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Lawrence University Ties to Kansas

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas

Amos A. Lawrence: As a young man, Amos Lawrence's father (also named Amos) left the farm in rural Massachusetts and, along with his brother, formed a company that imported textiles from England. Later, the firm prospered by investing in cotton and woolen mills. Lawrence, the eldest son, had the benefit of the best education money could buy in early nineteenth century America. First, at Franklin Academy and then at Harvard. Following his graduation, Lawrence entered business for himself as a commission merchant. He proved to have a talent at commerce and eventually became the owner of Ipswich Mills, the largest producer of knit goods in the country. Along with his wealth, Lawrence had deep philanthropic impulses, which sprang from his profound religious commitment. He was a devout member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Boston and it was there that he met and married his wife, Sarah Appleton. He was a trustee of Massachusetts General Hospital and president of "the Young Men's Benevolent Society", but his strongest charitable activities lay in support of education. Besides the establishment of Lawrence University he was also responsible for the creation of the state university in Lawrence, Kansas and the Episcopal Theological Seminary in Cambridge. Lawrence's public reputation, however, was as an abolitionist and he was best known for his work to ensure that Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a free state. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 had declared that the issue of slavery in those territories would be determined by local plebescite and Lawrence devoted much of his philanthropic energies to the support of the New England Emigrant Aid Society. This Society sponsored the emigration of free-state settlers to the territory of Kansas in the hope of stopping the spread of slavery. One of these settlers was the radical abolitionist John Brown, who became a personal friend of Lawrence's. The guns that Brown used at the Harper's Ferry rebellion were shipped to Kansas by Lawrence