Mrs. Lawton at Home

This story, with no by-line ran in Harper's Bazar,  April 28, 1900  (click on a picture for enlargement)

he brilliant achievements of General Lawton in and since the Spanish-American war, although not more effective than his work in subduing hostile Indians, served to bring him into a more personal prominence. The glory of our heroes extends to their homes and families. and that closer life must specially interest us when we feel it has been at least one factor in their success.

Mrs. Mary Craig Lawton has always been an ideal wife of a soldier. Gifted with decision of character, and an amiable and cheerful disposition which disposes of the disagreeable trifle of life as things not to fuss at, but to laugh over,  Mrs. Lawton has, besides, a large fund of uncommon common-sense. This duality enables her to direct successfully the real essentials into their proper channel, and wisely put the non-essentials to one side, to take care of themselves.

Although many honors have been thrust upon her, Mrs. Lawton has been, first and last, a devoted wife and mother. Whether living in the social world, the lonely Western camp, or at the beautiful family home in Redlands.  The wife of the late general is the embodiment of the old adage that "the truly great are always the truly modest."  Mrs. Lawton has been entertained by and has associated personally with many of the persons who are making the history of the day for us; but only occasionally does she allude to these meetings, and then in the most, casual way, as if it conferred no more distinction upon her than does an acquaintance with the ordinary mortal.

Mrs. Lawton's marriage took place at the Craig homestead, in Kentucky, and the first years of her married life were chiefly spent in the garrisons to which Captain (later General) Lawton was detailed in the western part of the United States. Mrs. Lawton was her husband's constant companion in his round of daily inspection, and her face was as familiar to the troopers as was that of her husband.

The Lawton honey-moon never ended. Until the day of his death, between the two were always the highest respect and most devoted affection. He was never happy while separated from her, and when called away on active duty. Mrs. Lawton would very promptly receive a summons to join him. A trusted German governess took care of the four children, Manley and the three little girls, so that "Fräulein" could be teacher when the family was together, and house-mother in the parents' absence. When General Lawton was ordered to Tampa, before his arrival at that place his wife received an almost illegible scrawl. written on the rapidly moving train. Unable to decipher it at once, Mrs. Lawton ran over to a neighbor's house, and between them they managed to imagine that they could see the words "'Tampa" and "'Manley.'' Mrs. Lawton hurried home. and packing the belongings of their son and herself. was en route to join the general on the next overland train. This was really the end of their delightful home life inCalifornia. for after that time the general was constantly in active service.

The orange-grove in Redlands was bought after some years of moving from post to post. This was their first permanent home, and the only one. Their pleasure in having a roof-tree of their own was considerably dampened in the beginning by General Lawton's transfer to Denver. The ranch was left in Mrs. Lawton's charge. and she proved her executive ability as a farmer as successfully as she had that of house-keeper. Part of each day was devoted to outside work, and every detail was under her personal supervision. Mrs. Lawton is one of those active persons who lays hold of whatever her hands find to do, and does it with efficiency. If the orchard was being irrigated. Mrs. Lawton would be on hand to see that it was done properly; and often for the enjoyment of the thing, she would join the pickers in harvesting the crop.

[Left: Hallway of the Lawton Home, Redlands, California]

Finally General Lawton was transferred from Denver, with an intermediate post at Santa Fe, to Los Angeles. As the latter place is only two hours' ride from Redlands, he could live at home: and then began the most delightful years of their married life. Such fun as they had setting up their Lares and Penates.  The children peered into the half-open packing-cases and looked upon treasures innumerable.  Friends stopping with the Lawtons at that time were pressed into service, but all the high climbing and placing of particular effects were done by the general.

