Chester Harding was born in the Mississippi town of Enterprise, on December 31, 1866. He received his early education in private schools and, taking naturally to engineering work, went on to the University of Alabama, from which he graduated in 1884 with a bachelors degree in engineering.
He was then appointed to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and upon graduation on June 12, 1889, was commissioned as an Additional Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He was made a Second Lieutenant of engineers August 12, 1890, was promoted to First Lieutenant January 26, 1895, and was made Captain July 5, 1898. Harding was appointed a Division Engineer of Gatun Locks Division in 1907, and then was promoted as Panama Canal maintenance engineer in 1915. He served as governor of Panama Canal Zone from January 1917 to 1921.
As a Panama Canal engineer, Harding was responsible for many construction projects including terminal installations; operation of the building division including continuation of the Ancon Hospital group of buildings; the garbage incinerator at Balboa and the industrial plan for the Panama Railroad; the construction of pier no.6 at Cristobal; and intermittent dredging work at Culebra Cut and Cucaracha because of slides, removing more than 5 million cubic yards in 5 years.
Major Harding married Flora Krum on July 15, 1895, in St. Louis, Missouri.
They had three children: Horace, Chester Krum, and Katherine. Harding
died on November 11, 1936.