Lee County Biography

William Winfield Harden
Nelson Twp.

Aunt Florence's Farm - 1940 - contributed by Ed Cleary
The elderly lady in the center of the photo is “Grandma Harden” a.k.a. Margaret Alice (Gruver) Harden, wife of William Winfield Harden (see Biography page). Behind Grandma Harden is her sister, Florence Bollman. Florence’s son Bill is leaning on the pump. The man behind Bill (with his face covered) is my grandfather, Edward Lawton Cleary. The two ladies on the steps are Helen and Winnie Richardson, granddaughters of George Richardson (see Biography page). Helen (on the lower step) is my Grandmother (married to Ed Lawton Cleary). The little girl on the top step is their daughter Janet. My father, Edward Harden Cleary, was 8 years old and he took this photo. This was Sunday after church and everyone has just finished lunch.

The highly improved and prosperous condition of Lee County is in a large degree due to its farming population, which is for the most part composed of men who are strong in character, energetic in disposition, keen of vision, discriminate and sensible in judgment and prompt to take advantage of whatsoever will accrue to their benefit. It is of one of this class, of whom we write. His homestead farm, comprising a quarter of section 23, Nelson Township, is one of the finest in this region, with its farm buildings of a modern style of architecture, its rich harvest fields, and its pastures devoted to the support of sleek and well-kept cattle, horses and swine of the most approved breeds, best adapted to this part of the country. He also has 80 acres of land on section 27, of the same township, which is under admirable cultivation and is well improved.

Mr. Harden comes of Pennsylvania stock and is himself a native of that commonwealth, born in the county of Somerset, October 19, 1852. His father, Solomon Harden, also had his birth in that county, he being a son of a Pennsylvania farmer named George Harden. Solomon grew up in his native place and when he began to think of marriage he selected Miss Susan Uhl to share his fortunes with him and their union took place in the town of Somerset where she was born and had been reared and educated. She came to the old Pennsylvania Dutch stock, and her ancestors were farmers by occupation and strict Lutherans in religion.

After the birth of two children, Pierce and our subject, the Hardens emigrated from their old Pennsylvania home to Illinois in 1853 and began life again on the homestead now owned and occupied by their son of whom we write. The land composing it was bought of the Government and has never been out of the family. When Mr. Harden purchased it was in a wild condition, with never a furrow of its sod turned. He immediately entered upon the hard pioneer task of changing it into a well-cultivated, nicely-improved farm, and labored patiently and with good results until death stayed his hand forever from his work May 17, 1865. His demise was felt to be a sad loss not only to his family and friends but to the community at large, as during his twelve years residence here he had been associated with everything good and progressive in the way of advancing the material and moral interests of the township. He was a sincere Christian and a member of the Lutheran Church. In politics he was a sturdy Democrat. His wife now makes her home on South Galena Street in the city of Dixon. She is sixty years of age and is in the full vigor and energy of all her faculties. She worships at the Lutheran Church, of which she is a devoted member.

Our subject is one of five brothers yet living. The others are: Pierce, a farmer in York County Neb.; Edward E., a banker at Liberty, Gage Co Neb.; John T., also a banker at Liberty with his brothers, including another brother, Hiram Albert and our subject, the latter being a director in the bank, as is John; Edward is President of the bank, while Hiram is cashier.

William Harden was reared to the life of a farmer on the old homestead that has since come into his hands. He early manifested an aptitude for agricultural pursuits, and brings to his work a good equipment of brain, skill in management and practical experience. He is a man of sterling merit, conscientious and straightforward in his dealings, and his credit is high, for he is prompt in his payments, always does as he agrees to do in all his transactions and the township where the most of his life has been passed holds him as one of her best citizens. He is its present Highway Commissioner and he always enters heartily into any plans for public improvement. In politics he is a Republican of no uncertain type. The religion that was the comport and stay of his forefathers in the days of its founder, Martin Luther, finds in him a faithful supporter and he and wife are among the most active members of the church of that denomination in the township, a half-mile distant.

Mr. Harden was married in this township to Miss Margaret Gruver, a native of this county born in South Dixon Twp., January 6, 1857. She received an excellent education, which was completed at the Dixon High School. She is a daughter of Uriah and Catherine (Wright) Gruver, a native of PA and a descendant of some of the old Dutch families of that state. He came to Illinois after his first marriage, and his wife dying he was married a second time to Miss Elizabeth Kelley. He is now living retired in Dixon. He occupies an honorable place among the pioneers of the county, and is highly esteemed by his many friends and acquaintances. He and his present wife are respected members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. and Mrs. Hardin of this sketch are very pleasantly situated in an attractive home and their peaceful married life has brought to them three children, Florence E., Minnie S. and Walter G.

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