Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nathan and Emeretta Harden

The first Harden to come to Clark County was Nathan Harden. He was born in 1831 in Knox County, Ohio, and was the son of Nathaniel and Mary Harden. Nathaniel was born in Pennsylvania and had perhaps been a coal miner there, before moving to Ohio to farm. By 1850, the Hardens had seven children living in the household: John, 21, Nathan, 19, Lewis, 17, Henry, 15, Mary, 13, Lydia, 11, and Mahala, 9.

Nathan was living in Westerville, Ohio, when he was first married and working as a carpenter and builder of houses. (It is surprising that he was not called to the Union army during the war. Some of his brothers might have been, but we have no record of that now.) We know about this period from the journal written by his father-in-law, Randall R. Arnold. He had moved to a farm in Iowa in about 1860 with his first wife, Emeretta Arnold Harden, born 1838 in Ohio. They were married sometime before 1857 in Ohio and moved in the next couple of years to Indiana, where their children Lucetta, Charles Edward, John, Susan (Sue), and Sarah Isabel (Belle), were born.

In the early 1870s, they moved to Warren County, Iowa, near Indianola, and Henry L. Harden was born in 1872. Emeretta died in December 1873 after giving birth to their ninth child, who died soon after. There may have been some bad blood between Nathan and the Arnold family, according to Charles Harden. This was probably after Emeretta’s death. He might have asked them to help care for some of the children and they were unable to, or it may have been something else. It certainly shouldn’t matter to us 150 years later.

After Emeretta’s death, Nathan married a woman named Emma Hammond, and together they weathered a tornado, “one of the most destructive storms which ever visited the State,” according to the newspaper account. On July 4, 1876, the tornado that destroyed their Iowa house also killed 11-year-old John when he was thrown from the bed in which his brothers, Henry and Charlie, were also sleeping. Henry suffered a fractured arm and collar bone, while Charlie had only a broken arm. The barn on the property still stands today. A pie safe built by Nathan survived the tornado and remains today in the home of Maureen Harden Herd in Protection, KS.

Emma died, also in childbirth, in 1877. With five children to raise, Nathan married again not long after. His third wife was Viola McDonald, who was 24 years old to his 47. They had one son named Nathan (Natie) who had been born the winter before Nathan and the boys left for Kansas.

It appears that Viola’s family, the McDonalds, had heard that there were good opportunities in Kansas, and in February 1884, Nathan and his sons Charles, 21, and Henry, 12, arrived in Lexington Township (after a short residence in Mulberry, Kan.), and staked their claims along with Viola’s brothers, about two miles north of Lexington, on Bluff Creek. Since they arrived in February, it makes sense that Nathan left Viola and the younger children in Iowa while he and the boys came to Kansas to stake their claim.

The lands of Lexington Township were carved out of land set aside as the Osage Indian Trust Lands. Land was sold by the federal government, with proceeds going to the Osage Tribe. The pre-emption laws pertaining to the Osage lands restricted each adult to 160 acres, but each adult in the family could file a pre-emption claim. The law specified that the settler had to live on the land for only five months and pay $1.25 per acre to gain title.

The Hardens built a dugout or soddy, like all the other settlers, and began to clear the land. Charles was not yet 21, so he helped his father get the farm going. He went to Cherokee County to work in the coal mines at different times to earn hard cash, and when he had enough to file his own claim, he did so on the tract just east of his father’s claim. (This land is located up by the Shattuck Ranch, and is no longer in the family.)

By fall of 1886, Nathan had built a proper residence, with 100 acres under cultivation and a small herd of 60 cattle. He was listed in the census there as a master carpenter. (He was contracted to build the District No. 40 schoolhouse, or Shattuck School, in 1886. It was moved a few years later, two miles north, by putting the building on skids and pulling with horses.) Several of his descendants inherited this skill and have lent their hands to the building of Lexington and Ashland.

The rest of his family seems to have joined him by 1887, but by all accounts Nathan’s third marriage was not a happy one. The frontier life must have been difficult, and it must not have been easy for his wife to have been left behind with the young girls and a baby.

One wonders how all of them managed to survive that first year without crops, a garden, or even a proper dwelling. Grandpa Charles told a story about how he and the younger children were sent over to the Week’s Ranch (now Shattuck ranch) to ask about buying some feed for the animals they had brought with them from Iowa. It was around noon, and all of the cowboys had come to the house for dinner. They had hung their guns on the porch, and as the children passed by, Belle and Sue became very frightened. They had never seen so many guns at one time or in one place. They ran back to the wagon while Charles negotiated with the foreman for the feed.

Sue must have gotten over her initial fear, since she married Fred Lewis, the ranch foreman, a few years later. Clark County must have seemed wild and untamed to these newcomers. Undoubtedly, farmers in Iowa had guns for killing small game and protection from the occasional wolf or other wild animal. But so many in one place!!

In order to raise money for improving the “Pleasant Valley Farm,” Nathan and Viola mortgaged their patent quarter in 1887, but they had financial difficulties and a foreclosure suit was initiated against them in 1892. According to the records, it seems that the farm was bought at auction by Nathan’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Sarah McDonald, so that the family could stay on. However, Nathan and Viola filed for divorce that year; but the Lexington book says that the divorce was later refused and that Nathan was given custody of young Natie.

During this time, Nathan traveled back to Iowa to visit his daughter, who had become Mrs. Belle Van Sittert. Then he seems to have gone to Oklahoma to see another daughter, Lucetta, and to look for a new homestead. After returning, he reconciled with Viola, and they eventually resettled, with Natie, in Shawnee, Okla., near Lucetta.

Nathan died soon after, and Viola remarried. He is buried in Shawnee, Okla. The claim he proved is now known as the Statton farm in Lexington.

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