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Gardner Family Papers

Gardner Family Papers

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Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Gardner family
Title:Gardner Family Papers
Quantity:4.5 linear feet (9 boxes)
Abstract:The Gardner family papers reflect the shipping and business activities of three generations of this prominent Salem, Massachusetts mercantile family.
Collection Number:MSS 147

Series List

SERIES I. John Gardner (1736-1816)
SERIES II. John Gardner (1771-1847) and Richard Gardner (1774-1836)
A. John Gardner (1771-1847) Correspondence
B. Shipping Papers
SERIES III. John Gardner (1796-1870), Thomas W. Gardner (1798-1845), Samuel Gardner (1800-1856), and Henry Gardner (1809-1890)
A. John Gardner Personal Papers
B. Samuel Gardner Personal Papers
C. Henry Gardner Personal Papers
D. Shipping Papers
SERIES IV. Other Family Deeds and Papers
A. Land Deeds and Related Papers
B. Other Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Gardner family papers reflect the shipping and business activities of three generations of the prominent Salem mercantile family. The bulk of the material documents the shipping activities of the three generations, as well as the immediate and extended Gardner family's land holdings and exchanges; however, there is a good amount of correspondence and other materials not relating to shipping or land. The collection has been divided into four series.

Series I. John Gardner (1736-1816) contains a diary, in which John copied Bible scriptures, wrote about the day's church sermons, and included his daily appointments. Also included are invoices and receipts from the farm, milk and shipping businesses.

Series II. John Gardner (1771-1847) and Richard Gardner (1774-1836) contains correspondence to and from John (1771-1847) on various topics, and John's gardening memo book. Papers relating to the family's shipping business during the time that John (1771-1847) and Richard would have been in control of it, are included in this series. These papers include ledgers, letter and day books, promissory memo book, accounts, invoices and receipts, cargo sales, and port arrivals and departures in Rio de Janeiro. Included are papers for specific vessels owned by the Gardners, including: Benjamin (Ship), Ceres (Ship), Commerce (Ship), Equator (Ship), Fame (Ship), Felicity (Brig), Hazard (Ship), John (Ketch), Marquis de Somerueles (Ship), Mary (Schooner), Moranda (Barque), Osgood (Brig), Recovery (Ship), and Sally (Schooner).

SERIES III. John Gardner (1796-1870), Thomas W. Gardner (1798-1845), Samuel Gardner (1800-1856) and Henry Gardner (1809-1890) contains correspondence to and from John (1796-1870) about various topics, as well as correspondence to and from Henry, also about various topics, memos of letters sent, and legal papers including Henry's will. Henry's farm and weather journals are also included in this series. The bulk of this series is made up of shipping papers, most of which is identified by the Gardner family member who was keeping the record at the time—this includes records of accounts, disbursements, invoices and sales accounts, invoices and receipts, notes about crew wages, checks written, notes about port arrivals and departures, and port activities. Also included are papers for specific vessels owned by the Gardners, including: Amgina (Brig), Carioca (Ship), Clarissa (Barque), Edwina (Ship), Florence (Ship), Hardy (Brig), Hamilton (Barque), Hazard (Ship), Henry (Barque), Iarius (Brig), Indian (Ship), Jacob D. Walu (Barque), Lantao (Barque), Miagala (Barque), Miranda (Barque), Moscow (Barque), Oxford (Ship), Renown (Schooner), Sarah (Barque), Shawmut (Brig) and Saone (Barque).

