Starting From Scratch: The Story of the Hardman Family Farm

Grandaughter shares the story of how her grandparents built their family farm in Kansas

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My grandparents, John Milton Hardman and Martha Isabell Hardman, came to Kansas with four children from Milton, Iowa, in 1878 and homesteaded south of Lenora in Graham County. They built a sod house with a cellar beneath. They planted an orchard of apples and pears and planted garden vegetables and potatoes.

They farmed corn and sorghum and had a herd of milk cows. They were successful, with all the family working and sharing the work of the family farm.

As their family was growing, they built a stone house with three large rooms. From 1879 to 1890 five boys were born, making nine living children in the family.

My grandfather kept and raised driving horses. He owned a breeding horse called a stud. Each son received a buggy and team of horses as they grew up, for buggies, surreys, spring wagons and plain old wagons were the transportation of the day. My grandfather also held stud services for horses in the county, as everyone raised horses to drive and work. In addition to his stud service, Grandpa then milked a few cows, gardened and turned to spending much of his time with his hobby of promoting perpetual motion.

By this time they had built a two-story five-bedroom house with a full basement. It was there that my grandpa began to work with wood to build a contraption for perpetual motion by air and balance. No one was allowed in this area.

Grandpa would allow me to sit on the cellar steps. He often joined me and would tell me of his grandpa and grandma, Peter and Margaret Hardman, who came from Germany after leaving England because of a family disagreement. He also spoke of Civil War experiences and his army friends who also homesteaded in Graham County.

In the early days my grandparents belonged to the Lenora Congregational Church. Later neighbors organized a country Sunday School held at Prairie Dell Country Schoolhouse for many years.

As my grandparents grew older they moved to Lenora to live the rest of their lives. Today the homestead is still owned by the Hardman family.

Irene Hardman Wagoner
Norton, Kansas


Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.