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GEORGE WALTER LAWRENCE
One of Portland, Oregon's earliest premier saddle makers, SAMUEL SHERLOCK was born about
1820 at New Ross, Ireland. He was educated in Ireland at Erasmus Smith foundation schools,
and there he learned the saddle makers trade. The lure of a more prosperous life and
opportunity brought him to America, where he settled and worked for a time at New Haven,
Connecticut, and Newark, New Jersey. Both cities were then at the heart of industry in the East.
His brother William, born 1822 in Ireland, had settled in Portland as early as 1851, which led
Samuel to follow by coastal steamer and across the Isthmus of Panama in 1857.
His first work in Portland was the crafting of two side saddles. He was employed for a time by
others, but established a harness shop of his own in connection with his brother, William
Sherlock, and Charles Bacon, at 74 Front Street. CHARLES P. BACON was born in Tioga
County, New York in 1823. From Illinois he crossed the prairies to Oregon in 1850 and settled in
Portland. His passion appears to have been the livery business, one of which he began in 1853,
along with a drawing firm. “PEN PICTURES OF REPRESENTITIVE MEN OF OREGON, 1882”
states that he had a [financial] interest in the saddlery and harness concern of S. Sherlock, “for
some time.” By 1855 he was elected the City Assessor and became Collector in 1856. He was an
accomplished businessman, as it seems he was already established in the Portland business
community at the origin of the Sherlock Saddlery. Scott writes in 1890 that Sherlock and Bacon
built the Blackhawk Stables on 2nd Street between Stark and Oak. It is not known when Bacon's
interests were withdrawn from the saddlery. William Sherlock was an operator of a livery by
In those early years, Front Street was sparsely lined with frame buildings and a mud street along
the Willamette River. The Sherlock property at 4th and Oak was purchased for $350 in 1858 ( it
sold for $140,000 in 1908). This firm was one of the first to thrive, and went on to supply the
ranchers and miners of the 1860's. In 1863, another saddler that was to become a famous
Portland maker name, JOHN CLARK, began working at the Sherlock shop. Also working for
Sam in those early years was a saddler named H.C. BRIGGS. In 1866 JAMES WELCH joined the
Sherlock team before opening his own business in 1872. In 1870, the Company was valued at
$50,000, and employed 6 workers making saddles, bridles, and harness, according to the Federal
Special Industrial Census Schedule.
Samuel Sherlock was an early member of one of Portland's Fire Companies. He belonged to the
Multnomah Engine Company #2, established in 1856. Sam headed his wholesale harness [and
saddle] business until his death on 15 July 1876. Thrown from a horse, the resulting injuries led
to his demise several days later. His wife's name was ROSETTA WALE SHERLOCK . She was
born in England, about 1831. The saddlery continued under the name of R. SHERLOCK after
1876, but in name only, as was the custom of the era. Thus, we see the name of “R. Sherlock,
Saddlery” on billheads for an interim period. She is identified as a saddle maker with two
daughters on the 1880 census. In 1880, R. Sherlock employed 15 persons, 10 were male. William
Sherlock was enumerated as a farmer.
Hence begins the connection to GEORGE W. LAWRENCE, born 14 May 1832 at New Ross,
County Wexford, Ireland. At age 14 he was apprenticed to James Davis, a dry goods merchant of
Drogheda for a period of about 10 years. From this he learned business management. In 1857, he
moved to Dublin, to become the buyer for a department store. On 13 August 1861, he married
Rose D. Sherlock of New Ross, sister of Samuel and William Sherlock. Six children were born to
the couple, five survived: George Jr., John R., and William C., and two daughters, Sophia and
1873 found George unemployed in Dublin due to a change in management and his attention was
then turned to a new and growing city on the Pacific Coast of America - Portland, Oregon. This
is probably not a coincidence, as his two brothers-in-law, William and Samuel Sherlock, had
preceded him by some sixteen years and had set up the saddlery that would later become the
GEORGE LAWRENCE COMPANY. His first stop in the U.S. was Philadelphia, but he had a
stronger desire to work with his family in Portland. Samuel needed an assistant in the Portland
business, and by the time George Lawrence stepped off the coastal steamer Oriflamme in
February of 1874, the job was waiting for him. Two years later, Sam lost his life, and the business
was continued by George in the interest of Rosetta Sherlock and her children.
