Several years ago I began a correspondence with descendants of a Robert Hardy who had a family in Biloxi, Mississippi. I was sure because he named his son Sheppard Hardy that this Robert Hardy was the same as the Robert Hardy who was my ancestor's brother. I was also sure that this Robert Hardy was the father of George Gardner Hardy, a son of one of my Pyburn relatives. This week DNA proved that was indeed true. I would like to take the time to highlight what we know about Robert Hardy.
Robert H. Hardy was born about 1847 in Northern Santa Rosa County. From all appearances the family lived east of the Coonhill area, likely near to Munson. He was the second of three sons born to Gardner Hardy and his wife Harriet. We find Robert on the 1850 census with his parents and in 1860 he is living with his mother.
Like his brother, Robert enlisted in the Civil War. Unlike his brother though, Robert is shown on rolls for both sides. He is shown as age 18 enlisting for the Union on March 23, 1864. The record states he was born in Santa Rosa County, that he was 5 foot 3, had grey eyes and light hair and was fair complected. He was a bugler in company B of the 1st infantry. He served until May 30, 1865 where he was listed as deserting. He was tried for stealing a horse and equipment and imprisoned in Fort Pickens on Aug 23, 1865 from which he escaped on September 12, 1865. What Robert didn't tell them was that he had already served for the Confederacy. On July 6, 1863 he enlisted in the 6th regiment of the Alabama Calvary. Only one muster roll is present for October 1863 where he is listed as present and from Santa Rosa County, Florida. Before that he enlisted alongside his brother in a unit that was 6th Infantry, Norwoods Battalion which would become the 55th Alabama infantry and then would be known as Co E of the 42nd Tennessee Infantry on September 11, 1861. He was discharged for being underage on January 10, 1862. His brother William Shepard Hardy would go on to the Co C of the 40th Tennessee Infantry also known as the 5th confederate Volunteers and would be captured in 1862 and sent to Island no. 9.
The 1867 census shows Robert Hardy in Santa Rosa with a wife, presumably it is Elizabeth Fleming, a daughter of George Andrew Fleming and his wife Nicy Pyburn as a son George Gardner Hardy was born to the couple on July 4, 1868. George had a sister. Lena D. Hardy born in 1872. Within 2 years though Robert Hardy had left Elizabeth and was married to or living with Laura Ovean Hawkins.
This begins a period where we don't find Robert in records. In fact, he is never again in a census. It is only from newspaper articles from Biloxi that we find he was arrested and went to prison in 1898 for molesting his daughter Balma Agnes Della Hardy who was then 16. I did find a filing of habeus corpus in Baldwin county probate records from 1896 involving Robert and his sons over an arrest for a stolen wagon. This was not the first time Robert had been involved with the law if you believe even part of what R.W. Brooks wrote of him in 1931. *article found here
"Bob Hardy was one of the toughest characters I ever knew. He could drink more whiskey and carry it, talk bigger, and swear the loudest, and tell more smutty yarns than any man Ie ver came in contact with. He was born and reared in Santa Rosa County, Florida and his holding out place was where the beautiful town of Jay is now located. Stealing hogs was most of his business and patronizing saloons kept him busy."
Now Mr. Brooks claimed Bob was hung in Texas, but we know he wasn't. Whether he died in prison, for natural or unnatural causes, his family has him listed as dying on December 22, 1901. As late as 1899 I found an article indicating he was in prison, but I was unable to find him in the census of 1900. Given the escapades his son's had with the law, I would say Robert Hardy probably taught them well, likely what he learned from his father, Gardner who was accused of an attempt to commit murder in 1843. Gardner never stood trial though, he left the state with his family and hid out in Alabama for a few years before moving to Santa Rosa County.
Robert Hardy and his wife Laura Hawkins had the following children, Willie H Hardy, Shepard A Hardy, James Oscar Hardy, Balma Agnes Della Hardy, Walter Henry Hardy, Robert Hardy, Charles Austin Hardy, Albert E. Hardy and Joseph Hardy. Neither the descendants of George Gardner or Robert's second family ever knew about the other. Where George lived in northern Escambia County, the second family resided in Mississipi near Biloxi, New Orleans and Mobile.
One of Robert's descendants sent me these pictures several years ago. They aren't labeled, but they are of the Hardy boys and their sister.