Tuesday Morning, December 18, 1900
Former Residence of Old Ben Hardin
In Suburbs of Bardstown
The Place Where The Famous Lawyer Lived and Died
One of Kentucky’s historic residences is ‘Edgewood,’ the former home of Ben Hardin, in his day one of Kentucky’s greatest lawyers. This old homestead is situated in the suburbs of Bardstown, and is a large and irregular structure built entirely of brick. It was originally a one-storied building, with two rooms in front. To this an addition was made on the left, comprising a wide hall and front room and chambers in rear with similar apartments above. These added rooms and the hall are unusually large and airy. The hall is entered by a large door in front, and contains a massive old-fashioned staircase, connecting with the upper story. The present occupant, Hon. Lud. McKay, has added a handsome veranda to the house, which greatly improves its general appearance.
This dwelling was erected between 1819-1822 by Mr. Hardin on land that was contained in the original pre-emption of Bardstown. The tract contains about two hundred and fifty acres of as fine soil as there is in Nelson County. A wide lawn in front of the residence stretches down to one of the streets of the town, and is liberally shaded with a fine growth of forest trees.
Ben Hardin, who erected and long occupied the residence, was born in Pennsylvania, February 29, 1784, and at the age of four years was brought to Kentucky by his parents, who settled in Nelson County. At an early age he was placed in the school of Dr. Priestly, then the most able educator in the West. At the age of twenty, young Hardin began the study of law, which he soon mastered and was admitted to the bar of Bardstown. His first case was one in which a large tract of land was involved. He was alone on his side and opposed by several of the most distinguished lawyers of the day. However, he won his case and his fame was made, and from that time on he never lacked for clients. Readers of the Standard are familiar with the history of Mr. Hardin; his public services; his numerous debates in Congress with Henry Clay; how he was dubbed the ‘Kitchen Knife’ by John Randolph, and the ‘Red Fox’ by some other equally as great man. Suffice it to say that he was one of the shrewdest and most successful attorneys that ever practiced his profession within the domains of this old Commonwealth.
In early life Mr. Hardin was married to Elizabeth Barbour, daughter of Col. Ambrose Barbour, of Washington County, one of Kentucky’s most distinguished pioneers. She is described as a handsome woman, with many admirable traits of character. Seven children were the result of this union – three sons and four daughters.
The latter were Lucinda, who married John Helm, afterward Governor of Kentucky; Emily, who married Dr. Palmer, a prominent physician of Washington County; Kate, who married Thomas Riley, a prominent attorney of Bardstown, and Sallie, who married Thomas W. Dixon, a Kentuckian living in the West. Of the sons, William died of a fever in childhood; James and Rowan married in early life – the former a Miss Chinn; the latter a Miss Cartmell. James died a short time after his marriage. Rowan became an able lawyer; served in the State Legislature, and in 1851 was appointed by President Fillmore Secretary of Legation to Guatemala. During the year it is supposed he was assassinated in the mountains of the Isthmus of Darien, as a skeleton was discovered and identified as his by some papers that were found in the vicinity.
Old Ben Hardin’s home life was always a happy one. His doors were always open, and he dispensed the most lavish hospitality to all who came beneath his roof. Many distinguished men were entertained by him at his residence, among whom may be mentioned Gen. William Preston, ex-Senator Garland, Bishop Kavanaugh, Judge John Rowan, gov. William Duvall, and many others who afterward became men of national reputation. Mr. Hardin’s death occurred in September 1852, and was the result of a fall from a horse which he received as he was journeying from Bardstown to Lebanon to attend court. He was buried in an old grave yard in a field near the pike leading from Springfield to Lebanon, by the side of his mother. His grave is marked by an unpretentious stone bearing the simple inscription: ‘Ben Hardin, of Bardstown.’ Mrs. Hardin had preceded her husband to the grave in August, her death being hastened by constant attendance upon Mr. Hardin. She is buried in the old pioneer cemetery here, in the midst of children and relatives. A marble shaft, that has been sadly disfigured by vandals, marks her last resting place. The only inscription is bears is ‘Elizabeth Barbour Hardin, wife of Ben Hardin.’
Ritchey and I have visited the Pioneer Cemetery in Bardstown, but we did not see a stone for Elizabeth Barbour Hardin.