Dr. Silvester Gardiner

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Sylvester Gardiner, M.D.

Birthplace: South Kingstown, Washington, Rhode Island
Death: Died in Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, United States
Cause of death: Malignant fever
Place of Burial: Newport, Newport County, Rhode Island, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of William Gardiner and Abigail Almy
Husband of Love Eppes; Ann Gardiner (Gibbins); Abigail Gardiner and Catherine Powell
Father of Dr John Sylvester Gardiner; Hannah Hallowell; William Gardiner; Anne Browne; Rebecca Dumaresq (Gardiner) and 1 other
Brother of John Gardiner, of Boston Neck; William Gardiner; Abigail Robinson; Thomas Gardiner; Hannah MacSparran and 1 other

Occupation: physician, pharmaceutical merchant and visionary land developer of Maine, Physician
Managed by: Marcia Tugendhat
Last Updated:

About Dr. Silvester Gardiner

Dr. Silvester Gardiner (June 29, 1708 – August 8, 1786) was a physician, pharmaceutical merchant and visionary land developer of Maine.

Went to school in Boston and then after 8 years in England and France returned an accomplished physician and surgeon. Became very wealthy as an importer of drugs. Was a Warden of King's Chapel in Boston and a founder of Christ's Church there. Was a loyalist and was banished from his estate in Maine during the Revolution to Nova Scotia. Returned to the United States in 1785 where he continued the practice of medicine until his death.

From Silvester Gardiner at NNDB

Silvester (sometimes Sylvester) Gardiner apprenticed in medicine in Boston, London, and Paris, and became the colonies' leading surgeon, specializing in removal of gallstones and urinary calculus of the bladder and kidneys. He opened three apothecaries, selling large quantities of medicinal drugs to other physicians, and offered well-attended lectures and private lessons on anatomy. Gardiner had been born to moderate wealth, but his Boston practice, chain of pharmaceutical shops, and teaching made him one of New England's richest men. He owned 100,000 acres of land and was a dominant investor in the settlements of the towns of Dresden and Pittston, and the namesake of Gardinerstown Plantation (now Gardiner, Maine). His portrait was painted by John Singleton Copley in 1772.

He was a friend of the Crown's Governor, Thomas Hutchinson, remained loyal to England during the American Revolution, and spent the war years with his family in England. While he was gone, the colonists seized and sold his home and many of his properties, and when he returned to the new nation of America after the war, he was still a wealthy man but nowhere near as wealthy as he had been. He settled in Rhode Island, died in 1786, and his will instructed that most of his property be held in trust for his young grandson, Robert Hallowell, with the stipulation that Hallowell change his name to Gardiner when he came of legal age.

From The Gardiner Story 1849 - 1949 Written by: Robert J. Erskine, Judge Lauren M. Sanborn, and Dr. Elmer D. Colcord Published by The City of Gardiner, Maine 1949

  • "The City of Gardiner [Maine] was founded by a resourceful Boston druggist, who was one of the principal owners of the Kennebec Purchase, known as the Plymouth Company. Dr. Sylvester Gardiner had been attracted to the Gardiner area for a number of reasons. Because of the depth of the water of the river to the point of Gardiner, he noted that Gardiner would be identified as the head of navigation. He noted, also, that this was a good location for industry. For the Kennebec was here joined by a lively stream which, for a mile or so, afforded a drop of one hundred thirty feet."
  • "This stream was called the Cobbosseecontee after the Indian name for it, Cabbassaguntiag -meaning the place where sturgeon abound. The Indian tribe here was the Abnaki and their numbers, their wigwams and their birchen canoes were many."
  • "Gardiner was founded, in 1754, as the plantation of Gardinerstown, or Gardinerston, as otherwise spelled. The first men whom Dr. Gardiner induced to settle here comprised a gristmill builder, a saw millwright, a house carpenter, and a wheelwright. He foresaw the opportunity of building six or eight dams by the stream, each capable of running 5,000 spindles, or six paper-mill engines. ...."


