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Washington H. Lawrence, president of the National Carbon Company, and one of the influential citizens of Cleveland, is a native of Cuyahoga County, having been born at Olmsted, January 17, 1840. He comes of good New England stock, a nobility of descent which bespeaks perfect manhood and hardy virtue.
His father, Joel B. Lawrence, was descended from John Lawrence, a member of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who came to this country in 1635, settling in Wolverton, Massachusetts. The progenitor of this family in England was Robert Lawrence, of Lancashire, who was knighted by Richard I. for bravery displayed at the siege of Acre.
In 1S33, Joel Lawrence decided to cast his fortune with the new West, and made Cuyahoga County, Ohio, his objective point, locating in Olmsted Township, where he was known as a man of unflinching courage and upright character. Owing to the undeveloped state of the country, Mr. Lawrence, Sr., and his wife, who before marriage was Miss Catharine Harris, of Dutchess County, Newr York, were obliged to undergo the many trials and privations that usually fall to the lot of the pioneer. By industry and good management, Mr. Lawrence accumulated a competence which he invested in a tract of land and a flouring and other mills and industries, and was in a fair way to amass quite a snug fortune had not his death occurred in 185 1, which event was followed two years later by the death of his wife.
Thus bereft of parents at the age of thirteen years, young Lawrence obtained a position as clerk at Berea, and began a life of usefulness and credit in the business world. His education had received its primary impulse in the common schools of Olmsted, and he resolved to pursue his studies at every opportunity. His clerical duties admitted of his taking at the same time a course of study at Baldwin University, and he made the best use of the advantages afforded by that institution.
In 1859, two years before young Lawrence attained his majority, he became associated with Milton Baldwin, son of Hon. John Baldwin, of Berea, in large milling and real estate interests in Kansas. Ere the business was fairly in operation, Mr. Milton Baldwin died, leaving Mr. Lawrence in charge of the property, which was completed and put in running order under his supervision. After operating the mill for some time, he left Kansas, joining an older brother in business at Hannibal, Mo. At this time he was obliged to be much on the road, his route lying through western Missouri and eastern Kansas. As these were the days when " Squatter Sovereignty" and border warfare prevailed in this territory, Mr. Lawrence could relate many interesting experiences and thrilling adventures.
In the latter part of 1861, he returned to Olmsted, where he remained two years, engaged in the operation of flour and saw-mills on the site originally occupied by his father in 1834. In 1863, he came to Cleveland and entered into business with Messrs. N. S. C. Perkins and W. A. Mack, in the manufacture of Domestic sewing machines, retaining his interests in the company until he was able to dispose of his share at a goodly profit. Next he assumed charge of the agency in five States for the Howe Sewing Machine Company, and also became interested in the manufacture of bolts at Elyria, Ohio, in what developed into the Cleveland Screw & Tap Company. At this time, while enjoying a lucrative income from several investments, the attention of Mr. Lawrence was directed to electricity and its development toward greater utility to the commercial and mechanical world. Disposing of his other interests in 1874, he purchased a large amount of stock in the Telegraph Supply Company of Cleveland,