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George Tryon Harding II, M.D. 

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Harding, George Tryon II (1878–1934)

By David Glenn

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David Glenn, a student of religion and history education at Southern Adventist University, plans to graduate with a B.A. in Religious Education in 2022. David spends his summers serving as assistant director at Camp Au Sable, Seventh-day Adventist youth camp in Grayling Michigan.

First Published: September 10, 2020

George T. Harding II, M.D., hospital founder and administrator, was instrumental in initiating Adventist involvement in the field of psychiatry.

Early Life (1878-1895)

George Tryon Harding II was born March 11, 1878 in Caledonia, Ohio to George T. Harding and Phoebe Dickerson Harding, both physicians. George Harding II was the seventh of eight siblings. His oldest brother was Warren Gamaliel Harding, who would later become the 29th president of the United States. His other siblings included (in birth order) Charity, Mary Clarissa, Persilla, Charles Alexander, Abigail Victoria, and Phoebe Carolyn. Persilla and Charles died from childhood illnesses.1 Carolyn, George’s youngest sister, married H. H. Votaw and did missionary service with him in Burma. After their return to the United States, Votaw served in the Religious Liberty department at the General Conference and eventually as editor of Liberty magazine (1942-1954).2

At the age of 12 George suffered inflammatory rheumatism that would continue to affect his health for the remainder of his life. His mother, who joined the Adventist church early in her marriage, was the primary influence in George’s spiritual development as a Seventh-day Adventist.3

Education and Marriage (1895-1905)

After graduating from Marion High School in 1895, Harding attended Battle Creek College in Michigan for a year.4 While in Michigan, he became acquainted with E. A. Sutherland and Percy Magan, who would each go on to be pioneers and administrators in Adventist education. His teachers encouraged him to “go to medical school at the University of Michigan . . . to establish the credibility of Battle Creek College.” While there Harding roomed with B. G. Wilkinson, future president of Washington Missionary College (later known as Washington Adventist University).5

In 1900, Harding completed his medical degree and returned to Ohio, assisting his father as a country doctor.6 However, the dean of the School of Medicine at the University of Michigan suggested that the younger Dr. Harding, because of the effects of his rheumatic fever, follow a less physically strenuous path and become a psychiatric physician.7 Thus, in 1902, Harding became an assistant physician at Columbus State Hospital.8 While serving there, in 1904, he began as an assistant in the Department of Nervous Diseases in the Ohio Medical University.9

Harding married 22-year-old Elsie Weaver (1881-1958) in Franklin, Ohio, on July 21, 1903.10 Together, they would have five children, each of whom went on to receive medical training and serve in the medical or education fields in some capacity.

Pioneer of Seventh-day Adventist Psychiatry (1905-1919)

In 1905, Harding was called to serve as the first medical superintendent of the Iowa Circle Sanitarium in Washington, D.C., a branch of the main Washington Sanitarium that was being developed in Takoma Park, Maryland, and would open in 1907.11 After two years in the nation’s capital, Harding returned to Columbus in April 1907 and took up practice as a specialist for diseases affecting the nervous system, often taking patients into his own home.12 In 1916 Harding opened a self-supporting institution with Dr. Stella Hauser on Indianola Avenue in Columbus. Called Indianola Rest Home, the goal of this institution was to care for women suffering from psychiatric ailments.13 In 1919, Harding moved the rest home to Worthington, a northern suburb of Columbus, upsizing and renaming it Columbus Rural Rest Home.14

While the United States was engaged in World War I (1917-1918), Harding offered his services as a member of the United States Medical Reserve. After the War, he also served as an examining neuro-psychiatrist for the United States War Veterans Bureau.15

At the Columbus and Indianola Rest Homes, Dr. Harding pioneered cutting-edge methods in caring for the patients. One of these methods was “horticulture therapy,” in which patients were instructed to garden to improve appetite, sleep quality, and mental-emotional health.16 In the case of one man suffering a severe case of depression, Harding told him that “if he were going to die he might as well accomplish something worthwhile before he departed this life,” and then instructed him to tend the garden in front of the sanitarium. By that evening, the man’s condition had improved.17

Harding’s work was groundbreaking in view of the widespread suspicion of psychiatry among Adventists during the early decades of the 20th century.18 He was committed to finding a way to combine the most advanced psychiatric science of the day with the Adventist method of whole-person health as taught by Ellen G. White and the Battle Creek Sanitarium. Most of the early Seventh-day Adventist psychiatrists were trained by George Harding II and his son, George Harding III, at the sanitarium in Worthington.19

