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California Genealogy and History Archives

San Bernardino County and Riverside County


REETTA V. HADDEN, of San Bernardino, a pioneer of the West, who has used her talents to preserve many invaluable records of the life and affairs of her generation, was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, September 23, 1849. Her parents in the spring of 1855 moved to Kansas Territory, and established their home at Pawnee, just east of Fort Riley, in Riley County, the place chosen for the first territorial capital. Her father, Mr. Morris, had a contract to furnish lumber for the capitol building then being hurriedly erected for the use of the first Legislature, which convened in July, 1855. The family moved into the upper story of the capitol building while the lower floor was being finished, and they were living there when the Legislature convened. Only those who lived through it or have a knowledge of the tempestuous conditions of "bleeding Kansas" during the '50s can appreciate the momentous issues represented in that Legislature. The primary question of course was slavery. Most of the members of the Legislature were on the "pro side" while the residents of Pawnee were against slavery. On the second day Mrs. Morris dressed her daughter Reetta in the prevailing style of short sleeves and pantalets suitable for a six-year-old girl at that time. She then went downstairs to join her father, who was a visitor in the assembly. On remarking her presence he at once said, "go back to your mother," but Governor Reeder had also noted the little figure and interposed with "no, let the little child remain, her presence is the only redeeming feature in the room," and turning to her he said, "come and have a seat by my side." That was a long time before women had been granted the privilege of sitting in legislative halls, and it may be that little Miss Reetta was the "first lady" allowed to sit in any legislative assembly in the United States, certainly the first to have "power," for there was no more swearing or fighting that afternoon while she sat by the side of the territorial governor.

A few years later, when Kansas had an election to decide its future on the slavery question, nearly all the ballots cast in the western portion of the settled counties were anti-slavery. The problem was to get them to Lawrence, then the capital, since a large reward had been offered by the pro-slavery men for the capture of the returns. Reetta's father was a cripple, walking on two crutches. He was entrusted with the dangerous duty of seeing that the ballots were delivered to the Secretary of State at Lawrence. It was a several days' journey with two yoke of oxen. Reetta went along, while the ballots were secreted in a bag of shelled corn under the seat. On the way her father became seriously ill, and his illness in addition to the responsibilities of their mission made the journey an experience that she would never forget. Finally they reached Lawrence, and her father on crutches and Reetta carrying the bag of ballots walked into headquarters, where all hope of their arrival had vanished, these ballots turning the tide against slavery in Kansas. That afternoon, when it was learned that a little girl had saved the day, Reetta once more ruled in the capitol of Kansas.

With the outbreak of the Civil war not long afterward the family returned to Cincinnati, where Reetta attended school. At the close of the war she returned to Kansas, and on November 26, 1868, was united in marriage with Mr. Thomas Hadden of New York City. In a few years Mr. and Mrs. Hadden went to New York to live, but on account of her poor health in 1879 they came to San Bernardino, intending to remain here a year. However, California exercised such charm upon them that they have been residents of San Bernardino County now for over forty years.

In all this time Mrs. Hadden has been deeply interested in the city and county. In 1899 she was president of the Woman's Parliament of Southern California, an organization preceding the Federation of Women's Clubs. She was one of the organizers of the Federation and a member of the Credential Committee. Mrs. Hadden has been a writer for over thirty years, contributing occasional short stories for the local press and magazines. As far as can be learned she was the first to have an article in an Eastern journal about San Bernardino. This article appeared in an issue of the Boston Commonwealth in 1884. Her second article was on "The First Capital of Kansas" and appeared in the American Magazine.

Mrs. Hadden originated the By-Product Department of the Orange Show. She was a member of the first civic committee to beautify the streets of San Bernardino. The other three members, now deceased, were W. J. Roberts, president of the First National Bank ; Fred T. Perris, constructing engineer of the Santa Fe ; and Mary Bennett Goodcell, who was a leader in every good work in San Bernardino. Of all her other interests the work that furnishes her most complete satisfaction in retrospect, Mrs. Hadden claims, was her canteen efforts for the Red Cross during the war.

Of the four children born to Mr. and Mrs. Hadden the only one remaining is Miss Estelle, at home.

Thomas Hadden was born in New York City on November 21, 1844, graduated from a university and when about twenty-four years of age went to Kansas and took up stock raising and farming.

In 1868 he married Miss Reetta Morris, and soon after returned to New York.

In 1879 he came to California, and in 1881 went into the hardware business, in which he has been interested ever since.

Mr. Hadden is an Odd Fellow, Knight of Pythias, and Mason. He has been interested in San Bernardino and its upbuilding, was one of the organizers of the old Chamber of Commerce and is a charter member of the Elks.


History of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties 
By: John Brown, Jr., Editor for San Bernardino County 
And James Boyd, Editor for Riverside County 
With selected biography of actors and witnesses of the period 
of growth and achievement.
Volume III, the Western Historical Association, 1922, 
The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, ILL

Transcribed by Peggy Hooper 2011