SERIES IV. Other Family Deeds and Papers contains land deeds, wills, receipts and invoices, correspondence, and other papers from the Gardner family in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These materials cover not only the Gardners, but their extended family as well, including: John Alley, Benjamin Browne, Hannah Browne-Derby, Richard Derby, Ezekiel Hersey Derby, Elias Hasket Derby, John Derby, Samuel Derby, Joshua Dodge, Elias Giles, Sarah Mansfield, Timothy Mansfield, Joseph Mansfield, Benjamin Mansfield Rogers, Joshua Rogers, David Ropes, and Sally Gardner. Also included are Medford Turnpike Road Stock certificates from 1803; some riddles that were written by an unidentified person that are not dated; and two photographs, one portrait of a man, the other a portrait of a woman, neither of which has a name or date attached to them. A card of Correggio's painting, "Die Heilige Nacht," was in the same envelope as the portraits. Included with the Derby family deeds is a short biography of Captain Ichabod Nichols who sold land to the Derby family; it is unclear when this biography was added to the collection. Also included in this series are papers from and about James Andrew Gillis, who appears to have been Henry Gardner's brother in-law. The papers include information about an exhibition Gillis put on while at Harvard, an invitation to a Harvard event, a recommendation letter, and information for his eulogy.

Biographical Sketches

The Gardner family was a prominent mercantile family in Salem, Massachusetts, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. John Gardner was born to Jonathan and Elizabeth Gardner on March 19, 1736, in Salem, Massachusetts. One of nine children who made it to adult hood, he is often referred to, in town documents, as "John Gardner 3d". His father, Johnathan, was an eminent merchant who helped make Salem famous in the eighteenth century, and like his father, John became a prosperous merchant. He was also a town Selectman, a member of various town committees, and was Captain of the First Salem Company in the First Essex Company Regiment in 1767. He served on important committees during the Revolutionary War, including the Committee of Correspondence Inspection and Safety, and advanced money to pay soldiers. John was also a deacon of the First Church in Salem, but in his old age he mostly attended the Universalist Church, where he bought a pew on the first floor.

On April 13, 1769, he married Sarah Derby, the daughter of Richard and Mary (Hodges) Derby, and they had three children: John, born August 12, 1771; Sarah, born 1773; and Richard, born August 1774. Johnathan Gardner died in 1783; a portion of his son John's inheritance consisted of were real estate, including his father's mansion and land at Gardner's Corner (the northwest corner of Essex Street and Washington Square West); £600; two common rights in the Great Pasture in Salem; two pews in the Great Meeting House; and interest in Long Wharf. John's most important land holdings were the various lots that made up Gardner Farm, on the road between Salem and Danversport, which he and his heirs continued to enlarge. Misfortune in the War of 1812 led to the loss of some property by his creditors, namely to the Salem Bank, Jonathan Hodges, Ebenezer Bickford, and William B. Dodge. John died January 3, 1816.

John Gardner (1771-1847) was born on August 12, 1771 to John and Sarah (Derby) Gardner. The oldest of three children, John was a merchant and master mariner, eventually working in the retail business until 1798. John was also a town selectman, and a member of various town committees. John married Sarah West, the daughter of William and Sarah (Beckford) West, on November 9, 1973, and they had eight children: Sarah, born February 3, 1795; John, born August 6, 1796; Thomas West, born April 10, 1798; Samuel, born April 12, 1800; Sarah, born September 28, 1802; George, born December 5, 1804; Mary Eliza, born October 6, 1806; and Henry, born September 27, 1806. He later conducted a large wholesale import business at his warehouse on Union Wharf, where he sold sugar, coffee, cocoa, dyewood, mahogany, broadcloth, Peruvian bark, indigo, spices, etc. His brother Richard was his business partner. Their best known vessel during this time was the ship Hazard, which made many famous voyages, and was captured by the British sloop of war Sylph and ordered to Bermuda in 1813, only to be recaptured by the American privateer Montgomery. Like many other merchants, business was ruined by the War of 1812. However, in 1818, John (1771-1847) started another mercantile company with his son, John (1796-1870). The best known vessels owned by John (1771-1847) during this time were the Commerce (Ship), Osgood (Brig), and Ceres (Ship).

