Capt. Joseph Gardner was the son of Thomas and Margaret Gardner. It is believed that he was the youngest of their six sons. Since a birth record does not exist, his age can only be calculated from other records.
The first mention of Joseph Gardner in the town records of Salem was in 1649 when he was ordered along with three of his brothers to survey certain lands. The next month, he was granted four acres of meadow on the North side of the Ipswich River. Since land was only granted to adults, we can assume that Joseph was born sometime around 1632. Also, we know that his wife, Ann Downing, was born in 1634.
Joseph kept a tavern and was licensed to sell wine.
He was made a freeman on May 15, 1672.
Joseph frequently served the town and county as a surveyor. Many of the lines between Salem and Topsfield and Salem and Reading were run by him. On May 15, 1672, Joseph met with Thomas Lathrop at Gloucester to examine papers in regard to the line between Gloucester and Manchester. These papers are on file at the court house.
On Apr. 15, 1673, Lieut. Joseph Gardner was chosen, along with others, "for the settling... the ways in the north field." Later that year, he was "Appointed to Lay our Lands granted by ye town." In 1674, Maj. Hathorne, Henry Barholomew and Mr. Joseph Gardner were "Appoynted for to settle ye bounds between us & Marblehead."
During the years between 1652 and 1674, Joseph was appointed to serve as appraiser in estate settlements, on trial juries, and as attorney. His name frequently appears in court records as witness and overseer of wills. He was also chosen to be a selectman on Mar. 29, 1673.
On Apr. 15, 1673, he was allowed room for a pew next to Mr. John Higginson.
Besides the four acres of meadow granted to him on the north side of the Ipswich River, Joseph must have owned other property as he sold 18 acres of meadow near the Ipswich River to John Putnam for 15 pounds on Jul. 1, 1653.
On Aug. 8, 1656, Lucie Downing, with the consent of her husband, Emanuel Downing gave property to him as his "dowry & marriage porcon with Ann, ye daughter of ye said Emanuell and Luce." This lot was ultimately divided into five parts; lots 1 and 3 were sold to his brother, Samuel; Lot 2 was sold on Mar. 28, 1659 to Richard Prince; Lot 4 was sold to William Browne on Aug. 3, 1664. Lot 5 was retained by Joseph and Ann for their own occupancy.
On Aug. 17, 1674, Lieut. Joseph Gardner of Salem, "vintner" bought two acres from William Browne, Jun. on the eastern side of the "common commonly called the training place" and near a piece of swamp land owned by "ye sd Joseph Gardner." The following year, he bought 10 acres from Thomas West in "ye north field."
On May 15, 1672, "it is ordered that Joseph Gardiner be leftennnant to the foote company under the command of Walter Price, captaine, at Salem." In the town records for Aug. 18, 1673: "The Court, taking notice of the increase of the souldjers in Salem, judge it meet to order that the foote company there be by the selectmen of Salem divided into two copanyes and their distint limits by them to be p'scribed and that Joseph Gardiner be captaine to the first foote company in Salem.
On Nov. 12, 1675, it was recorded "Capt. Joseph Gardiner, for the foote (and others) appointed to be captaines to be imployed in ye service" in various acts concerning the raising of troops for service in the Narragansett country. A list of Salem men impressed for this service, 31 total, is preserved in the Massachusetts archives at the State House with Joseph Gardner's autograph signature appended.
For an account of this expedition, see Thomas Gardner, Planter; page 99.
The expedition marched with other troops from Boston on the 8th. On the 15th, two men from Salem were killed and one more wounded by the Indians. Capt. Joseph Gardner, of Salem, and others, went out immediately and killed an Indian who had slain one of the Salem troops and had his cap on. (19th). The forces of Plymouth, Connecticut and Massachusetts attacked the Narragansetts in a Swamp. After a warmly connected battle of three hours, the English took the enemy's place and fired their wigwams. One thousand of the Indians perished. Eighty-five of the English were killed or died of their wounds and one hundred and forty-five others were wounded. Among the killed were Capt. Gardner and six of his company, besides eleven more of them wounded. Major Church espying Capt. Gardner amidst the wigwams in the east end of the Fort made towards him, but on a sudden, while looking at each other, Capt. Gardner settled down. The Major stepped to him and seeing the blood run down his cheek, lifted up his cap and called him by name. He looked up but spoke not a word, being mortally wounded, shot through the head, and observing the wound the Major ordered care to be taken of him." Thus fell an inhabitant of Salem in the camp of his enemies. The loss of him and others of his townsmen in so bloody a contest must have occasioned here when related, general emotions of regret. By his patriotic devotedness, he honored both his town and country.
Note: May have been killed by friendly Colonial fire.
Joseph Gardner married Ann Downing, daughter of Emanuel Downing, who was a lawyer in London until 1638. She was born about 1634 and educated in London. After the death of her husband, she married Governor Simon Bradstreet. Ann died on Apr. 19, 1713 at the age of 79 years.
Joseph and Ann Gardner had no children.
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