Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans
by Robert L. Nelson

BARDMESS, ABRAM (1836-1917)

History of Santa Cruz County California, Edward Sanford Harrison

Photograph of Abram Bardmess
Abram Bardmess

While the average Californian is usually an experienced traveler, few residents of the state have traveled as extensively by wagon as has Mr. Bardmess of Watsonville, who by the use of the "prairie schooner" has covered altogether almost twelve thousand miles. By this means he has gained a much more thorough knowledge of the country than can be gained by the tourist gazing from the car window. As the afternoon of his busy life draws toward its evening, he is content to abandon his travels and in his pleasant home at No. 129 Main street he frequently recounts tales of the past, with the stirring adventures that came to him in his trips from placeto place.

The colonial era witnessed the arrival of the Bardmess family in America from Germany. The first settlers chose homes in Pennsylvania. About one hundred and eight years ago some of the name proceeded west as far as Illinois, where Peter Bardmess, a native of Pennsylvania, spent the greater part of this life. However, eventually he removed to Missouri and at the age of sixty-five he died at Greenfield, that state. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Dorcas Keith, was born in Kentucky of German lineage and died in Douglas county, Mo., at about eighty-three years of age. Fifteen children comprised their family, nine sons and six daughters, and all but one of these attained mature years. Only four are now living, Abram being one of the survivors. Born near Pinckneyville, Perry county, Ill., August 23, 1836, he passed the years of early youth in industrious application to farm labors. In 1864 he enlisted in Company F, Thirteenth Illinois Cavalry, assigned to the Thirteenth Army Corps under General Steele, and he remained in the service of the Union until after the close of the war, being mustered out at Pine Bluff, Ark, August 1, 1865. On his return to Illinois he aided on the home farm for a year and then spent a year on a farm near Neosho, Newton county, Mo., after which he sojourned to Batesville, Ark, for about five months.

Going back once more to Illinois, Mr. Bardmess remained in that state for eighteen months and then returned to his former location in Missouri. Next he settled on a farm in Dade County, Mo., and from there went to a farm near Greenfield. Meanwhile he had read much concerning the west and his love of travel and desire to see the western country led him to dispose of his Missouri possessions in 1881, when he came across the country to Nevada, settling on a farm near Winnemucca, Humboldt county. Agriculture he found to be conducted along different lines there than in his previous locations and a study of the changes in soil, climate and crops proved interesting to him. At the expiration of three years he returned to Douglas County, Mo., but in 1890 he again went to Humboldt county, Nev. this time remaining for five years. His next removal took him to Mendocino county, Cal. where he sojourned for a year. During the year 1894 he arrived in Watsonville. Two years later he went to Pomona, where he remained only seven months. His next removal took him through the Mojave valley to Eureka, Nev., where he remained for eighteen months, returning thence to Watsonville by wagon. since then he has remained in this city, where he has a large circle of warm friends.

The first wife of Mr. Bardmess, who bore the maiden name of Sophronia Lipe, died in Arkansas two years after their marriage. The only child of that union is a son, Sherman, now residing in Watsonville. Later Mr. Bardmess married Kadie Witter, a native of Germany, but she was taken from him by death only two and one half months after marriage. His present wife, a lady of estimable character and energetic disposition, was Nancy R. Gardner, a native of Missouri. Seven children were born of this union, namely: Ira M. of Watsonville; John, who makes his home in Eureka, Nev.; Albert, living in San Francisco; Mrs. Maggie Morgan, whose husband was accidentally killed in the lime quarry in 1906 and who makes her home in Watsonville; Garfield, of Eureka Nev.; Cyrus, of Watsonville; and Lyda, wife of Bert Stacey, and a resident of Mayfield, Santa Clara county. Prominently identified with the Grand Army of the Republic, Mr. Bardmess has filled all of the chairs in the post and in 1909 he represented his post in the Salt Lake encampment. In politics he gives stanch support to Republican principles, but never sought nor held office. (p. 286)

Watsonville Register Pajaronian (June 4, 1984)

That Was Watsonville 75 Years ago (1909)

Abram Bardmess is a gentile old soul, given to quiet pursuits, but yesterday at Kelly Lake he said some awful naughty words and kept it up something scandalous. The reason therefore was that he went to step from one boat into another and the other wasn't there when he stepped. He made a big hole in the water. Get him to tell you about it.

Watsonville Register Pajaronian (March 12, 1917)

A. Bardmess Is Called By Death

Abram Bardmess, a well known resident of this city for many years, died last night at his home on lower main street after a lingering illness, old age causing his demise. The funeral will be held tomorrow at 2 o'clock from the Burland Undertaking Company parlors on East Lake Avenue with interment in the I.O.O.F. cemetery. The local post of the G.A.R. of which the deceased was a member, will conduct the services at the grave with Rev. E.B. Hays officiating at the parlor.

From the "History of Santa Cruz County" we take the following biographical sketch of deceased [Editor's Note: See above].

Besides his wife Mr. Bardmess is survived by the following children: Sherman Bardmess, Ira Bardmess, Cyrus Bardmess, Mrs. Margaret Morgan, all of Watsonville; John Bardmess of Nevada, Albert Bardmess of Santa Rosa, Garfield Bardmess of Nevada and Mrs. Alida Stacey of Mayfield. He is also survived by twenty-three grand children, who range from 18 years to 18 months in age.

Watsonville Pajaronian (March 1917)

Tribute to A. Bardmess

With the passing of Abram Bardmess the State of California loses one of its best citizens. Mr. Bardmess was a patriotic American citizen in all that the term implies. He was a humanitarian and championed all reforms, which he thought would benefit humanity. He was a man of the most positive convictions, and boldly talked in defense of his ideas. His convictions were a part of the man. And he would differ with a friend as radically as with a stranger. His possessiveness made him some enemies, but he did not care.

As I was very familiar with him and been on many fishing trips with him, I knew him like a book, and I know his goodness of heart and the rugged honesty of opinion. His strong Americanism, his love of country, and its flag and his earnest championship of our free schools was admirable. In fact Mr. Bardmess was a born fighter for what he believed to be right and he was always ready to defend his ideas.

I never met a warmer hearted American. As a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and a member of McCook Post of Watsonville his services will always be remembered by its members. His purse was always open to old soldiers in distress, and he did many charitable deeds in a silent way. Many an old soldier has had cause to be thankful that Mr. Bardmess came to his assistance. In many ways he was a remarkable man. There could have been no better citizen.

But he has joined the Grand Army of the Unknown Hereafter and is at rest. The Grim Reaper has dealt with many members of the G.A.R. in this vicinity, and it will not be many years until the GAR's will be only a remembrance of history. We do not sorrow for his departure, because Nature has given him the rest in store for him. And after his local life, he sleeps quietly. All honor to the memory of Abram Bardmess......J.H. Davis.

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