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Colonel John Hardin

The village of Hardin, Shelby County, Ohio’s first county seat, located west of Sidney is named after Colonel John Hardin. Born in Virginia in 1753, he moved with his family, at the age of 12, to Pennsylvania. After joining the military, he was eventually commissioned as a second lieutenant in Daniel Morgan's Rifle Corps and served during the Revolutionary War. He was one of the heroes in the battles of Saratoga that reversed the fortune of the Continental Army and the country’s fight for independence. The defeat of British General Burgoyne, his huge army, and their surrender on October 16, 1777, gave new impetus to the American cause. Burgoyne’s routing and humiliating surrender finally convinced Louis XVl of France that the Americans could win their rebellion, and that he was now ready to commit his nation to another war on the American continent against their traditional enemy, the English.

After the war, Hardin moved to Kentucky where he became a successful farmer, and part-time soldier participating in many successful engagements against Indian raiders in Kentucky. Because of his record, Hardin and a Captain Truman were selected to take a message to the Indians (in Ohio and beyond) written by Secretary of War Henry Knox. They were peace missions, with Truman to visit the Indians along the Maumee River, and Hardin, the area reaching to Upper Sandusky.

The message read, in part: "To all the tribes south of the Lakes (Great), east of the Mississippi and northwest of the Ohio (river). Brothers - The President of the United States (George Washington) entertains the opinion, that the war which exists is founded in error and mistake on your part. That you believe that the United States wants to deprive you of your lands and drive you out of the country. Be assured that this is not so; on the contrary, that we should be greatly gratified with the opportunity of imparting to you all the blessings of civilized life, of teaching you to cultivate corn, to raise oxen, sheep and other domestic animals; to build comfortable houses; so as ever to dwell upon the land."

Both parties left Fort Washington (Cincinnati) with a guide and interpreter in June 1792. Before leaving the fort, Hardin wrote to his wife about his mission; reassuring her that, although it might be dangerous based on recent reports, his message from the president should be well received. He wrote: "The Indians have killed several persons in the quarter lately and leave behind them war clubs, which denotes their intentions of war. But do not let this give you any uneasiness as I have not a doubt that I shall meet with good treatment, as the speech and the belt I shall take is from the president of the United States."

Col. Hardin’s party, along with John Flinn (guide and Interpreter) included a servant named Freeman. John Flinn himself has an interesting story in that he, and his entire family, were captured by Indians in Virginia and spent 14 years living with the Indians. He served Col. Johnston as an interpreter at his Indian agency near Fort Wayne and at upper Piqua.   Flinn, and the Hardin party headed north and were within three quarters of a mile of the current village of Hardin, Shelby County, near Turtle Creek, when they were waylaid by a party of three or four Shawnee Indians. The details of the encounter and what transpired is contained in the notes of Col John Johnston, Indian agent, as told to him by Blackhoof, Chief of the Shawnee, and others, soon after the peace of 1795.

The Indian party, learning of Hardin’s mission, professed friendship and camped the night with the white men. During the night Col. Hardin and some of his companions were murdered by the Indians. Flinn tried to escape, but since he had spent many years living with the Indians, his life was spared. Col. Johnston, in Hardin’s memory, caused the future village to be named Hardin. Captain Truman was also killed, just one day’s ride from his destination, possibly at the mouth of the Auglaize River. Col. Johnston records that Hardin was probably murdered for his fine clothes and the equipment the party carried. According to other recorded comments of that day, Hardin and Truman were both scalped.

A quotation from a speech to General Wayne on December 25, 1792, at Legionville, Pennsylvania, by Chief Cornplanter and New Arrow of the Allegheny Indians, reads:  General Washington must not think hard of the loss of Col. Hardin and others, as we have since understood they were sent with messages of peace; unluckily for them and us, they had taken the bad road; if four spies, whom we left on that road, saw any of your people, they took them for enemies, and treated them as such; we know that you people would have done the same." 

The Shelby County Historical Society, along with three other organizations, erected a marker commemorating the killing of Colonel Hardin.  It is the same marker which notates the stopping point of the Shawnee on their final journey from Shelby County, Ohio.  It can be seen today in the center of the Hardin village on SR 47. 

'Indian' segment written in December, 1997 by David Lodge


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