Many of the curios had been given to the general by brother officers and his devoted Indian scouts.  Many had been personal gifts to his wife; for the soldier has always appreciated the interest she has taken in his welfare.  A huge elk's head, which is suspended from the staircase wall is of special value to her, for it was given to her shortly after her marriage by an Indian scout, who divided allegiance between the officer and his pretty bride.  It is a particularly fine specimine and many museums and sportsmen have craved possession of it; notwithstanding its clumsiness to transport, it has always hung somewhere in the Lawton quarters, and its hanging was the general's special work.

The charm of the Lawton home was threefold—an architecturally attractive house commanding from every window a superb view; interior furnishings uniquely characteristic; and, best of all, the tender family life.

The bed-rooms are furnished with simplicity, the beds so placed that the first waking moments will be filled with the picture of nature to be seen through the white-draped windows. The dining-room is situated to catch the sunlight at every meal, and is a charming apartment. The entrance-hall is probably the finest Indian-room in the world. On the floor are strewn Navajo rugs of unusual size, while over the chairs and couch are thrown more rugs, woven by the same tribe, but of very fine texture. The hangings between the hall and drawing-room are Indian blankets, on one of which is shown the "road-runner" of the West, a peculiar snake-eating bird, and the road-runner of the East, a miniature train of cars pictured in the crude Indian form. After a survey of this apartment, one is compelled to acknowledge that the Indian has a sense of honor, for many of the designs have a twofold meaning. A modern olla of huge dimensions illustrates the "hart that panteth after the water brooks"; but his mouth is drawn as if in the act of speaking, to show that this Indian thinks that "out of the fulness of the heart (hart) the mouth speaketh."

[Photo Right: The Library where General Lawton worked]

Leaving the Indian in his native sage-brush, we must look farther around Mrs. Lawton's hall. Over the doorway hangs an Apache shield and a Comanche drum, on which are painted some of the interesting picture-writing. Here also hang the general's hair lariat and bridle and a couple of murderous-looking tomahawks. The walls are completely covered with relies, to each of which is attached a history. A pair of moccasins, worn by Mrs. Lawton on a tramp through the Jicarilla reservation, associate democratically with the much-beaded pairs formerly owned by the native belles. There is a bewildering array of arrows, and a very fine collection of baskets. Many handsome pieces of head-work adorn the walls, with a heavy Mexican bridle made entirely of silver a striking object. A number of large photographs, framed, show the Indian in his moments of occupation and idleness, while a huge tar-smeared water-bottle stands on the floor and acts as receptacle for any waste-paper.

The drawing-room, a glimpse of which may he obtained through the doorway, is furnished in more conventional style; but beyond this room we enter the library, which was the general's work-room when at home. The cases lining the wall held his official library. while a number of drawers are conveniently built in for the filing of papers. In one corner of this room stands an immense cartridge-shell, which Major Albee had made especially to hold General Lawton's commissions, and on the table are two smaller ones, which were utilized as flower-holders. On the walls arc hung maps and flags, and General Lawton's favorite picture of the "Black Brunswicker.'' Above the bookcase a row of pottery, baskets, and canoes looks down condescendingly, and in the doorway hangs a Mexican n serape, which was picked up during the Geronimo campaign. By the side of the general's work-table stands his wife's sewing-rocker, as he felt that his writing never progressed successfully unless she was within sight. Many times they would sit side by side for hours, never speaking a word, but feeling that pleasure in each other's presence which was such an important part of their life.

[Photo Left:  Tea on the Piazza at Mrs. Lawton's Home, ca. 1900]

But so much time was spent out-of-doors, in their home of continual summer, that the piazza must also be considered as one of the rooms. This extends almost entirely around the house, so that no matter whether one wishes shade or sun, breeze or calm, it is impossible not to be suited. Tea is usually served out here, and many a little party have the children had on the piazza. One birthday of the general's was celebrated by a puppy wedding, the neighboring dogs joining in the celebration. Mrs. Lawton's daily letter of that date to her husband contained a report of the ceremony, and he was as much amused as the children, if not more. Every birthday was made a special event, and a cake with candles was part of the programme; but finally General and Mrs. Lawton's cakes became so immense that he decided to be twenty-one and she eighteen on every natal day.

