Monroe L. Hardage, A Vintage Vignette

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Monroe L. Hardage
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
August 15, 2010

One of two brick business buildings in Madison in 1900 was a saloon owned by Monroe L. Hardage. His wife Katherine owned the site, a 41-foot by 198-foot lot that she purchased in 1894 from William T. Garner for $1000. Prior to her purchase, the business must have been renting the space, because the 1890 Hartford Insurance Company map of Madison shows the site as the Hardage Brothers Saloon, owned by W. H. Hardage. The site was designated in deed records as the western portion of Lot 12 of the original plat. The eastern 25-foot wide part of this lot had been sold to James H. Pride for his own store, the brick building at 112 Main Street that was West Station Antiques in the 1990s and became the Hale Fire Glass building afterward. The Hardage saloon was therefore immediately west, at 110 Main Street. In the 1890s Main Street was not known as such. It was named Broadway Street on the 1890s Hartford Insurance map. On the same map, today's Front Street was shown as Railroad Street. It had not even existed as a street in the early days of the town. Front Street had formerly been a third railroad track, circling around behind the depot. Two main tracks ran in front of the depot. Today there is only one track through the town, and the depot is gone, replaced by the Roundhouse replica museum.

George Washington Martin purchased Lot 12 for a “storefront” (house with a store in the front portion) on February 13, 1857. That was the first lot sale by land owner James Clemens to establish his town. The brick building that housed the Hardage saloon replaced a wooden structure initially used by Martin. Martin's cousin, John W. Cosby, purchased Lot 16 in 1859 with James E. H. Bailey as a partner. Cosby later purchased Lot 11, right beside Lot 12. The firm of Cosby & Bailey owned a brick kiln. They produced bricks for stores and homes, and it is believed that Martin was one of their first customers. The site became the store of Robert Cain later, and then it transitioned into the Whitworth Realty office and art gallery. Now it has been beautifully restored as the Madison Station Antiques building.

The Madison City Cemetery's old section on the south side of Mill Road has a double stone for Monroe L. Hardage (1855-1916) and his wife Katherine I. Hardage (1863-1922). There also tombstones for two of their children, Hilton (1889-1890) and Alexander (1899-1914). There is no stone for a brother of Monroe or any other member of the Hardage family. The census of 1900 shows Monroe Hardage at age 44, with occupation as a “Liquor Dealer”. He was shown as having been born in Georgia. His father's birthplace was given as Georgia, and his mother's birthplace was South Carolina. An posting shows that Monroe's wife was Katherine Howard, married in 1881. The 1900 census lists her as being age 27 (should have been 37), born in Indiana, with parents born in Germany and Kentucky. The record further shows that they had been married for 17 years (should have been 19) and that two children had been born to Katherine, with both still living. They must have forgotten about Hilton, or the information was supplied by a neighbor, or perhaps Monroe was absent-minded. Unfortunately, such records are notorious for reporting conflicting information from one census to the next for a variety of reasons. However, older censuses do reveal that Monroe was a son of William C. Hardage, born 1823, Georgia. Monroe's mother was Malinda Howard, born 1825, South Carolina. He had a brother William two years older. William almost certainly would have been the 1890s co-owner of the saloon in Madison. The family lived in the Valhermosa Springs area of Morgan County in the censuses of 1870 and 1880. They moved to that area around 1861, according to the birthplaces and ages recorded for the children. In 1910, Monroe was living in Decatur on Johnson Street, still working as a dry goods merchant. His 1916 death date was one year after his father's passing.

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