Stephen S. Harding

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This article is about the Governor of the Utah Territory. For the Christian saint, see Stephen Harding.
Stephen S. Harding
Stephen Selwyn Harding.jpg
4th Governor of Utah Territory
Preceded by John W. Dawson
Succeeded by James Duane Doty
Personal details
Born February 28, 1808
Palmyra, New York
Died February 12, 1891
Milan, Indiana
Political party Liberal Party
Profession Politician, Attorney

Stephen Selwyn Harding (February 28, 1808 – February 12, 1891) was the Governor of the Utah Territory for the Liberal Party in 1862 and 1863 and was chief justice of the Colorado Supreme Court from 1863 to 1865. Harding was an ardent abolitionist.

Early years[edit]

Harding was born in Palmyra (town), New York on February 28, 1808, the eldest son of David and Abigail Harding. In 1820 he moved with his family to Ripley County, Indiana. He studied law in the office of William R. Morris in Brookville, Indiana and became licensed to practice law on March 17, 1828. He then opened a law office in Richmond, Indiana which remained open for six months when he opened one in Versailles, Indiana. He married Avoline Sprout on October 31, 1830. The couple had ten children.

Political career[edit]

He stood unsuccessfully as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Indiana in 1842 and for Governor of Indiana in 1846. He was appointed Governor of Utah Territory by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. Soon after he took office he issued a blanket pardon for all Morrisites convicted in connection with the Morrisite War. He also initially tried to appease the Mormon community but soon became critical of church leaders and the practice of plural marriage. This resulted in a successful petition for his removal from office. He was then appointed as U.S. consul at Valparaíso, Chile; he decided instead, for domestic reasons, to serve as Chief Justice of the Colorado Supreme Court. In 1865 he was removed from office for alleged incompetence and immorality. He died on February 12, 1891 in Milan, Ripley County, Indiana and was buried in the Greendale Cemetery, Greendale, Indiana.

early Mormon connection[edit]

Harding apparently had contact with the early Mormon ('The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints') religious movement's leadership including Joseph Smith, Martin Harris (Latter Day Saints), and Oliver Cowdery. In a letter quoted in an anti-Mormon book [1]. The aging Harding recounts (30 years after his short stint as the governor of the Utah Territory)that as a boy, he had seen Smith as a 15 year old boy fishing in the same Palmyra pond and that Harris occasionally came to visit his parents. Additionally, (nearly 60 years earlier) he along with Harris listened as Oliver Cowdery read from a few of the yet unpublished Book of Mormon manuscripts in the candlelight of the Joseph Smith sr. log home. He also recounts that he had been given the first sheet of the freshly printed Book of Mormon title page which he later donated to the LDS church.


External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John W. Dawson
Governor of Utah Territory
1862–1863
Succeeded by
James Duane Doty