Monday, June 16, 2008

Clarence and Delphine Wyatt Harden

Charles and Agnes Harden with their children, Laura, Chester (back), Clarence (right) and Paul (front).

Clarence and Delphine Harden. They were married March 27, 1920.

Paul, Clarence and Chet Harden.

Delphine and Clarence, better known as Gammy and PaPa, with Pam & Missy in 1955.

Clarence James Harden was born Feb. 23, 1895, in the Lexington community. He was the third child of Charles and Agnes Harden.

He was a chubby little fellow and learned to farm at an early age. He used to sit on top of a horse-drawn harrow, singing at the top of his lungs so that his older brother, Chester, working in the next field, would know that he was still on the harrow and not under it. This was a practical way to use his singing skills. He loved music and singing all his life.

He and his younger brother, Paul, who was born in 1897, were the mechanics in the family. They were both fascinated by the new gasoline engines and other technological inventions of the age. They once tried to make a horseless carriage out of an old buggy. They got it to run by installing a chain drive around the axle, but since there was no differential, they couldn’t turn corners. Apparently, they had also forgotten about brakes, since they wrecked the buggy when they came to a T in the road. Clarence said that Paul was the best mechanic he had ever seen. He also said that Paul invented the first air cleaner for a tractor by using a Mason jar full of water and a small hose through the top. This allowed them to make several rounds before they had to put in fresh water. The early air intakes on tractors tended to clog up with dust so frequently that the operator had to spend as much time unplugging it as he did in actual plowing.

As a small boy, Clarence spent much time with Aunt Ella and Uncle Mont Towner. Aunt Ella was Agnes Harden’s youngest sister. They lived a few miles east of the Harden farm in Lexington. Having no children of their own, they welcomed young Clarence. Uncle Mont was an innovative machinist, having the first threshing machine in the area. (He also built a merry-go-round for the neighborhood children.) Full of enthusiasm, little Clarence joined the threshing crew as a water boy. He loved those big machines that chugged and puffed, and he carried that love of engines with him the rest of his life. Aunt Ella died in 1907 and is buried in the Lexington Cemetery.

Community life was close in those days, mostly church-centered, but Clarence remembered community dances to which they took the children and bedded them down around the room. Most of the children went right to sleep but not his brother Chet. He watched the dancers as they waltzed around the floor. The Hardens purchased an organ and found they had a couple of real musicians: Laura and Clarence. Laura could play anything she heard and Clarence had a beautiful deep bass voice. Laura was called to play at church, literary clubs and other programs by the time she could reach the piano keys. Clarence sang in various quartets and did solo work, which he thoroughly enjoyed until he was in his seventies.

Clarence attended grade school in Lexington, and then he and his sister Laura and Paul all attended high school in Ashland. They had to board with families during the week and ride home on a horse after school on Friday. Clarence stayed with Susan and Isaiah Burkett, whom he dearly loved.

He told a story of how he was headed for the home place one Friday evening, when a bad storm blew in. He said it was snowing and blowing so hard that he couldn’t see where he was going. He gave the horse its head and bundled up and prayed. Long after dark, the horse stopped, and he looked up to see Uncle Henry Harden holding a lantern. The horse had apparently decided to go to Henry’s place. He said that Henry fed him, warmed him up and put him in the bed he had warmed with his own body. Clarence nearly froze to death.

Clarence participated in several school activities. He took vocal music, played basketball and was on the debating team. In those days, trips to basketball games were made mostly on the train, or if they were lucky, they would get rides from men who had automobiles. They played basketball in the Opera House, now the old Odd Fellows hall, which had pole supports here and there on the playing court. This was quite an advantage to the home team, as their opponents would often collide with the poles in the heat of play.

After graduating from high school in 1914, he attended Kansas University at Lawrence for one year. There, he saw his first football game, and he went out for the sport.

In 1917 a new family moved into the Lexington community. Milton A. and Fannie Wyatt arrived from Herington, Kan., with their family. Fannie Delphine (Delphine) was 18 years old and a beauty.

Among the first to welcome the Wyatts was a black-eyed young man named Clarence Harden. Both Clarence and Delphine firmly disavowed any immediate attraction. Clarence had a five days’ growth of black whiskers and Delphine’s heavy gold/brown hair was skinned back in pig-tails. However, neither forgot the meeting that led to 57 years of marriage.


Delphine, born in 1899, was born and raised in Herington, Kan. The Wyatts were a spirited and gregarious family with ten children. Delphine’s closest playmates were her brothers whom she out-rode, out-ran, and out-swam. She inherited her father’s Irish wit and her mother’s trusting Christian faith.

