Lawrence L. Cavender was born on August 14, 1843, in Leoni, Jackson County, Michigan, the son of Irish-born Dennis Cavender (1818-1872) and Mary Burch (1827-1911).
Dennis immigrated to the United States eventually settling in Jackson County, Michigan by 1841. On October 9, 1841, he married Mary Burch (or Burtch) in Leoni, Jackson County. By 1850 the family was living in Leoni, Jackson County where Lawrence was attending school. About 1855, Lawrence came to Newaygo County where he worked in a variety of occupations; his father purchased 80 acres in Newaygo County in 1858. By 1860 Lawrence was working as a farm laborer and living with his family on a farm in Croton, Newaygo County.
Lawrence was a 20-year-old farm laborer living in Newaygo, probably in Croton, and stood 6’0” with hazel eyes, brown hair and a light complexion, when he enlisted in Company H on March 4, 1862, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was mustered the same day at Detroit. (Company H, formerly the “Muskegon Rangers,” was made up largely of men from the vicinity of Muskegon and Newaygo counties.) He joined the Regiment at Yorktown, Virginia on April 12 just as the Regiment began moving out of its winter quarters in during the opening phase of the Peninsula campaign in Virginia.
Around the middle of August of 1862 Lawrence, who reportedly served very little time with his company due to ill health, was hospitalized, presumably in or near Washington, DC. He remained hospitalized until about January of 1863.
At some point Lawrence was detached as a teamster at a convalescent camp (presumably the one near Alexandria, Virginia), and on August 8, 1863, Captain Thomas Waters of Company H wrote to the commanding officer of the convalescent camp asking that Cavender be returned to the Regiment. “I have just heard,” Waters wrote, “by way of a member of this Regt that Private Lawrence Cavender a member of my Co. is now driving team for your camp and I request that he be returned to his co. for duty. Said Cavender has now been absent since the 15th of last Aug. He then went to hospital sick and in Jan last he was discharged from hosp. for to report to his Regt but failed to do so and now if he does not report in du[e] time I shall have to report him as a deserter. I wish to have him here with us for there is but ten men left in the Co. that is able for duty. Said Cavender joined the Co. as a recruit at Yorktown Apr. 12  and has never done a week’s duty in the Co. and now I wish to have him join us as soon as possible and if he has the heart of a man he will do so without delay and prove to his Co. that he now [sic] coward and that he is willing to share the hardship of a campaign with the bravest of them.”
Whether Lawrence rejoined the Regiment shortly after this exchange remains unclear. Nevertheless, he eventually returned to the company and was reported missing in action on May 5, 1864, at beginning of the battle of the Wilderness, Virginia. In fact, he been shot in the left leg by a minie ball on May 5, and admitted on May 26, 1864 to First Division hospital in Alexandria. He was still absent wounded when he was transferred to Company A, 5th Michigan infantry upon consolidation of the 3rd and 5th Michigan Regiments on June 10, 1864. In July he was reported as a Corporal and on August 15 he was transferred (probably) to Washington, DC, and he was sick in a hospital in Washington through January of 1865. His leg (or foot) was eventually amputated, and he was discharged on February 9, 1865, at Alexandria, Virginia, on account of wounds received on May 5, 1864.
Following his discharge Lawrence remained in Washington and was appointed “Government Policeman” serving in that capacity in the Patent Office building until about 1870 when he returned to western Michigan.
Lawrence married to Maryland native Mary A. Brady (1844-1913), on January 5, 1868, possibly in Baltimore, and they had at least five children: Anna (b. 1868), Eugene (b. 1869), Dora (1878-79), Elsie (b. 1870), Jerri (b. 1873) and May Belle (1881-1887).
By 1870 Lawrence and his wife and son had moved to Michigan and he was working as a farm laborer and Mary was working as a domestic and they were living with his parents in Croton. (His father Dennis was living in Lansing in 1870.)
By 1880 Lawrence was working as a farmer and living with his wife and children in Croton. By 1883 he was still living in Croton drawing $18.00 per month (pension no. 44,297, dated September 1866). He probably spent most of his life in Croton, moving to Newaygo village where he operated a livery stable just a year before he died.
Following his return to Newaygo County, Lawrence engaged in several business enterprises and by the mid-1880s was farming part-time, operating a livery stable and stage and mail route out of Croton. He worked three years as a mail contractor and he was a merchant of general goods. According to one contemporary source, “His stock of goods includes drugs, notions, hardware, groceries, tin ware and clothing, and his patronage is constant and gradually extending.” He also served two terms as town constable.
Lawrence was struck by an attack of apoplexy at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, January 13, 1888, and died that night about 10:00 p.m. in the village of Newaygo. According to his obituary, he “was an old resident of [Newaygo] County, most of his life here having been spent in Croton; and he was well known in the southern part of the County, and universally respected. . . . He came to Newaygo a little less than a year ago and engaged in the livery business. He was popular here and during his brief residence in Newaygo had won many friends.” Furthermore, at his funeral “the church was crowded to its utmost capacity by those who had assembled to pay their last tribute of respect to his memory. The beautiful service of the I.O.O.F., of which Order he was a member, was read at the grave, and the last mortal remains of Lawrence Cavender were committed to mother earth.”
His funeral was held at Croton on Sunday, and he was buried in row 10, Oak Grove cemetery in Newaygo County.
Mary was living in Michigan in July of 1888 when she applied for and received a widow’s pension ((258681). By 1890 she was residing in Brooks, Newaygo County. Mary eventually moved to Grand Rapids and was living on West Leonard street between 1900 and 1912.