Thursday, June 12, 2008

Charles Edward and Agnes Gilchrist Harden

Children of Nathan and Emeretta Harden: Sue, Charles (Charlie), Henry, Rhetta and Belle.

Agnes Gilchrist, before her marriage to Charles.

Charles and Agnes and children with spouses: Paul and Florence in back; Clarence and Delphine; Chester and Rayben; and Laura and Gilbert Coates in front.

Charles and Agnes at their 50th wedding anniversary, with sons and daughter.

Charles Edward and Agnes Gilchrist Harden

Charles Edward Harden was born Aug. 25, 1863, in Clay County, Indiana. He came with his father, Nathan, and brother Henry to Clark County in 1884 and soon entered a claim adjoining his father’s on the west and Ben Stephens’ on the north. He received a patent on the claim in 1890. Charlie built a dugout and dug a well on the north side of his claim, allowing his new neighbor, Ben Stephens, to use his well. He also planted, with Henry’s help, a row of cottonwood trees (taking cuttings from the native trees on Lone Tree Creek) along the one-mile lane in front of his father’s claim.

Farming and ranching being marginal even in the best of times, Charlie left the farm to work in the coal mines of Cherokee County in southeast Kansas during the winter of 1887. (There were bad storms that summer, following a “great blizzard” in the winter of ’86, which killed anywhere from 50 to 75 percent of herds. John Vallentine claimed in his family’s history that, in the spring, the stench of rotting cattle carcasses was so overwhelming that the family was forced to move temporarily.)

When Charlie returned in February 1888, a party was arranged at the home of Jim Pitcher. Among the guests was Miss Agnes Gilchrist, a “pretty and charming” young school teacher. During one of the old-time party games in which it was customary for the boys to pursue the girls, Charlie managed to capture Agnes, which seemed prophetic of their future. Sometime later, their friends say he happened to enter the school building where Agnes was attending the Normal Institute for Teachers in the summer. He discovered her and another young teacher sliding down the banister.

Agnes had lovely gray eyes, and her son Clarence recalled that he loved to watch her brush out her hair at night. It was light brown and slightly curly and reached almost to the floor.

They were married on Feb. 11, 1890, in Coldwater. Agnes taught District No. 40 school from 1888-90, finishing up the last term after her marriage to Charles.


Agnes was born March 4, 1863, in Hickory, Pennsylvania, the daughter of William A. Gilchrist and Margaret Richardson, both immigrants from Scotland. The 1860 Census lists William as a miner and engineer. They came with their first two children, Jane and William, to Ohio, where three more of their children were born. After moving to Pennsylvania, Margaret gave birth to six more children! – one of whom was Agnes.

The Gilchrists also came to Clark County about 1884 or 1885 and received a patent on their claim in 1891, though William Gilchrist had died in 1888 or ’89. It is thought he is buried in Mulberry, Kan., where several members of the family worked in the coal mines.

Agnes’ older sister, Mary Gilchrist Heaps, had a claim through her husband, who had died prior to 1890. She apparently caused quite a scandal when she remarried a man named Emanuel Unwin. His first wife had been “lost to the rigors of pioneer life in early Clark County.” He then married a woman from eastern Kansas who refused to come out west, and so was granted a divorce in October 1890. He must have been courting the widow Mary at the same time, because they were then married in Beaver, Okla., in December 1890. Upon returning, he was promptly arrested for bigamy by the Clark County sheriff. “It seems he had forgotten or chose to ignore a Kansas law that required a six-months’ waiting period following a divorce before remarriage.”

A settlement was eventually reached, and Unwin remarried Mary at Ashland in April 1891, and they moved to Oklahoma.

The Gilchrist land remained in the family until 1901, when the seven other living heirs quit-claimed their interests to the youngest daughter, Ella, who had married Calvin Clermont (C.C. or “Mont”) Towner. He had been for a year a schoolteacher in the Shattuck School, as had she, and had taught Natie Harden. (Ella died in 1907 at 39 and is buried in the Lexington cemetery; an infant boy or girl is buried with her. Her mother, Margaret, is also buried there.)


