By Mark Gutglueck
Urijah Hardin Yager served as both First and Second district supervisor in San Bernardino County during the county’s early history and subsequently was one of the longest serving county treasurers, dying while he yet held that office. He was one of the most popular local politicians of his era.
Born in Washington County near the city of Lexington, Kentucky on April 14, 1818, Urijah Hardin Yager was the first of nine children of Stephen and Catherin Yager. Catherine was born in Kentucky on December 23,1797. Her family’s last name was Thomas. She died in San Bernardino on October 10, 1875.
In 1829, the Yager family migrated to Marion County in Indiana, where they resided for four years. They moved further west to Taswell County, Illinois and two years later, in 1835, to Carthage, Missouri.
When his father died in 1836, looking after his family fell to young Urijah, then just 18.
In the winter he taught school. In the summer he worked at farming and remained in Carthage about twelve years, educating his brothers and sisters.
On August 31, 1845, he married Adeline Downy in Hancock County, Illinois. Miss Downey had come to the United States earlier that year, having been born in Leeds, Ontario, Canada on August 8 1830, the daughter of Calvin C. and Nancy Downey.
Because of difficulties with his health, Urijah, who went by his middle name Hardin, was advised by his physician to move to a drier climate. In 1848, he and his wife, mother, and younger brother Isaac moved to Council Bluffs, Iowa and soon thereafter, with other Mormon families set out for Salt Lake City. All of his horses and cattle were lost during the sojourn to Utah. He and his family remained in Utah for three years, during which time he saved all he could to purchase more animals before continuing to San Bernardino, where the Yager Family arrived in June 1854.
Hardin and Adeline Yager had several children, Mary, born in Council Bluffs about 1848; Augustus, born about 1850 and Jane about 1852; both in Salt Lake City; Franklin, born about 1856; George, about 1858; William about 1860; Sherman, about 1865 and Edwin, about 1870. The last five were born in San Bernardino.
Upon bringing his family to California, Hardin Yager became a successful farmer. He was so highly respected that when many of the Mormons left San Bernardino in 1857 and 1858 to return to Utah to assist in the defense of the threatened Church in the face of President James Buchanan’s threat to go to war against Brigham Young, Yager was elected to the San Bernardino City Council. On August 1, 1859, Edwin Thomas, who had been chosen to replace the recently departed Daniel Stark as the County’s First District Supervisor, resigned. Hardin was elected to succeed him and took office on August 3, 1859, serving for the balance of the term until October 21, 1861.
Yager ran his farm until 1863, at which point he was prevailed upon to run again for a supervisorial position. The polling was held in September 1863 and when the votes were canvassed, Yager, J.F. Miller and William Bryant were declared the winners. Robert Carslisle, who was chairman of the board, and Lester F. Carpenter demanded a recount. The recount put Carlisle and Carpenter on top, but on November 3, 1863, Judge A.D. Boren ordered the clerk, A. F. McKinney, to issue certificates of election to Yager, Miller and Bryant. Miller never appeared at any meeting, but Lester Carpenter did. It is not recorded what transpired. Mr. Carpenter apparently became Second District Supervisor by default and attended both the November 16, 1863 and February 15, 1864 meetings. He was replaced in April, 1864 by Hardin Yager. There is no record of what happened to Mr. Carpenter. Mr. Yager continued as Second District supervisor until August 22, 1864, when he was succeeded by Joseph Thorn. Thorn served only a few months , resigning on April 18, 1865. The office of Second District supervisor was officially declared vacant and remained so until James Waters was elected and took office on October 31, 1865. It appears that for some time in the mid-1860s, Second District Supervisor was an untenable position to hold.
Hardin Yager was elected county treasurer in 1865. He thereafter became known as “Honest Old Hardin Yager.” He remained as treasurer for twenty-four years. He was the lone Republican holding office in the county in those days, as, opposite the national trend in the states that had fought with the Union during the Civil War at that time, San Bernardino County was a decidedly Democratic stronghold.
Yager was generally and genuinely well liked and received throughout the county.
In 1889, on February 3, at the age of 70, he died suddenly at his home in San Bernardino.
Reports were that his death cast a gloom over the entire city and county.
He was interred next to his mother in San Bernardino’s Pioneer Cemetery. George Beattie was selected to succeed him as county treasurer
By Mark Gutglueck