Thomas Gardner, "Old Planter"

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Thomas Gardner, "Old Planter"

Also Known As: "The Planter", "Thomas Gardiner of Salem", "Thomas Gardner", "Gov of Cape Ann Colony"
Birthdate: (82)
Birthplace: Weymouth, Or Sherbourne, Dorset, England
Death: December 29, 1674 (78-86)
Salem, Essex County, Province of Massachusetts
Place of Burial: Gardner Hill Burying Grounds (originally); moved to Harmony Grove Cemetery in the 1840s; Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
Immediate Family:

Son of unknown father of Thomas Gardner and unknown mother of Thomas Gardner
Husband of 1st wife of Thomas Gardner; Margaret Gardner and Damaris "widow Shattuck" Gardner
Father of Thomas Gardner, of Salem; George Gardner of Salem; Capt. John Gardner, of Nantucket; Samuel Gardner, of Salem; Joseph Gardner, of Salem and 5 others

Occupation: Original settler of what is now Peabody, Essex County, Massachusetts.  Innkeeper, Salem Selectman, Constable, surveyor, juror and a Deputy of the General Court
Managed by: Noah Tutak
Last Updated:

About Thomas Gardner, "Old Planter"

Thomas Gardner of Salem was born say 1592 in "a west county" of England and died 29 December 1674, in Salem, Essex Co., Massachusetts Bay Colony. He was buried in the old burial ground called Gardner Hill near present day Boston Street and Grove, in Salem, Massachusetts. His parents are not known.

disputed ancestry

Thomas Gardner's origins are not clearly known. Anderson says only "the West counties"

Source: Anderson, Robert Charles (1995). The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England 1620-1633. New England Historic Genealogical Society. ISBN 9780880820448. Page 731

A birthdate is seen as 3/4/1591 in Sherbourne, Dorset, but cannot say that was "this" Thomas Gardner.

"tradition" suggested parents: Thomas Gardner (d 1633) and Elizabeth White (1582 - 1682) Thomas Gardner Sr. may have been a descendant of Owen Tudor whose grand-daughter married a Gardner (ca 1450s, England). [Note: that piece is disproved] Elizabeth White was the sister of Rev. John White who was instrumental in the Dorchester Company. They also came to Massachusetts.

Comment: this does not seem possible, the two Thomas Gardiner / Gardner's were near contemporaries



  1. in England to a woman (1st wife of Thomas Gardner) whose name is not known. She died before 1639. She was the mother of all his children: six sons (Thomas, George, John, Samuel, Joseph, and Richard) and three daughters (Sarah, Seeth, and Miriam. (source: Anderson, The Great Migration Begins).
  2. by 1639 secondly to Margaret (_____) ; her last name is not known but sometimes given as Fryer. After Margaret's death Thomas married:
  3. thirdly to Demaris Sibley Shattuck (1597- 28 Sep 1674). She was the widow of ?? Shattuck and her maiden name is not known.

Children of Thomas Gardner and his first wife include:

  1. George Gardner, b. England, m. Hannah Shattuck [1] joined the Salem Church in 1637; selectman 1662. Hannah was presumably the "Hannah Gardner" who joined the Salem Church in 1639.[4]
  2. John Gardner, b. about 1624, poss. in Naumkeag (Salem, Essex Co, MA), and d. 6 May 1706 on Nantucket, Nantucket Co., MA[1]. He joined the Salem Church in 1643[4] He married Priscilla Grafton 20 Feb 1653/54 on Nantucket.[1]
  3. Sarah Gardner , born about 1627, died 5 Apr 1686 at Beverly, Essex Co., MA. She married Benjamin Balch about 1650 as his first wife. He was the son of John Balch and Margery Lovett. Ch: Samuel, Benjamin, John, Joseph, Freeborn, Sarah, Abigail, Ruth, Mary, Jonathan, David.[1][6] Benjamin married (2) Abigail Clarke on 5 Feb 1688/9 in Marblehead (she d. 1 Jan 1690), and married (3) Grace Mallett on 15 Mar 1691/2.[6]
  4. Samuel Gardner married Mary White[1] "born ab. 1627, freeman 1675, representative, 1681 and 1682."[5] Joined Salem Church in 1649.. selectman in 1676-77, and "Capt. Samuel Gardner" selectman "1697".[4]
  5. Joseph Gardner died on 19 Dec 1675. He married Anne Downing bef. Aug. 1656. She was born about 1634 and died on 19 Apr. 1713 age 79. She was the daughter of Emanuel Downing.[1][2] # Joseph and Ann had no children. Anne Downing Gardner married (2) Governor Simon Bradstreet. He was at that time a man in his late 70's. They had no children.
  6. Seeth Gardner was b. 25 Oct 1636 at Salem, Essex Co., MA and was baptized on 25 Dec. 1636 in Salem. She died on 17 Apr.1707 in Salem. Savage indicated she married Joseph Grafton, however another source states that she married (1) Joshua Conant and (2) John Grafton on 1 Oct. 1659 in Salem.[1]
  7. Miriam Gardner was born in about 1632, Salem and died in about 1664 in Salem, she married John Hill.[1][Vitals not sourced so regard as tentative dates only]
  8. Richard Gardner b. England, d. 23 Jan. 1688/89 Nantucket, Nantucket Co., Ma.; m. Sarah Shattuck in 1652 Salem, Essex Co., MA. She was born in about 1631 to 1632 and died in 1724 on Nantucket Island. Her father has been given variously as Samuel Shattuck, John Shattuck and unknown. Her mother was DAMARIS (_____).
  9. Thomas Gardner Jr. [4][5], joined the Salem Church in in 1637; selectman 1682; with his brother John was the most heavily involved in the family shipping interests. The family had "financial interest" in the Ketches 'Mary' and 'Expectation' about 1689.[4]