Dr. Sylvester Gardiner and Ann Gibbins


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Husband Dr. Sylvester Gardiner --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          Born: 29 Jun 1708 - South Kingston, Rhode Island
          Died: 8 Aug 1786 - Newport, Rhode Island
      Marriage: 1732

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Noted events in his life were: -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- • residence, 1763 - Swan Island, Maine

• Alt Birth, 29 Jun 1707


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Wife Ann Gibbins 60 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          Born: Cir 1708

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Children -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1 F Rebecca Gardiner --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

          Born: Est 1745 - Maine
          Died:  - Nassau, New Providence
        Spouse: Captain Philip Dumaresq (1738-      )
          Marr: 15 Dec 1763 - Boston, Massachusetts


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- General Notes: Husband - Dr. Sylvester Gardiner --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Dr Gardiner built the saltbox house on Swan Island, Maine, now known as the Gardiner-Dumaresq house in 1763, apparently as a wedding present for Rebecca and Philip. -------------------------------- Dr. Sylvester Gardiner Report MF-035 Arranged & Described by Bert Riggs Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives, Memorial University Library November 1994

BIOGRAPHY Sylvester Gardiner(1) was born in South Kingston, Rhode Island in 1707, the fourth son of William Gardiner. He studied medicine in New York, England and France, and eventually established a practice in Boston, where his expertise was readily recognized. He branched out of medicine into the pharmaceutical trade, importing medicines for distribution and sale. He became a very wealthy man and invested a great deal of his money into real estate, especially land in Maine, where at one point he is reported to have owned over 100,000 acres. He built houses and other buildings on his land, contributed to the construction of churches, and promoted immigration and land cultivation. He also published a prayer book.

When the American Revolution began in 1776, Gardiner supported the British or Loyalist cause. He left Boston when the British evacuated in 1776, moving to Halifax. He was forced to leave most of his property behind. It was confiscated by the state and later sold at public auction. The auction included Gardiner's valuable collection of rare books, the names of which, their purchasers and the prices received for them are documented at the Massachusetts State Archives. Because of an error in the confiscation of some of the property in Maine, Gardiner's family was able to secure its return.

Gardiner spent some time during the American Revolution in Newfoundland. He is reported to have been in St. John's in 1783, and would appear to have been in Newfoundland or have had intimate contact with people there in 1784 and 1785, as he makes reference to happenings in 1784 in his report on Newfoundland which he prepared around that time. Dr. Gardiner's report presents a very positive portrait of Newfoundland, enumerating its resources and the benefits that could be gained from their exploitation, and outlines 11 very valid reasons for promoting settlement there.

After the end of the American Revolution, Gardiner returned to New England and settled in Newport, Rhode Island, where he died on August 8, 1786.

SCOPE & CONTENTS There were many reports written about Newfoundland for and by British government officials in the 1600s and 1700s, particularly about the feasibility of settlement and the effect settlement might have on the very lucrative fishery conducted by the mercantile companies based in the West Country of England. One little known report was this one, written by Dr. Sylvester Gardiner in 1785. One possible reason for its obscurity is its recommendations in favour of settlement, something the West Country merchants had discouraged. Gardiner's report is a very positive one, strongly supporting settlement, the development of judicial and governmental systems, and promoting agriculture and timber cutting. It presents an optimistic picture of the potential of Newfoundland as a valuable part of the British Empire, particularly with the recent loss of the American colonies.

PROVENANCE The original of Gardiner's report is held in the British Library (Additional Manuscript 15,493). A copy was obtained by the Centre for Newfoundland Studies in November 1979. Title: "Some facts collected, and observations made on the Fisheries, and Government of Newfoundland, showing the many advantages, which will arise to this Kingdom on colonizing that Island, to which is added a plan for a speedy settling it." by Dr. Gard[i]ner, late of Boston, in N. England. 178?. ---------------------------------

