Friday, June 13, 2008

Paul Robert and Florence Estelle Bard Harden

Paul Robert Harden, born March 14, 1897.
Florence and Laura Bard, 1909.

Paul Harden in World War I uniform.

Paul and Florence were married Nov. 20, 1919.
Paul Harden Trucking.

Paul Robert Harden was born March 14, 1897, in Lexington, perhaps the last person to be born in the town. He attended the District #U2 school at the elementary level (a photo in the Lexington book, taken in 1912, shows him to be the tallest student in the class), and Ashland High School.

He must have met Florence Bard soon after she and her family moved to Protection in 1913. Paul was inducted into the U.S. Army on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I. He served seven months in the Motor Transportation Corps at San Antonio, Texas. While he was stationed there, his parents, Charles and Agnes, drove down to San Antonio to visit him and took Florence with them.

She had graduated from Protection High School in 1918, and attended the Normal teaching school that summer. She taught in the Harmony School east of Protection in 1918-1919.

Paul and Florence were married Nov. 20, 1919, in the Methodist Parsonage in Ashland. They went to Colorado on their honeymoon, driving in a Model T coupe. There was only a dirt trail, not a graded road, with very limited signage along the way. Every night they had to drain the water out of the car motor because they did not have antifreeze. When they returned, they moved into the farmhouse in Lexington.


Florence Estelle Bard was born Feb. 1, 1899 to Elgin Daniel Bard and Harriet Louisa Mills. E.D. Bard was born July 25, 1865, in Alliance, Ohio. He was the oldest child of Edward Collins (E.C.) and Alice Ann Mather Bard. It is commonly believed in the family that Alice Ann Mather was a descendent of Cotton Mather, early Puritan minister and writer of Salem witch trial fame. The family moved to Iowa when E.D. was 16 years old, and four years later, they relocated to Washington County, Kan.

E.D. and Harriet were married on Dec. 4, 1886. Harriet (Hattie) Louisa Mills was the third child of Windsor Coman and Amelia Mills, born July 1, 1864 on the Pardee Butler farm in Atchison County, Kan. In 1870 the Mills family came to Washington County where they homesteaded a farm.

Four children, Blanche, Clyde, Pearl, and Glenn were born to E.D. and Hattie while still living in Washington Co.

The Bard family then moved to Topeka, where E.D. went into the feed and grocery business. Florence was born during the time they lived in Topeka. They were members of the Congregational Church where Charles Sheldon was the pastor. He wrote the famous “In His Steps,” a novel that was perhaps the first to ask “What Would Jesus Do?”

The family moved to Pratt County in November of 1901. Laura (known to the family as “Aunt Auckie” after a two-year-old Florence’s attempt to pronounce “Laura”) was born into the home Aug. 7, 1902. They lived on a farm located seven miles northeast of Sawyer, six miles northwest of Isabel.

While living in Pratt Co., Blanche was given a certificate to teach school after finishing a summer of training. The certificate allowed teaching in only the county giving the certificate or an adjacent county, so she found a school in rural Stafford County. In September, Harriet loaded Blanche’s packed trunk onto the buggy, and, taking Florence along, drove Blanche by team and buggy across the country to her school, which was probably 30 miles north of their home. On the return of this memorable trip, a late summer storm came up. Lightning frightened the horses, making the traveling extremely hazardous. They had to stop for the night at a boarding house in Pratt.

In 1909 the Bards bought the Grimes ranch located seven miles southwest of Protection. This move to Comanche County was for more extensive farming and ranching. Clyde, Pearl, Glenn, Florence, and Laura came to the new home with them. Blanche married Jim Corson and remained in Pratt County for a time.

After moving to Comanche County Glenn married Bertha Clark, Clyde married Gertrude Schaubel, and Pearl married Owen Roberts, all in the same year.

In September 1913, Mr. and Mrs. Bard, Florence and Laura moved to Protection for school advantages. E.D. served on the school board and the city council for a number of years. While he was a councilman the city acquired its first power plant. He served on the building committee for the Methodist Church in 1916.

E.D. died in an automobile accident on May 15, 1939. Hattie Bard and a granddaughter, Eva Bard, were injured, but soon recovered.

Hattie Bard continued to live in Protection until her death on October 12, 1950.


Ten months after their marriage, Florence gave birth to their first child, Laura Frances (Frances), on Sept. 2, 1920, at Protection.

Four boys were to follow in quick succession: Paul Duane (Duane), in 1922; Willis Myron, in 1923; Robert Verne (Bob), in 1925; and Lloyd Russell, in 1927. They would later have two more boys: Ronald Ray (Ray), born 1931, and Charles Daniel (Dan), born in 1933.

Paul was a cattleman and farmer. The first spring was dry and windy; it was difficult for a young bride to keep her house clean and dust free. The wheat crop was poor and Paul harvested it with header. The next year he bought a combine which was powered with eight head of horses. The wagon was driven along the side to catch the threshed wheat, and then pulled by team to a granary where it was scooped by hand into the bins. By 1925, Paul’s farm consisted of 2,000 acres, rented from his father but later purchased.

