There is no shortage of Stephen Hardings in our family. I currently have eleven of them registered in my family tree program.
Stephen the First (of our line at least) was born in Braintree, MA about 1624. His father, Richard, had just emigrated from England and I believe Stephen was the firsts of our Harding ancestors to be born on this continent.
It is reported that Stephen was a blacksmith by trade. When I hear “blacksmith” it takes me back to the TV Westerns I watched as a kid where the blacksmith shop was used mostly for making horseshoes, and hiding the bad guys before the shoot-out.
But in colonial times the blacksmith was perhaps the most important of artisans. Few men had the skill to do his work but nearly everyone needed it. A blacksmith could be called on to make nails, bullets, swords, hatchets, axe heads, anchors, chains, hooks, iron hoops, hinges, gates, locks, wheel barrows and, of course, shoes for horses and oxen. They would also make repairs to tools required by other tradesmen.
Blacksmithing was physically hard and dirty work done next to a very hot fire. Stephen probably worked long hours 6 days a week and I doubt that he wore earplugs to protect his hearing from all that banging.
Around 1647, when Stephen was about 23 years old he removed from Braintree to Rehoboth, MA which is about 40 miles southwest of his homeland.
The likely reason suggested for the move is that he had become a convert to the Baptist faith and wanted to live in the Baptist community of lower Rehoboth . His father was a “freeman” which denotes membership in the Puritan church. If Stephen forsook the Puritan faith in favor of the despised Baptist sect, and remained resident of Braintree, his life there would surely have been an uncomfortable one
There were many Baptists in Rehoboth and they probably held meetings in their homes. But they must have gone across the river to Providence for communion and undoubtedtly were members of the Providence Church, the first of the Baptist faith in America.
(sources: THE ANCESTRY OF PRESIDENT HARDING by Clara Gardinier Miller; THE HARDINGS IN AMERICA by Wilber J. Harding)