Saturday, March 4, 2017

Surname Saturday ~ Gardner of Boston? A Brickwall Ancestor


The location of the ropewalks in Boston on an 1814 map
This would be where the Public Garden is located now,
but at that time it was waterfront property, near wharves
on the Charles River (before Back Bay was filled in).
Photographed at the West End Museum in Boston, Massachusetts

I have two Gardner lineages, and they might be connected.  I don’t know because one is a brick wall I have been working on for about twenty five years.  If anyone knows a connection or any information, please leave a comment or email  

My first GARDNER ancestor was Thomas Gardner, my 9th great grandfather.  He was an "Old Planter" with the Dorchester Company on Cape Ann in the early 1620s, and his family arrived in Massachusetts aboard the ship Zouch Phenix in 1624.  His first wife, Margaret, joined the church in Salem in 1639.  His second wife, Damaris, joined the church in 1641 as Shattuck, so the marriage to Gardner must be after that date. Two of her Shattuck children married two of Thomas Gardner’s children.  Damaris and Samuel Shattuck are my 10thgreat grandparents in another lineage.   
However, I don’t know if my second GARDNER lineage is from Thomas Gardner.  I have two GARDNER sisters who both married my 5th great grandfather, Abijah Hitchings (1753 – 1826), a resident of Lynn, Massachusetts.  His first wife was Mary Gardner who married him on 24 June 1775 in Lynn, Massachusetts.  Mary and Abijah had five children together including Abijah, Jr. (1776 – 1868), my 4th great grandfather. 

Mary must have died before 1792 when Abijah remarried to Sarah Gardner and their only child, Cynthia, was born on 7 October 1792 .  I had no birth record for either sister, Mary or Sarah Gardner.  Sarah’s death record in Lynn states that she was “dau. Of B. Gardner of Boston, ropemaker, wife of Abijah Hitchins, of paralysis of the brain”.   This was a huge clue.  I found that there was a ropemaker, Benjamin Gardner, who removed from Boston to Salem to run a big ropeworks.   The Salem vital records record the death of Benjamin Gardner “[ropemaker, NR 9], [m, of Boston, dropsy, CR 4], June 7, 1797, a. 77 y.”

There is a valuable resource for Salem genealogy besides the vital records.  It is The Diary of William Bentley, D. D.: Pastor of the East Church, Salem, Massachusetts, by William Bentley, edited by Joseph Gilbert Waters, Marguerite Dalrymple, and Alice G. Waters, published by the Essex Institute in four volumes.  Volume 1 covers 1784 – 1792, Volume 2 covers 1793 – 1802, Volume 3 covers 1803 – 1810 and Volume 4 covers 1811 – 1819.  There is also an index at the end of volume 4, and a separate subject index.  He was the minister of the Second Congregational Church, known as the East Church from 1783 until his death in 1819.  He also published a weekly column in the Salem Gazette. His original diary fills 32 volumes.  He is buried in Harmony Grove cemetery near the Hitchings family.

There is also a book Record of the parish List of Deaths, 1785 – 1819 by William Bentley, edited by Ira J. Patch.  This book had the entry “June 7 1797, Benjamin Gardner, Dropsey aet 77., 1st marriage forty years, 2nd marriage 5 years, a son and daughter Hitchins survive by first wife, He was of Boston, married 1751, Lived and married in Marblehead 2nd time, there two years. Thence to Salem, here twenty years, See Day Book”.   The day book refers to his diary which had an entry “June 7 1797, Died this morning suddenly, Mr. Benjamin Gardner, Ropemaker.  He had within a week moved in with his daughter Hitchins, feeling infirmities which took him in his labours.  He was born in Boston. At the commencement of the war he removed to Marblehead where he married his second wife and thence removed to Salem. This second wife died 6 apr 1787 and since this time he has lived with the widow Hawkes. He lived upon terms of intimate friendship with Mr. Josiah Gaines who died 18 May 1796. He was industrious to the close of his life and had never known sickness. He was in his 77th year. He was a most worthy, consistent and industrious man.  I loved him and visited him often. He was married in 1751. His wife died in Salem in 1781. He married again on Nov., 1782 in Salem.”

This is how I found out that my 6th great grandfather, Benjamin Gardner, was a rope-maker, was married twice, and had died on 7 June 1797 in Salem.  I was able to find a marriage in Boston on 1 December 1751 at the West Church [Boston Marriages 1700 – 1809] of Benjamin Gardner to Sarah Kendall/Randall (seen with both spellings depending on the transcription). 

