The Hardys:  Four Brothers from Virginia

From Lunnenburg County, Virginia to Lowndes County, Mississippi

Thomas William Hardy (1849-1917), Edward Griffin Hardy (1853-1930), Robert Baskerville Hardy (1858-1919) and Collier Bridgeforth Hardy (1864-1921).

These four brothers set out from Virginia to start new lives in Lowndes County, Mississippi, after Civil War devastation to the family lands in Virginia.  Their ancestry has been traced to a Norman Knight le Hardi who crossed the English channel from France during the eleventh century Norman conquests by William the Conqueror  (fn. James Everett Kibler, “Our Fathers’ Fields,” University of South Carolina, 1998, University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC, pp 8-9.)

Notables along the linear genealogical way were Sir John de Hardy, a Lord Mayor of London in the mid-1500s, who married Lady Mary de Stanley whose ancestry is said to trace back to seven kings of Scotland (Kibler, “Our Fathers’ Fields,” p. 9.), including Duncan I MacCrinin, murdered by Macbeth on August 14, 1040, and Isabel Plantagenet, daughter of King Edward I of England and Eleanor of Castile.  Lary Mary de Stanley also descended from Lady Joan, a daughter of John of Gaunt, son of King Edward III.

The Hardy family founder in Virginia was John Hardy (b. Yorkshire, England, 1613) who in 1632 in England married Olive Council (1615-1670) and moved to Isle of Wight County, Virginia by 1666. (Kibler, Our Fathers’ Fields, p. 9).  His sons had preceded him to Virginia.

A couple of generations later John’s great grandson Revolutionary soldier William Hardy (b. 1744 Isle of Wight County, Virginia) appears to be the first four-brothers ancestor to locate in Lunenburg County, Virginia, as his will is dated October 21, 1790, in that county (Editorial note:  this would be a good place to insert a map of Southern Virgini a, south of Lynchburg and Richmond showing both Isle of Wight and Lunnenburg Counties)

On January 10, 1849, in Lunnenburg County, Virginia, William’s great grandson Griffin Orgain Hardy (1811-1905) married Lucy Rives Collier Bridgeforth (1828-1905). They owned and lived on Breezy Valley Plantation, near Blackstone, Virginia.  This land was a part of his father’s estate and he gave it to Griffin as a wedding present.  Griffin and Lucy are buried near the Plantation House.

The Civil War swirled around this area and took a heavy toll on the family and their holdings.  The plantation was already worn out before the war from over-production and lack of our then-unknown proper agricultural practices.  Times were tough and many were hungry.

Dr. Cornelius Hardy (b. 1827, d. 1908), a first cousin of Griffin, had moved before the war to Columbus, in Lowndes County, Mississippi. (Editorial note:  this would be a good place to insert a map of Columbus and western Lowndes County)  Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians had occupied the area for millennia.  The earliest Europen explorations occurred when, in 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de

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Soto retreated to the Columbus site on the Tombigbee River after a bloody battle against the Tuscalusa tribes.  American settlers moved into the Mississippi territory created by Congress in 1788.  In 1817 Congress divided the Mississippi Territory into the Mississippi and Alabama territories.  In the first half of the 19th century, numerous treaties with the Indians brought millions of acres into U>S> hands.  The treaty with the greatest impact on this area of the territory was the 1830 Dancing Rabbit Creek Treaty (fn. Lowndes County Department of Archives and History, “Lowndes County, Mississippi,” 1981, pp. 12-13.)  Lowndes County was established by the Legislature in 1830 and Columbus named county seat.  The county boundaries were expanded in 1831 and 1833 and modified in 1872.  It was named after William Lowndes, a member of Congress and one-time U.S. presidential contender. (fn. Lowndes County op. cit., pp. 28-29)

In 1858 Dr. Hardy married a widow, Maria Clifford Winston (1840-1878).  She had a fine house at 1106 Twelfth Street North in Columbus, which was later owned by James Harris Hardy.  It is now called “Magnolia Hill” and has been on the Columbus antebellum homes Pilgrimage in recent years.  Dr. Hardy also owned excellent land in the prairie including a fine two-story plantation house on Oaklands Plantation which is now occupied by Will Hardy (Editorial comment:  check if this is the best way to say it)  Mrs. Cornelius Hardy was non compos mentis for several years before her death.  Cornelius and Maria had two children, neither of whom reached maturity.

