July 8, 2011 10:19:00 PM
Recently I was invited to attend a "Hardy Party," given by Lane Hardy Poirrot for her sister, Jane. It occurred to me, in the midst of so many members of that family, that they were pretty close to being a unique local phenomenon. I would venture to guess that at least half the people who went through high school in Columbus were in school with one or more Hardys. I asked some of them to share their family memories.
The first Hardy (of that family) to move to Columbus was Dr. Cornelius Hardy, circa 1848-1850. He bought what is now Magnolia Hill. The house, which now faces 12th Street North, originally faced east toward Military Road.
Griffin Orgain Hardy, who was a first cousin once removed of Dr. Cornelius Hardy, was the father of four brothers who moved from Virginia to the Prairie after the Civil War.
Tom and Sue Hardy and Emmagene Hardy Crunk were sitting in my living room, sorting out these ancestors, while I, head spinning, tried to keep them straight.
The four brothers were Thomas William, Robert Baskerville, Edward Griffin and Collier Bridgeforth. They acquired land along Magowah Creek that became four plantations: Breezy Valley (named for the one built in Virginia in 1793), Rosehill, Blythewood and Oakland. Later, Ed Hardy bought Primrose, which had been built earlier by another family.
Cornelius Hardy married one of the three daughters of the man who built Oakland. He bought part of the plantation from her mother and managed the entire plantation. Thomas William was Tom''s grandfather. Tom and Sue lived at Oakland until they moved into town. Their son, Will, and his wife, Judy, live there now.
Tom and Emmagene tried to explain to me which Hardys I knew were descendants of which of the four brothers. Although this list is not complete, it will give a general idea.
Tom, Emmaline, and their half-sister, Madeleine, were grandchildren of Thomas William. John Bailey, Anna, Alan and Bob were some of Robert Baskerville''s. Emmagene, Jane and Lane are among Edward Griffin''s descendants; and Houston Hardy is in Collier Bridgeforth''s line.
This is by no means a complete list, but it gives one an idea of how the family is mixed. Add other Hardys, unnamed, females who took other names, connections by affinity or consanguinity, and you can see how, as time went on, they impacted the experiences of many who were not at all related.
Emmagene remembers that, growing up, she had 21 first cousins. In addition, there were two sets of double first cousins. Lane says she and Houston are double first cousins, which gives them the genetic closeness of siblings.
Emmagene said, "I was just crazy about my family." She recalls coming into town on a "school bus" from Prairie School. It was really just a pick-up truck driven by other relatives, the Townsends. The truck bed had two benches along the sides and was sheltered by a black plastic cover, but the seat of honor was to sit on the floor by Mrs. Townsend''s feet on the passenger side and dangle one''s feet over the side.
She recalls the winter of 1939-40, when Columbus had a record-breaking snow. Some of the men in the family attached runners to a wagon, and the children rode all over the place.
The grandmothers gathered in one house, most of the children in another, parents in various places, but all in one big family party. Emmagene and one of her first cousins, Ethel Evans (Whitaker) got on the ice on a pond, and Ethel fell through the ice. Fortunately, the water was only waist high.
Tom remembered he was in Connecticut that year, where the temperature never went below 28 degrees, and the snow was never deeper that half an inch. Meanwhile, in his hometown down South, the temperature was below 0 degrees for several days, the snow was measured in feet, and the Tombigbee River froze over.
One of Tom''s first childhood memories was watching a man hand rocks to his father, Harris, who was building a big stone fireplace at Magowah Gun Club. The Hardy families had many Brunswick stew parties there.
Another early memory was of a barnstormer using a field out there to offer airplane rides for $5 each. In return for using their field, he let Tom''s parents ride free. Tom remembers he was 2 or 3 years old, and he thought as they flew off, "I''ll never see my mother again."
Perhaps that is where he became interested in flying, which has been a lifelong passion. He flew in World War II and was credited with shooting down three enemy planes, as was Emmagene''s father, Eugene Hardy, and another Columbian, Sam Kaye, in World War I.
Tom once towed a target for Charles Lindbergh and three colonels, one of them an ace. Lindbergh was proud of outshooting all three.
Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.