The history of the pioneer settlement of Angel’s Camp would be incomplete without the record of this gentleman, who from the earliest founding of the town has been a prominent factor in its substantial growth improvement. When California was cut off from the advantages and comforts of the east by the long, hot stretches of barren ground and the high mountains he made his way across all these; braving all the trials and hardships of pioneer life in order to make a home in the west, rich in its resources, yet unclaimed from the dominion of the red men.
Thomas Hardy was born in Danvers, Essex County, Massachusetts, on the 10th of September, 1816, and is descended from a prominent old English family. He is a grandnephew of Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy, of the English navy. Isaac Hardy, his father, was born in New Hampshire, and married Miss Lydia Herrick, a native of Topsfield, Essex County, Massachusetts. He engaged in the butchering and meat market business in Danvers, where he and his wife spent their remaining days. The father died at the age of sixty-three, the mother at the age of eighty-three. In religious belief they were Congregationalists and were worthy and respected citizens. One of the brothers of Isaac Hardy was a minister and the family were all interested in religious work, doing everything in their power to promote the adoption of Christian principles which ennobled and uplifted humanity.
Thomas Hardy was educated in his native town, and when sixteen and one-half years of age he began learning the tanner and currier’s trade. On attaining his majority he started in business for himself in Danvers, Massachusetts, which he conducted with success for four years, when he sold out and went to Alexandria, Louisiana, under contract to carry on business for a man; and later entered into partnership with a Mr. Little in tanning, currying and shoe manufacturing, and later bought out the interest of the man for whom he went under contract and furthered his business by himself. He introduced the first two splitting machines ever in that state. He manufactured the first Negro shoes made in Louisiana. He spent five years in that portion of the country, finding the people hospitable and kindly. When he visited a Louisiana home its owner would say to him, “You will always find a bed and plate when you come here.”
But gold was discovered in California and he decided to make his way to the El Dorado of the west. He sailed from New Orleans to Chagres, but was detained on the Isthmus for two months before he could secure a boat for the Pacific passage, which chanced to be the steamer California. At length he arrived in San Francisco, in September, 1849. He had made arrangements with a man to engage in the lumber and shipping business, but the partner died and thus all of Mr. Hardy’s high expectations came to naught. It was necessary that he gain employment at once, and he turned his attention to mining, in which he met with moderate success. He has engaged in silver, copper, gold and coal mining, and has thus done much for the development of the rich mineral resources of the state. His fellow townsmen, recognizing his ability for leadership, elected him to the state senate from Calaveras County, and he at once became a prominent and influential member of the upper house, opposing every movement or measure that he believed would prove detrimental to the public, and thus saving to the state much unnecessary expense. To his work in that session of the senate is given credit for the completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad. His straightforward, forcible and logical speech, ringing with truth, induced many of the senators to favor the road who had hitherto opposed it.
From his copper mines Mr. Hardy had taken out one hundred thousand dollars, and then he sold the property for three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. While engaged in placer mining he at one time found a sixteen-ounce gold nugget which was worth three hundred and thirty-three dollars, securing the same on Carson Hill in Calaveras County. He first visited Angel’s Camp in 1850, and in that year he also engaged in mining on the middle fork of the American River, where in four months he took out six thousand dollars. He was always very successful in his mining operations, but lost large amounts of money through over-confidence in his friends to whom he lent money without full security. His knowledge of mining interests gained him the reputation of being an expert, and his labors in the development of the mineral resources of the state have contributed in a large measure to California’s prosperity and growth. He is now interested in six different mines and has over half a million dollars due him exclusive of interest money. At one time he owned five-sixteenths of the Black Diamond and Cumberland mines, and was offered six thousand dollars for one-sixteenth of it. He purchased five-sixteenths more of that property, and then sold nine-sixteenths, on which he cleared in one afternoon twenty thousand dollars.
While in Volcano, Amador County, in 1862, Mr. Hardy assisted in organizing a vigilance committee, the list containing five hundred names. This seemed necessary because there were three hundred gamblers and lawless persons in the town. Mr. Hardy was elected its president, or captain. He decided to rid the town of the gang and became one of the executive committee of twelve. In the gang there was a big fellow named Brewster, who was a prize fighter and was kept by the gambler to settle all their difficulties either harmoniously or by force. He would go into a store, take a hat, coat, or anything he wanted without paying for it, and leave laughing defiance at the proprietor. Soon after the committee was formed this fellow was seen walking toward a store. The merchant went in and fastened the door, but the desperado got a large stone and began to break down the door. Mr. Hardy seeing that it was time to act seized the man and threw him down and choked him until he was black in the face. He held him in that way as long as he thought it was safe, for he did not wish to kill him. He then let go of his throat and caught him by the hair and banged his head upon the ground until the breath returned to him. He then marched him up the street to put him in prison, but when the fellow saw that he was to be incarcerated he begged for mercy and said if he would let him go he would behave and make no further trouble. Mr. Hardy told him to go and prove from that time on he was a man. The gang decided to seek other quarters. Mr. Hardy was a man of great muscular power and force; therefore, was well qualified to act at the head of a vigilance committee, for his bravery and fearless spirit were also well known. When occasion warrants he is one of the most kind and considerate of men.
During the Civil War he made three donations to the sanitary commission, one of two hundred and fifty dollars, one of five hundred dollars and a third of five thousand dollars. He is very liberal in his giving to benevolent work, yet in his charity he is always unostentatious. For many years he has been a prominent and highly respected member of the Pioneers’ Society of California. His pleasing, genial manner has made him popular in social circles and his sterling worth commands the confidence and good will of all with whom he has been brought into contact.
Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.
© 2010 Gerald Iaquinta.