Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Dr. Paul Lawrence: Man of Many Hats

Dr. Paul Lawrence C. 1890
Emma Pattillo Collection: 0000.003.040

Dr. Paul Lawrence is remembered as the one-legged, horseback doctor of Haughton. Though he served this rural community for fifty years as a doctor, it is not how he made his living. That is because during the 19th Century, doctors, especially frontier doctors in rural areas, were rarely paid in cash. Instead, they were often paid in-kind with whatever produce, services or goods were available to the patient. Because of this, he was a man of many hats.

Lawrence first came to Bossier Parish in 1851, when he was only twelve-years-old, moving here from Mississippi with his family. He obtained his education from Fillmore Academy. Then, in the fall of 1860, Lawrence began his medical studies in New Orleans at the University of Louisiana, known today as Tulane University.

With tensions rising between the states, he came home in Dec. 1861 and enlisted in the Robin Greys, a Bossier Parish company of the 19th Louisiana Infantry, Company B, The Army of Tennessee. The Army of Tennessee was the principal Confederate army operating between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.

During the Civil War, Lawrence sustained two injuries, one to the shoulder in 1863. After a six-month recovery, he rejoined his company, and two months later, he suffered an injury that required the amputation of his right leg. After convalescing in Mississippi with relatives until he was well and able to travel, he returned to Louisiana, wasting no time in resuming his medical studies in the summer of 1865.

Mary "Mollie" Jane Haughton C. 1890
Emma Pattillo Collection: 0000.003.040-2

In 1867, Lawrence returned to Bossier Parish and began his medical practice. He married Mary (Mollie) Jane Haughton, daughter of Harriet (Hassell) Haughton and William Purvis Haughton, whom the town is named after. When the railroad first came through the area, it was initially called Lawrenceville, after Dr. Paul Lawrence as the train depot, often referred to as Lawrence Station, was located on land that was formerly owned by him. On Sep. 1, 1884, Lawrenceville officially became Haughton.

As mentioned earlier, Lawrence was a man of many hats. Besides always being on call as the town’s physician, he was also a third-generation cotton planter, as well as a merchant, owning and running a general mercantile and cotton brokerage business, Lawrence & Son. After his death, his youngest son, Thomas Humphrey Lawrence, who partnered with him at the store, changed the name to Lawrence & Company, and it remained open until his retirement in the 1950s.

Even after retirement, Lawrence continued to superintend his farm until his death. As a retired physician, he would still provide medical services when called on, whether filling in when a doctor was not available and assisting in surgeries when requested. He was a prominent member of the community, and he gladly served it in various ways, from serving as a voting commissioner to being a member of the Bossier Parish School Board, and later as a member of the Board of Trustees for Haughton white 

Lawrence was appointed by the Bossier Parish Police Jury as a Health Officer for the Fillmore area in 1878 in response to the threat of dangerous and contagious diseases, such as smallpox and yellow fever. In 1885, he was on the building committee for the Methodist Church in Haughton, which has been in the same location on E. McKinley Ave for 120 years.

He was nominated to represent Bossier Parish as a delegate for the Democratic State Convention. And, he was a delegate for the Louisiana State Division, United Confederate Veterans in 1914. When he died in Nov. 1934; he was the last Robin Grey soldier to die.

When driving down Hwy. 157, about a half-mile south of the red light in Haughton, sits Dr. Paul Lawrence’s old house, which is now a historic site.
C. 1900. Dr. Paul Lawrence is shown standing with his family in front of his south Haughton home. From left to right are T. Humphrey Lawrence, Mary Lawrence (sister to Paul), Dr. Paul Lawrence, Eva Lawrence, Myrtis Lawrence, Mary Haughton Lawrence (wife of Paul), Sudye Lawrence(youngest of nine children), and Lucille Lawrence. (Clifton Cardin Collection: 1999.089.003)

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