MPS: Yuba City, CA, USA: Mr Hardy died last month. No one knows exactly how old he was. He was discovered, fully grown, in 1863 by members of the Keystone Independent Battery Light Artillery. What he was doing in the middle of the bloody U.S. Civil War and how he got there is a mystery.
Some historians speculate that he escaped from the Charleston, South Carolina zoo when it was destroyed in the war. However, no record has been found of a Galapagos Islands turtle residing at that zoo. Other historians believe that he was brought to Charleston by a sailor or a fisherman and was lost in the confusion of battle.
The Keystone Independent Battery Light Artillery adopted the turtle as a mascot and named him Mr. Hardy in memory of Private Joshua Hardy, the one casualty suffered by the Keystone Independent Battery Light Artillery in the war. They carved:
At the end of the war Captain Mathew Colostone took custody of Mr Hardy and they lived in Paterson, New Jersey for 50 years until Captain Colostone's death. While Mr. Hardy was a popular member of the Paterson community there was no one who cared to adopt him and he was given to the Trenton, New Jersey Zoo.
At the Trenton Zoo Mr. Hardy was one of the first attractions of a new children's petting zoo. He was very popular with the children who loved to ride on his back. Mr. Hardy remained at the Trenton Zoo until September 1938 when a hurricane damaged his cage and he wandered off.
In 1952 he was seen rummaging in foliage in the woods outside of Anston, Pennsylvania and captured by Mr. Lenord Lewisson of Anston. The Trenton zoo when contacted refused, for unstated reasons, to accept Mr. Hardy back to their facilities. Mr. Lewisson then kept Mr. Hardy as a pet and a friend.
Together, they moved from Anston to Sacramento, California in 1964 where they lived quietly until they moved to Yuba City in 1998.
In January Mr. Lewisson announced that Mr. Hardy had passed away on December 23. 2004 of an unknown cause. Perhaps it was illness. Perhaps it was just old age. After all, Mr. Hardy was over 141 years old.
Professor Raymond Hume of the Yuba City Institute of Advanced Studies stated, "In theory a Galapagos Islands turtle could live forever due to a unique gene structure. However, nothing lasts forever and they succumb to accident and disease just as do other living creatures."
A saddened Mr. Lewisson told the Yuba Yada Yada, " I thought of having him stuffed and keeping him in the back yard, but, it just wouldn't be the same as him living there. So finally, I pushed him into the Feather River and watched him drift downstream. I kind of hope he will make it to the ocean and maybe float back to the Galapagos Islands."
It is unlikely that Mr. Hardy will ever reach the Gapalogos Islands. The Feather River flows to the Sacramento River, which in turn flows into Suisun Bay, and on to San Pablo Bay, then to San Francisco Bay where it meets the Pacific Ocean beyond the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a long obstacle course. It could take forever.