Harding continued serving as sanitarium administrator and doctor in the Columbus Rural Rest home until 1934. In 1920 his brother, Warren G. Harding, then a senator from Ohio, gave the first official address in his successful campaign as the Republican candidate for the United States presidency in front of the main building on the Columbus Rest Home campus.20

Along with his duties as physician and hospital administrator, Dr. Harding spent much time writing and speaking, sharing the Adventist health message of preventative, whole-person care from the perspective of a professional psychiatrist. In 1922, Harding published a series of articles on mental health and the care of those suffering mental illnesses in Life and Health, an Adventist health paper published by Review and Herald.21 Additionally, many papers of that time – both Adventist denominational papers and public newspapers – made mention of Harding’s speaking engagements. In 1923, for example, he spoke at the opening ceremony for the New England Sanitarium.22 In 1927, Harding spoke at a local Worthington Presbyterian church on “The Harmony between the Physical and the Spiritual.”23 In 1928, he addressed the Ohio Colporteur Institute, a gathering of Seventh-day Adventist literature evangelists, where he gave a series of lessons and answered questions relating to health.24 Wherever he was asked to speak, Harding made sure to highlight the connections between physical, mental, and spiritual health.

Harding also became quite involved in the local Worthington, Ohio community. In 1926, he became president of the Worthington Kiwanis Club, which organizes community efforts to improve the lives of children.25 And, his work for the church as a lay leader and advisor is exemplified by his service on the Ohio Conference Executive Committee from 1927 until his death in 1934.26

Death and Legacy

On January 9, 1934, Dr. Harding suffered a severe and unexpected heart attack resulting from the rheumatic heart disease that he had been battling since childhood.27 Nine days later, on January 18, he passed away from cerebral hemorrhaging at the age of 55.28 After his death in 1940, Columbus Rural Rest Home was renamed Harding Hospital after Dr. Harding. Ownership of the hospital was transferred to the Ohio State University Medical Center in 1999. It remains a hospital dedicated to the care of individuals with psychiatric illnesses.29

Harding’s children each left their marks on the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the field of medicine. All three of his sons and one daughter became physicians. The oldest, George T. Harding III (1904-1985), went on to become the president of Loma Linda University School of Medicine, the director of Harding Hospital, and founder of the Worthington Foods company. Harding’s second son, Warren G. Harding II (1905-1975), became the surgeon at the Adventist Sanitarium in Sydney, Australia. Charles W. Harding (1915-1988) was also a physician at Harding Hospital. Ruth Virginia Harding Evans (1910-1995), a physician, married Dr. Harrison Evans, who became co-medical director and director of residency training at the Harding Sanitarium. Mary Elizabeth Harding Hoffman (1919-2012) received nurses training at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles and became noted for her service on the boards of various health foundations, hospitals, and civic organizations in the Houston, Texas area.30

George Tryon Harding II was among the first Seventh-day Adventist psychiatrists. He demonstrated that the idea of an Adventist psychiatrist is not an oxymoron. His work in psychiatry and hospital administration opened the door and inspired more Seventh-day Adventists to become professionally involved in caring for those struggling with mental illness.

Sources

Dittes, Albert. “Madison and the 2004 ASI National Convention.” Madison Survey, October-December 2004.

“Dr. George T. Harding.” Worthington News, January 25, 1934. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll97/id/4114.

“Dr. Harding Speaks – Gives Splendid Health Lecture at Presbyterian Church.” Worthington News, May 5, 1927. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll97/id/898/rec/1.

Evans, I. M. “Ohio Colporteur Institute.” Columbia Union Visitor, February 9, 1928.

Harding, George T. IV. “Adventists and Psychiatry – A Short History of the Beginnings.” Spectrum 17, no. 3 (February 1987): 2-6.

“The Harding Hospital.” Worthington Memory, August 1, 2016. http://www.worthingtonmemory.org/exhibits/2016-8-1/harding-hospital.

Harris, Ray Baker. “Background and Youth of the Seventh Ohio President.” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 78, no. 2 and 3 (Spring and Summer 1966): 260-275. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://resources.ohiohistory.org/ohj/browse/displaypages.php?display[]=0052&display[]=260&display[]=275.

Jones, Ellie. “The Greenhouse.” How it Was . . . . February 6, 1991. Accessed October 18, 2021. http://www.worthingtonmemory.org/scrapbook/text/how-it-was-3.

“Local Man Chosen – Dr. George T. Harding Jr. Elected New President of Kiwanis Club.” Worthington News, December 9, 1926. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll97/id/794/rec/1.

Montgomery, J. D. and Mrs. J. D. Montgomery. “Zanesville Home Nursing Class.” Columbia Union Visitor October 23, 1924.

