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Inter-State Publishing Company
Chicago, Illinois, 1881

Page 687

RHEUNA D. LAWRENCE , railroad contractor, has been prominently identified with the building and contracting business, in Central Illinois, for a quarter of a century. He was born in Greene county, Ohio, in 1837. His father, Lewis W. Lawrence, was a Major in the Mexican war, and died before ths subject of this sketch reached his tenth year, at which age he became self-supporting. His mother was Susan M., daughter of Colonel Elijah Bell, who came from Connecticut and settled in Ohio previous to her birth. She still survives, at the age of sixty-eight years and resides with Mr. Lawrence in Springfield. His first occupation was that of off-bearer in a brick-yard; learned the mason trade, and received a journeyman's wages at the age of fourteen. In 1855, after making a tour of the Western territories, he located in Springfield, Illinois, and soon after engaged in the contracting and building business. His first contract was to erect a three-story brick building, on the corner of Jefferson and Fifth street, for some years used as the post office. The next was to lay three million bricks and three thousand perches of stone, in the Jacksonville Insane Asylum. While that was in progress, he and his partner, Reuben Kain, also erected the Universalist Church edifice, in Springfield; subsequently constructed many buildings in Springfield and surrounding towns. In 1867, Mr. Lawrence turned his attention to railroad contracting, which he has pursued to the present time, and has built many miles of road in this State and Missouri. In 1872, he, in company with other parties, sank a coal shaft and aid out the town of Barclay, Colonel John Williams was President, George N. Black, Secretary, and Mr. Lawrence, Manager of the company's business. The company owned one thousand four hundred acres of coal right there; erected about seventy tenement houses, a store and other improvements. Mr. L. sold his one-fourth interest two years ago. In 1876, he was appointed by the Governor as one of the Commissioners to locate and construct the Southern Illinois Penitentiary; was re-appointed for six years, in 1878, but owing to the pressure of private business, resigned in August of that year. He served the city as Superintendent of Public Works for some time. In the summer of 1881, he, in company with a partner, erected the handsome Central Block, on the corner of Sixty and Adams streets, and one of the most elegant business blocks in the city. Mr. Lawrence married Mary A., daughter of John C. Maxcy, in Springfield, in 1859. They have one child, Susie Lawrence. Mr. L. is a Mason, and has filled the chairs of the local subordinate lodge and Commandery; is a believer in the Christian religion, and favors the M.E. Church.

1881 Index