This past weekend, while visiting my son in Troy, New York, I made a side trip to Pownal, Vermont to search for a grave in the Oak Hill Cemetery. The marker belongs to Alfred William Lawson, Jr., the product of a brief marriage just rediscovered recently, years after my biography of the Lawson Brothers was published.
At age 19, while starting to rise as a minor league pitcher in the late 1880s, Lawson succumbed to what appears to be a shotgun marriage to Hettie Foote of Pownal. Where and how they met is unknown, but Lawson later had close friends in baseball from nearby North Adams, Massachusetts. After they married, Lawson took a factory job in North Adams, where he resided with his new wife. A baby was born in May, 1889, just 5 months after their marriage. It was named after the father. The baby was born with spina bifida, and it must have been severe–he died a month later, in late June, 1889.
Al Lawson soon abandoned his wife, and went back to Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin to continue his athletic career. Hettie remarried in 1893, though it is unclear how her previous marriage was dissolved. Lawson never married again until the 1940s, when he was in his 70s, and desirous of offspring to carry on his mission. Feelings of guilt, pain, and inadequacy likely caused him to shy away from emotional commitments during most of his adult life, caused by the death of this child and a doomed marriage.
I’m as guilty as other writers in portraying Lawson as a born eccentric, blind to emotional entanglements. This little stone marker in Pownal, a tiny headstone for a tiny body, adds a new level of complexity to the character of this most curious man.
Alfred W. Lawson
Died June 24 1889
Age 1 Month