History of Lawrence Township


In the early 19th century, the area now known as Lawrence Township was a part of both Tuscarawas and Jackson Townships. Lawrence Township was laid out and platted by Commissioners on December 4, 1815.

The Township was named after Captain James Lawrence of the U.S. Navy in the War of 1812. Captain Lawrence was famous for his last words in the battle between the American frigate Chesapeake and the British Royal Navy frigate Shannon. Captain Lawrence, mortally wounded by small arms fire, ordered
“Don’t give up the ship” as he was carried below. Those words later became the motto of the Township.

On July 4, 1825, ground was broken for construction of a three hundred and nine mile long canal connecting Lake Erie to the Ohio River. The Ohio and Erie Canal was completed in 1832, seven years after the ground breaking, and at a cost of 4.7 million dollars. The canal route passed through six miles of Lawrence Township.

Coal mining was an important industry for many years. A few gristmills existed along the Tuscarawas River, but the arrival of the Ohio and Erie Canal really was the start of roads and businesses in Lawrence Township and Stark County.

The Canal, which opened between Cleveland and Massillon in 1828, brought immediate prosperity to the Village of Canal Fulton and Lawrence Township. It was the first important commercial avenue in the state for the shipping of produce by water directly to New Orleans and New York City. The Census of 1840 reported that Stark County, as a direct result of the Canal, was being transformed into one of the nation’s greatest
trade centers.

In 1995, the trustees and residents of Lawrence Township displayed their deepest respect for the rich history of the Township by adopting a new motto, “The Heart of the Canal Corridor”. Mottos were submitted by residents and the top eight slogans were then voted on by the Township’s residents). Lawrence Township is divided into thirty-six square mile sections, split diagonally by the Tuscarawas River. The Township covers approximately 23, 040 acres and has 57 miles of Township roads as of January 1, 1995.

In 1996, U.S. President Bill Clinton affirmed the historic value of the Canal by signing legislation to officially recognize the Ohio and Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. This action authorized matching federal dollars for local funds raised to improve the corridor from Zoar to Cleveland, so that many proud Ohio residents can forever use it.

Records show that the first gristmill was established in 1812; the first sawmill in 1814; the first building of worship in 1815; the first schoolhouse in 1818; the first
store in 1827 the first post office in 1828 and the first physician in 1832. The first election was held on April 1, 1816