A native of Ontario County, New York, and an ardent abolitionist, Harding married Avoline Sprout and practiced law in Indiana before Abraham Lincoln named him governor of the Utah Territory in 1862. Conciliatory toward the Mormons at first, he soon became critical of church leaders and the practice of polygamy. The Mormons successfully petitioned for his removal. He served as chief justice of the Colorado Territory until forced out of office for alleged incompetence and immorality.
Governor Harding was born in 1808 and died in 1891, in Indiana.