1.   Historical note

2.   Scope and content

3.   Provenance

4.   Processing note

5.   Inventory

6.   Subjects

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 Gardiner Family Papers

 Farmers and merchants of South Kingstown, Rhode Island.

 Papers, 1762-1831.

 Size: 1 lin. ft.

 Catalog number: MSS 629 8

 Processed by: Robin Flynn, April 1999

©Rhode Island Historical Society

Manuscripts Division


Historical note:

            The common ancestor of the Gardiners identified below is George Gardiner, who arrived in Boston from England in 1637. George was admitted an inhabitant of Newport, Rhode Island in 1638. He acquired land in the Narragansett Country by deed from a Narragansett sachem in 1662. The Gardiner family became associated with other prominent Washington (King's) County families such as the Hazards and Robinsons.

            The heads of all the groups listed below are great-grandsons of George Gardiner through his sons Benoni, George, and Henry. Some of others listed have not been identified with certainty, but it is assumed they are also descended from George due to the presence of their papers in the collection. The majority, if not all, of the Gardiners in this particular family branch appear to have lived in South Kingstown. The surname is interchangeably spelled "Gardner" and "Gardiner".

            (Colonel) John Gardiner (1696-1770) was the great-grandson of George through his son Benoni. John was married twice, first to Mary Hill, second to Mary Taylor. Among the children of John's first wife was Amos (1729-ca. 1790); among the children of his second wife were John (1747-1808), who was a captain in the Kingstown Reds during the Revolution, and Benjamin (1750-after 1801). Amos married twice: first to Sarah Bill, by whom he had all his children, second to Sarah _____. Among Amos and Sarah Bill's children were Amos, James, John (who moved to Nova Scotia), and William. Amos' second wife outlived him; she died in 1807.

            The brothers Caleb (1710-1790) and Nathan Gardiner, Sr. (1721-1792), sons of Nicholas and Mary (Northup) Gardiner, were the great-grandsons of George through his son George. Caleb Gardiner was the father of Mary (Gardiner) Perkins, the widow of Kingston silversmith Joseph Perkins and the first wife of Elisha Reynolds Potter, Sr. (see subgroup 2); and Nicholas Gardiner, who married Sarah Reynolds, Elisha Potter Sr.'s aunt. Nicholas and Sarah's sons were Warren, Caleb N., and Elisha R. Warren Gardiner was an apprentice to his uncle, Joseph Perkins. Elisha R. Gardiner was a sheriff of Washington County. He eventually moved to New York after having to auction his property due to debt, and died in 1825. Caleb N. may have been a farmer.

            Nathan Gardiner Sr. was born in 1712 in South Kingstown. His siblings, in addition to Caleb, were Henry, Lydia, Mary, and Tabitha. Nathan Sr. was married twice, first to Katherine Niles, second to Thankful _____. All of his children were by his first wife; they were: Mary (b.1743), Nathan Jr. (b. 1747), and Sarah (b. 1751). Nathan Sr. was a lieutenant in the 3rd South Kingstown militia company from 1747 to 1749. He died in 1792.

            Nathan Sr.'s son, Nathan Jr., was born in South Kingstown in 1747. Not much is known about his vocation; it is assumed he was a yeoman. He held the commission of Major in the Kings County militia in 1767, and was surveyor of South Kingstown highways as early as 1797 and as late as 1801. He married Mary Johnson; their children were Malbone, Nathan, Niles, and Katharine. Nathan Jr. died in South Kingstown in 1802.

            The diary of "Nailer Tom" Hazard contains several entries concerning both Nathan Sr. and his son Nathan Jr., Nathan Jr.'s widow, and his son Nathan.

            The brothers Samuel (1719/20-1802) and Christopher (1726-1812) Gardiner, sons of Ephraim, were great-grandsons of George Gardiner through his son Henry. These brothers married two sisters, Amey and Mary Easton. Samuel and Amey, and Christopher on behalf of his late wife, Mary, sued Nicholas Easton (brother of Amey and Mary) over administration of the will of the Eastons' father, Jonathan. Samuel E. Gardiner, who was clerk for Washington County from 1793 to 1801, may have been the son of Samuel and Amey.

            An estate inventory of Clarke Gardiner, dated 1786 indicates the inventory was requested by a John J. Gardiner; he may be Clarke's son. The will of Amos Gardiner "Sr." who died circa 1790 (according to the Rhode Island Will Index, 1793) mentions "land of John Gardiner son of Clarke Gardiner." Likewise, an assumption is made about the 1798 inventory of Ann Gardiner, "widw. of Henry Gardner": Henry Gardiner, great-grandson of George Gardiner and son of Henry Gardiner, married Ann Champlin in 1736. She was born in 1714 and died in 1798.



