When the business interests of a town or city are in the hands of worthy,
capable and enterprising men, an important step has been taken toward the
growth and development of the place. Had her merchants, men of business in
general, been less worthy, capable and enterprising than they were, Chicago
would lack much of being the city that it is today. Cities, like persons,
have a distinct individuality. One may be sluggish, plodding, shiftless,
while its neighbor only a few miles distant, may be alert, energetic,
progressive. It is the inhabitants who give character to a town or city; if
they are drones the place cannot disclose either development or progress. To
the merchants, contractors and business men in general, most of the credit
is due for the desirable condition of affairs in Olney, Illinois, today, and
among this class none hold a more worthy place nor has done more for the
advancement of the city than the subject of this sketch.
Thomas A. Hardman, the well-known contractor, of Olney, Richland county, was born near Manchester, England, July 14, 1847, the son of Alfred and Elizabeth (Bishop) Hardman, the former a native of England and the latter of Scotland. The subject's father was a machinist. Both he and his wife died when our subject was a child. When eight years old Thomas A. Hardman was brought to the United States by an aunt, who located in Franklin county, Indiana. He had a limited chance to attend school only a few months during the winter. He was bound out to a farmer when twelve years old and when sixteen ran away and started in life for himself. He worked on a farm during the summer months and went to school in the winter. When eighteen years old he began teaching, having acquired a good education by close application to his studies. He taught in the winter and worked on a farm in the summer. He also attended school at Lebanon, Ohio, having saved money enough to defray his expenses there finally securing a liberal education.
When twenty-four years old Mr. Hardman was elected county Surveyor of Franklin county, Indiana, his certificate being signed by Governor Hendricks. He served in a most faithful and capable manner for nearly two years when he resigned to accept a position with the Smith Bridge Company, of Toledo, Ohio, with whom he remained two years as engineer. He proved to be an excellent office man and all his time was devoted to draughting. But the confinement was too much for him and he resigned on account of failing health. He returned to Franklin county, Indiana, and was appointed by the County Commissioners as County Engineer to look after bridge work at a time when many bridges were being built, several costing from twenty-five thousand to forty-thousand dollars. While engaged in this work he began contracting, his first work of this nature being for the county over which and southern Indiana, he built many bridges. Then he began railroad work and in 1883 built eighteen bridges on one railroad, most of them being in the Southern States. His bridges were considered of the most modern and careful construction, always satisfactory in every detail. He continued that line of work until 1890, when he came to Olney and since which time he has been engaged in contracting water works plants and engineering and improvement work in general. For a number of years he has done engineer work for the city of Olney, particularly the street grades. He has put in the majority of the sewer systems.
Mr. Hardman's work extends all over Illinois and into adjoining states; also to the Southern States. He built the water works at Olney, which are high grade in every respect and would be a credit to any city. He has built the water works for many of the towns and cities of this state and Indiana. He has been uniformly successful and his name has gone all over the country, synonymous with high class work in this line of contracting. He constructs everything of good material and is scrupulously honest in all his business transactions, so that the results of his contracting are always satisfactory to all concerned.
Mr. Hardman was united in marriage in 1876 to Julia St. John, a native of Franklin county, Indiana, daughter of D. H. and Kate (Lefforge) St. John, natives of Franklin county, Indiana, and at present residents of Olney. Three children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Hardman, namely: Catherine, the wife of J. Q. Davis, a grocer of Olney; Thomas Thornley, who is living at home; the eldest, Alfred, was killed while on a vacation to visit his father in South Carolina, at the age of thirteen years.
In his fraternal relations our subject is a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks at Olney; and in politics he is a Democrat. He is a man of fine personality, and in every respect merits the high regard of his fellow citizens, which they freely accord wherever he is known.
Extracted 26 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 186-188.