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Grand Rapids in 1856

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One Man, Two Milestones

One Man, Two Milestones

GRHC - September 30th, 2013

William J. Hardy became active in the politics of Gaines Township after African American men were granted the right to vote in 1870.


In 1846 William J. Hardy, a 23 year old African-American, purchased 93 acres of farmland southeast of Grand Rapids in Gaines Township. Nine years later, Hardy and his wife Eliza attended revival meetings held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Caledonia. Shortly after the meetings closed Hardy and his wife Eliza accepted the group’s teachings and were baptized as members of the Adventist church.

Hardy wrote, “I was led to cast my lot with the Sabbath keepers in Caledonia. I have never regretted that step.” Hardy soon became a prominent leader in the local church. In 1878 it was reported that, “The burden of the work . . . now rests almost wholly on Brother Hardy," at the Gaines Seventh-day Adventist Church.

After the adoption, in 1870, of the 15th amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which granted African American men the right to vote, Hardy became active in local politics. Despite the racial stigma of the period, he was elected Gaines Township supervisor two years later. Thus, William Hardy holds the double distinction of being considered the first African American elected to public office in Michigan and the head of the first African American family to join the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Upon his death in 1888, 400 people attended his funeral. A local newspaper declared Hardy, “A man of honor, honesty, and integrity who was appreciated by the community in which he lived.”

Full Details

TitleOne Man, Two Milestones
KeywordsWYCE; radio; Grand Rapids; Historical Commission; African Americans; Gaines Township; politics
Pubdate StringSeptember 30th, 2013

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