Osborne industrialist Dwight Harrison Hardman devoted most of his career to the lumber business, although he spent some time in the construction field as well. He built up the Hardman Lumber Company, of which he was the president; and he was absent from his commercial duties at the time of World War II to serve as an officer in the United State Navy.
Dwight was born on February 19, 1897, in Phillipsburg, Kansas, and was the son of Marion W. and Geme (Edick) Hardman. His father is the subject of an accompanying sketch. Attending the public schools of his native city, he graduated from high school there in 1915. He then entered the University of Kansas, where he was a student for two years. He left to enter naval service for the first time in World War I. Assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, he was chosen for officer’s training while there and transferred to Northwestern University.
Except for a period of some twenty years spent in highway construction and the building of government airports, the remainder of his active career was devoted to the development of the lumber and building materials business. In 1925 Dwight went into partnership with a man by the name of Hall to form the Hall-Hardman Construction Company, headquartered in Alton.
On April 8, 1922, Dwight Hardman was married to Mabel Parker at Junction City, Kansas. They established their home in Alton, residing there until 1945 when they moved to Osborne. In 1940 Alton had a new airport, built one mile west and one mile north of town. The airport began with Jess Daffendoll, who had a long time “bug” for flying. While shopping for a plane and talking about the idea, the “bug” also hit Dwight Hardman. Between the two the airport was conceived and the field laid out. Since Dwight owned and operated a large contracting business in the area he furnished the machinery and cleared away tons of cacti, filled in holes, and rolled the ground until it resembled a billiard table. A number of people became interested in flying after the two inaugurated it, including Marian Hardman, Dwight’s sister. Dwight was a charter member of the Everett Storer Post Number 87 of the American Legion atAlton, and the legion hall, now called Hardman Hall, was made possible through his generosity.
Most of his career, however, was identified with the Hardman Lumber Company. This firm had been started in 1909 with three yards. He played an active part in building up the organization prior to re-entering the United State Navy at the time of World War II.
It was in November, 1942, that he was sworn in as a lieutenant commander in the United States Naval Engineering Corps., and soon afterwards Dwight was appointed officer in charge of the 57th Battalion of Seabees (Construction Battalions). Assigned to duty in the Pacific, he spent one year in the New Hebrides, and moved with his battalion from there to the advance naval base on the Isle of Manus. Commander Hardman returned to the United States in September, 1944, and shortly afterwards was ordered to the School Military Government, Princeton University.
On returning once again to peacetime pursuits, Dwight became president of the Hardman Lumber Company in 1945. In 1947 he completed the construction of new headquarters in Osborne. Previous to that time the firm’s main offices had been at Downs. By 1956 the lumber firm operated about thirty yards in western Kansas, eastern Colorado and Nebraska and carried on a large wholesale business as well as retail.
Dwight was a member of the Kansas State Chamber of Commerce, and as a veteran of naval service in two World Wars, he belonged to Everett Storer Post No. 87, American Legion. He was a member of Downs Lodge No. 204, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Consistory of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite at Topeka, Commandery No. 59 of the Knights Templer, at Osborne, and Isis Temple, Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, at Salina. He was also a member of the lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at Phillipsburg, and had been a member of Phi Gamma Delta social fraternity from his college days.
In his politics, Dwight was an independent Republican, and was a conservative in his views on foreign policy. He was a progressive, however, in his attitude toward social trends. A few years before the end of his life he became a member of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Something of the nature of his character and his active mind is suggested in these lines from a review of his career in the columns of a local newspaper:
“Dwight was not provincial in his thinking, but rather catholic and universal. His vast studies of world history, economics and politics gave him an insight into modern diplomacy and daily drama that but few seem to grasp in our time . . . Dwight learned courage from his parents, he learned fortitude in the Navy and in business . . . His business associates and ardent friends feel a deep loss . . .”
In 1955 the Hardmans were flying to Washington, D.C., where Dwight was to be a delegate to a United States Chamber of Commerce meeting, when Dwight passed away at the Hotel President in Kansas City on April 29, 1955. His funeral was held at the Downs Congregational Church and he was buried in the Downs Cemetery. In 1959 Dwight’s widow gave the land for Hardman Park to the City of Osborne in his memory.