Lilly Library Manuscript Collections


The Harding mss., 1843-1930, are papers of Stephen Selwyn Harding, 1808-1891, lawyer, governor of Utah territory and chief justice of Colorado Territory.

Career: born, Palmyra, New York, February 24, 1808; eldest son of David and Abigail (Hill) Harding; emigrated with family to Ripley County, Indiana, 1820; only nine month's formal school training; began teaching school in Ripley County at the age of sixteen; studied law in office of William R. Morris, Brookville, Indiana; licensed to practice law, March 17, 1828; had law office in Richmond, Indiana, for six months; went to New Orleans in fall of 1828 and came into direct contact with slavery for the first time; returned home in spring of 1829; spent summer of 1829 in Palmyra, New York, and met Joseph Smith and followers there; opened law office, Versailles, Indiana, December 1829; married Avoline Sprout of Chautauqua County, New York, October 31, 1830; Whig through 1840; became abolitionist; nominated twice for lieutenant governor of Indiana on Liberty party ticket; appointed governor of Utah Territory, March 31, 1862; started overland from Fort Leavenworth to assume duties, May 1862; arrived Salt Lake City, July 7, 1862; resigned governorship and returned to Washington, D.C., in fall of 1863; appointed U.S. consul at Valparaiso, Chile, but health of wife and other domestic difficulties prevented him from going so far from home; chief justice, Colorado Territory, 1864 to May 1865; practiced law in Indiana from this time until 1881; died February 1891.

For biographical material on Harding see Mrs. Etta Martha (Reeves) French's "Stephen S. Harding: A Hoosier Abolitionist," M.A. thesis, University of Arkansas, 1930, published in somewhat condensed form in the Indiana Magazine of History, XXVII: pp. 207-229, September 1931; and Mrs. Etta Martha (Reeves) French's "A Letter from Stephen S. Harding to William H. Seward: forward," Indiana Magazine of History, XXVI, pp. 157-159, June 1930.

The manuscripts in the collection consist of letters from prominent politicians, lawyers, and from Harding in Washington, D.C., awaiting his appointment as governor of Utah Territory, 1861-1862; on his overland trip to Salt Lake City, 1862; in Salt Lake City, 1862-1863; and in Denver and Central City, Colorado, 1864-1865, to his wife and children in Indiana, giving his observations on conditions and events in each place and on the overland journey. They deal with incidents leading up to the Civil War and the War itself, slavery, the Mormons in Utah, and Brigham Young. Included are also a typescript of Harding's undated account of the sights he witnessed in the slave marts of New Orleans in 1828; some copies of poems written by Harding; and some of Mrs. Etta Martha (Reeves) French's notes for her thesis and for her Indiana Magazine of History articles on Harding.

Among the correspondents represented in the collection are Lewis Cass, Salmon Portland Chase, Jonathan Wesley Gordon, Myron Holly Harding, Henry Smith Lane, Frederick William Seward, James Speed, and Lorenzo Thomas.

Most of the manuscripts in the collection are accompanied by typescripts.

Collection size: 86 items

For more information about this collection and any related materials contact the Public Services Department, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Call (812) 855-2452 or send an email using our Ask a Question form.