Lawrence was the son of Hannah and was an African American child enslaved by Robert M. Smith, who took him to Utah.
It is interesting to note that the 1850 Census listed Lawrence's "color" as "yellow." At that time, a designation of "yellow" may be indicative of a multi-racial background. While the 1860 Census listed her "color" as "M" for mulatto. "Mulatto" was a term used to identify individuals with mixed racial backgrounds.
Lawrence's exact birth year is unknown indirect sources point to a birth year ranging from 1841-1844. In the company roster, "John Brown's company of 10, report," Lawrence was listed as being 5 years old, which points to a birth year of 1843.
While still enslaved, Lawrence and his family were taken to California (by Robert M. Smith) where they eventually gained their freedom. In the 1860 Census he was listed under the surname "Sunily."