Please see Acknowledgments listed below due to space.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Biographical Sketch of Lawson Claypool(e)

Some thoughts on Lawson Claypoole

            Lawson Claypoole is one of those interesting relations from the past who engenders legends.  There are very few of those among the Claypoole’s, they were (by most accounts) a pretty regular lot, and so the lack of horse thieves, bank robbers and famous poets means "we’ll take what we can get.” 

            Lawson has a few legends attached to him, but sadly, they are mostly untrue.  Of course one of the reasons said legends were attached to Lawson, as they might have said in the old days, was his lack of issue, he had no children.  And those without children are the first to slip into obscurity after their deaths, unless a surviving relative or friend acts as a sort of posthumous advocate, even so, in time that relative or friend passes, and the persons fades to nothing but official jottings.  I hope that anyone that reads this post, and who can share or add anything to my sketchy biography of Lawson, will be kind enough to send the information to me for incorporation in a new updated biography, and/or post the information in comments section to help fill out his and his wife Jennie's story, sadly, I know next to nothing about Jennie.

            To begin with – this is a very incomplete sketch, a work in progress – I began my Claypoole work a little over a year ago afresh, but since April I’ve been mired in two massive and important professional research projects that have taken the bulk of my time, and since the middle of May personal and family obligations have also taken the priority they deserved and in some cases demanded.  I have other sources to re-check and double check, and to check for the first time in creating this entry, I will mention them in passing as needed to indicate the lacunae in my research below.  As I fill in the blanks with further research on this subject, I will add comments to this post and in time when all seems complete, I'll create a new post.

            Let me address the burning question.  Lawson was never a millionaire, although he did lose much money in the stock market crash of 1929, sadly there are no floating Claypoole millions to be reclaimed by one of his long-lost descendants.

Notes, including on Sources:

It must be noted that Lawson's name appears in all records before 1920 as Lawson Claypool, and occasionally after 1920 as Lawson Claypoole, or the older Claypool; his tombstone is inscribed Claypoole.

Lawson was the son of Harvey Claypool(e) and Margaret (Nancy) (Zellefrow) Claypool(e).  It should be noted that the use of the “e” in the family’s last name came and went with an interesting regularity in the 19th century.  Dates for Lawson’s life are gleaned from three sources, the Claypoole books by Evelyn Claypoole Bracken, the U. S. Census records, and Lawson’s tombstone.  Other information is garnered from census records, interviews with people that knew Lawson personally, and other court house, church and privately preserved documents.

Biographical Sketch (a draft)

            Lawson was born in 1867 to Harvey and Margaret (Nancy?) Zellefrow Claypool(e).  The 1870 Census lists Lawson as 2 years of age on June 2nd.[1] Also his still standing tombstone at Franklin Union Baptist Church, just outside of Worthington, Pennsylvania lists his birth year as 1867.[2]  His age is also reported by Evelyn Bracken, her ultimate source is unknown, if there was/is a Harvey Claypoole family Bible it may have been shown to Evelyn Bracken, (although it seems her information came from Bernice Claypoole and from Bernice's memory or personal notes and not a primary written source), if so any Harvey Claypool family Bible exists it's current whereabouts are unknown.  Bracken reports Lawson’s birth date as a year only, again 1867.[3]

            Lawson was raised on his father’s farm in West Franklin Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania, and his place of residence is listed as there consistently through every succeeding United States Census that is available for study.[4]  Lawson is never listed as being unable to read, we can assume that he acquired a basic grammar school education, although no record remains for this.  Harvey’s family valued education and two brothers received post grammar school degrees.  Lawson was close to his brother’s Alexander and Charles, serving as a witness at Charles’ wedding in 1897.[5]  Besides working on his Father’s farm, he hired himself out to other local farmers for wages.

            The records of Franklin Union Baptist fail to list him as being baptized into Church membership in any roll book, yet he appears in the various church records in the 1880’s and 1890’s and beyond, a process that needs to be traced out – which is frankly very odd, he must have been a member, as he was delegated to various tasks open only to members, yet no baptism or membership is recorded for him; likewise a family story reports that in the 1910’s or perhaps earlier his brother Charles reported him to the Deacons for dancing.[6]

            In the 1920’s he worked to purchase his father’s farm by buying out the inherited shares of his other relations, a detail documented in his father’s will.  A will I consulted in my earlier research in 1992-7, all of my original research that I did not maintain in notebooks was lost on a computer hard drive crash, I need to re-read the will.

