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Marmaduke Gardner Historical Letter

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Corrections: This letter is written in the first person. However, the signer, Lela Lawhon Taylor was born 8 years after Marmaduke died. She must have obtained this information from a family member.

  1. Marmaduke’s grandfather was named Marmaduke
  2. Marmaduke’s great grandfather, James I, was from Dublin, Ireland

"The Reverend Marmaduke Gardner, who was known as Father Gardner, was born in South Carolina, August 8, 1812; was converted to Universalism by a traveling Irishman in 1830. His grandfather and father were both named James. The grandfather was a hatter in Dublin, Ireland, and came to America in 1770 and was a soldier in the American Revolution. The father was a farmer and helped fight the British in the War of 1812.

Rhoda Caroline Ussery was born in North Carolina, Montgomery County in 1814. When a small child, her parents moved to South Carolina where she met and married Marmaduke Gardner in 1833. She was eighteen, he was twenty, when they started out, two children we would say now. In 1836 they moved to Mississippi and lived there eighteen years.

Marmaduke Gardner had very few advantages of school, but was very studious and read all the good books he could find. He was converted when he was twenty-two years of age. He joined the Baptist Church and studied to become a minister, but could not get reconciled to the teachings of eternal punishment of the wicked and not taking communion with all Christians. He worried and studied over the question so it was feared he would lose his mind; then a traveling Irishman stopped for the night. The traveler had some literature on Universalism and grandfather became interested. He stayed two days and nights. They read and talked and grandfather was converted. The Irishman's name may have been William Ives, a Yankee peddler, who was in North Carolina at that time.

In 1840 Marmaduke Gardner organized a Universalist Church in Mississippi. On September 17, 1848, he organized a church in Clark County, Mississippi. Some of the members' names giver were those of his brothers, his daughters and their husbands.

In 1854 they moved to Texas, settling here on this land, one and a half miles from Lawhon Spring, known then as Sam Smith Spring, but later bought by Uncle David Lawhon and is now owned by Oscar Lawhon, his grandson. Grandfather organized the first church in 1855 at Lawhon and on October 6, 1878, he ordained Rev. Joe Lawhon and Rev. J.S. Dunbar to preach Universalism.

Grandfather Gardner was a blacksmith, ginner, leather tanner and shoemaker, repaired broken furniture and rigged saddles. In reading you will find he was a Master Mason, Charter Member of his lodge, a good husband, father, preacher, and best of all a good Christian. You will find his Irish wit too as you read; once he was debating his belief with another preacher. They had a timekeeper to hold the watch. Grandfather spoke first, The timekeeper got so interested that he forgot to tell time. Then Grandfather asked, "How much time do I have left?" The timekeeper looked at his watch and replied, "The watch stopped." Grandfather remarked, "I knew I was making a powerful argument but did not know it would stop a watch." Once Aunt Kate Lawhon went with him to preach and they spent the night. On the way they passed a peach tree in full bloom. He spoke of its beauty. On the way home some animal had ruined it. He said, "There is a lesson - if we allow evil to overcome us, it can ruin the beauty of your life in one night." Grandfather made his sermons impressive by using illustrations that stayed with you. They had a family of nineteen children. Fifteen lived to be grown, five boys and ten girls who all raised families. They had triplet boys named Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Two died with stomach and bowel trouble in their second year. One, Isaac Gardner , lived to be nineteen and the first one buried in this family cemetery here at the old home. After living together for forty-six years, Grandmother passed away on July 30, 1878, in her sixty-fourth year and Grandfather on May 4, 1879. He was sixty-seven years old.

Grandfather had a brother, Washington Gardner, who was a Greek scholar, and helped him a lot with his studies. Grandfather was a very large man, grandmother average size woman."

Signed, Lela (Lawhon) Taylor, July 24, 1949


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