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Washington H. Lawrence
pages 181-184

ONE of the most inspiring subjects for the consideration and stimulus of the younger generation is success as it has actually come to men of achievement in any walk of life. We may look upon the sum total of qualities which any individual success presents, and trace the effect here of untiring industry, here of prodigious energy, or here of unfailing mastery of any given situation—but after all, these are not essentially the fundamentals of success,—the real foundation is in that talent for succeeding—that "habit of success"— which certain determined individuals seem to show from youth to the end of their days.
In the late Washington H. Lawrence of Cleveland, this—what we may call, for want of a better name,—" talent for success" was markedly developed even at an early age. It attracted the attention of the Hon. John Baldwin, possibly the first to recognize his unusual capabilities in a genuine way, when he was scarcely more than a boy, in his teens, with his own way to make in the world. It followed him in his Western enterprises through Kansas and Missouri and the frontier and persisted in him. By 1864, when he cast his final lot with the future of Cleveland, perhaps no one quality was more conspicuous in the many which enobled Washington H. Lawrence than this faculty of making a success of each undertaking. Shall we call it: concentration, earnestness, wholesouledness ? Undoubtedly all of these qualities had their contributing share, linked with that practical mind which could realize limitations and was not lured to wasted labor on glittering impossibilities, and yet which saw with creative imaginings enterprise after enterprise destined each to mark an era in the commercial advancement of Cleveland.
Washington H. Lawrence, the man to whom Cleveland owes this lasting indebtedness, was a true product of the Western Reserve, having been born in Alm stead, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, January 17, 1840. He was of New England stock, his parents being Joel B. Lawrence of Pepperill, Massachusetts, and his wife Catherine (Harris) Lawrence, the latter originally of Little Rest, Dateless County, New York. Joel B. Lawrence traced his name back to the beginnings of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, when the doughty John Lawrence came from England and settled at Wolverton, Massachusetts, in 1635. He was descended from distinguished ancestors, tracing back to Robert Lawrence of Lancashire, England, who was knighted for his bravery at the Siege of Acre by Richard Coeur De Lion, in 1191, who knew well how to value true valor. But just as in 1635, John Lawrence resigned Old England for the opportunities in the New World, so, just two hundred years after his settling at Wolverton, Massachusetts, his descendent Joel B. Lawrence up-rooted himself from the East and set out for that new wilderness of the Western Reserve, where in 1833 he settled at what came to be Olmstead. Here he took up a tract of land and established a flour mill and reared his family, but died in 1851, his wife Catherine dying also two years later in 1853, leaving Washington H., who had been born in the pioneer home, orphaned of both parents at the age of thirteen.
The lad was, for a space, clerk in a store at Berea, but was ambitious from the start and attended Baldwin University. His sterling qualities won the esteem of Hon. John Baldwin himself, who was an excellent judge of character, a student of men as well as of books, and he selected young Washington Lawrence as the associate for his own son, Milton Baldwin, and planned to send the two young men out to Kansas to look after some land and mills, requiring interested attention. Young Milton Balwin died, but the enterprise was entrusted in its entirety to the sturdy, if youthful shoulders of Washington H. Lawrence. He discharged the trust faithfully and proved a successful manager despite his years. In 1859, being then only nineteen, he gave up this connection to join his brother at Hannibal, Missouri, where his business carried him over Kansas and Missouri, and he saw much of frontier life. In 1861, he was drawn back to Ohio by the necessity of settling up the estate at Olmstead, and continued in the town for several years, living at the old home his father had built, until in 1864 he came to Cleveland to settle permanently. From that time on, his progress was part of the progress of the city which was destined to become so large a factor in the commercial life of the world.