It is about a year since the entire Lawton family started for Manila, by way of Gibraltar;  Fuzii and George, the Japanese servants, who had lived for a number of years with the Lawtons, staid behind to close up the house, and then started back to Japan, intending to live there. Upon the arrival of the Lawtons in Manila, the general secured the palace of a former high Spanish official for his residence, and Mrs. Lawton commenced to unpack and hunt for suitable servants; but what was her surprise one day to see Fuzii and George walk in! In broken English they told their tale of homesickness. They longed for the children and the old home, so they had left their native land at once to rejoin her in Manila.

Mrs. Lawton thinks that Manila is a very nice place in which to live, if one cannot be in California. But with all the charm of life and the new sensations there was a dreadful suspense when the general started for an engagement, which was heart-breaking to his devoted wife. Then, instead of worrying over the matter, she would go to the hospital to comfort the sick and wounded.  As one soldier remarked, "Oh Mrs. Lawton ma'am, if you only knew how much better I feel when I can just look at you!"

Mrs. Lawton says that shopping, as we understand it. is an unknown term in the Philippines, as there are no stores for the sale of wearing apparel, and the marketing is done by the house-servant. No one wears hats but the new arrivals, and as soon as the home finery becomes shabby they also adopt the native fashion of going hatless. In Manila the daytime is spent in-doors; but at sundown, when the breeze springs up, everybody drives up and down the Luneta, the broad drive-way fronting on both the river and the harbor.  Mrs. Lawton's coachman was a native indifferent in both appearance and manner. During the driving-hours the band would play, while the sides of the street were thronged with soldiers, many from the hospitals on crutches or all bandaged up. No matter how decrepit they might be, when the band played for the closing air, "The Star-spangled Banner," every cap was raised in the national salute—with one exception: Mrs. Lawton's coachman the first day sat utterly unmoved, until his mistress, with gestures and imperfect Spanish, managed to have him remove his hat in a very halt-hearted manner. The next night he was given his second lesson in courtesy, and by the third evening he understood that the general's wife would not stand the slightest disrespect to her beloved flag, and his hat was doffed with a leer. He was given a fourth lesson to impress the fact upon his mind, after which Mrs. Lawton felt that dinner need not be delayed for an unpatriotic Filipino.

Since Mrs. Lawton's return to the home she has been busy putting it in order. Although everything is a constant reminder of the general, she does not give way to grief at her great loss; but relegating self to the background, she does what she can to relieve the sorrow of others, and strives to give pleasure wherever possible. Her first thought was for the sick soldiers in the Manila hospital, fevered, thirsty, and longing for cooling drinks; and immediately steps were taken to send grape-fruit, oranges, and-lemons to our brave boys who are so far away from home, upholding the honor of their country.

 [Photo Right:  "Mrs. Lawton's latest Portrait"]

In appearance Mrs. Lawton is a trifle below the average height, but she is so well proportioned and of so graceful carriage that she would be singled out in an assembly as a woman of distinction. Her clear gray eyes look at you with a steadiness of expression which denotes a directness of purpose in all under-takings, while her tender cupid's-bow mouth shows her sympathetic disposition.

Mrs. Lawton is an agreeable talker. Indian anecdotes and army life are never-failing topics; and before the general's death her delicate mimicry of the old "Mammy" and her pickaninnies was inimitable. Now, though she is bravely cheerful, her sorrow is too deep to permit of the lighter vein. One of her chief pleasures is to relate some little story of the children's doings, while she dwells daily upon the pleasant episodes connected with the general, for her life has been so interwoven with our hero of the Philippines that the beautiful memory of him is to her a living presence.

It is Mrs. Lawton's intention to adjust her life to the new condition of affairs, and then, retiring to private life, devote her time to her children.