In Herington her father had been a farmer, stockman and a butcher – he raised his own beef and sold it over the counter after butchering it. Earlier in his colorful life, Milt had learned the butcher trade while working for the railroad. When they laid the track through the “strip,” he would kill and dress at least two head every day – there was no refrigeration. The railroad had a contract with the local ranchers and the butchers would shoot whatever they could find and bring the hide to camp, and each farmer would be credited for his beef by the brand on the hide. Milt, the son of William and Eliza Manning, was born in Edgar Co., Ill. The family then moved to Chrisman, Ill. He was seven years old when the circuit rider came to their farm to tell them that President Lincoln had been shot.

Fannie Wyatt’s parents, William A. and Lucretia Fry Wyatt, came from Ohio by covered wagon, drawn by two oxen, Tom and Jerry. They stopped in Illinois long enough for Fannie to be born and finally arrived in eastern Kansas in the early 1870s, settling around Dickinson Co. They later moved to Plains, Kan., before Milt and Fannie made their trek to Clark County, and are buried in Plains.


Clarence had a heart defect from a bout with scarlet fever when he was a child, so he was not drafted by the army during World War I. Instead, he worked on his father’s farm until he married Delphine on March 27, 1920, in Liberal, Kan.

Shortly after they were married, they moved to Dodge City where Clarence found employment in the yard of the Santa Fe Railroad. He liked his job and learned to work with dynamite, even how to crimp the fuse with his teeth. Delphine worked at a print shop, setting type and making sale posters. She loved it, especially getting her own pay checks.

Deciding to return to farming, Clarence and Delphine set off in a Model-T Ford for Moscow, Kan., way out in the southwest corner of the state. They took a brand new potato masher and a carving knife to set up housekeeping. Clarence had already taken their most prized possession, a magnificent and powerful Parrett tractor, to Moscow. One can only imagine his trip (some 80 miles) driving the Parrett…hurtling through the countryside at top speeds up to three miles per hour.

Although the two had much in common, with their adventurous spirit and an aptitude for hard work, their cultural tastes were poles apart. For example, when snowed in during their first winter in Moscow, Delphine turned to the Bible and traced the prophecies from the Old to the New Testament. Clarence, on the other hand, and by the same lamplight, committed his machine manuals to memory, asking Delphine to quiz him closely for accuracy. Of course, they had little money and there were few places to buy anything, so Delphine made a saw horse table and covered it with a tablecloth she had embroidered herself. She padded a pair of nail kegs for them to sit on while eating. Their son, Clarence James, Jr. was born here Nov. 13, 1921. To avoid confusion, the family always called him “Sonny.”

After the arrival of Sonny, family ties tugged harder so they loaded up the potato masher and other household items and moved home to Comanche County, where Clarence had the opportunity to buy a machinery store in Protection. Three and a half years later, their daughter Beverly was born March 24, 1925, on that farm. Later that year, Clarence and Delphine bought the farm they would live on the rest of their lives, one mile west of Protection. On Nov. 11, 1929, Maureen was born.

They started improving and expanding a cattle herd that would eventually bring recognition to the “Bar-HD” brand. Clarence busied himself with farming and a machinery store. Delphine, in the midst of cooking for farm crews, washing diapers and sewing, managed to garner blue ribbons with her gleaming White Rock chickens. In his spare time, Clarence sang at social events and funerals throughout the area. Delphine worked hard helping to establish a public township library in Protection.

Unfortunately, during this time, the glorious Parrett was permanently parked. An errant spark from the faithful tractor ignited a 25-30 bushel field of wheat. Needless to say, this incident did not quell Clarence’s enthusiasm for the latest innovations in machinery. It was on to bigger and better equipment as fast as he could afford it. (Not too fast.)

The Depression of the 1930s brought the dust bowl and personal hardship to Clarence and Delphine. The first blow struck when the machinery store went broke and left them saddled with a debt that wasn’t fully repaid for many years. Delphine’s chickens were no longer on exhibit; instead they were on the table. Bangs Disease wiped out all but a remnant of their cattle herd. But worst of all, Delphine was almost lost to lumbar pneumonia so fatally prevalent in those dusty days.

Like most hard-working Americans, the Hardens bounced back leaving the bitter times behind and pushed ahead to new interests and challenges. After raising the three orneriest kids in town, they found time for new avocations. Delphine’s Iris Garden became a showplace for the entire area. Clarence worked diligently to help build a co-op elevator large enough to serve the community needs, and it stands tall today. They belonged to the Christian Church in Protection and volunteered there and supported it all their lives.

Clarence and Delphine had full and productive lives, contributing much to their community and church. Their good times were enjoyed and the bad times were faced with courage and determination.

They built and landscaped a beautiful farm home, and they shared a deep, deep love for the stark red dirt prairies of Comanche County. They treasured the native grasses, the chattering cottonwood trees, the elusive streams and cherished and delighted in the wildlife that shared their cattle pastures. They determined early in their lives together to leave their little corner of Comanche County better and more beautiful than they found it. They succeeded!

Clarence died July 11, 1977. Delphine died in 1994. They are buried at the Protection cemetery.

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