Gardiner, Silvester (29 June 1708-8 Aug. 1786), physician and land magnate, was born in South Kingston, Rhode Island, the son of William Gardiner and Abigail Remington, members of a prominent New England family. Frail and bookish as a child, he roamed the nearby fields and learned the medicinal value of local plants. His brother-in-law, the Anglican missionary Rev. James MacSparran, recognized his intelligence and tutored him in the classics. MacSparran encouraged Gardiner's aptitude for medicine and persuaded his father to send him to Boston as a physician's apprentice. In the mid-1720s, young Gardiner studied in Boston under Dr. John Gibbins, a noted practitioner. He went to London in 1727 to complete his medical education under Dr. William Cheselden at St. Thomas's Hospital. There he learned Cheselden's new "lateral" method for the lithotomy operation to remove various "stones." He also studied medicine in Paris, where he was shocked by what he believed was the immoral behavior of the inhabitants and developed a lifelong hatred of the French. Upon his return to New England, Gardiner established his medical practice in Boston, and in 1732 he married Anne Gibbins, the daughter of his mentor, at King's Chapel. Within a decade he emerged as the foremost surgeon of the city and demonstrated his skill in several operations that received extensive publicity. Swiftly and without anesthesia, he removed various "stones" that threatened the lives of his patients. These celebrated lithomy operations confirmed the benefits of a European medical education and created a lucrative practice for him. Gardiner joined the Boston Medical Society, founded in 1736 by William Douglass, and enriched the profession with lectures, anatomy lessons, and plate illustrations from Europe. Also, he revolutionized the apothecary business when he opened a shop that sold prepared packages of drugs to be distributed to doctors throughout New England. It was a profitable venture, and he opened two other shops, which he entrusted to business colleagues. Gardiner dominated the apothecary trade in New England and enjoyed an excellent reputation among physicians. However, he accused his business partners of embezzlement; protracted lawsuits in the 1760s, with numerous pamphlets, ended with judgments in his favor. Like many colonial men who accumulated great wealth, Gardiner invested in land. He concentrated his investments with the Kennebeck Company, a speculative venture along the Kennebec River in the Maine district, which attracted wealthy proprietors like James Bowdoin (1726-1790) and Thomas Hancock . Gardiner joined the proprietors in 1751 and emerged as the dominant figure. He acquired nearly 100,000 acres and with his vast capital developed the new towns of Pittson and Dresden, encouraging German immigration to the latter. Also he founded the town of Gardiner, where he built houses, wharfs, dams, and sawmills, manufactured potash, and endowed an Anglican chapel. Disputes over land titles, with lawsuits that reached the Privy Council, tended to slow the region's development; these lawsuits ended with the Revolution. As the leader of Boston's medical community, Gardiner worked industriously in various aspects of the profession. He trained medical apprentices to be physicians, proposed a smallpox hospital for Boston (it was rejected by the selectmen), and treated the wealthy citizens of the town. The colonial wars brought him additional work as he dispensed medical supplies for the military, built a hospital for the English wounded, and prepared surgical chests for their warships. When John Singleton Copley painted Gardiner's portrait in 1772, he captured the assurance and strength of an urbane colonial, typical of the Anglican elite in Boston. His mansion was a lively place with six children, most of whom married prominent members of the seaboard establishment. Gardiner and his wife entertained a vast array of celebrated individuals that included royal officials and elite members of the British officer corps. Anne Gardiner was an accomplished chef and over the years compiled a rare colonial cookbook, Mrs. Gardiner's Recipes. She died in 1771, and a year later Gardiner married Abigail (Pickman) Eppes of Salem. A deeply religious Anglican, Gardiner was singular in his devotion to King's Chapel. For many years he served as a lay officer, was a generous benefactor, and hosted the church's Christmas parties for the poor. Indulgent to the Anglican poor of Boston, his humanitarian services included forty years of work with the Episcopal Charitable Society, and he wrote a book of prayers for the poor, which