Paul traded cattle and hauled some of them to Wichita with a 1929 single wheel Dodge truck. In 1931 he hauled nine cows for $25, and at that time the roads were dirt except the last 10 miles west of Wichita, which was brick. During the Depression years, Paul found it necessary to supplement his farming income, so founded a cattle hauling trucking firm to increase the income for his growing family.

Willis remembers the dust storms of the ‘Dirty Thirties.’ During one storm, his mother, Florence, had to hang wet sheets in front of the windows to keep the kids from getting sick from the dust. People in those times died from dust pneumonia, and others suffered long-term effects. He remembers watching the sheets turn dark from the dust. Florence would rotate the dirty sheets with clean sheets. She soaked the sheets in a tub of water, rinsing the dirt from them, and rotated them back and forth on the windows throughout the day.

In 1936 Paul obtained KCC trucking permits, the red, blue, and white tags, the first Common Carrier trucking license for livestock and farm equipment in the State of Kansas, and started the trucking business. The business was eventually enlarged until it included five semi-trailers. Paul continued farming, trucking, and raising cattle until 1953. He then sold the trucking line and license, but rented the farm to his sons.

He was a generally successful farmer, rancher and businessman, but he did suffer a financial setback in 1937. A foreclosure proceeding was started against him, and to get out from under it, he sold the mineral rights on the two quarters east of the Lexington house for 50 years. (It seems he was able to buy them back later, as his son Willis later traded him for some land he had bought, the Davis place. This land was unitized in a gas well which provided Paul and Florence a good income in retirement.)

Florence had her own challenges in those years, raising five children under the age of seven. Dan recalls that when his mother learned she was pregnant with Ray in 1931, she was close to a breakdown. That summer, Paul decided to take Florence to Colorado for a break.

It was a trip that would change their lives forever. Somewhere along the way, Agnes, her mother-in-law, had attended Church of God services, and there was a Church of God camp meeting in Liberal on the day Paul and Florence were returning from their Colorado holiday. Florence stayed for the camp meeting with Agnes, whom she had always been close to. There, she experienced transformation. It was a new beginning. Ray was born in December, and 16 months later, Dan came along.

Florence and Paul would be instrumental in building the Church of God in Lexington, and later in Ashland.

All of Paul and Florence’s children attended District #U2 school, often on horseback. The five older children drove to Protection to high school. Dan and Ray attended Ashland High School after their parents moved to Ashland. They bought a house on the corner of Main Street and Highway 160, which still stands today. Paul took an active part in planning, collecting funds, constructing and equipping the Pioneer Historical Museum at Ashland.

He served as commissioner for Clark County from 1953-1957 and spent many hours working and advising on the construction of the First Church of God building and the historical museum in Ashland. In 1952, Paul built the “Highway 160 CafĂ©” in Ashland which he sold in 1975. He was an active member of the Clark County Historical Society and in 1967 helped in promoting and building the Pioneer Museum.

Florence was an active, cooperative companion in all of his endeavors. She crocheted an afghan for each of her children, each grandchild, as well as for many wedding gifts, and gifts to friends. None are alike, and they number well over one hundred. She enjoyed all kinds of needlework, even though her hands became arthritic in her later years. Florence also loved music and played piano and organ for the First Church of God for many years. She encouraged all her children and grandchildren to take lessons and to use the talents God had given them. Many of them inherited her artistic talent – there are a number of wonderful singers in the family.

Mike, Willis’ son, remembers Paul cutting his grandsons’ hair for a number of years, and believes he gave every one of his grandsons a haircut at one time or another. He had to try out his new clippers, and the boys always had “white sidewalls” when he finished.

As the years went by, the family grew and multiplied. Mike remembers how he enjoyed Christmas with all the presents and the family gathering. “Grandfather’s constant reply to Grandmother was ‘Yes, dear,’” Mike said. “Grandfather enjoyed people.” Paul had witnessed and often marveled at the wonderful changes in all aspects of technology. He learned to farm with horse-drawn plows and threshers and lived to watch his grandsons use their huge tractors, combines and sophisticated implements.

In 1989, Paul and Florence celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary. They had 22 grandchildren, numerous great-grandchildren, and that year they were presented with four great-great-grandchildren.

Paul and Florence Harden were some of the founding members of the First Church of God in Ashland. They were outstanding Christian examples for their family. As it says in Proverbs, a head of white hair is a crown of glory, and Paul still had a head of white hair when he died on Oct. 19, 1994, at the age of 97. He was survived by all seven of his children, 22 grandchildren, eight step-grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren, and 11 great-great-grandchildren.

Florence had preceded him in death Dec. 30, 1992, at 93. They are buried side-by-side in the Protection cemetery, after an amazingly long and blessed life together.

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