Hazard, Tom. Nailer Tom's Diary (Boston: Merrymount Press, 1930).

William Davis Miller, "Joseph Perkins, Silversmith", Collections of the Rhode Island Historical             Society 21, (July 1928).

Robinson, Caroline E.. The Gardiners of Narragansett (Providence, 1919).

Smith, Joseph Jenckes. Civil and Military List of Rhode Island (Providence: Preston and Rounds             Co., 1900).

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Scope and content:

            The bulk of the papers in this subgroup are those of Nathan Gardiner Sr. and Nathan Gardiner Jr.

            Most of the papers of Nathan Sr. are accounts or related documents: receipts, a day book, credit vouchers and promissory notes. There are small amounts of deeds and legal papers, and accounts pertaining to Gardiner's estate. The papers reveal little about his personal life or occupation. Of note, however, is a packet of depositions from 1788 concerning slaves owned by Gardiner.

            Most of Nathan Jr.'s papers are accounts and receipts dating between 1766 and 1802. There are also deeds, agreements, and indentures; a small amount of correspondence; and legal papers such as complaints and powers of attorney. Of potential interest to genealogists are three lists naming men who were involved in maintaining South Kingstown highways and bridges in 1797, 1800 and 1801. The accounts in the collection give some indication as to Gardiner's financial and social status, but not his personal life or vocation.

            The remaining papers are primarily deeds, with a scattering of letters, estate inventories, and miscellaneous single documents. The most interesting or revealing are probably the account from "Cuff Henry Gardiner (negro)" to Ebenezer Adams, and the legal cases against Nicholas Easton by his sisters and brothers-in-law, for shares in the estate of Jonathan Easton.

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            The papers in this subgroup were probably part of a 1968 transfer from the University of Rhode Island Library to the RIHS, comprised of over 2000 documents from several Washington (King's) County families, the foremost of which are the Reynolds, Potter, Gardiner, Hagadorn, Wells, and Davis families. The papers had formerly been in the private collection of historian William Davis Miller, a descendant of the Davises, and were given through bequest to the university upon Miller's death in 1959.

            The Davis and Gardiner families were not related. However, Mary Gardiner was the first wife of Elisha Potter, Sr.; they did not have any children. His second wife was Mary Mawney; together they had five children, the oldest of whom was Elisha Jr. Mary's sister Elizabeth married into the Davis family. The Gardiner papers may have gone from Mary (Gardiner) Potter to Elisha Jr., a first cousin to the children of Elizabeth (Mawney) and Jeffery Davis. After Elisha's death, it is likely the papers went to his brother William Henry Potter, then to his nephew James Brown Mason Potter, Jr., and from there perhaps to a Davis cousin down to William Davis Miller.

            A smaller portion of his collection had gone to the Rhode Island Historical Society the same year; this portion is divided primarily between MSS 629, subgroups 2 and 3, the papers of Elisha Reynolds Potter and his son, Elisha Jr.

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Processing note:

            The documents in this collection had been mingled in chronological arrangement with the papers of other South Kingstown families in a collection known as the "Potter Papers", which was a merging of William Davis Miller's 1959 gift to the RIHS and the 1968 University of Rhode Island transfer, along with several other smaller gifts from various parties. In 1998, the Potter Papers were sorted into several family subgroups under a single collection number. The largest subgroups are numbers 2 and 3, the papers of Elisha Reynolds Potter Sr. and Jr., respectively.

            After separation from the rest of the collection, the Gardiner papers were arranged by individual family member and re-housed in upright acid-free storage. The identities and dates for each invidual were researched to the point were they could be presumed correct based on information found in Gardiner genealogies, histories of South Kingstown and Washington County, and the Rhode Island Cemetery Database. The historical note above indicates where there is doubt about particular persons. In cases where more than one document has been allotted to a single person, a margin of error should be allowed concerning the match between the documents and the person.

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Colonel John Gardiner Family

Box 1.

Folder 1. The folder contains

            Amos Gardiner (1757-1827, son of Amos b. 1729), agreement with Walter Watson, 1794

                        Oversized storage. Deed from John Gardiner, 1794

            Benjamin Gardiner (1750-?. Son of Colonel John), receipt, 1790

            James Gardiner (b. 1754?, son of Amos b. 1729), receipt, 1785; deeds, 1799, 1803

            John Gardiner (1747-1808. Son of Colonel John),

Commission as Captain of Kingstown Reds, November, 1775

Commission as special justice of Superior Court, May, 1776

Letter from William Ellery, January, 1789

Letter from Benjamin Gardiner, May, 1800

John, William, James Gardiner (sons of Amos b. 1729, and Sarah Bill), bond with brothers James and William, August, 1802

Sarah ___ Gardiner (d. 1807?, 2nd wife of Amos b. 1729), inventory of estate by (son?) Amos Gardiner, 1807


Caleb Gardiner Family

Box 1.