Dr. Hardy had recognized the desperate plight of his cousins at the Breezy Valley Plantation and in 1869 sent for Thomas William Hardy when he was 20 years old, to come and work with him.  Their arrangement was remarkably successful and in 1875 they jointly sent for Edward Griffin Hardy and Robert Baskerville Hardy.  The three brothers sent for Collier Bridgeforth Hardy sometime after 1875.

Tom and Baskerville married the Bailey sisters, Sarah Elisabeth and Lucy Winston in 1881 and 1889 respectively, and Ed and Collier married the Allison sisters, Rebekah Pou (Dixie) and Ethel in 1888 and 1897 respectively.  The Bailey side and Allison side offspring were thus double first cousins and over the years, this has resulted in extra-close connections among the descendants on each double first side.

Tom inherited most of Dr. Cornelius Hardy’s holdings.  Baskerville bought a plantation, which he name Blythewood, from the Fontain estate.  The plantation two-story log house was rebuilt using the logs, as a one-story house which is currently occupied  by the family of Mary Ann Hardy, widow of Allen Hardy, Baskerville’s grandson.  The Allison and Jennings families had significant holdings of land in the prairie, some of which Ed and Collier inherited.

The four brothers, in addition, purchased other land individually and jointly.  Ultimately their land holdings in the prairie were all joined and remained so until the early 1930s.  They shared knowledge, farm hands, mules and equipment and helped each other in significant and meaningful ways.  The Hardy family always had many interests in common and was a close knit and loving group with multiple ties, and many double cousins.  The four brothers’ sons inherited or purchased land from the Hardy brothers and other prairie land owners and until the 1960s the Hardy lands stretched from then John Hardy’s Blythewood west to Jennings Hardy’s Breezy Valley to Eugene Hardy’s Rosehill to

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Harris and Tom Hardy’s Oakland to Ed Hardy Jr.’s Primrose to Allison Hardy’s Lone Pine plantations.  These plantations occupied much of Lowndes County west of the Tombigbee River.  By today in 2012, the early Hardy lands remaining in descendants’ hands are Blythewood, Breezy Valley and Oaklands.  But family gatherings and mutual support continue as they have throughout the decades.

The four brothers early on established a school at Ed Sr.’s Rosehill Plantation, which was relatively central, and employed Cousin “Tish” Bailey (no kin to Sadie and Lucy) as the teacher for their children, an arrangement which proved effective and fortitudinous.  Upon finishing Cousin Tish’s school, most of the boys went to Chamberlain Hunt Academy in Port Gibson, Mississippi, and the girls to Sophie Newcomb College of Tulane University in New Orleans.  They were all admitted without any testing or qualifying routines because cousin Tish’s teaching and training abilities were recognized far and wide as being of the first order.  The boys went to Ole Miss, Mississippi State and University of Alabama.  Bo, Bailey and Ed, Jr. were Delta Tau Delta and Harris and John were Sigma Alpha Episilon.

Tom and Baskerville were founders of the Merchants and Farmers Bank, now Trustmark, in Columbus.  Both served as vice-presidents and board members, and were major stockholders.  Baskerville was Chairman of the Lowndes County Democratic Executive Committee for many years.

Columbus was the trade center for the plantations, but for may years major food and furnishings were purchased from John Calmes Mercantile Company in Brooksville in Noxubee County just south of Lowndes County.  Cheap Joe’s and Banks Hardware in Columbus were also major suppliers.  Much of the brothers’ families’ social life and friendships were centered in Columbus.

For years the African Americans in Lowndes County had their Eight-O-May celebration including a baseball game at Breezy Valley Plantation on the hillside about 200 yards northeast of the intersection of today’s Gun Club and Lindsey Ferry Roads.  It is said that May 8th was the day word came to Lowndes County that the Confederate forces in Alabama and Mississippi had surrendered on May 4, 1865, and thus for the Confederacy, the Emancipation Proclamation issued by President Lincoln in 1862 was now effective with the surrender.  A bass drum was sounded at midnight as a ritual announcement beginning the Eight O May holiday and its beat continued uninterrupted for 24 hours, a compelling sound that could be heard throughout all the plantations.  The brothers contributed shoats and lambs for the barbecues and the families brought side dishes, including slaw, tomatoes, watermelons, fresh corn, desserts and iced tea.  In town, the white women of St. Paul’s Episcopal church, where some Hardy family were members, traditionally served the town’s servantless households at an Eight O May lunch.  (Ed note:  This tradition continues today.???)

