Little Egypt Heritage Articles
Stories of Southern Illinois
© Bill Oliver
29 May 2005
Vol 4 Issue: #22, Special Edition
Osiyo, Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of Little Egypt,
On this weekend of Memorials a special:
Dr William R Lawrence
17 May 1923 20 April 2005
?Tonight we sing the old songs, remembering,
The flute is like the wind,
The drums like distant thunder,
Like Buffalo on the prairie.
Voices blend together in song,
A blanket woven from eons of existence.
Smoke rises from the campfire into the sky.
This gathering is good,
Seeing old friends from distant homes.
Dancing to the chant and the drum.
But the ride here was long and I am tired.
I close my eyes and listen to the breeze
Whispering about the Old Ones.
[from Time Walker Trilogy, Second Journey by Les Tate]
On the 20th of April last I started an article about a church in the
community of Reynoldsburg, Burnside Township, Johnson County, Illinois.
This church sits a very few miles east of Tunnel Hill. Both of these
places have very special meaning for me and others. Some of my Great
Grandparents called the communities home. Tunnel Hill, where Great
Great Uncle Monroe Benson lived, there under the bluffs Sunday
picnickers would spread their blankets. And, Reynoldsburg, where 3rd
Great Grandpa James Harper would preach. These two places were also
home to Dr William R Lawrence, M.D. of Chicago Heights, who recently
passed over into the next phase of life.
My Dad, with a twinkle in e eye, used to recite a poem to the delight
of youngsters and family which went like this:
?Just a line to say Im living
That Im not among the dead
Tho Im gettin forgetful
And more mixed up in my head.
So, if it is my turn to write
There is no need to get sore
I may think that I have written
And dont want to be a bore.
There are five more verses, and Dr Lawrence used this poem to begin his
family history. Like my Dad, I dont believe it really told the truth
about the man.
Dr Lawrence was a patron of the Reynoldsburg Church and he remembered
his youth in Tunnel Hill. Dr Lawrence was fond of quoting poetry and old
sayings. When he retired he remarked that, There was an old-spinning
wheel in the parlor, spinning dreams of long ago, which prompted him to
reminisce and record some of the happenings of life. A man who knew the
effects of drugs upon the human, he remarked that the genealogical
study [of his family] had become an addiction. By his own admission, he
spent many hours and dollars, but it was the great feeling of
accomplishment which seemed to give him pride.
He paints the picture of Tunnel Hill as a great little thriving
metropolis with a population of 69. He tells that it was just one big
great and loving family. That at one time Tunnel Hill had four grocery
stores, three doctors, three churches, a railroad depot, a fruit
warehouse, a Masonic and IOOF hall, plus a post office. As he says, it
is all gone, including the railroad tracts.
Some of the residents at Tunnel Hill helped blast a hole through the
hill for the railroad, thus giving the town its name.
In May 1923 when it was time for Dr Lawrence to come forth into the
world, his mother wanted to give birth in her own home, thus refusing to
go to a hospital saying that people only went to a hospital to die.
That sure sounds familiar. [grin]
As many readers know, Johnson County has some swamps and some coal
mining near by. It was a common belief that when jack-o-ma-lanterns
[pockets of fluorescent gas that escaped from old tree stumps and glowed
in the dark] were seen that some catastrophic happenings was about to
happen. Quite often something could be found to establish the truth of
Higher education was rare in these small communities, many finishing
only the third, sixth, or eighth grades. Yet there was a good degree of
both common sense and intelligence. Of these Dr Lawrence bragged about
his parents and family. His own accomplishments would support that. Dr
Lawrence was encouraged to go to high school where he graduated from
Vienna Township High School as valedictorian in 1940. Then he went on to
Southern Illinois Normal University on a scholarship and later
graduating with a BEd. After serving 3 ½ years in the Air Force
attaining the rank of Captain, he returned to Southern Illinois
University to complete his pre-med course to receive his BA degree. In
1952 he earned his BS degree and in 1954 he graduated and began his
externship, internship and residency at Illinois Central Hospital in
Chicago. He eventually became Chief of Surgery there.
Dr Lawrence and his wife, Marilyn, raised three children, a daughter and
a set of twin boys. In the southern Chicago area he and close friends
opened a clinic. Dr Lawrence retired in 1994 and allowed genealogy to
take over the hours spent with patients. He was very proud of his life
experiences and satisfied with his life.
Dr Lawrence ended his family book with the poem When Day is Done by
Edna Mae Griffith.
The day so full of promise has already slipped away,
Like dying coals upon the fire where logs of oak once lay.
Some victories some losses with work yet to be done,
People who will need me, struggles to be won.
So I kneel beside my bed, I ask nothing but His Grace,
That love might light my way,
Gone forever is that day content Ive done my best,
I hand it over now to God and seek His Peaceful rest.
Dr Lawrence and Mrs Marilyn Lawrences ashes were laid to rest in the
Reynoldsburg Cemetery today, 29 May 2005. Rest in Peace, Good Folks.
e-la-Di-e-das-Di ha-wi nv-wa-do-hi-ya nv-wa-to-hi-ya-da. (May you walk
in peace and harmony)
Other sites worth visiting:
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