In 1893, George, with the minor financial help of his three sons, purchased the business, and with
them, ran the business as the GEORGE LAWRENCE COMPANY, said to have been the largest of
its kind on the West coast at the time. George's son John was in charge of sales, his son William
was warehouse manager, and George Jr. was involved in office management. A long time
Portland harness maker, William Robinson joined the George Lawrence Company in 1893. In
1888 it was reported that all saddlery and harness manufacturing in Portland had required an
investment of $128,600, and employed 80 persons with annual wages of $47,820. The annual
product was worth $217,000: big business for that period. George and his family made their
home at 752 Flanders Street, Portland.
George Lawrence first doubled the size of the premises. In need of more manufacturing space, he
bought a quarter block at 1st and Oak and a substantial brick structure of four stories was
constructed in 1903. The receiving department was in the basement. The street floor contained
offices, sample rooms and shipping. The second contained a large showroom and stock room.
The third floor was used by saddle makers, and the fourth for the manufacture of harness for
farm or draft use. Traveling salesmen covered northern California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho,
and Montana. Resident representatives selling Lawrence products had offices in Boise, Idaho,
Stevensville, Montana, Spokane and Walla Walla, Washington. In addition to their line of
saddlery, harness and hardware, they were eventually jobbers of shoe findings, saddlery
hardware, leather, suitcases, trunks, bags, and automotive supplies.
They developed a wholesale line of hunting and fishing supplies after WWII. As the need for
saddlery declined with the advent of the automobile, the company's leather goods production
evolved to the manufacture of various sporting items, applying trim to fishing creels, and finally
a complete line of leather shooting accessories: handgun holsters, cartridge belts, etc. The last
saddles were made in the early 1960's. For a few years the Company wholesaled saddles and a
minimal line of saddlery items were manufactured elsewhere. Catalogs issued by the George
Lawrence Company are well known to Old West collectors from the early years through the
1960's. Chatham and McClain credit the George Lawrence Company for setting the standard for
the leathered fishing creel, advertised from 1923 to 1953. Initially they applied leather
reinforcement to Japanese wicker baskets, but later used an embossing machine to decorate the
leather panels. Before WWI, most wicker baskets were made in Asia. By 1929 Lawrence offered
at least six styles.
George Lawrence Sr. died 14 December 1922, and his wife had passed 2 March 1918. His son
George Lawrence Jr. became president of the company, his son George A. Lawrence, Vice
President. In the 1950's management was passed on to the fourth generation; George P., and
William C. Lawrence III. The Company and building were sold in 1985. The business moved
from S.W. First and Oak to Portland's northwest industrial neighborhood. The line of shooting
accessories were continued until the business was sold and moved to eastern interests in 1990.
It has long been known by writers and scholars on the subject of the western saddle and spur that
there was somehow a connection between the George Lawrence Company, and August
Buermann, of the AUGUST BUERMANN MFG. COMPANY, of Newark, New Jersey. William
Lawrence, George's son, went east on a buying trip, and by chance met Louise, daughter of
August Buermann, who became Mrs. William Lawrence, in 1901. What a great way to finish this
[Sherlock marks are scarce, Lawrence marks are common. A fine example of a Sherlock
saddle sold at auction in 1996. See High Noon Catalog, page 42. ]
[The combined efforts of these saddlers occupied a prominent place in
the business history of Portland from ca 1857 until 1985]
Gaston, Joseph. PORTLAND, OREGON, IT'S HISTORY AND BUILDERS. Vol II. S.J. Clarke Publishers, Portland, 1911
Scott, H. W. HISTORY OF PORTLAND. D. Mason & Co., Publishers, Syracuse, 1890
MaColl, E. Kimbark. MERCHANTS, MONEY & POWER, THE PORTLAND ESTABLISHMENT, 1843-1913. The
Georgian Press, Portland, 1988.
Lockley, Fred. HISTORY OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER VALLEY FROM THE DALLES TO THE SEA. Vol II, pp393-394.
S.J. Clarke Publishing , Portland, 1928.
Hodgkin, Frank E. and J.J. Galvin. PEN PICTURES OF REPRESENTITIVE MEN OF OREGON. Farmer & Dairyman
Publishing House, Portland, 1882.
Conversations with William Lawrence III, Portland, Oregon, 25 February, 1998
Electronic communication with William Lawrence III, Portland, Oregon, January 2008
Portland City Directories, 1863-1881, Oregon State Library, Salem, on microfilm
Territorial Census for Oregon, 1850
Federal Census for 1860, Oregon
Federal Census for 1870, Oregon
Federal Mortality Schedule 1870 and Special Agricultural and Industrial Census. Portland, OR. Microfilm
at Genealogical Forum of Oregon.
Federal Mortality Schedule 1880 and Special Agricultural and Industrial Census. Portland, OR. Microfilm
at Genealogical Forum of Oregon.
Research by Richard and Dorothy Egan