John's most important land holding was Gardner Farm. Inherited from his father, John (1771-1847) continued to enlarge it by buying contiguous lots. Other real estate holdings included his house and land on the southwest corner of Essex and Liberty streets; a lot of land near the Essex Institute on which he built a large home, which would later be owned by David Pingree; and his shares in the new Assembly Hall (now Hamilton Hall) and Union Wharf—where his import business was. Two of John's sons would join him in the import business, eventually taking it over. He died August 25, 1847.

Richard Gardner, John Gardner (1736-1816)'s other son, was born August 1774. The youngest of three children, Richard became a merchant and ship master, eventually going into the merchant business with his brother John. Richard was master and joint owner with his brother of the ship Hazard. He went on many voyages in this and other ships to Africa, India, and China. On July 29, 1797, he married Elizabeth Ward, the daughter of Miles and Hannah (Chipman) Ward, and they had three children together: Richard, born May 22, 1798; Hannah, born February 19, 1800; and Sarah Derby, born February 26, 1809. In 1809, Richard leased flats on the eastern side of Derby Wharf in which he ran his business. However, like many others, business suffered after the War of 1812; Richard had to sell one half of his store on Derby Wharf to Jonathan Neal, in addition to having other property seized by creditors. Eventually his business was ruined.

Richard moved to Boston in approximately 1813; however, he maintained his connection to Salem, serving on the Salem Board of Health in 1804. His wife Elizabeth died in 1815, and Richard married his second wife, Eliza A. Peirce, the daughter of Daniel and Betsey (Mansfield) Peirce of Galliopolis, Ohio, with whom he had four children: Charles Derby, born February 10, 1821; Daniel Peirce, born January 26, 1823; Harriet Kittridge, born August 14, 1825; and Annie, born February 11, 1828. Richard died March 10, 1836.

John Gardner (1796-1870) was born August 6, 1796 to John and Sarah (West) Gardner. The oldest son of seven children who lived into adult hood, John was a merchant and master mariner, participating in his father's import business from 1818 until 1828. During this time, John sailed many voyages as commander of the ships Ceres and Commerce.

On August 19, 1822, he married Maria Cecelia Endicott, daughter of John and Mary (Putnam) Endicott. The couple had six children together: John Endicott, born August 3, 1823; Mary Putnam, born December 1825; Emily Maria, born November 15, 1830; Samuel Endicott, born January 14, 1833; George Endicott, born May 4, 1835; and William, born September 9, 1836. He later went to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as a member of the firm Coleman, Gardner & Company, which was very successful. However, after about twenty years, business reverses forced John to return to the United States, where he settled in New Brighton, Staten Island in 1851. There he engaged in business in New York, under the firm name of John Gardner & Company. John died February 17, 1870.

Thomas West Gardner, the second oldest son of John and Sarah (West) Gardner, was born April 19, 1798. As a young man, Thomas sailed as commander of some of his father's ships, along with his brother John. Thomas married Mary W. Peirce, the daughter of John and Nancy Peirce, in approximately 1832. They had four children together: Thomas F., born about 1833; Henry, born 1835; Mary, born about 1838; and Charles W., born January 4, 1840. Thomas later moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, probably to work with his brother John. He remained in Brazil until his death in approximately 1845.

Samuel Gardner, the third oldest son of John and Sarah (West) Gardner, was born April 12, 1800. He appears to have lived on Gardner Farm, until he moved to Ossippee, New Hampshire. He never married, and died September 7, 1856.

Henry Gardner, the youngest child of John and Sarah (West) Gardner, was born September 27, 1809. A merchant, Henry worked with his brother John at their father's import business. He went to Rio de Janeiro in approximately 1833, and returned to Salem in approximately 1845. On February 20, 1866 Henry married Elizabeth R. Gilles, the daughter of James D. and Lydia (Richardson) Gilles, and they had three children together: Elizabeth West, born February 2, 1867; Elinor Putnam, born March 28, 1870; and Henry, born June 8, 1872.

