Lane Place holds a secure spot in the history of Crawfordsville because of its association with Henry Lane and his wife Joanna Elston Lane. For Lew Wallace and Susan Elston it held a special place in their hearts because it was where they first really came to know each other as young adults. However, the structure that became Lane Place had an important history of more than a decade before the Lanes moved in.
After David Wallace’s first wife, Esther, died in 1833, he placed his three surviving sons with Mrs. John H. Hawkins of Covington. For approximately two years, Mrs. Hawkins looked after William, Edward, and the ever precocious Lew. When David Wallace married Zerelda Sanders in 1836, they took Lew and his brothers back into their home. Shortly after that, Mrs. Hawkins moved to Crawfordsville with her children.
From 1836 through 1841, the Hawkins family rented a three-room cottage in the Elston Grove. The Elston family had moved into their large brick mansion in 1835, and the Elston and Hawkins children spent many hours playing throughout the Elston Grove. John Parker Hawkins, who was just one year younger than Susan, and his sister Louisa Hawkins retained fond memories of this time.
In particular Susan Wallace related stories of the sugar camp in Elston Grove and of Louisa Hawkins’ marriage to Edward R. Canby. This wedding took place in the parlor of the Hawkins’ rented house which is now the dining room at Lane Place. Members of the Elston family were guests at the wedding and Susan Wallace and Joanna Lane often said that Louisa was the most beautiful bride they ever saw.
In 1845 the small cottage that had held the Hawkins family was incorporated into a much larger house for Henry and Joanna Lane, and eventually became the large antebellum mansion we know today as Lane Place.
The Elston, Hawkins, Canby, Lane and Wallace families remained close throughout their lives as is evidenced by surviving correspondence. As history happens, the little house that became Lane Place saw the intimate family comings and goings of three of Montgomery County’s five Civil War Generals: John Parker Hawkins, Edward Canby, and Lew Wallace.