“Services Held Saturday for Dr. Harding.” Worthington News, January 25, 1934. Accessed October 18, 2021. https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll97/id/4111.

Shaw, J. L. “Dr. G. T. Harding.” ARH, May 3, 1934.

Slade, E. K. “The Sanitarium Work.” Atlantic Union Gleaner, August 1, 1923.

Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1906-1933. Office of Archives, Research, and Statistics Online Archive, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GCA). https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx.

Notes

  1. Ray Baker Harris, “Background and Youth of the Seventh Ohio President.” Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 78, no. 2 and 3 (Spring and Summer, 1966): 265-272, accessed October 18, 2021, https://resources.ohiohistory.org/ohj/browse/displaypages.php?display[]=0052&display[]=260&display[]=275.

  2. Thang Suan Suum and Suak Khaw Ngin, “Votaw, Heber Herbert (1881–1962),” Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists, accessed October 18, 2021, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=EI37 .

  3. J. L. Shaw, “Dr. G. T. Harding,” ARH, May 3, 1934, 21-22..

  4. “Services Held Saturday for Dr. Harding,” Worthington News, January 25, 1934, 1, accessed October 18, 2021, https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll97/id/4111.

  5. Albert Dittes, “Madison and the 2004 ASI National Convention,” October-December 2004, 1. 1

  6. “Services Held Saturday,” 1.

  7. George T. Harding IV. “Adventists and Psychiatry – A Short History of the Beginnings,” Spectrum 17, no. 3 (February 1987): 2

  8. “Services Held Saturday,” 1.

  9. Ibid., 7.

  10. George Tryon Harding, Jr. and Elsie Weaver, 1903, “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2016,” FamilySearch, accessed October 18, 2021, https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Z8W3-LBT2.

  11. Harding IV, “Adventists and Psychiatry,” 2.

  12. “Services Held Saturday,” 7.

  13. Harding IV, “Adventists and Psychiatry,” 3.

  14. Ibid.

  15. “Services Held Saturday,” 7.

  16. Ellie Jones, “The Greenhouse.” How it Was . . . , February 6, 1991, accessed October 18, 2021, http://www.worthingtonmemory.org/scrapbook/text/how-it-was-3.

  17. Harding IV, “Adventists and Psychiatry,” 4.

  18. Ibid, 4-5.

  19. Ibid, 4.

  20. “Warren G. Harding Public Address at Columbus Rural Rest Home,” Worthington Memory, accessed October 18, 2021, http://www.worthingtonmemory.org/scrapbook/pictures/warren-g-harding-public-address-columbus-rural-rest-home.

  21. The titles of Harding’s 1922 series in Life and Health were: “The Backward Child” (February); “Causes and Care of Feeble-Mindedness” (April); “Mental Disease” (August); “Aberrant Minds” (September); “Common Mental Diseases” (October); and “The Care of the Insane” (December).

  22. E.K. Slade, “The Sanitarium Work,” Atlantic Union Gleaner, August 1, 1923, 1. 1

  23. “Dr. Harding Speaks – Gives Splendid Health Lecture at Presbyterian Church,” Worthington News May 5, 1927, 1. https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll97/id/898/rec/1. , 1.

  24. I. M. Evans, “Ohio Colporteur Institute,” Columbia Union Visitor, February 9, 1928, 1-2..

  25. “Local Man Chosen – Dr. George T. Harding Jr. Elected New President of Kiwanis Club,” Worthington News, December 9, 1926, 1, accessed October 18, 2021, https://ohiomemory.org/digital/collection/p16007coll97/id/794/rec/1.

  26. See listings in the Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook, 1927-1934, GCA, https://documents.adventistarchives.org/Yearbooks/Forms/AllItems.aspx.

  27. Dittes, “Madison and the 2004 ASI National Convention,” 1.

  28. “Services Held Saturday,” 7.

  29. “The Harding Hospital, ” Worthington Memory, August 1, 2016, accessed October 18, 2021, http://www.worthingtonmemory.org/exhibits/2016-8-1/harding-hospital.

  30. Dr. George Tryon Harding Jr Family Tree, FamilySearch, accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.familysearch.org/tree/pedigree/landscape/L8W8-SP7.

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Glenn, David. "Harding, George Tryon II (1878–1934)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 10, 2020. Accessed November 29, 2022. https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B9FC.

Glenn, David. "Harding, George Tryon II (1878–1934)." Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. September 10, 2020. Date of access November 29, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B9FC.

Glenn, David (2020, September 10). Harding, George Tryon II (1878–1934). Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventists. Retrieved November 29, 2022, https://encyclopedia.adventist.org/article?id=B9FC.