HARDIN — You had to be a hardy person willing to take some risks to have been among the earliest settlers of the area now known as Hardin and Turtle Creek Township. It was not only that Hardin was at one time on the western edge of civilization at a time when life in such a frontier setting was primitive, but also a somewhat dangerous place to be.
One of the most notable early inhabitants was a man named Cephas Carey. The Carey family left England in 1634. Cephas Carey was born in New Jersey in 1775. When Cephas brought his family to what is now Hardin, he brought along his father Ezra who is one of thirteen Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Shelby County.
Cephas Carey was the first elected Justice of the Peace in the Northwestern Territory and was a captain in the state militia by the time he moved to what became Hardin. By the way, Cephas Carey lived to the remarkable age for that era of ninety-three years, and had three wives in his lifetime.
Another part of local history intersected with Cephas Carey and his family. His third wife Rhoda had been married to a man who was killed by Indians. He was shot during the Dilbone Indian Massacre in 1813, which took place in Miami County. Cephas Carey’s first wife was killed by Indians in 1814.
One of the things that Carey was known for was having constructed what was in effect a fortified shelter to protect the local pioneers from attacks by the natives who inhabited the land. It also served to against any hostilities that could have come about as a result of the War of 1812. Some Indian tribes were allied with England during that conflict. On occasion, the stockade building was occupied by soldiers.
The development of early Hardin took place around the presence of that stockade. The community of Hardin was platted in October 1816, and the original owners of plats included Thomas McClish. Joseph Steinberger and James Lenox.
Carey and his family had influence far beyond the immediate Hardin area. Cephas Carey’s son John W. Carey founded Sidney’s first bank and opened the National Hotel. Another son William went on to become a judge and a schoolteacher in Sidney.
Cephas Carey died in March 1868. Members of that family along with some Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans are buried in the small cemetery to the northeast of Hardin.
Over the decades, efforts have been made to restore the cemetery and keep it up. A lot of work has gone into preserving that important resting place.
Another prominent family among the early settlers was the Lenox family. James Lenox was eighteen years old when he and his widowed mother made a home near Hardin in 1811. James was a soldier in the war of 1812 and at age twenty-seven he became a justice of the peace. He also became Shelby County’s first Treasurer, and he and his wife Sally would have twelve children.
The sixth child in his family was H.C. Lenox who ended up living alone in the Wilson house, the first brick home built in Shelby County south of Hardin. He died after exhausting his weak heart while trying to round up some cattle that had escaped, and he is buried somewhere in Hardin.
There were many local landowners, business owners and farmers who succeeded through the hardship of living on what in effect was the edge of the United States at that time.
Those adventurous souls included people such as Ezekiah Stout, who requested a permit to establish a tavern in early Hardin and had the first hotel there.
Colonel James Wells served as the first Postmaster. In addition, he worked as a hatter.
William Patton hosted services in his home for the congregation that would establish the Turtle Creek Presbyterian Church between Hardin and Hardin Station. That location was part of what is now Brookside Cemetery.
Joshua Franklin Cole was a farmer in Turtle Creek Township and is said to be one of the members of the one of the pioneer families in the Hardin area. He was born on the farm to Broad and Rebecca Cole and he was the grandson of Joshua Cole who came here from Baltimore, Maryland.
John Kennard was a Kentuckian and lived on land on the south half of section 31. He originally purchased the land from which was carved a portion to become the site of the Presbyterian Church and what is now Brookside Cemetery.
Thomas McClish built on the present site of Hardin and William Busch became his near neighbor. A.B.C. Hitchcock states in “The History and Biography of Shelby County, Ohio”: “These settlements were near together, the locations no doubt chosen because of the abundance of wood and water. The winters might be long and cold, but with an abundance of fuel close at hand, the little log cabins could be kept warm while the flowing streams watered the land from which the timber was cut and the cattle and stock which then, as now, made up a large part of the pioneers’ prospective wealth.”
William Herr was a cabinetmaker, including the making of coffins, while Robert Brodrick was the first blacksmith in Hardin. In 1840 a wagon shop was opened by Joseph Jackson.
C.P. Lenox and W.H. Stephenson were among the first shoe makers. The first sawmill was built in 1854 by William and Hugh Patten.
It should not go without mention that some settlers near Hardin were located in a small settlement in northern Turtle Creek Township known as Uno.
The first church in Hardin was built in 1832. It was part of the Presbyterian Church denomination. That is the church that was previously located south of Hardin.
A number of Hardin residents served in the Civil War. Jacob W. Richards was known for his bravery, and served in the 88th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. A description of his gallantry is as follows.”… often almost facing certain death on the battlefield but being mercifully preserved from all serious injury”.
The hardship endured by many of the earlier residents of Hardin is notable. It must be considered that people were residing there long before basic necessities were being manufactured anywhere nearby. They had to deal with the fear of Indian attacks as they moved into the frontier, then had to be on guard during the war of 1812.
Then there was a break of perhaps one generation before the Civil War broke out, and Hardin residents along with so many others from what is now Shelby County went off to fight to preserve what was still a fledgling nation.
The generations that have passed through the Hardin community have seen a microcosm of American history. The journey has gone from travel by river and creek to Brookside Cemetery where a man is buried who helped develop components of the spacesuits worn during the lunar landings.
A church was built in the cemetery before being destroyed by a windstorm, then rebuilt in central Hardin. Then that building was destroyed by fire after it had become a hardware store, only to be rebuilt as a store once again. And now the building as known as Purpose Driven Motors, a used auto and truck dealership.
The building that many of us still know as the “Grange Hall” now houses spiritual activities as Crossroads. Very little in Hardin is the way that it used to be. And that is only right and natural, for generations have adapted to changes in needs, in Hardin no less than in the rest of America.
Hardin simply reflects the adaptability of us as a people. It has seen generations progressing, reusing resources instead of wasting them, but never failing to recognize and honor its origins and the sacrifices contained therein.
The information in this article was researched by many others, including Sherry Casad-Lodge, A.B.C. Hitchcock and Pat Diehl.