Select Harding Miscellany

Here are some Harding stories and accounts over the years:

Hardings and Vikings

The Vikings had acquired settlements in the ninth century in Scotland and England.  It is said that it is from these Vikings that the name Harding may have emerged.  The late Lord Harding, scion of the Harding family in Derbyshire, claimed to be descended from Heardingas, a Viking who had settled there.

There is a story about King Harding who ruled Hardanger in what is now Norway.  During an attack on eastern England, the king was captured by the English and put in a prison tower.  The Hardangers liked their king and decided to rescue him.  They equipped a Viking ship, called Hardinggeita, to set sail to England to set their king free.  They painted one side of the ship white and the other black.  When they approached the English shore they did so with the white side facing the shore.  They managed to get into the prison tower and switched the king with an old man who they dressed up to look like the king.  Then they set sail and made their escape, but with the black side of the ship facing the shore. 

John Hardyng

One of the Beadnell Hastings was a person of some note in the Middle Ages.  This was John Hardyng, born in 1378, the author of what are now called Hardyng's Chronicles.  He was Lord of the East March of England, he fought with Harry Hotspur at Hamildon Hill and Cokelew, and was at one time Constable of Warkworth castle.

He was afterwards on the Continent and wrote an account of the march which preceded the battle of Agincourt.  The Chronicle was first printed in 1543 and was republished in 1812.  Hardyng himself died about 1470.

The Will of William Harding of Aylesbury

William Harding, described as a yeoman of Aylesbury, died in 1718.  It is believed that he was a bachelor and the eldest of seven children born to William and Elizabeth Harding.  A charity, which has lasted to this day, arises from his will which was proven on February 19, 1719.

His will made provision for Sarah, widow of his only brother John who had predeceased him, and after her death, all his lands in Aylesbury, Wilton, Broughton, Bierton, Stoke Mandeville, and Princes Risborough were vested with five trustees.

The trustees were instructed to:

  • spent some forty shillings yearly for the buying of coats on St. Thomas's Day for the poor men and women inhabiting Walton,
  • that on the first Monday of May and November each year the trustees select children of poor parents in Walton and Aylesbury to be apprenticed to persons who were "honest and of good morals and well skilled in their trades,"
  • and buy clothes for the same poor boys and girls and apprenticeship payments not to exceed 10 per annum for any child.

His house, still standing on the terrace opposite Walton Pond, was sold in the 1920's to the Anglo-Swiss Milk Company and was the residence of its manager, according to an article in The Bucks Herald on October 4, 1929. 

The article also stated: "This is an extremely useful charity and many successful tradesmen and craftsmen in Aylesbury have had their start in business life by being apprenticed to a trade through this charity."


Hardin Counties in the US

Kentucky: formed in 1793 and named for John Hardin, a Continental army officer during the American Revolution.  Afterwards he was a Kentucky militia commander in the Northwest Indian war and was killed in a skirmish in 1792.  It is thought that the town of Hardin stands on the very spot where Hardin was killed.

Illinois: formed in 1839 and, like Kentucky, named after John Hardin.

Iowa: formed in 1851 and named after Colonel John Hardin.  He was an Illinois colonel in the Black Hawk War later killed in the Mexican War. 

Tennessee: formed in 1819 and named after Colonel Joseph Hardin, a state legislator.  He had participated in the American Revolutionary War, was given the rank of Colonel for his services, and was awarded a land grant in Tennessee.

Texas: named after a family from Liberty County, Texas.  AB Hardin, a farmer and rancher, had moved there from Tennessee in 1825. 

The Diary of William Harding

William Harding's diary began as follows:

"I was born in Bideford in the county of Devon on November 5 in the year of our Lord 1793.  My brother George was born on October 3, 1793.  My father was a blacksmith by trade and kept the Torrington turnpike gate."

After the death of his first wife, Harding left Devon in 1818 for Newfoundland where Samuel Cook and his brother William had a business in Placentia Bay.  Two years later he married Mary Brushett, a servant girl who worked for the Cooks.  After living with Mary's step-father for a while, they moved to Little Salmonier In Burin Bay "to get a farm and some cattle."

William Harding kept up a diary until his death in 1877 at the age of 83.  This diary provides an interesting view of daily events in rural Newfoundland and of Harding's interactions with his neighbors.  It was rtranscribed by Harding's great great granddaughter into three notebooks and was deposited in the archives of the Memorial University of Newfoundland at St. John's.

Joseph Harding, the Father of Cheddar Cheese

The Victoria County History of Somerset described Joseph Harding's contribution as follows:

"In 1856 the Joseph Harding system of cheese-making was made public as the result of a deputation of Scotchmen coming south to investigate the originators of the system.

To Mrs Harding, Marksbury, and her nephew, Joseph Harding of Compton Dando, is due the institution of a definite procedure in cheese-making for mere rule of thumb.  For twenty years the Harding system was the model, though nearly every maker had his or her variation in detail.

The main feature, as we view it now, was the insistence on absolute cleanliness.  The milkers were not allowed to bring the milk in direct from the farmyard.  They had to pour it into a receiver outside the dairy wall, whence by means of a pipe it was conveyed inside to the cheese tub. 

Thus was founded the real Cheddar cheese of modern commerce.  The name of Harding must go down with it for all time.  Indeed, he must be rightly termed the first instructor in Cheddar cheese-making."

James Harding Killed in the Australian Bush

In 1864, an expedition to Camden Harbor was undertaken to test the claims of a convict who said that he had found gold there many years earlier.  No gold was found.  But large areas of good pastoral land was discovered around Roebuck Bay.  Consequently a public company was formed to establish a chain of stations in the area.  James Harding was chosen as its manager.

In October that year, he joined the advance party that sailed to the area to set up a base camp.  The following month, Harding, together with Frederick Panter and William Goldwyer, set out from the base camp to explore the area around La Grange Bay.  The expedition did not return.  Eventually a search party was sent under Maitland Brown to find them.  After much search, they found the three men dead, having been clubbed and speared to death by natives.  Harding and Panter were apparently killed in their sleep.     

Their bodies were returned to Perth where thousands of spectators attended their public funeral.  In 1913, a monument to Brown and the three murdered men, the Explorers' Monument, was unveiled in Fremantle.

President Harding's Pedigree

Was Harding black?  The rumors are there; but the evidence is not - despite the many gaps in his family tree that are unusual for an American president, typically the most studied for their genealogical footings.

In 1920, while Harding was running for President, a Republican newspaper in Dayton refuted the allegations of "mixed blood" with its own version of Harding's family tree.  The report placed Harding into a long line of English, Dutch, and Scots Irish settlers.

Amateur genealogist George Larson has posted one version of Harding's family tree on the web that, he says, draws from earlier printed genealogies.  It suggests that - far from being a sea captain of Afro-Caribbean descent - Harding's great great grandfather Amos Harding instead was descended from two settlers with clear New England pedigrees, Abraham Harding Jr. and Mercy Vibber.  Larson did say in a phone interview that he had "never looked into the ethnicity of any of Harding's ancestors" and added that "the incomplete data on his family tree" made it "possible" that he had African ancestry.  

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