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Commemorative Biographical Record of the County of Kent, Ontario
John Lee Gardiner


JOHN LEE GARDINER is one of the old settlers of the township of Tilbury East and is now living retired after years of successful labour. 

William Gardiner, his grandfather, was a lifetime resident of Dundee, Forfarshire, Scotland, where the family had flourished for generations.  He was a soldier and was stationed at the Dundee Barracks, and died February 9th, 1825, aged about sixty years.  He was married February 22nd, 1792, to Ann Gallaway, and to them were born the following named children:  Janet, born May 23rd, 1794, died ADecember 3rd, 1832; Andrew, born May 24th, 1796, died in 1797; Andrew (2), born January 6th, 1798, died October, 1798; James, born August 17th, 1799, died in February, 1800; John, born April 24th, 1801, died in February, 1803; Margaret S., born December 13th, 1803, married William Dizard, and lived in Wisconsin; William, born March 31st, 1806, is mentioned below; Elizabeth, born December 1st, 1808, married a Mr. Duncan, of Scotland; Mary Ann, born Augusut 27th, 1811, died in February, 1812; and Catherine, the youngest, born March 24th, 1813, married Mathew Morrison.  The mother of this family lived at her home in Dundee for some years after her son and grandchildren came to Canada.  After her death the old leather-bound Bible, containing the foregoing records, was sent to John Lee Gardiner.

William Gardiner, father of John Lee, was born at Dundee and there grew to maturity.  He learned the weaving craft and became foreman in a factory where coarse linens were manufactured.  The family was also interested for a time in a grocery business.  He married Jane Lee, of Dundee, and to them came children as follows:  John Lee, born January 8th, 1829; David, of Fargo, Harwich township; James, who was formerly a liveryman of Chatham; Margaret, widow of James Gilanders, of Mersea township,  County of Essex; William, of Leamington; Nancy, deceased, who married Thomas Irwin, of Mersea; and Murray F., a farmer of Tilbury East, who died February 11th, 1904.

The family set sail for Canada in the fall of 1838, in a little vessel that took nine weeks to reach Montreal.  They then came up the St. Lawrence river and Lake Ontario to the County of Durham and settled in Darlington township, near the village of Bowmanville, where the father took up a grant of 100 acres of wild land.  For sixteen or seventeen years the family resided there and contended with the hardships that are to be met with in all new countries.  Finally the father came to the conclusion that he must secure more fertile land in order to provide for his family, so he sold this farm, and, with all the children except John L. and David, who followed later, removed to the County of Kent, locating on the Middle road in Tilbury East.  He purchased of Henry Eberts 100 acres of wild land in Lot 13, M.R.S., and here began a second time the life of a pioneer.  Later he added another 100 acres to this farm, purchasing from the government.  This fine estate was owned and occupied by his son Murray until the latter’s death.  William Gardiner died in Mersea, County of Essex, August 15th, 1887, in this eighty-second year, at the home of a daughter.  His wife died August 3rd, 1873, aged sixty-eight years.

John Lee Gardiner was born at Dundee, Scotland, and was nine years old when the family came to Canada.  He grew to manhood on the home farm in Darlington township and then purchased a small farm near by where he began for himself.  Eighteen months after the family removed to Tilbury East he followed and purchased of William Hope, Sr., seventy-five acres in Lot 5, M.R.S.  At the time he settled on this place the Middle road had been slashed through, but his land was still wild and unimproved.  He built a small frame house which is still standing, now utilized as a hen-house.  The clearing and cultivation of this property was beset with many difficulties, mainly because of the lack of drainage.  Often his small crops were drowned out at considerable loss.  The nearest mill was at Chatham and was reached over nearly impassable roads.  As time went on and other industrious and energetic men settled near conditions improved, but no crops were certain until drainage was conducted on a large scale.  That Mr. Gardiner is now one of the substantial men of the locality is due to his careful attention to farming and the introduction of modern methods and appliances.  From time to time he added to his land until finally he possessed 425 acres in close proximity to his home, as follows:  200 acres, Lot 4, M.R.S.; fifty acres Lot 5, M.R.S.; and 100 acres, Lot 6, beside the original purchase.  Some of the old log barns are still standing and present violent contrast to the immense and substantial structures which supplanted them.  For several years Mr. Gardiner has been retired from business activity.  His possessions are the result of his past labour and enterprise.  Time has touched him gently, and, still hale and hearty, he takes delight in visiting at the comfortable homes of his children who have located near him.  Politically he is of the Reform party.  In religious belief he is a Presbyterian.

In March, 1850, Mr. Gardiner married Mary Ann Graham, of Darlington township, who was born in County Monaghan, Ireland, and died July 15th, 1902, aged seventy-one years.  The following named children were born to this union:  Jane, born January 8th, 1851, widow of John Ball, resides in Raleigh; Matilda, born September 11th, 1854, is the wife of George T. Sales, of Tilbury East township; William, born August 5th, 1857, who carries on the home farm, married Amelia Waddill, and they have two daughters, Ella Alberta and Minnie; Mary Ann, born May 24th, 1859, is the wife of Charles Marshall, proprietor of a mill at Comber, County of Essex; James W., born December 19th, 1861, married Jane Moorhouse, and they have seven children; Robert married Margaret Rogers, since deceased, and lives in the township of Tilbury East; and Elizabeth, the wife of John Sloan, resides in the same township, near Valetta.

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