            Lawson worked to purchase his siblings share of their father’s farm in the 1910’s and 20’s, and he also began to speculate in the stock market during this period and began to build up a large amount of corporate shares as speculative investments, including some purchased with borrowed money,[7]  with the market crash in 1929 Lawson found his tax and loan obligations greater than he could manage and the farm was eventually sold in 1933 to the Beer’s family.[8]

            Sometime in the 1920’s Lawson married Jennie Murtland, ten years his junior, and a telephone operator from Butler County who had also stayed at home to care for her widowed father and younger siblings on their farm near the border with Armstrong County.[9]  Based on the information from the 1930 census they must have married between 1922 and 1924.  Jennie would predecease Lawson by about year.[10]  By the time of the market crash Lawson’s farm was listed at a value of $7,500, he also owned property in Kittanning, PA.  He also, interestingly, didn’t own a radio.[11]

In his old age he lived in a small house in West Franklin Township with his wife and at his death his estate was barely able to cover the costs of his taxes, funeral and tombstone expenses.[12]  I need to research more property deeds, and his will.

Those who remembered Lawson spoke of him as a gentle, quiet man, who worked hard, and seemed cursed with ill-luck, he enjoyed dancing, music, and his wife who was also a quiet person.  They had no children and married late in life.  Lawson was known as “Law” and was seen most often without shoes, in fact he hated foot ware and went bare foot nine months of the year, excepting a trip to town or church, town being Kittanning, I don’t know if the little burgh of Worthington received the same deference or not.  The only other story I’ve heard of Lawson was the time my grandmother, Alice Claypoole, hit him with a car in the parking lot of Franklin Union Baptist.  She was just learning to drive her in-law’s new Plymouth and while backing up hit the elderly man on his way out the door from Sunday services.  He survived with no visible injuries and lived for several more years, this was sometime around 1946 or 47.

He died May 11, 1951.

If anyone else can help me fill in additional information about Lawson I would be very grateful, except for group photos, I do not have any individuals portraits or photographs of Lawson, and I have seen none of his wife.

[1] Page, 2 of the Schedule 11 West Franklin Township book accessed via at URL:
[2] Author’s inspection of standing marker.

[3] Bracken, Evyln, Claypool pg. 94, entry 540: Harvey Claypool, Lawson, entry 1041.
[5] Presentation Marriage Certificate in the possession of Fay Anne (Claypoole) Cook., other information supplied by Dorothy Claypoole in an interview, March, 1996.
[6] Interview with Anna Bowser, October 1996, and Franklin Union Church records volumes I-III.
[7] Interviews with Dorothy Claypoole, March- October 1996.
[8] Information from Tax documents provided by Vivian Roofner.
[9] US Census Records for Butler County 1870-1920, accessed via,

[10] Tombstone, Franklin Union Baptist Church cemetery.
[11] US Census Records for Armstrong County, 1930, Kittanning, and West Franklin Township, accessed via,
[12] Interview with Dorothy Claypoole, March 1996.

1 comment:

  1. Added death date for Lawson Claypoole, May 11, 1951.



This will be far too brief to begin with, so please forgive me if I ommitt anyone or anything, but there are really too many, but I wanted to thank those who were first or foremost in the process that lead to the creation of this blog.

First my Mother, Fay Anne, who opened my eyes to the richness of our family history, and my father James who ensured that I could proceed down this path.

My grandparents Merle and Alice who personified the good old ways.

My Aunts: Judy, Shirley and Nancy for helping and sharing at all times.

My great Aunts and Uncles, especially Dorothy, Vern, and Beatty without whom so much information would have been lost.

The congregation of Franklin Union Baptist, who opened their attics, minds, and hearts to me.

To Evelyn Claypoole Bracken without whom we could hardly proceed into the past at all (or perhaps receded?!).

To the many cousins who share so often so much.

And most recently and most especially to Barry Chapman of Tasmania, Australia and Kathie Young, who have together resolved something that had truly begun to puzzle me, and whose excellant research is summarized on the Claypoole Family website. And to my sister Erin, who helped stoke the fires of memory.

I will add and update specific thanks and acknowledgments in the places where they are most appropriate. Especially for contributions to original research. I hope to properly credit all researchers original work, and/or to thank those who have allowed me to see and share historical sources whether they are stories, documents, or artifacts.

Also I hope to properly list and acknowledge any secondary sources of information, so that others may check, rethink, verify, and explore the threads of this story.

Please alert me to any omissions, mistakes, broken internet links, or errors of any kind. You may do so in the comments sections or at a new email address I hope to create just for this website.