Hardeman County, Texas is located on the Oklahoma border west of Wilbarger County and east of Childress and Cottle counties and bordered on the south by Foard County. Its county seat is Quanah, named for the famous Comanche Chief Quanah Parker., the last Chief of the Comanche Nation.
Before it became settled by Anglos migrating west, it was inhabited over the earlier decades first by the Lipan Apaches, later by the Wichita and Kiowa tribes and finally by the Comanche Indians. The county was created out of the once larger Fannin County and was named for early Texas legislators Bailey and Thomas Hardeman.
The Hardeman brothers were early Texas settlers. Thomas Jones Hardeman (1788-1854) was born in Tennessee. His father was a close friend of Andrew Jackson. Hardeman served under Jackson in the War of 1812. Thomas is noted for having been captured by the British and wounded with a saber as he was being interrogated, though he refused to give up military secrets to them. In 1814, married Mary Ophelia Polk, the aunt of President James K. Polk. Together they would have five children until her death in 1835. Beginning in 1818, he helped settle Hardeman County in Tennessee and engaged in business there. After nearly two decades there, he came to Matagorda County, Texas in late 1835. In 1837, Hardeman married the twice widowed daughter of empresario Green DeWitt, Eliza, with whom he would have three children. In his later years, he served in the Congress of the Republic of Texas, spent two terms in the state legislature and served both as an associate and chief justice of Bastrop County. Hardeman is credited with suggesting that the capital of Texas be named Austin, for Stephen F. Austin. Following his death in 1854, he was interred in the State Cemetery in Austin.
Bailey Hardeman (1795-1836) was also born in Tennessee. Before coming to Texas, he was a store owner, deputy sherriff and he practiced law in Williamson County. Like Thomas, he also served under Andrew Jackson in Louisiana during the War of 1812. Following the conclusion of the war, he returned to Tennessee where he married Rebecca Wilson. A couple of years later, he became acquainted with William Becknell and for a few years, was involved in trading, bringing goods to the Santa Fe area providing him with funds to endow a church, a school and to open a store and tavern first back in Williamson County, Tennessee before migrating to Hardeman County, Tennessee.
In the fall of 1835, brothers Bailey, Blackstone, Thomas, a sister Julia Ann Bacon and their families totaling 21 people relocated to Matagorda County, Texas and became involved in the independence movement. Bailey organized the militia in the Matagorda area but thereafter, his activities were more political than military. He was selected with four other individuals to participate in the drafting of the Texas Declaration of Independence and was a signer of the document. He also was involved in the drafting of the Texas Constitution. He then began drafting documents relating to treaties and other matters relating to the end of the hostilities with Mexico until his untimely death in the fall of 1836 from congestive fever. He was first interred on his own property before his remains were also relocated to the State Cemetery in Austin.
Hardeman County in Texas was one of the last to be settled because of the strong Comanche presence there, until decades after the Civil War. Many settlers moved there from other Texas counties. In 1880, its population was estimated to only be about 50 people and for a few years, its government was administered by nearby Wilbarger County. Its original county seat was Margaret, then called Argurita but an election in 1890 selected Quanah as the county seat. In the late 19th century commerce was limited to ranching. Once the railroad reached the area from east to west, other businesses began to take hold and other towns were founded. By 1890 the population had reached just under 4,000, some of whom were farmers who began to till and fence the land. Ranching was still important and in 1890 it was estimated that the area supported some 25,000 head of cattle.
Eventually rail coverage from north to south was added, further securing the marketing of area’s oat, wheat, cotton and cattle production. Oil was discovered around 1944 and the mining of gypsum deposits began to also contribute to the economy some time thereafter.
The Battle of Pease River took place in 1860 near the present location of Quanah. It was here that Cynthia Parker was recaptured by a contingent of Texas Rangers and others and the famous Chief Peta Nocona was thought to have been killed. Quanah Parker was the oldest son of Peta Nocona and Cynthia Parker and was invited to a ceremony around the time Quanah was founded in the mid 1880s. Life seems to be full of irony. One member of the Ranger party in the Pease River Battle was none other than Charles Goodnight. Quanah and his younger brother Pecos would initially elude the Rangers, but later be tracked down. However, Goodnight and Quanah Parker would later become friends.
Other area historical markers include one commemorating the building of the county courthouse in 1908 and Medicine Mound, now the site of a ghost town, named for the four hills sacred to the Comanche Indian tribe.
© 2015, all rights reserved.