Gazlay Family History

SearchBiography: Webster Gazlay

This biographical sketch of Webster Gazlay was prepared by J. M. Johnson, M. Am. Soc. C. E. (i.e., Member, American Society of Civil Engineers) and appeared on page 1861 in the Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, 1914. Vol. LXXVII, December 1914. The entire text is presented below (formatting varies from the original).



Died February 17th, 1914.

*Memoir prepared by J. M. Johnson, M. Am. Soc. C. E.

Webster Gazlay was born in Louisville, Ky., on February 17th, 1862, and given the name of “Webster” in recognition of his father’s admiration for the great statesman. His surname has come through mutations from Gazeley, Gazelle, Geasley, and Gaselee, of early England. For the past 400 years, Judges of the name of Gaselee have sat on the King’s Bench in England, and their decisions are still quoted in English books of law. A Judge Gaselee was Dickens’ prototype, it is said, for “Judge Stareleigh” in Pickwick’s famous breach of promise suit.

Mr. Gazlay’s mother was a Wheeler, of Virginia ancestry, Chaplines and Claibornes blending. On her maternal side, John Randolph of Roanoke, was a kinsman.

In 1715 (Old Style) the English progenitor of the family in America settled in the State of New York, and his son, John Gazlay, was a member of the Continental Congress. Webster Gazlay’s father, Addison M. Gazlay, was born in the valley of the Unadilla River, in Central New York, went to Kentucky in his early manhood, and for many years was a leading commercial lawyer at the Louisville bar.

In spite of the marked inclination in the family to the pursuit of law, Mr. Gazlay early manifested such a love and aptitude for mathematics, that he easily stood at the head of his classes in such studies. This passion for mathematical investigation, undoubtedly influenced his choice of a profession and determined the precision of thought and act and the exactness in expression and language, that were matters of comment and banter among his intimate friends.

He was graduated from the Louisville Male High School in 1881, and, the death of his father preventing the further prosecution of his technical studies, he accepted a position as Draftsman in the office of the Chief Engineer of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, where he remained until May, 1883.

After leaving the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, he was appointed Assistant to the late Charles Hermany, Past-President, Am. Soc. C. E., and was engaged on the construction of water-works at Frankfort, Ky., and on surveys, plans, etc., for a proposed reservoir for Nashville, Tenn.

On the completion of these projects, he became Assistant Engineer on the Louisville Southern Railroad (now a part of the Southern Railway System), and was in charge of a residency during the construction of that road.

In 1888, Mr. Gazlay accepted a position, as Assistant Engineer, with the Louisville Water Company, later becoming Assistant to the Chief Engineer, during the construction of a new pumping station and an extensive system of filters; he remained in this position until 1905, resigning at that time to become the Vice-President and Engineer of the National Concrete Construction Company, a contracting firm with its principal office at Louisville, Ky.

In 1906, he again returned to the Louisville Water Company as Associate Engineer, and retained this position until the completion of the filter plant in the Fall of 1909. In accepting his resignation, the Water Board passed the following resolution to be recorded in its Minutes:

“To his intelligence in conception, vigor in execution, and tireless energy in the carrying on of the work, is due, in large measure, the successful completion of the great enterprise to which he has devoted himself.”

Mr. Gazlay was married on November 7th, 1906, to Miss Lida Hampton of Louisville, Ky., who, with three children, Webster Gazlay, Jr., Lida Hampton Gazlay, and Sallie Josephine Gazlay, survives him.

Mr. Gazlay was a man of high ideals and thoroughly in love with his Profession. All his concepts were strong and clear, touched in a great degree with that light and leading which humanity is wont to term genius. His standard condemned anything less than the wholly clean way of honesty and truth, and permitted no compromise where the facts were clear and plain. To his many friends, his untimely passing away is a source of great sorrow, but they have the consolation of knowing that it has been their privilege to work and walk with a man fashioned well and truly in the image of his Maker.

He was one of the original members of the Engineers and Architects Club of Louisville, Ky., and was always placed on committees where important and efficient work was demanded.

Mr. Gazlay was elected a Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers on June 7th, 1905.

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