Archive for February, 2015

More on Thomas Hardin

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

I’ve wasted enough time that I should spend doing money work on Thomas Hardin. For now, at least. I have learned a few things in the meantime. The Elic White/Thomas Hardin was a different dude. There were lots of Hardins in the West Virginia/Kentucky region (there’s even a Hardin County) at the time, and quite a few folks moving west from the over-harvested forests back east to the virgin ones in the Pacific Northwest. The two Thomases with Comforts were probably some kind of cousins, and both lines kept the alternating generations of sons getting the recurring family names thang. Plus, different branches of Hardins were marrying and shooting different branches of Blankenships throughout the region at the time. It looks like Elic White lived a normal life after the episode which sent him to Oregon; the Thomas Hardin who shot my gg grandfather was a bad bad dude through and through.

When I wrote the previous post I wasn’t sure about the Bateman shooting/robbery in 1901. That really was our guy. One of the newpaper articles about the triple murder/suicide discusses the Bateman episode and tells how TH’s father and step father secured a pardon for him after only part of his sentence had been served.

A few of the articles about TH mention multiple wives, with some of them dead under suspicious circumstances. I haven’t been able to track them down. As I said, there were lots of Hardins and several Thomas Hardins in the area at the time. Several of them got married. But none of the documented marriages seem to be THAT Thomas Hardin. It’s likely that he didn’t document his conquests, but it’s also possible that the newspaper accounts exaggerated his nastiness.

There are also report that he torched a family member’s home, with several people narrowly escaping from the burning building. I can’t find a trace of that in the newpapers of the period.

The circumstances of his marriage to 12 year old Rosa Belle Smith seem really nasty, too. The newpaper accounts of the murder mention assault, possible drugging, kidnapping, etc. But details are hard to come by. Rosie’s father died in 1906. Did TH have something to do with it? I do not know.

Most of the articles about TH are on his page in the genealogy part of my site.

The Strange Case of Thomas Hardin

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

One of the intriguing frustrations about genealogical research is that each answer just generates more questions. Most of the questions are pretty mundane and interesting only to other relatives, but once in a while one stumbles into a web of intrigue and mayhem which is a great story regardless of ones ancestry. I’m trying to untangle one of those at present. I’ve got to get some money work done, so I’ll do a quick post about what I’ve found so far, then I’ll get back to the research later.

I’ve known for quite a few years that William H. Hagerman, Sr., my great-great grandfather, was a victim in a sensational murder in Chehalis, Washington in 1914. The event has intrigued me, and I’ve had fantasies of making a documentary about the murder. The other day, I took a break from work and poked around the web a bit to see what more I could find. The basic facts of the case are pretty simple. WHH and his (third) wife, Artha Mae Justice (I’ll refer to women by their birth names, rather than their married names) were sitting down to supper with Rosa Belle Smith (AMJ’s daughter by a previous marriage) and two other people. Thomas Hardin, estranged husband of RBS, broke in and shot and killed the three diners I’ve named, then went outside and shot himself.


In this round of ┬áresearch, I’ve been focusing on the perpetrator, Thomas Hardin. He was apparently a very nasty fellow. It started with this newspaper article, which documents hearsay about his violent past without giving many details:



I set out to learn how much of TH’s past I could document. The Oregon City episode was pretty easy. The University of Oregon has an excellent online library of historical newspapers, so I could track down news of that episode. Yes, TH stabbed a man named Bateman in 1911. TH was convicted of the crime, but received a suspended sentence because of his family. And I thought liberal judges were a product of the 1960s. The other episodes were not so easy. Without specific dates and locations it’s rather difficult to come up with much. But I did find news reports from Bluefield, WV about Thomas Hardin robbing and shooting a fellow named Bateman. TH was convicted and sentenced to ten years. There’s no age or place of birth given for this Tom Hardin, so I can’t be certain it’s the same dude. It’s also interesting that he was sentenced to ten years in prison just four or five years before the marriage to RBS. But other newspaper articles refer to him being from Virginia, and How many Thomas Hardins could there be going between the Virginia-W Virginia-Kentucky region and the Pacific Northwest around the turn of the Twentieth Century committing various acts of mayhem?

So, at this point I had a more or less coherent timeline for TH. I had census reports from 1880 and 1910. I had an outline of his family tree. The dates were a bit inconsistent, and there were hints of other violent episodes and wives which I haven’t been able to document. Then, I stumbled into “Tom and Comfort Hardin killed Levi Blankenship, a brother of Tom’s wife,
Peggy Blankenship” on the coalexchange site. I’ve visited that site quite a few times. It’s a fountain of (not necessarily reliable) information about the Hagerman family. This Hardin-Blankenship episode ocurred in 1895. The Tom Hardin who commited the murder-suicide had a father named Comfort (he also named a son Comfort, but the son wasn’t born yet). Other online researchers claim the TH of the Blankenship episode changed his name to Alec (or Elic) White, moved to Oregon, and lived under that name until 1932. Those researchers also document a more-or-less coherent timeline for a different (!?) Thomas Hardin. Different birthdates; different census reports, sometimes from the same years; different wives; different death dates. But both Thomas Hardins lived in both the Virginia-Kentucky region and Oregon. Both had close male relatives named Comfort Hardin. Both left a trail of violent crime in their wake. While Thomas Hardin is a fairly common name, it seems bizarre that there would be two of them in the same time period in the same geographic areas with the same strange father/brother/son name commmiting similar violent crimes. There’s got to be a connection…

More research to follow.


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