Foundation Announces Scholarship for Business or Engineering
The Harrisonville Public School Foundation will begin presenting a new scholarship for Harrisonville High School seniors pursuing college degrees in engineering or business in May 2022. The $750 scholarship — named The Joseph Hardin Gwathmey and Laura May Gwathmey Memorial Scholarship Award for Engineering or Business — will be awarded each year to a senior who demonstrates school and community involvement, a commitment to honesty and gratitude, a sense of curiosity and an innovative spirit, and a dedication to inclusivity and respect for others.
The Gwathmey family established the scholarship through an endowment with the Foundation. The Foundation will name the scholarship’s first recipient at the 2022 Senior Excellence in Academics Ceremony.
Candidates must have a 3.6 GPA; provide three letters of recommendation’ and write an essay to describe the reasons you are interested in studying engineering and/or business, describe a situation where your leadership skills successfully helped to work through issues and advance a project for your school and/or community, or describe the how your volunteer activities have impacted your life. Access scholarship information and the application on the Foundation website at www.harrisonvilleschools.org/foundation. Applications are due April 8.
Joseph Hardin Gwathmey
July 19, 1879-July 6, 1945
Twenty-Seven Years as a Business Man in Harrisonville
Mr. Joseph Hardin Gwathmey was born on July 19, 1879 in Aylett, Virginia. He graduated with distinction on June 19, 1901 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. His first employment was with a Philadelphia company where he traveled as an installation boss of industrial equipment. Prior to 1914 and up until 1917, he resided in Webb City, Missouri where he was part owner of a foundry business.
While living in Webb City, Mr. Gwathmey met and married Mrs. Laura May (Blankienship) Albert on June 15, 1914. She was a teacher at a Baptist Sunday School class and he was superintendent.
Sole Owner of Gwathmey Manufacturing Company
The Gwathmey Manufacturing Company was originally incorporated under the laws of Virginia and then licensed by the State of Missouri on July 18, 1914 to do business. Ten days later, the company purchased the Harrisonville Pump and Foundry Company in north Harrisonville which had been in operation since the early 1900s. The purchase included all of the buildings, improvements and machinery.
Family Moves to Harrisonville
In 1917, three years after the purchase of the foundry, Mr. and Mrs. Gwathmey along with their two daughters, Lila May Albert and Laura Virginia Gwathmey moved to Harrisonville. Both daughters graduated from Harrisonville High School – Lila May in 1920 and Virginia in 1934.
In 1928, Mr. Gwathmey constructed a brick family home at 800 West Wall Street, Harrisonville.
Concerning Mr. Gwathmey’s arrival in Harrisonville, the Democrat newspaper on April 26, 1917 stated: “He has cast his dye with the people of Harrisonville and community and is for all that will advance our interests. Joe never deviated from that pronouncement in all the ensuing years he was there.”
The foundry was enlarged with a two-story brick building which housed the office, a pattern-making room and storage for the patterns. It also included a new boiler room, three cupolas, molding machines and a large core oven. The enlargement was necessary to take care of present contracts and future deliveries. It was completed in April, 1917. At that time, the company expected to employ from 25 to f40 men. The company’s business grew by leaps and bounds. Other towns began making flattering offers to Mr. Gwathmey, but he liked Harrisonville and decided to stay.
The foundry made industrial and domestic gas burners, Red Mule Garden tractors, stove parts, heavy river-crossing pipeline clamps, boiler sections, commercial boilers, locomotive smokestacks, gas furnaces, incinerators and handmade gray iron castings.
In July 1936, during the Depression, the foundry handled a large order requiring thirty men to work every day and two men to work every night. The contract was for 500 clamps (each weighing 1,800 lbs.) to be used on the new pipeline across the bottom of the Mississippi River and across the state of Louisiana. Besides this order, other work was ongoing. Joseph Gwathmey owned and operated the foundry from 1917- 1943.
During the Depression
During the 1929-30’s depression, many unemployed men rode the boxcars on trains that passed by the foundry. Joseph Gwathmey permitted them to come into the foundry where it was warm to spend the night. Often, Joe’s wife, Laura May, would organize “the church ladies” to prepare whatever food they could to take to these men.