In 1906 the brothers entertained with a big barbecue on Collier’s Birthday, the Fourth of July, for friends in town and neighbors in the prairie.  The site was at the same place that Eight O May celebrations had taken place and the menu remained the same.  The weather was fine, the food delicious and crowd most appreciative.

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The birthday party was such a success the bothers repeated it on the next Fourth with even greater success.  Someone suggested they consider forming a club to organize the picnics and have a trap shooting range also.  The brothers agreed.  Collier volunteered to give a 35-acre tract about a mile and a half south of his home, adjoining Bethel Church’s south boundary, to be the site of a club house, a covered dining area, a trap range and a swimming a fishing lake.  The gift of land was made on condition that if the club ceased to be for gentlemen (Edit. Note:  is this really accurate and if not what is??!!) the land and improvements would revert to him or his heirs.

The Magowah Gun and Country Club came into being and is still in 2012 a favorite place for fine barbecues on the fourth Wednesdays of each month, April through October, and picnics on second Wednesdays.  About ___ families (85? 100?) are members.  The Magowah name’s origin is either a Choctaw Indian word meaning “impassable waters,” or a corruption by the Choctaws, (who used no “r” consonants) of McGower,.the name of a white settler located on the creek.

The menu also continues unchanged today, more than a century later, at Magowah Gun and Country Club.  The pork and lamb formerly were put on the pits by a team of five or six plantation hands.

They cooked all day, beginning about 5 o-clock in the morning until the meat was ready 12 or so hours later when the team carved it.  Their wives served the desserts and iced tea.  However today the pork is cooked and catered by “Junior” _______, an African American businessman and his crew.  The club members and their spouses still bring side dishes and beverages to serve their families and houseguests.

The club produced trap and skeet teams which won many state and national prizes.  (Ed. Note—here would be a good place to use the1920 photo of the Hardy brothers and cousins who won the five-man squad championship at the Canadian-American International Trapshoot, in Chicago.)  Champion professional shooters like Ad Toppelwien, Hunter Walker, Herb Parsons and Jake Jacoway often shot with the club.

In 2000 club members voted to tear down the old clubhouse and build a new one, keeping originals, such as the splendid old chimney and fireplace designed and built by Harris Hardy (1894-1947), a son of Thomas William Hardy, one of the four brothers.  But in 2002, a ferocious tornado destroyed the skeet range, barbecue shed, old giant oaks and adjacent Bethel Church, built in 1843.  The storm also damaged the nearby home of Betsy and Houston Hardy (grandson of Collier Hardy) and, moving northeast, crossed the Tombigbee River into Columbus, destroying buildings at Mississippi University for Women and town businesses, one belonging to club members of the Phillips family.

In 2006 the family organized a centennial celebration to commemorate the club’s beginnings.  (ED note—we need to put in the big group photo that was taken at this gathering—it is historic and I don’t have a copy of it).

For a number of years men rode “Tournament,” a derivation of medieval jousting, at Magowah.  A man on horseback rode a course of five posts which held from a horizontal arm a wire suspending an

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iron ring.  The rider tried to spear the two-inch rings with a lance, which was about 15 feet long, while at a full gallop, the object being to spear as many rings as possible in minimum time.  It was said that Magowah was the only place in America where Tournament was practiced; later it became the state sport of Maryland.

TO THE STEERING TEAM:  This is it for me (and Bobby!).  His 1999 material has a list of suggested topics, most of which I am listing following this.  There also exists a marvelous and more detailed piece which I think you have by Tom Hardy all about Magowah.  Maybe there could be a link to it??

Bob’s List:  WWI and II pilots; dove, quail, fox hunts;fishing; Jennings Cemetery and Indian camp near it; Chief Red Pepper & Pepper Hill Church (that one I’ve never heard about); ditching machine; trap teams; barbecue sauce recipe—Tommy & Jesse Ross (I think the original is in the Grand Heritage cook book); Bethel Chapel, Shaeffer’s chapel; phone/electricity; Drs. Chandler & Boyles;

My suggestion:  Maybe an ending sketch list of social activites, occupations and geographical spread of today’s Hardy families—still close socially and supportively.  But someone in Columbus probably needs to do it.

Jane Hardy Cease, in Portland, Oregon, July 20, 2012.