Lawrence County’s Bicentennial

LAW Bicentennial 20182018 marks Lawrence County’s 200th anniversary. At one time, Lawrence County was part of Washington County, the Orange County. On January 7, 1818, the General Assembly of the State of Indiana approved the creation of Lawrence County. The County was named after Naval Captain James Lawrence. At the first meeting of the County Commissioners, the County was divided into two civil townships, Shawswick and Spice Valley. Today, Lawrence County is divided into nine townships.


Naval Captain James Lawrence
October 1, 1781 – June 4, 1813

James LawrenceJames Lawrence joined the United States Navy as a midshipman in 1798 at the age of 17. Lawrence survived President Thomas Jefferson’s naval cutback in 1801 and rose to the rank of lieutenant by 1802. During the Tripolitan War, he established his reputation as second in command during Capt. David Porter’s daring boat raid on Tripoli and Capt. Stephen Decatur’s burning of the American frigate, Philadelphia. Lawrence was promoted to master commandant in 1811, in charge of the Hornet when the War of 1812 broke out.

Lawrence met the British brig, Peacock, off the South American cost in 1813. The Peacock was comparable in size to the Hornet, but carried two-thirds of its armament. Fifteen minutes after the battle commenced, the Peacock surrendered and sank. Lawrence’s naval career continued to flourish, earning him command of one of the Navy’s most elite vessels, the Chesapeake.

Lawrence was ordered to sail out of Boston Harbor to intercept British supplies. He disregarded his orders and began to fight the British Shanon. The Chesapeake’s crew was inexperienced and undisciplined compared to the Shanon‘s crew. The battle lasted less than 15 minutes and the Chesapeake was forced to surrender. As Lawrence was being carried below deck, mortally wounded, he called out,

“Don’t give up! Don’t give up the Ship!”

Don't Give Up the ShipThe rally crew soon was adopted by the American Navy. Oliver Hazard Perry, friend of Lawrence, commissioned a personal battle flag for his ship, the Lawrence. The flag featured Lawrence’s famous battle cry and flew over Perry’s ship as he lead a fleet of American ships to victory during the Battle of Lake Eerie. After the battle, Perry sent a dispatch to U.S. General William Henry Harrison that read “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.”


Bicentennial Events

April 14 – Bicentennial Music Fest

May 5 – Lawrence County Bicentennial History Dinner in the Grist Mill

June 2 – Lawrence County Bicentennial History Dinner in the Grist Mill

September 8 – Dinner on Williams Bridge

September 14-15 – Bicentennial Torch Relay

September 30 – Lawrence County Bicentennial History Dinner in the Grist Mill

October 28 – Lawrence County Bicentennial History Dinner in the Grist Mill

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