JOHN WESLEY HARDING. The first commissioner’s district of Clay county is presided over by a gentleman whose connection with the stock and farming interests of northern Texas has been extensive and prominent and it was this experience, coupled with rare business judgment and high character as a citizen, which prompted the county electors to choose John W. Harding a county commissioner. By reason of the nature of his early calling as a cattleman with the well known firm of Byers Brothers he became widely known throughout this and adjoining counties, and whatever his acquaintance extended the same favorable opinion to his virtues was held and the same flattering commendations indulged in. As the years passed and his connection with the county’s interests and affairs became more fixed and permanent his hold on the affections of the people grew stronger until he enjoys today the unshaken and unswervable confidence of an undivided constituency. It is twenty-one years since Mr. Harding became a resident of Clay county. Having formed the acquaintance of his early employers in east Texas he was induced by them to take a position on their Clay county ranch in 1884 and for ten years his time was devoted to their interests as earnestly and loyally as though their interests were his own. During this period his service and his personal worth won such a place in the regard of his chiefs as to frequently reflect itself when the aid of real friends would count for much. Having practiced some economy and being urged by his employer to purchase a tract of rich Red river bottom land off of their ranch he finally consented and the terms were agreed upon and the contract entered into for five hundred twenty-two and three-fourths acres. The tract was in its virgin state and everything was to do in the final acquirement and development of a home and farm. He took possession of it in 1892 and began the rough and uneven journey from comparative poverty to absolute independence. John W. Harding was born in Warren county, Tennessee, September 2, 1849. His father, George Harding, was a farmer, born in the same county and state. He was well and widely known over the county, being for a time deputy and finally sheriff of the same. He came to Texas some time following our subject’s advent to the state and died in Grayson county. In politics he was a Democrat. The mother of John W. Harding was Martha (Hennessey) Harding. She was of Irish stock, felt the loss of her mother young and her father remarried and moved into Illinois. She labored with her husband many years and brought up a large family of honorable children and died February 14, 1889. Her children were: Mary, John W., our subject; Nancy, Sallie, George E., Thomas R., William, G. Henson, Mattie and Charles. The boyhood and youth of John W. Harding was spent on the farm and when twenty-one years of age he rented a place and began life as a farmer. When he married he settled down to the farm in earnest and continued it in Tennessee till 1873, when he emigrated to Texas and settled in Grayson county. He farmed there as a renter. He soon met Byers Brothers, who carried on a large implement business, and was taken into their employ. In 1882 he began looking after their cattle interests with the result that in 1884 he left Sherman and Grayson county and became identified with northwest Texas. Their herd was at first ranched in Stephens county, but was brought in Clay upon the acquisition of the Acres ranch on the Wichita river, since known as the Byers ranch. The rough-and-tumble of a cowboy life was conducive to good health and furnish some sport along with plenty of hard work, but very few fortunes were ever accumulated in this role. However, when Mr. Harding decided to engage in farming he was possessed of some cash and with his small means he began the career of a farmer. His efforts are devoted to grain and stock and he has extended the limits of his farm to include a tract of three hundred and fifty-seven acres, making eight hundred and seventy-nine acres, four hundred of which yields to the plow every year.
In November, 1870, Mr. Harding married Hila E., a daughter of Welborn Thaxton. She was the mother of the following children: Bulah, George T. and Lula. April 5, 1893, Mr. Harding married, in Clay county, Kate Smyers, a daughter of Frank and Ann (Kearney) Smyers, from Douglas county, Illinois. The issue of this union are: Guy, Bee, Dru, Vio and Imi.
Mr. Harding has been a member of the board of county commissioners something more than three years. He became a member first by appointment to succeed Commissioner Hooper, resigned, and was elected in the fall of 1901. He was elected again in 1904 without opposition. His board, as it were, has occupied itself with public and internal improvements in the construction of public roads and is spending the public money where it will work a public convenience. When he yields up his office to his successor it will be with the consciousness of having done his duty as he saw it and with having aided with his advice, counsel and vote in keeping his county’s affairs in a sound and satisfactory condition. In lodge matters, he holds membership in the Odd Fellows at Henrietta and in the mutual insurance order, the Woodmen of the World.
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 701-702.