As a merchant, Henry owned many vessels in the foreign merchant service, including the Hazard (Ship), the Henry (Barque), Renown (Schooner), among others. He was also interested in historical matters and was one of the contributors to the Essex Institute Fund, for the purpose of preserving manuscripts. Henry was also an officer of the Salem Savings Bank from 1864 until his death and served as Vice President of the bank for the last fifteen years of his life. In 1874 he was elected President of the Gas Company, having served as its Director for many years prior to that date. Henry is also responsible for enlarging Gardner Farm to its largest size, which he did by acquiring land from various parties until it reached 210 acres. Henry died January 20, 1890.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Alley, John, 1777-
Browne, Benjamin
Derby, Elias Hasket, 1766-1826
Derby, Ezekiel H. (Ezekiel Hersey), 1772-1852
Derby, John, 1741-1812
Derby, Richard, 1736-1781
Derby, Samuel
Dodge, Joshua, 1779-1861
Gardner, Henry, 1809-1890
Gardner, John, 1736-1816
Gardner, John, 1771-1847
Gardner, John, 1796-1870
Gardner, Richard, 1774-1836
Gardner, Samuel, 1800-1856
Gardner, Thomas West, 1798-1845
Gardner, Weld, 1745-1801
Giles, Elias
Gillis, James Andrew, 1829-1914
Mansfield, Benjamin
Mansfield, Joseph, 1771-1830
Mansfield, Sarah
Mansfield, Timothy
Rogers, Joshua
Ropes, David
Amgina (Brig)
Benjamin (Ship)
Carioca (Ship)
Ceres (Ship)
Clarissa (Barque)
Commerce (Ship)
Dummer Academy
Edwina (Ship)
Equator (Ship)
Fame (Ship)
Felicity (Brig)
Florence (Ship)
Hamilton (Barque)
Hardy (Brig)
Hazard (Ship)
Henry (Barque)
Iarius (Brig)
Indian (Ship)
Jacob D. Walu (Barque)
John (Ketch)
Lantao (Barque)
Marquis de Somerueles (Ship)
Mary (Schooner)
Medford Turnpike Road
Miagala (Barque)
Miranda (Barque)
Moranda (Barque)
Moscow (Barque)
Osgood (Brig)
Oxford (Ship)
Recovery (Ship)
Renown (Schooner)
Sally (Schooner)
Saone (Barque)
Sarah (Barque)
Shawmut (Brig)
Account books
Bills of lading
Contracts for deeds
Receipts (Acknowledgments)
Castle Hill Farm (Mass.)
Danvers (Mass.)
Derby Wharf (Salem, Mass.)
Salem (Mass.)


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Gardner Family Papers, MSS 147, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This collection is a combination of MSS 147 and MH 104. The material from MH 104 was donated by A.P. Gardner (accession #14,565), while MSS 147 is from an unknown source. The two collections were combined because the documents are from the same family and span the same time period. A court appeal on behalf of the ship Hazard, was part of a gift from the New England Historic Genealogy Society on February 28, 1963 (accession #16,143).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Prudence K. Backman, September 1984. Updated by Hilary Streifer, August 2014.

Related Material

Andrews, Charles Loring. The Gardner Family of Machias and Vicinity: A Record of the Descendants of Mr. Thomas Gardner of Salem, Mass. Through Ebenezer Machias, Me. Augusta: Kennebec Journal Print, 1898.

Gardner, Frank Augustine. Gardner Memorial: A Biographical and Genealogical Record of the Descendants of Thomas Gardner, Planter Through His Son Lieut. George Gardner. Salem: Newcomb and Gauss Co., 1933.

Gardner, Frank A. Thomas Gardner Planter and Some of His Descendants. Salem: Essex Institute, 1907.

Gardner Family Papers, 1772-1915, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Ward, Gerald W. R. The Gardner-Pingree House. Salem: Essex Institute, 1976.

Gardner Family Tree

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