Colonel John Lawrence


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.

Superintendent & Other Political Involvement

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.

Honorary Title

 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 military.

Colonel John Lawrence drawing by Julie Stone

Appointments & Candidacy

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 serving 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.

Colonel John Lawrence Day

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.