they did before the stores were burnt. My cousins T & E Townsend bought two lots for which they gave Sixty Six Thousand Dollars. Uncle Ob_ Townsend thinks the boys are crazy. Thy Uncle Edward seems in good spirits and has started again with his store full, and every thing they say indicates a great season of business as peace and plenty crown the land, and strange as it is, that our country can afford to pay for imported grain such as rye, and oats, and we so many millions of uncultivated land. But the love of making money rapidly prevents our young men becoming cultivators of the soil.

Aunt Ann and Esther spent last week with us. They both made many kind enquires after my absent sons. Esther has not been in New York but on a short visit this winter, Phebe Lawrence the same, Harriet not at all. Phebe ____ a little time only from home – Sally and Lydia Townsend most of their time home. The girls have enjoyed themselves more in the country as there have been no parties in the city and sleighing so fine with up. But I do not hear of any serious country beaus, alas poor girls their day is over I am afraid.

I drank tea with Mary Frames’ family last week – what fine girls they are too. Thomas Frames has gone to St. Thomas – not in very strong health. The spoke of you both with much interest. Poor Benjamin they said loved Robert, and often spoke of him when sick – died perfectly resigned to her early separation from this world.

Our family’s around are all in good health with the exception of sister Lydia who is so poorly as to give up all thoughts of going to housekeeping. Her complaints are dropsical and I am afraid our tardy Spring weather will put her back so much that she will never rally to her usual state of health. Thy sister Lydia and dear little Frederick are both in excellent health this winter. He talks all the time, is extremely active, and interesting, very fond of me, and wants to hear about Bay Side, the poney and ever thing around us. If I miss part of the story, he stops till I repeat the whole. Come Lary, get the Uncle Henry’s poney, put the saddle on with the bridle, and set little Fredy on – and if I don’t name the whip, he says, “Grandmama, where’s the whip for Fredy to make the poney go?” He talks about Bobber and will not forget him – I know. Lydia has got a little image on her mantle – a man playing on a flute or reed. He calls Bobber ____________ so he does every thing he sees with music on the streets, and he shews the same fine ear for music. He can sing and _____ the tune of these two lines – “When the Hunter, oer the Mountains” – Robert will recollect it. He calls his grandfather here Grand Papa and his other one John B whenever thy father’s present, which he did of his own accord, and I never saw any person so pleased as cousin John was with it.

Our little Edward and Hannah talk much of you every day. They are very fond of Edward Parker and think strange that he is here without their brother Robert as they both left last fall about the same time. Joseph and Cornelius are very steady at school and Mary too. Thy Aunt Abbey’s mouth is much swelled but not so much but she eats her usual quantum of oysters. Aunt Polly sends her love and is afraid sometimes she will never see you again as the cold weather is rather trying to her an old woman over eighty. But I think she is as well and active as ever.

Mary Thomas has gone to New York on a visit and I have a daughter of Jane Whaleys from Rum Point, tayloring and assisting in anything. She is named after me, Ann Smith, and is a very nice girl indeed. Tell Robert, Edward Parker talks much about him. I believe he thinks more of him than anybody else. He has become very much attached to father and me also – and appears like one of our own children. I hope he will like Jamaica as I do not wish him to go far from us. We children all send their love with mine and thy fathers to you both. Farewell and may you prosper in every good thing is the sincere prayer of your affectionate mother, — A.T.L.


The “Jamaica Academy” mentioned in the letter was actually the Union Hall Academy at Jamaica, New York, under the management of Henry Onderdonk.

There are references in the letter to the Great Fire of New York which occurred on December 16-17, 1835.

4 responses to “1836: Anne (Townsend) Lawrence to Henry Effingham Lawrence

  • William Effingham Lawrence, III

    Astonishing really to see a letter from an ancestor Anne Townsend Lawrence to my ancestor and multi-generational namesake Effingham Lawrence. Thank you for publishing a letter that the family will value for generations to come. – William Effingham Lawrence, III

  • William Effingham Lawrence, III

    As noted, Henry Effingham Lawrence, was the son of Effingham and Anne (or Anna) a 43 year resident of Louisiana (an interesting story in itself) d. 1875; and Hanna d. 1898 are interred at the Lawrence Burying Ground, Bayside LI, NY.

  • Robert Edmund Lawrence Jr.

    Yes indeed! Thank you for sharing this letter to my Grandfather’s (Robert Brashear Jr.) Grandfather Henry. I was just in Queens May 25th visiting the Willow Brook homestead in Flushing Meadows and over to our picnic ground/burial site on 216th street in Bayside where these ancestors are buried. This was my 5th visit from California since 1972. My Father and I have read many letters between Brashear and Bayside, some of which read like Gone With the Wind during the war times.

  • Bill

    Interesting. I too am a Californian – San Diego, although born in Rye, N.Y. My Grandfather William Effingham Lawrence, whom I never asked enough family questions of, was brought up in Toms River, N.J. with his brother Phillip. Apparently their father died and my great grandmother moved to relatives in NJ. I am surmising that the family lost the plantations and the family wealth at the conclusion of the Civil War. The plan in retirement is to research for the missing information. If you would like to share info, please let me know WELawrence3d@Gmail.com.

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