Mr. Lawrence first engaged himself in the business of manufacturing sewing machines, then a new industry. He was associated in this with N. S. C. Perkins and W. A. Mack in what was called the Domestic Sewing Machine Company. This continued with great success and he was eventually able to sell out his interest to his partners at great profit and became himself the sales agent over five States for the Howe Sewing Machine.. He was thus one of the principal pioneers of this important industry, which has had so considerable a share in revolutionizing the industrial life as well as the home life of the world. During this time, also, Mr. Lawrence became interested in a foundry at Elyria, Ohio, making bolts, which grew to be the Cleveland Screw and Tap Company and was, like all of his enterprises, distinguished by unusual success. In 1874, however, he sold out his various interests and devoted himself to another pioneer industry—the greatest of all—this being the beginning of an electric business which was then known as the Telegraph Supply Company, in which he was the largest stockholder, but which came to be the Brush Electric Company, named for the pioneer wizard of electricity, Charles Francis Brush. The history of this company is the his- tort' of the electric dynamo and lamp and the direct application of electricity to the practical work of the world. Mr. Lawrence was associated with the electrician, Charles F. Brush, himself, and it was his business sagacity and enthusiastic capability which proved the tower of strength to the little company in early days when doubt and misgivings at times assailed the welfare of the struggling concern. His association here continued up to 1882, by which time the Brush Electric Company was an established potent factor in the industrial advance, capitalized at three million dollars and with a name unrivalled and known in every quarter of the globe where electric matters are understood.
It was the intention of Mr. Lawrence to retire and devote himself chiefly to the management of his real estate investments, which were exceedingly large. But bubbling energy could not easily retire itself at the age of forty-two, no matter what the financial success, and he who had been so vital a part of industrial organizations was soon seeking another congenial field for the energy and determination which still sought expression. He had been interested in the work of the carbon department in the Brush Electric Company and in 1886 Mr. Lawrence united with W. W. Masters for the manufacture of carbons in a little plant on Wilson Avenue. On the retirement of Mr. Masters on account of enfeebled health, Mr. Lawrence united with Myron T. Herrick, James Parmalee, and Webb C. Haves, and withthese gentlemen took over the National Carbon Company as it was then called.
Under their masterly direction, the company soon outgrew its first bounds, and in 1891 the owners purchased one hundred and fifteen acres conveniently located on the Lake Shore tracks, on the Western boundary of the city, on the line between Lakewood and West Park suburbs. Here they built in time a great group of buildings for the plant of the National Carbon Company, now the largest carbon factory in the world.
Mr. Lawrence was president of this vast concern and responsible for its management and perfect organization—a model of modern efficiency in its standards of operation. Mr. Lawrence was also identified with the official board of the Brush Electric Company, and President of the Sperry Electric Railway Company. He had long ere this taken his place as one of Cleveland's leading men of finance, and was one of the founders of the Cleveland Trust Company, the first organization of its kind in the State of Ohio.
But while the world applauds loudest that phase of a "successful life" which shows itself in our relations to the world, undoubtedly the crowning glory of Mr. Lawrence's individual success, was his tranquil domestic life. He seemed a man designed by nature for the true adornment and enjoyment of home life and had every quality of the ideal husband and father. He wisely married in early life, in 1863, just before coming to locate permanently in Cleveland. His bride was Miss Harriet E. Collister, of Cleveland. He established for his. family an ideal home at Dover Bay, Ohio, and here amid the charming scenes of that beautiful location he could retire from the world of business and renew himself for the direction of large affairs. Seven children, all daughters, came to bless the union of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence. Of these, the eldest, Ella D. has married W. O. Mathews; Cora B. married Frank W. Brown and has one son, Wayland W. Brown; the third daughter, Ida M., married Walter James and has two sons, Lawrence James, and William Rees James. Irene is now Mrs. Fred. R. Fuller, and mother of two sons, Lawrence De Wolf Fuller, and John Lawrence Fuller; Maude and Myrtle, twin sisters, were separated by the marriage of the latter to James Seth Adams, and she is now the mother of James S. Adams, Jr. Winifred, the youngest daughter, and Maude now remain in the beautiful family home to delight with their companionship their widowed mother.
Washington H. Lawrence died November 7, 1900, while in his sixty-first year. His loss at such an early age was one not to be repaired, for no one man, or group of men, could take his place in the industrial advancement of the city of Cleveland. However it may be reflected with thankfulness that he was spared to give so many useful years to the city, for Cleveland received from him the best years of his life—the ripe fruits of his early experience in the West and the compelling energy of his youth and determined earnestness in pushing to a success each successive business endeavor.


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