Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Oman Hoar Lawrence (1846-1893)



   We continue our stay in Massachusetts for today's profile on Worcester County banker and legislator Oman Hoar Lawrence. Sporting an interesting name (and even more impressive cheek whiskers), Lawrence was a man of means in Fitchburg during the late 19th century but sadly that prominence didn't carry over into many historical resources, as I could locate very few biographical works that mentioned him at any great length!
   Oman Hoar Lawrence was born in Brimfield, Massachusetts on April 3, 1846, one of eight children born to David Brainard (1800-1864) and Sarah Atwood Lawrence (1811-1895). Nothing has been found in regards to Lawrence's early years in Massachusetts or education, and as an adolescent removed from Massachusetts to Galva, Illinois, where he found employment as an assistant cashier at the bank of L.W. Beck in that town. Lawrence also served as a notary public in Galva during his residency here, and is listed as such in the below snippet from the 1871 edition of Rummel's Illinois Hand Book.


  Oman Lawrence married on August 10, 1870 to Schenectady, New York native Josephine Van Dyke (born 1846) and they later became the parents of one son, Herbert Oman Lawrence (born 1871). Oman later removed from Illinois back to Massachusetts, eventually settling in the city of Fitchburg in the early 1870s. Shortly after his resettlement, he and his younger brother Albert Brainard established a successful hardware business in that city. After leaving this business around 1875, Oman Lawrence was named as assistant cashier of the National Bank of Northborough, succeeding George Seaver, who had died some weeks previously. The 1921 work Northborough History notes that Lawrence moved on to the post of cashier in July 1875 and served in this position until resigning in April 1878.
   After leaving Northborough, Lawrence became involved with the Wachusett National Bank of Fitchburg, which had been incorporated in 1875. Lawrence became President of this back in mid 1878 and served in this post until his death. During his presidency Lawrence also held important positions in a number of other corporations, including being a director of the Wachusett Electric Light Company and the vice presidency of the Newburgh, New York based Consumer's Gas Company. Being a successful businessman and banker in Worcester County also enabled Lawrence to purchase the palatial homestead below, located on Summer Street in Fitchburg.

From "Fitchburg, Massachusetts Past and Present" published in 1887.


   While experiencing remarkable success in both business and banking, Oman Lawrence also found distinction in public office as well, being elected to a term in the Massachusetts State House of Representatives in November 1882. Along with fellow Fitchburg native Harris C. Hartwell, Lawrence became one of two residents of that town elected to the legislature that year, and both took their seats in January 1883. During his brief term Lawrence was named to the Joint Standing Committee on Railroads, and a roster from the 1883 legislative session bearing his name is shown below.

From the 1883 Acts and Resolves of the Massachusetts General Court.

   After leaving the legislature in 1884 Oman Lawrence returned to his earlier banking interests in Fitchburg, while also continuing in his position as vice president of the Consumer's Gas Company of Newburgh. Lawrence died at age 47 sometime in late 1893, with his exact date of death remaining unknown at this time. A mention of his demise appeared in a November 18, 1893 edition of the Boston Globe (pictured below) which noted that a "resolution of sorrow" was passed by the Wachusett National Bank on the occasion of his death. It should also be noted that Lawrence's first name of "Oman" also has a variation in spelling as "Omon" in a number of sources of the time. The rare portrait of him shown above appeared in the earlier mentioned Fitchburg, Massachusetts Past and Present, originally published in 1887.

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