William J. Bovaird

WILLIAM J. BOVAIRD. Due to the important position occupied by Independence in the oil and gas fields of Kansas and Oklahoma, it has become the center of many large business corporations, and one of these is the Bovaird Supply Company of Kansas, whose president is William J. Bovaird. Mr. Bovaird has been identified with the manufacture of tools and apparatus used in the oil fields since an early age, his father having established a business of that kind in Western Pennsylvania in the early days.

In 1903 Mr. Bovaird located at Independence and established the Bovaird Supply Company, at first as a branch of the parent company back in Bradford, Pennsylvania. Due to the phenomenal development of the oil and gas districts of Southern Kansas and Oklahoma the Independence concern grew so rapidly that in the spring of 1907 it was incorporated separately under the laws of Kansas, and is now one of the largest corporations of its kind in the West. The officers of the company are: William J. Bovaird, president; John Smith, of Independence, vice president: and W. M. Bovaird, a son of the president, secretary and treasurer. The company manufactures all kinds of oil drilling and fishing tools, derricks and other woodwork for wells, and a general line of repairs. Its output is marketed in all the oil fields of Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Some years ago a branch establishment was located at Sapulpa, Oklahoma, including a supply store, and now the capital invested there is even greater than at Independence.

William J. Bovaird was born in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, March 25, 1863. His grandparents were Scotch people, and they also came to America, locating near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Grandfather Bovaird was a coal miner by occupation, and while working in the mines was killed by a fall of slate. His death occurred when William J. was a child.

David Bovaird, father of William J., was born at Glasgow, Scotland, in 1835, and died at Bradford, Pennsylvania, January 5, 1911. He came to this country at the age of eighteen, prior to the emigration of his father, and located in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. In 1868 he participated in the opening of the oil fields near Pithole, Pennsylvania, and at that time engaged in oil production. Moving to Titusville in 1873 he formed a partnership with J. L. Seyfang, and they began the manufacture of oil well supplies. In 1878 they moved their headquarters to Bradford and incorporated the Bovaird & Seyfang Manufacturing Company, which is still in existence at Bradford. However, David Bovaird sold his interests in that corporation in 1897, while Mr. Seyfang sold out in 1900. In 1897 David Bovaird, with his sons, William J. and J. H. Bovaird, and with Albert B. Booth, established the firm of Bovaird and Company. David Bovaird was a very prominent worker in the Presbyterian Church, being a member and trustee for many years of the first church at Bradford. He was a republican and was affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Ancient Order of United Workmen. David Bovaird married Mary A. McClenahan, who was born in September, 1832, in County Derry, Ireland, and came to the United States when about seventeen years of age. Her first home was at Xenia, Ohio, but she was married at New Texas, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. Her death occurred at Bradford, Pennsylvania, in October, 1913. Her children were: Margaret, who resides at Bradford, widow of the late Albert B. Booth, who was a prominent oil producer and died at Bradford; Mary, wife of John Downs, who is interested in Bovaird & Company at Bradford; William J.; Walter, who is manager of the Bovaird Supply Company branch at Sapulpa, Oklahoma; David, a graduate of Princeton University and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York City, and now a prominent physician and surgeon in New York; Joseph H., a member of the company and manager of Bovaird & Company at Bradford.

William J. Bovaird received his early education in the public schools of Titusville, Pennsylvania. At the age of sixteen, leaving school, he went to work in his father's shop at Bradford, and was connected with all phases of the manufacturing of oil well supplies from the spring of 1879 until the fall of 1903. During that time he was foreman of the blacksmith department of the Bovaird & Seyfang Manufacturing Company. Then in 1903 he came to Kansas and established the business which has enjoyed such a rapid and prosperous growth and of which he is now president. The large plant of the company is located along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks in Independence.

While in Pennsylvania Mr. Bovaird took an active part in local military affairs. He was a member of the National Guard of Pennsylvania from 1889 to 1899. On May 10, 1898, a few weeks after the outbreak of the Spanish-American war, he enlisted in the Sixteenth Pennsylvania Regiment of Volunteer Infantry, serving as first lieutenant of Company C and saw some active service in Porto Rico with General Miles. He was mustered out December 28, 1898. While a resident of Bradford he served on the board of health and was a member of the city council six years and two years as its president. He is progressive in politics. He is a director of the Independence Building & Loan Association. Fraternally he is affiliated with Fortitude Lodge No. 107, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons, and with the Royal Arch Chapter, the Knights Templar Commandery and the council bodies in Independence, is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason in the Consistory at Cowdersport, Pennsylvania, and was initiated in the Mystic Shrine in Zem Zem Temple at Erie, Pennsylvania, and now belongs to Mirzah Temple at Pittsburgh, Kansas. He is also a past grand in the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and formerly belonged to the Canton and Rebekah degrees of that order.

In 1885, at Bradford, Pennsylvania, Mr Bovaird married Miss Anna L. Davis, daughter of the late F. T. and Mary Ellen Davis. Her father was a rigbuilding contractor in the oil fields. Mr. and Mrs. Bovaird have a family of seven children: Zella is the wife of W. D. O'Neil, now assistant secretary of the Fulton Iron Works at St. Louis, Missouri; Francis D., who is connected with the Bovaird Supply Company in the office at Independence, and by his marriage to Nellie Watt of Independence has a daughter, Janet; William Merwin, secretary and treasurer of the Bovaird Supply Company at Independence; Gladys E. is a sophomore in the Emporia College; Davis is a junior in the same college; Helen Emma graduated from the Montgomery County High School and is now assistant secretary of the Independence Young Women's Christian Association; Doris is in the freshman class of the Montgomery County High School.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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