Asset to Community
Joe Gwathmey was not only devoted to his business and family. When Joe first came to Harrisonville, he joined the Commercial Club which was the advent to the Harrisonville Kiwanis Club, organized in 1923. He was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club and saw it as a way Harrisonville could advance. He served as its third president for the years 1926 and 1927 and he was the only man to serve two complete terms.
He also was active in Boy Scout work, serving on the local Boy Scout committee, and as district commissioner of the Blue Grass District. He was vice-president of the Covered Wagon Region, District Commissioner and member of the local Scout troop committee. In all of his civic activities, Joe Gwathmey put his whole being into play, and thus he saw accomplishments a reality. His droll humor and southern accent were always a source of amusement.
Injury at Foundry Curtails His Activities
Joe Gwathmey always was “one of the “boys” at the foundry. When work was pressing, he pitched in and helped, if not in manual labor, then in an advisory capacity. On Saturday morning, April 18, 1942, Joe was directing the moving of a 600-pound cupola furnace when a hoisting chain on the cupola furnace broke, releasing the stack on him. Joe was critically injured. For more than a year, he tried mightily to continue working, but his injuries were too severe. Mr. and Mrs. F.H. Baker, who had been in charge of the foundry business since Mr. Gwathmey’s accident, were able to continue their work.
Death of His Wife
Laura May Gwathmey died July 19, 1943 at the age of 62 years. This further convinced Mr. Gwathmey he should retire. It was not easy to make the decision, but with his old-time fortitude he decided to return to his Virginia home and live a life of retirement, hoping his business in Harrisonville could be sold. He left Harrisonville on December 20, 1944.
On July 6, 1945, Joseph H. Gwathmey died suddenly at his farm home near Aylett, Va.
Laura May Gwathmey
July 24, 1881-July 19, 1943
Laura May Blankienship was born on July 24, 1881 near Chanute, Kansas. Her parents were Daniel M. and Clarissa Lowery Blankienship. She died six days before her 62nd birthday.
Laura May’s father was a stone mason-contractor and when his daughter was 15 years old, the family moved to Webb City, Mo. It was there Laura May received most of her schooling. Laura May had been a member of the Baptist Church since December 8, 1891 when she was 10 years old.
When Laura May was 19 years old, she married William A. Albert on July 1, 1900. Two years later, Laura May’s husband died, leaving her a 21-year-old widow with her baby daughter, Lila May Albert. William Albert died from drowning on July 4, 1902 while attending a church picnic.
Laura May was left to support herself and her daughter at a time when single working mothers were a rarity. She worked as a sales clerk in a local department store, then later went to Chicago to live with an older sister and work at Marshall Fields & Company. Life in Chicago was not a good place to raise a child so she returned to Webb City, Mo. She again worked in a department store and became a buyer.
In Webb City, Mrs. Albert became prominent in church work, and it was while she was teacher of a Baptist Sunday School Class that she met Joseph Hardin Gwathmey, then superintendent of the Sunday School. Their marriage occurred in Webb City on June 15, 1914. Mr. Gwathmey then was a young business man and in 1917 he became head of the Gwathmey Manufacturing Company in Harrisonville. In the same year, Mr. and Mrs. Gwathmey moved to Harrisonville accompanied by their daughters, Lila May Albert and Laura Virginia Gwathmey.
Mrs. Gwathmey also was a member and former president of The Progress Club. Whatever she elected to do, the success of the project was a foregone conclusion, for she possessed the necessary attributes of a prepossessing appearance, Christianity, culture and determination.
Their daughters graduated from Harrisonville High School. Lila May married Berry H. Horne and moved to Garden City, Long Island, N.Y. Laura Virginia became a Captain in the Women’s Reserve of the United States Marine Corps, stationed in Washington, D.C. and married Captain John D. Young.
Mrs. Gwathmey died earlier than expected on July 19, 1943 at the age of 61 in the Harrisonville Hospital after two months of being ill. Besides her husband and two daughters, Mrs. Gwathmey is also survived by a brother and six sisters.