After their marriage, Charles and Agnes rented the farm of Mr. Pitcher, who had returned back East. They lived in a soddy for a time, and Agnes later complained that it was hard to keep the dirt from falling on everything. A hard home to keep clean! Chester, their oldest son, was born there in 1890. Three other children followed: Laura Ethel, 1892, Clarence James, 1895, and Paul Robert, 1897 – all of them born in or near Lexington.

In 1895 Charles, mainly known as Charlie to his friends, was recorded in the census of Lexington township as a farmer with 160 acres, of which 140 acres were cultivated; also 1 horse, 2 mules, 4 milk cattle, 5 beef cattle, and 1 swine. In 1897 the family was living in the Dr. Metcalf office building in Lexington, when Paul was born.

Following a series of crop failures, Charles took his family back to Mulberry, Kan., where he worked again in the coal mines to tide the family over the hard times. The next spring, they returned to Lexington and continued to farm there, making the family home on his father’s claim, his father having moved to Oklahoma. Timber for the house had been hauled from Dodge City and Spearville, which were, at that time, the nearest railway points.

When the children were little, Charles and Agnes used to go to all the barn dances. The children would play, then get under the coats where they were supposed to go to sleep. But Clarence said they watched the adults dance and that Charles and Agnes were the best dancers there. He said they just floated across the floor to the music. They were a popular couple in the Lexington area. Charles was a real gentleman, always clean and neat, with elegant manners.

The Hardens were among the ten families who founded the community of Lexington, and in 1885, some of them decided to form the Aurora Town Company. After it was discovered that another town of that name already existed in Kansas, it was agreed they would rename the town Lexington, after Ben L. Stephens’ hometown of Lexington, Ky.

To attract potential settlers, the “town fathers” promoted Lexington in flyers and ads, claiming the “Finest Climate in the World!” and a country “ALL SETTLED with an intelligent and refined class of people…”

Nathan Harden had been contracted as a carpenter to build Stephens’ two-story house, and when he moved his house to the Lexington townsite, this was the first building in the town. Stephens also had the first business in Lexington. The town quickly grew to include a post office, general stores, drug stores, hardware and blacksmith shops, hotels, livery stables, feed stores, five public wells, a schoolhouse, and a public hall. It had a newspaper, the Lexington Leader, which lasted two years.

The years 1886-89 were the boom years for Lexington. The Clark County Clipper reported that the total population of Clark Co. in 1885 was 5,000. By 1899, it was only 1,672. This reduction was brought on by a series of droughts, foreclosures, the lure of free land elsewhere, and other discouragements; but probably the greatest blow to Lexington was the disappointment felt when the railroad lines were routed north through Bucklin and south through Ashland.

By 1900, most of the lots in Lexington had reverted to the county. Charles Harden was one of the few who decided to stick it out, and as these tracts became available, Charles bought many of them. In February of 1898 Charles bought part of the Lexington townsite which was quit claimed to Charles by Ben Stephens.

Most of the Lexington buildings were sold off and moved. Charles bought and built an addition to the Rock house before the family occupied it in 1900. In 1903 he bought the Lexington school to add on two additional rooms. But by 1908, he had built a new house 200 yards to the west, and that is where successions of Hardens have lived since.

The barn to the southwest was built the previous year in 1907.

By 1905 Charles’ farm in Lexington had been increased to 1760 acres, of which 225 acres were improved, and his livestock inventory was 3 horses, 6 milk cattle, 85 beef cattle, and 6 swine. By 1915 the farm had been increased to 2000 acres. Charles and Ben Stephens worked together over several years in clearing out town lot titles on 120 acres of the original Lexington townsite.

In his lifetime, he owned or partly owned some 32 sections of land, some up in Sherman County where his grandson Lloyd now lives. Charles was apparently a fellow with the golden touch. He saved his money early to buy his own claims, then bought up the claims of people who went bankrupt or just up and left. He particularly wanted the land where the house now stands because he thought the canyons would make a good place to dam up and make ponds to water cattle.

It was important to the early farmers and cattlemen that they had access to water for the stock and crops. Bluff Creek still borders the Harden properties and is still important to us. It has been fairly steady in its location since the 1950s, when family members remember it following an entirely different course than it does today.

