“The Climate is Awful Cold”: Judge Edward Harden in Nebraska Territory

When Nebraska Territory was organized in 1854 one of the judicial appointments went to Edward Randolph Harden of Georgia. A lawyer active in local Democratic Party politics, Harden was serving as a railroad station agent at Ringgold, Georgia, when he received the appointment in July 1854. He arrived at Bellevue early in December 1854 and remained in Nebraska Territory through the winter, returning to his Georgia home again in April 1855. He planned to bring his family from Georgia and settle permanently in Nebraska City. However, his experiences with frontier conditions may have interfered with these plans. Harden wrote to his mother from Bellevue on December 9, 1854: “The climate is awful cold. Thermometer sometimes 17 degrees below zero — If I don’t freeze this winter — I wont freeze in this climate another. The Missouri River just opposite where I now am has been in the last week frozen over so that person[s] walk over on the ice. . . . You would not know me wrapped up in furs and Buffalo [sic] Robes and Buckskin Pantaloons and blanket with a hole cut in the middle and [put] over my head.”


Drawing of American Fur Company trading post in Bellevue in 1854. RG2499-1-2


Edward R. Harden. RG2411-2134


Wisely perhaps, Judge Harden did not reveal these sentiments to his Nebraska neighbors. A postscript to the December 9 letter to Georgia instructed his mother: “Don’t say to anyone that I am displeased, and burn up this letter – as I am very popular with the people and they all think I like the country.” Whatever the reason, Harden’s family remained in the South, and Harden later rejoined them there. He saw limited service in the Confederate Army during the Civil War and died June 12, 1884, in Brooks County, Georgia. Selected letters from Harden to his family were published in the January-March 1946 issue of Nebraska History (available as a benefit of History Nebraska membership). Both full members and subscription-only members receive four issues yearly.

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