Google+ Georgia On My Mind: Atlanta Pioneer: Er Lawshe

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Atlanta Pioneer: Er Lawshe

Some months ago my husband and I took a little field trip over to the Atlanta Zoo. While there we visited the Cyclorama, too. Walking through the exhibits I noticed a picture of this house.

The Lawshe House.

I came home, downloaded the pictures and meant to refresh my memory regarding the Lawshe family and their home, but forgot....until now.

The home, built in 1859, sat on the west side of Peachtree one lot north of Cain Street. It's a classic for the time period with porches on both levels.

Er Lawshe (yes, that's his real name) came South from Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with two of his brothers in 1848. Lawshe had apprenticed as a cabinetmaker in Philadelphia. When arrived in Atlanta he had $7.25 in his pocket.

The picture below shows Mr. Lawshe with his bride, Sarah.

Originally, Lawshe partnered with Riley Baker in a jewelry business selling watches and other items. Later he struck out on his own and was very successful to the point he was able to build the fine two-story home at 224 Peachtree Street which adjoined property owned by his in-laws.

During the Civil War Er Lawshe fought for Confederacy meaning that he was actually fighting against many of his family members. The Lawshe family left Atlanta in February, 1865 and headed to Augusta leaving their home basically abandoned as so many others. This made many of Atlanta's fine Peachtree Street mansions readily available for Union officers once they entered the city, and the Lawshe home was no different.

Brigadier General Felix Salm-Salm and his wife Agnes arrived in Atlanta on July 7, 1865 and chose the Lawshe home to live while he was in command of the Atlanta post. Salm-Salm was a  rather colorful fellow. He was from Westphalia, Prussia and was actually a prince of royal blood. He had served in the Prussian cavalry and once the Civil War broke out he joined the Union where he was commissioned in the 8th New York regiment. His wife was an American - the former Agnes Clerq of Baltimore. She was so in love with her husband she never wanted to be apart from him. Agnes would actually join him on the battlefield. She shocked Atlantans by riding through town astride her horse rather than sidesaddle as ladies of good breeding did at the time, but it is said she showed sympathy and compassion for the folks of Atlanta while she was here. They entertained at the Lawshe home by giving simple dinners and teas before leaving the city in October, 1865. 

When the Lawshe family returned following the end of the war Atlanta was of course in ruins, but their home was one of just a few still standing. Lawshe would not replace the boards that clearly showed shell damage.

Er Lawshe set about rebuilding his business at 47 Whitehall, but since there were no materials he resorted to using some of items Union soldiers had used to construct huts with while the city was occupied. In some cases the materials were just debris. Later when he was able he built a three-story brick building on the site of the store.

Er Lawshe also wrote various stories for The Atlanta Constitution later in his life. He was very well thought of in Atlanta and many claimed this was due to his integrity so much so he earned the nickname "Old Reliable".

After Lawshe passed away his home was sold for $18,000 to the Gate City Guards where they would eventually build their armory.

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