The Old Haw Tree at Hickory Hill

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The Old Haw Tree
By William T. Lawler
c. 1977, REA Magazine
P robably no other tree in Gallatin County or in southern Illinois has touched the lives of as many people as this lowly Hawthorne tree, which grew to a height of no more than twenty feet. The tree was located on the Lawler farm, east of Equality. It stood in the fence row, about fifty yards south of Lawler Cemetery, which was just across the road from Hickory Hill School. The tree was a favorite place for the students to go at recess. They would gather the "haws", which were poor eating under the best of conditions.

One story about the tree involves Union Major-Gen. Michael Kelly Lawler (1814-1882); his son Raphael Edward (my father), then a teenage boy; and one George Kingston, a boy residing in the community. (Iím placing the date about 1875.) One day the Lawlers heard loud crying and shouting from the direction of the tree, which was about three hundred yards from their house. General Lawler and his son Edward walked over to the tree and found George Kingston lying on the ground with a broken leg. He had been playing hookey and had climbed into the tree after some woodpeckers. Needless to say, he had fallen out. George was shaking his fist at the birds and cursing like a sailor. General Lawler, a religious man who never used foul language, tried to quiet him down, but the boy shouted, "See, now, Gee-neral, if it hadnít been for them goddam peckerwoods, I wouldnít have broke my leg."

In the meantime, my father had gone back to the house to get bandages and some wooden slats. The General set the boyís leg and splinted it. He must have been good because, to my knowledge, George was not taken to a doctor. I remember him when he was an old man and he never showed any signs of lameness. He was small of stature and was always known as "Little George" around the community. I have heard this story repeated by my father many times.

Some forty years asd two generations later I had a memorable schoolboy experience under the same tree. A group of us were gathering haws. Through the years various objects had been thrown into the branches of the tree to knock down the haws. I reached up and caught a limb when a club fell out and hit Grace Kingston, a niece of the original George Kingston, on the head and knocked her out cold. We took her back to school and the teacher had to bathe her head with cold water before she would come to.

About 1870 a couple, then students at Hickory Hill, used to stop at the old Haw tree, lay their books on the ground, and gather the haws that grew there. Soon they outgrew the tree, and it became just a memory. This couple became interested in more important things, like lovemaking in her motherís parlor. They married in January of 1881 and became the parents of nineteen children. I am the eighteenth.

That couple and General Lawler are buried in Lawler Cemetery. I wonder how many of us are still around today who can remember the old Haw tree in the fence row nearby.

Webmaster's note: William T. Lawler, Jr., submitted his father's article on the Haws for the Gallatin County ILGenWeb site. His father originally wrote the article around 1977 for the REA magazine. At the time the senior Lawler lived in Jerseyville, Illinois. The senior Lawler also wrote a history of Guineaville, which is also on this site. That community stood about a quarter-mile south of the Hickory Hill/Lawler Cemeteries.

There were two George Kingston men living in Gallatin County in the 1880 census. Both were young enough to be the boy who fell from the tree. The oldest one was 21 that year, a farmer born in Kentucky. His household included his 18-year-old wife Hannah Kingston, an Illinois native whose parents were born in Kentucky and their six-month-old son Marion Kingston. The second was George W. Kingston, 12, a son of F. M. Kingston, also living in Equality Township.

Map — This portion of the 1916 Equality topographical map shows the area of Hickory Hill and Guineaville.

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