Farming back then was best suited to younger men, and Charles and Agnes retired to Protection in 1919. This was just after World War I, and Paul was in the Army. Clarence and Laura and her husband, Gilbert Coate, lived in the house and ran the farm. When Paul returned and took over the farm, Gilbert and Laura moved to a farm west of Protection. Clarence had married Delphine Wyatt, and they lived on a farm near Moscow, Kan., for a few years.

Charles owned part of the Protection Bank and was on the board of directors of the Protection Co-op. In 1929 he opened a shop on the corner south of the former Co-op office. Here he sold Allis Chalmers tractors and Massey Harris combines. His son Clarence was involved in the business, which was sold in later years.

Charles helped his sons Clarence and Chet purchase land northwest of Protection -- land that Hern “Looie” and John Herd, son-in-law and grandson of Clarence Harden, and Chet Bratcher II, great-grandson of Chester Harden, operate and farm today. Charles Harden also purchased land north of Goodland, Kan., which his son Chester inherited.

Charles had started all four of his children in farming by the time he was 53 years old, either leasing his land to them or giving it to them outright. Charles always considered himself more of a cattleman than a farmer, but one occupation supports the other. He never owned a tractor, but he didn't make fun of people who did.

Charles and Agnes were busy members of the community in Protection. Charles mentored several other men as they joined the Christian Church in Protection. He helped to fund the first church built there. Agnes was also very devout and became a devotee of the Church of God message, which she shared with her daughter Florence.

It seems that Agnes’ mental faculties began to decline around the time they moved, as Charles began helping her to dress. He did the cooking and turned out to be a good cook. He also did the dishes, swept the floors and took care of the house. All this, and he was on the board of directors for the bank and the co-op and looked after cattle and his business.

Willis and Lloyd remembered that when they were kids, they would look up from their work to see their grandfather Charles riding his horse, Whirley, across the country checking fences and cattle all the way up from town. The farm is eight miles from Protection as the crow flies, and Charles would ride all that distance on the horse. Whirley got his name because he whirled around when a man was trying to mount him. Everyone remembers that Charles was an excellent rider.

Charles and Agnes were both delighted when their grandchildren began to come along. Maureen Herd, Clarence’s daughter, said that sometimes Charles would call up and ask if she could come over. She said she would walk the block or two to his house, with her mom watching from her end and her granddad standing in the street at his end so that she wouldn't be out of their sight or get lost. When she was little, on Saturdays she would go over and dust the baseboards for Grandpa Charles. He would hover over her to make sure she did a good job, and then she got a quarter. They spent a lot of time looking for things for Agnes. In her advancing dementia, she would put dirty dishes in the pantry and exhibit other inappropriate behavior.

He also continued to help his sons on the farm, as Willis recalls taking the Caterpillar tractor with a cultivator to Protection and cultivating some feed northeast of Clarence's house. He said his Grandfather followed with a hoe in hand, hoeing the weeds the cultivator missed. Charles would have been in his 70s at that point.

Charles developed diabetes, and Maureen said she remembers his giving himself insulin shots in the leg. He would roll up his pants leg and turn down his socks and give himself shots several times a day. He was always impeccably dressed, even when riding, and handsome, with white wavy hair.

In 1940, Charles and Agnes celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a party that was apparently a very elegant affair. They were married in 1890, and in those days, it was not common for couples to make it to 50 years. Women died early, from childbirth or from hard work and hardship.

After Charles died on Nov. 20, 1944, the family hired women to live with Agnes and take care of her, but they didn’t feel she was well-treated. She was taken to Alva, Okla., to board with a lady who ran an establishment that took care of ailing elders. She died on Jan. 6, 1951, and they are both buried in the cemetery in Protection.

1 comment:

Jim and Mary Harden said...

The picture of Charles and Agnes at their 50th wedding anniversary, with sons and daughter, was taken by east wall in front of the east windows out side the door to the left is the front porch you can see in Jennifer's drawing on the T-shirts for the big family bash. This is the home now of Jim and Mary Harden.