Sunday Stories: Hardin's Store

Homer Hardin was to recall: “Carpenters were scarce those days, so were building materials. Settlers having business at the railroad, and men hauling cedar posts from the Dismal to sell at Cozad were depended upon to bring back lumber and other supplies on the return trip. These trips took three days, and were on no regular schedule. As a result, shortages of material would occur for some buildings under construction, and when this happened, the carpenters would help on jobs that did have lumber. Any man handy with a saw could get a job. Skilled workers earned $.25 an hour, helpers, $12 1/2 . Room and board was about three dollars a week, extra meals $.20 each. In the rear of each building lot would be sod chicken houses, pig pens, corn cribs, and most important of all, privies. These people planned to be self-sufficient by having their own meat, butter and eggs.”

Ben and Edner Hardin and their young son, Homer, had come from Coal Run, Ohio to Plum Creek in early spring of ’84. They hired a livery team and a driver who was accurate in his directions and departed to the South Loup in search of a new home. There were no roads or settlers to guide them, only a faint wagon trail. The Roten sheep ranch, about 24 miles out of Plum Creek, was at that time the only place water could be found for horses or people until the South Loup river was reached, twenty miles further on.

A. H. Needham helped Hardin secure a tree claim a mile south of the new town site. Adjoining this claim was a preemption (present Don Hardin place) that Hardin acquired by paying for the relinquishment of the man occupying it, a Mr. Case, possibly Solomon Case, the father of Andrew and Alex. The improvements were a sod house with two windows and two doors and a board roof covered with sod, a dug well, and a sod stable. Ten acres were already broken out. The deal was made and the Hardins moved in. One of the young Homer’s earliest recollections was the leaking roof in this house with his mother holding an umbrella over him and a precious sack of flour. (A daughter, Leora, was born in 1892.)

The family was no more than settled when Richard Allen offered Hardin two fine lots on a good location (present bank corner) if he would go into business. Construction began on a story and a half general store building. Hauling lumber from Cozad for the new store, Hardin would take a ten-gallon keg of water for himself and his horses, feed for the team and bedding and food for himself. He made many trips and on nights when he was expected home, his wife hung a lantern in the soddy window to guide him over the dim trail.

The store was enclosed by December 22, 1884, and the town’s first Christmas program was held there. There was singing, speaking and music. Ben Hardin played the violin, with Mrs. Hardin accompanying him on the organ. At the playing of “Home, Sweet Home” many wept from the homesickness. In spite of ten inches of snow and a temperature of ten below, twenty-five – almost the entire population, attended; the families of Richard Allen, Ben Hardin, Stephen Leland, William Ray, and R. A. Probert. Without their famiklies were: John Owen, Morgan Parks, Dr. Joseph Murray, Joe and Dave Blum, Charlie Long and Charles Hughey. One not attending was carpenter Joe Tiday, who had arrived in town that very day. He would marry William Ray’s daughter, Dora.


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