However, beyond this, I am stumped.  There are no records of a Benjamin Gardner’s birth in Boston, or elsewhere in Massachusetts,  born about 1720.  I don’t know if he is from the “Muddy River” (now Brookline) Gardners of Boston, or if he is a descendant of Thomas Gardner mentioned above, or from another Gardner family.  My only hint is that in Volume 1 of the Bentley diary, on page 176 there is this entry “27 sep 1789-  Benja. Gardiner and children, death of a brother at Boston” (meaning he made a pastoral visit to Benjamin Gardner and children upon the occasion of the death of his brother in Boston).   I was able to find the death record of Thomas Gardner in a record and an obituary in Boston “Thomas Gardner died 22 Sep 1789 in Boston, ropemaker, 67 years old”. 

Independent Chronicle. Weekly & Semi-Weekly; 19 Sept. 1776 - 1 Mar. 1820.
09-24-1789, Volume: XXI; Issue: 1091, page 3:  "Died last Tuesday night, Mr. Thomas Gardner, ropemaker.  His funeral will be tomorrow at 4 o'clock from his dwelling house in West Boston, which his friends and acquaintances are desired to attend, without further invitation."

Who are the parents of Benjamin and Thomas Gardner, the brother ropemakers of Boston?  I visited the West End Museum in Boston a few years ago when they had a big exhibit on the rope-makers of the age of sail in Boston.  We found the Gardner rope-works on the map (located on the waterfront marsh that is now the Public Garden), but no clues to the identity of the Gardner family who operated this business.  It is amazing to me that I have found so much personal and business information on the Gardner rope-maker brothers in Boston and Salem, but not their birth records or parentage!

This is another map on display at the West End Museum in Boston.
It shows the ropewalk on the Charles River, now the Back Bay neighborhood

A model of a ropewalk at the West End Museum in Boston, Massachusetts
This long building is where the ropes were twisted in long lengths inside, away from weather
There is a surviving ropewalk building at Mystic Seaport in Connecticut

For more information on GARDNER family:

Thomas Gardner Society, Inc.   (also on Facebook)

Gardner Memorial: A biographical and genealogical record of the descendants of Thomas Gardner, planter, Cape Ann, 1624, Salem (Naumkeag), 1626 – 1674, through his son Lieut. George Gardner, compiled by Frank Augustine Gardner, Salem, Mass, 1933.  Available online at the Hathi Trust Digital Library website:

See my previous Surname Saturday post on Thomas Gardner at this link:

A brief biography of William Bentley at Wikipedia:

The Diary of William Bentley, DD at the Hathi Trust website (links to all four volumes)

My 2012 blog post about my visit to the West End Museum in Boston for their special exhibit on the ropewalks of Boston:

My GARDNER genealogy:  

Generation 1:  Unknown Gardner, had two sons A.) Benjamin born 1720 possibly in Boston, and B.) Thomas Gardner born about 1722, died 22 September 1789 in Boston.  Both sons were rope-makers.

Generation 2:  Benjamin Gardner, born about 1720 and died 7 June 1797 in Salem; married first on 10 October 1751 at the West Church in Boston to Sarah Randall, daughter of Stephen Randall and Sarah Cannon.  She was the mother of three children.  Sarah Randall was born 16 October 1729 in Boston and died 1781 in Salem.  He married second on 2 November 1782 in Salem to Mary Briers, widow of Michael Ferguson and John Bassett.  She was the daughter of Elias Briars and Mary Pitman, baptized 29 December 1728 in Marblehead, and died 6 April 1787 in Salem.

Generation 3:  Mary Gardner, born in Boston, died before 1792; married on 24 June 1775 in Lynn, Massachusetts to Abijah Hitchings, son of Daniel Hitchings and Hannah Ingalls.  He was born 18 January 1753 in Lynn and died 27 March 1826 in Salem. Four children.  Mary's sister, Sarah Gardner, was Abijah's second wife. 

Generation 4: Abijah Hitchings, Jr. m. Mary Cloutman

Generation 5: Abijah Hitchings III m. Eliza Ann Treadwell

Generation 6: Abijah Franklin Hitchings m. Hannah Eliza Lewis

Generation 7: Arthur Treadwell Hitchings m. Florence Etta Hoogerzeil

Generation 8: Gertrude Matilda Hitchings m. Stanley Elmer Allen (my grandparents)


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "Surname Saturday ~ Gardner of Boston?  A Brickwall Ancestor", Nutfield Genealogy, posted March 4, 2017, ( accessed [access date]). 

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