Folder 2. The folder contains

Caleb Gardiner (1710-1796), receipts, 1789, 1793; undated vital records with note by ERP Jr.

            Caleb N. Gardiner (grandson of Caleb), deeds, 1793, 1798

            Elisha R. Gardiner (grandson of Caleb, d. 1825), miscellaneous papers, 1795-1810

Warren Gardiner (grandson of Caleb), deed from Caleb Gardiner, 1796; conditions of sale for estate (or that of Caleb N. Gardiner), 1807

Nathan Gardiner Sr. (1721-1792. Brother of Caleb)

Box 1.

Folder 3. Accounts, 1762-1791

Folder 4. Correspondence, 1768-1789

Folder 5. Day book, 1741-1767

Folder 6. Deeds and indentures, 1748-1789

Folder 7. Estate accounts and settlements, 1792-1799 and undated

Folder 8. Petitions and depositions, 1785-1794

Folder 9. Vital records, 1721-1792

Nathan Gardiner Jr. (1747-1802. Son of Nathan Sr.)

Box 1.

Folder 10. Accounts, 1766-1794

Folder 11. Accounts, 1795-1798

Folder 12. Accounts, 1799-1802

Box 2.

Folder 1. Cancellation of guardianship of Ann Johnson, 1794

Folder 2. Complaints by and against, 1788-1799

Folder 3. Correspondence, 1796-1802

Folder 4. Day book, 1792-1795

Folder 5. Deeds, indentures, and agreements, 1770-1801 and undated

Folder 6. Estate papers, 1802-1804, 1837

Folder 7. Highway and bridge maintenance crew lists, South Kingstown (Nathan Gardiner             surveyor), 1797-1801

Folder 8. Malbone Gardiner (son of Nathan Jr.), receipts and account, 1791, 1799

Folder 9. Powers of attorney, 1775, 1781, 1792

Folder 10. Promissory notes, 1770-1802

Folder 11. Receipts, 1766-1802

Folder 12. Vouchers, 1770-1801 and undated

Ephraim Gardiner Family

Box 2.

Folder 13. The folder contains

            Samuel Gardiner (1719/20-1802. Son of Ephraim),

Judgement, Samuel and Amey (Easton) Gardiner vs. Nicholas Easton, 1798

Copy of judgement in dam matter, 1800

            Christopher Gardiner ("Captain", 1726-1812. Son of Ephraim),

List and return of South Kingstown artillery, 1778

Christopher Gardiner vs. Nicholas Easton, 1803-1807 and undated

Gardiner Family

Box 2.

Folder 14. Miscellaneous family papers, 1786-1831. The folder contains

            Ann (Champlin?) Gardiner (1714-1798)?; "widow of Henry"), inventory of estate, May 1798

            Clarke Gardiner, estate inventory, 1786

Cuff Henry Gardiner, account for work done to Ebenezer Adams, 1797; receipt on behalf of Mrs. Sarah Adams, 1801

            Ebenezer Gardiner, note about mowing Dockray marsh, 1831?

            Jeffry H. Gardiner ("son of Stephen C."; dates unknown), deed from Daniel Stanton, 1811

            John Gardiner (Catskill, NY), power of attorney to John Gardiner Jr. of Catskill, NY, 1798

            Paris Gardiner, deed from son Nathaniel for South Kingstown land, 1797

            Richard Gardner, account, ca. 1788

            Richard W. Gardiner, quitclaim from Elisha Watson, 1807

            Samuel E. (Eldred?) Gardiner (ca. 1765-1830)?, miscellaneous papers, 1794-1826

            Samuel T.Gardiner, receipt for cheese 1802

            Thomas Gardner, deed from Samuel Fowler, 1807

William C. Gardiner, deed from Benjamin Gardiner for South Kingstown land, "not executed", 1830

Miscellaneous or unidentified Gardiners

Box 2.

Folder 15. Day book, circa 1776

                        Writs issued to February Court 1790 (lists several "Gardner"s)

                        Judgement for petition of Samuel Gardiner and Augustus Saunders, 1800

Receipt, "Mrs. Gardiner"1811

Note from Sarah Gardiner to Benjamin Robinson, undated

                        Memorandum re: Sarah Gardiner, mother of Benjamin Gardiner, undated

                        List of mares and owners?, undated

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Gardiner, Caleb (1710-1796)

Gardiner, Nathan Sr. (1721-1792)

Gardiner, Nathan Jr. (1747-1802)

Slavery - Rhode Island - South Kingstown

South Kingstown, R.I. - Roads and highways

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