Martin Harding was born on the first day of June in the year 1833 in a double log house on the farm of his father, Martin Harding, Sr., situated on the east half of the southeast quarter of Sec. 32, T. 17, R. 9, in what is now Cass county, Illinois, within a half mile of Morgan county. the house stood near a small stream.
His father, Martin Harding, Sr., was born in the state of Kentucky in 1793., removed to Kentucky when ten years of age; married in the latter state and came to Illinois in 1826 with his wife and three or four children accompanied by his wife's brother, who was an uncle of the late George A. Beard, of this city, and also by a man named John Parr. Martin Harding, Sr., was about 5 feet 8 inches in height, and weighted about one hundred and sixty pounds with dark hair and blue eyes. Was a life long democrat who voted three times for Andrew Jackson; an honorable man, but not a church member; he died in 1855 at the age of 62 years; his wife survived him eleven years.
In 1845 Mr. Harding's father built a new house on his farm 16 feet by 37 feet a story and a half in height of lumber hauled on wagons from St. Louis; This house was erected by Andrew Struble and Wilson Phillip. Mr. struble lived in Morgan county nearby and Mr. P. near Jacksonville. Mr. Struble later on moved to Newmanville in the northeast corner of this county; became a county commissioner and a wealthy and successful farmer. This house was covered with homemade shingles of oak; it was plastered by Ed Clark, a Christian preacher, a brother-in-law to Joseph F. Black, who died in this city a few years since; Clark went to Southern Missouri before the civil war. A kitchen was built detached from the house, which was the fashion in those days. The new house had a fireplace in it, but no stoves, the cooking being done over the open fire. Pies were made of huge dimensions called "cobblers" and baked in a sort of oven placed upon blazing coals, and covered with the same.
The school Mr. H. attended was bout a mile south of his home in a log house in Morgan county voluntarily built by the neighbors kept by a man named Austin. it was warmed by an open fire, of wood contributed by the parents and cut by the pupils. the benches were of hewn logs without backs; there were about 25 pupils and the term was of three months duration.
The first preacher Mr. Harding remembers was Jimmy Wyatt, who lived in the edge of Morgan county, a local preacher of the Methodist church, grandfather of J. F. Wyatt, of this city. There were Baptist meetings also held in the houses about the neighborhood. There was much sociability in those days; dancing parties were common. The house of one Creel who lived on land now owned by George Virgin was a favorite resort of the dancers, and one Ben Samuel, who lived on the Creel farm was the fiddler; Ben went off to Kansas or Nebraska and has been dead for many years. The people who attended these festive parties were quiet and orderly.
Mr. Harding's recollections of Virginia reach back to about 1843 when Col. West was the merchant prince of the city, keeping a general stock in a store on the west side of the public square. The family physician was Dr. Chandler who lived twelve miles away. The roads were neighborhood trails; the bridges over the streams built by nearby settlers to be swept off by the next flood.
Mr. Jacob Bergen was keeping store at Princeton in 1845; he had a clerk named Montgomery, who went to California a Christian and came back brining his religion with him, the only man who was able to do this, so far as Mr. Harding ever knew. The nearest mill was six miles away, near Prentice. The grain, corn or wheat, was taken on the backs of horses, one third kept as toll. The flour was bolted by hand. Mr. Harding, when a boy, often assisted his mother with the family washing; in pleasant weather this work was done at a spring near the house, as cisterns were unknown in this country in those days; a smooth piece of wood called a "battle" was used in beating the clothing which had been put to soak over night and the "battling" business left a lasting impression upon the memory of our subject.
The country was well stocked with deer, turkey and the other wild game; money very scarce, and prices unusually low. During the Harrison administration, O'Rear, of near Jacksonville, bought large quantities of corn at 6¼ cents per bushel. Jacob Strawn was the cattle man; he paid $11 to $12 per head for four year old steers and drove them across the prairies to St. Louis.
Mr. Harding now resides in this city, having retired from active business. He enjoys good health and retains his physical and mental powers to a good degree. He is not dissatisfied with his present surroundings, but recalls the old pioneer days with great satisfaction.