CHARLES K. LAWSON.
No history of Hastings would be complete without extended reference to Charles K. Lawson, who is today the oldest
retail merchant in the city in years of continuous connection with the business. He is familiar with every phase
of the city's development and progress along commercial lines and his efforts have been of immense value in promoting
the public welfare. He was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, August 4, 1846, and was only two years of age when his father
died, after which he made his home with his grandparents in Erie. He was but eleven years of age at the time of
the death of his grandfather and was then thrown upon his own resources, since which time he has made his way in
the world unaided, his success and advancement being attributable entirely to his own efforts. He worked in a factory
at making oars for two summers and in the winter months worked for his board and the privilege of attending school.
He afterward engaged in driving teams which were used in hauling oil from Titusville. Ambitious to secure an education,
he utilized every opportunity that would enable him to advance in that direction, and after mastering the work
of the public and high schools continued his course in an academy at Waterford, Pennsylvania. In 1863 he went to
Greene county, Illinois, where he was employed at farm work through the succeeding winter. He possessed considerable
natural mechanical ingenuity and, removing to Oneida, Knox county, Illinois, there worked in a lumberyard for a
year. He afterward clerked in a dry goods store for about a year, when, in connection with G. H. Pratt, he purchased
the business. Energy, determination and industry stood them instead of capital and, concentrating their efforts
upon their undertaking, they developed the trade and conducted the enterprise successfully.
In 1872 Mr. Lawson started out to find a new location and on the 13th of July, of that year, decided on Hastings.
Much of the land in this part of the state was still in the possession of the government and the town had not yet
been laid out. There had been a few homesteaders in the district in 1872 and Mr. Lawson believed that the country
would develop rapidly and that there would be opportunity for the conduct of commercial interests at this point.
Accordingly, Mr. Pratt shipped a carload of lumber from Rock Island and they built the first store on the town
site. Samuel Alexander had already opened a store in a small shack, but Mr. Lawson's was the first regular store
building within the limits of what is now the city of Hastings. His place of business was at the corner of First
street and Hastings avenue. Mr. Pratt disposed of their store in Illinois and joined Mr. Lawson in Hastings in
December, 1872. The two partners, with their clerk, A. H. Cramer, kept bachelors hall over the store. Their building
was a two story structure twenty two by eighty feet, and they carried a stock of groceries, hardware, implements,
stoves and other commodities needed in a pioneer community. The business was conducted under a partnership relation
until 1877, when they divided their interests, Mr. Lawson taking over the lands owned by the firm, while Mr. Pratt
had an equal amount in money. Following the division of their interests Mr. Lawson, in 1878, formed a partnership
with C. J. Hamot and erected a good brick store building near Hastings avenue on Second street. There he opened
a stock of hardware and continued the business as a partnership until 1881, when he purchased his partner's interest
and continued to carry on the store alone. In the meantime he had become interested in the cattle business, owning
a big ranch on the Loup river in connection with Mr. Pratt. They were associated in that undertaking until 1890,
when Mr. Lawson sold his interest in the cattle. In 1889 he established a branch store in Fairbury, Nebraska, and
removed to that place in order to personally superintend the business and place it upon a substantial basis. After
two years he sold out there and in 1891 returned to Hastings. He continued to engage in the hardware trade here
for several years and then, on account of his health, disposed of his store. Two years later, however, he reentered
mercantile circles, becoming proprietor of his present store, which he has since successfully conducted. There
is not another retail merchant in Hastings who was in business here at the time of his arrival, leaving him the
pioneer in his field in this county. His activities have covered a broad scope and have been rewarded with a large
measure of success.
Mr. Lawson and his partner Mr. Pratt became connected with the Hastings Townsite Company, in which they owned an
eighth interest, and from that time forward they have been identified with the development and growth of the city.
They shipped the first carload of lumber to Hastings over the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, and during
the early days they conducted a very extensive business, their trade coming to them from a wide territory. Mr.
Lawson still looks after his commercial interests and has followed most progressive methods throughout the years
of his residence here.
On the 16th of September, 1874, Mr. Lawson was united in marriage to Miss Amy Ellis, a native of Greene county,
Illinois, where she was reared and educated. They became the parents of four sons: Truman J., who is engaged in
the hardware business at Rockland, Idaho; Ellis Gale and Arthur A., who are associated with their father in the
conduct of the store at Hastings; and Marion C., who is engaged in the abstract and loan business at Malad City,
The parents are members of the Presbyterian church. Mr. Lawson is connected with the lodge, chapter and commanderv
of the Masonic fraternity at Hastings and with Sesostris Temple of the Mystic Shrine at Lincoln. In his political
views he is a republican, stalwart in his advocacy of party principles, yet never an office seeker. He is a splendidly
preserved man, giving personal attention to his business, playing golf for recreation and taking an active part
in everything that pertains to the welfare and progress of his district and community. He has witnessed the entire
growth and development of the town and county and has contributed in large measure to the development of Hastings,
his life work being a substantial asset in its commercial progress. He has a very wide acquaintance throughout
this part of the state and wherever known is held in the highest esteem.
Past and Present of
Adams County, Nebraska
Supervisong Editor: Judge William R. Burton
Assistant Editor: David J. Lewis
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Adams County, NE
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