disappeared during the Revolution. An avid supporter of royal government, his Tory views were well known at the start of the American Revolution, especially his support of Governor Thomas Hutchinson. Gardiner's politics antagonized the populace, and he remained in town with the British military during the siege of Boston. He tended to their wounded after the battle of Bunker Hill, an act that many Americans never forgave. When the English evacuated Boston in 1776, a bitter Gardiner was forced to leave behind his vast medical supplies to "that thief Washington." His loyalty to the Crown cost him dearly. Bereft of home and fortune, Gardiner and his family fled with the English fleet to Halifax and then to New York. In 1778 they sailed to Poole, England, and awaited the outcome of the Revolution. As a consequence of his Loyalism, the state of Massachusetts confiscated his Boston home, sold his magnificent library, distributed his Maine lands to various speculators, and banished him for life. As a Loyalist in exile, he struggled to rebuild his life at the age of seventy. Gardiner's losses in the Revolution exceeded £40,000, and the English government compensated him with an annual stipend of £150. His second wife died in 1780. Chastened by a decade of exile, he petitioned the state of Massachusetts to return home to Boston, but the petition was denied. Helped by his eldest son, John Gardiner, the old doctor returned quietly to Rhode Island in 1785 and married Catherine Goldthwaite, who was nearly fifty years younger than he. They settled in Newport, where he resumed his medical practice and his activities in the Anglican faith. Kindly and popular, he enjoyed a sedate existence and earned the respect of local inhabitants. At his funeral, ships in the harbor lowered their flags to half-mast, an unusual mark of respect for a former Loyalist. Bibliography Important manuscripts include the Gardiner-Whipple Papers and the King's Chapel Archives at the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston; the diary of John Denison Hartshorne at the Francis A. Countway Medical Library in Boston; the Silvester Gardiner Papers at the Maine Historical Library in Portland; and the Gardiner papers at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For biographical information see Henry S. Webster, Silvester Gardiner (1913), and Caroline E. Robinson, The Gardiners of Narragansett (1919). On his medical career see Robert F. Seybolt, "Lithomies Performed by Dr. Gardiner, 1738 and 1741," New England Journal of Medicine 202 (1930): 109, and Eric H. Christianson, "The Colonial Surgeon's Rise to Prominence: Dr. Silvester Gardiner," New England Historical and Genealogical Register 136 (1982): 104-14. For Gardiner's interest in land development see John W. Hanson, History of Gardiner, Pittson and West Gardiner (1852); William S. Bartlett, The Frontier Missionary: A Memoir of the Life of the Rev. Jacob Bailey (1853); and Gordon E. Kershaw, The Kennebeck Proprietors 1749-1775 (1975). Gardiner's life in Boston is noted in Lyman H. Butterfield, ed., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (4 vols., 1962); L. Kinvin Wroth and Hiller B. Zobel, eds., The Legal Papers of John Adams (4 vols., 1965); and Henry W. Foote, Annals of King's Chapel (3 vols., 1882-1896). Peter R. Virgadamo ANB 61

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Notes: Marriage --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Children William GARDINER Anne GARDINER Rebecca GARDINER Abigail GARDINER John Sylvester GARDINER b: 1731 Hannah GARDINER b: 1741 62



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Dr. Silvester Gardiner's Timeline

June 29, 1708
South Kingstown, Washington, Rhode Island
Age 29

Sylvester Gardiner in entry for John Gardiner, "Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915"
name:John Gardiner
gender: Male
baptism/christening date:
baptism/christening place:
birth date: 04 Dec 1737
birthplace: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts
death date:
name note:
father's name: Sylvester Gardiner
father's birthplace:
father's age:
mother's name:Ann Gardiner
mother's birthplace:
mother's age:
indexing project (batch) number:C50107-8
system origin:Massachusetts-EASy
source film number: 14734
reference number: v 24 p 229
Citing this Record
"Massachusetts, Births and Christenings, 1639-1915," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F4D6-LBK : accessed 15 Jan 2013), Sylvester Gardiner in entry for John Gardiner, 04 Dec 1737; citing reference v 24 p 229, FHL microfilm 14734.

Age 32
August 8, 1786
Age 78
Newport, Newport, Rhode Island, United States