An old burial ground, called Gardner Hill, was situated a little west of Harmony Grove. When the area of Boston Street and Grove was developed in the 1840s, one hundred fifty graves were moved from Gardner Hill to the Harmony Grove cemetery, including that of Thomas Gardner (1592-1674) who came to the area, from Cape Ann, with Roger Conant in 1626.

References for Gravesite

Conflated with a different Thomas Gardner?

Thomas Gardner, of Little Bourton ?

Thomas Gardner, planter, (born say 1592 died 29 December 1674) was an Overseer of the "old planters" party of the Dorchester Company who landed in 1624 on the ship Charity or the ship Zouch Phoenix at Cape Ann, to form a colony at what is now known as Gloucester. Gardner is considered by some as the first Governor of Massachusetts, due to his being in authority in the first settlement that became the Massachusetts Bay Colony (which later subsumed the Plymouth Colony).

The Gardner family history dates back to early colonial America when Thomas Gardner sailed from England to Cape Ann in 1623, only three years after the arrival of the Mayflower. He was dispatched from Weymouth, England, by the Dorchester Company and was appointed as the overseer of the Plantation at Cape Ann. Unfortunately, this area proved to be unsuited for farming due to the predominantly rocky and unfertile soil. Those that remained did so to the hazard of their lives and most died in the first three years. In 1626, the survivors of the colony under the direction of Roger Conant relocated to the mouth of the Naumkeag River and founded present day Salem. Yet the title of Massachusetts first governor belongs to Thomas Gardner because he was the first man of authority over what developed into the Massachusetts Bay Colony. from "The Gardners of Massachusetts: An American Legacy." By Anthony Taylor Dunn.

The Dorchester Company

from: The Massachusetts Bay Company and Its Predecessors

While it is well known that the Massachusetts Bay Company, under the leadership of John Winthrop, ultimately settled Massachusetts Bay in 1630, it is less well understood that the Massachusetts Bay Company's claim on New England was preceded by those of two other joint stock companies. The first of these belonged to an association of "Adventurers" known as the Dorchester Company, organized by the Anglican minister John White. Although it succeeded in launching a settlement on Cape Ann in 1623, the Dorchester Company went out of existence in 1626. The company's claim was transferred to a new organization, the New England Company for a Plantation in Massachusetts Bay (better known as the New England Company), led by John Endecott. Endecott would ultimately found the town of Salem, Massachusetts, in 1628. Endecott's shares and those of fifty-six other New England Company investors would ultimately be absorbed into those of the Massachusetts Bay Company in 1629.



THOMAS GARDNER, was born in England about 1592. His place of birth has been given as being Sherborne, Co. Dorset, Eng. however Anderson ascribes his origin simply as the West Country of England. He died on 29 Dec 1674 in Salem, Essex Co., MA.

There is a great deal of confusion concerning the wives of Thomas Gardner. Most older sources assign only two wives with the first, the mother of his children, given as Margaret Fryer. However Robert Charles Anderson in his highly respected "The Great Migration Begins" assigns three wives to Thomas as follows: the name of his first wife, the mother of all of his children is unknown. She came with him to New England, (while Anderson doesn't say when it probably wasn't when Thomas first arrived at the Cape Ann Colony, but later, after he had removed to Naumkeag (Salem)). Wife #1 died, probably in Salem, before 1639. Thomas married (2) Margaret (_____) by 1639; and after her death married (3) the wid. Damaris (_____) Shattuck.[6]

Thomas arrived first on Cape Ann in 1624, as part of the Cape Anne Colony, and removed to Naumkeag (Salem) in 1626. He was an innkeeper in Salem and was apparently literate as he signed his name to several petitions and inventories.[6] Tradition holds that Thomas was the Governor of the Cape Anne Colony, at least for a time.

Farmer confused Thomas with his son Thomas Jr. and mistakenly stated that he came from Scotland. He says of him in part, "an overseer of the plantation at Gloucester 1624, and removed thence Salem, was admitted freeman 1636, representative 1637.." "united. with the Church 1639, freeman 1641, was a selectmen, and d. 1674. His last wife was Damaris Shattuck"[5/117]

" In ordinary affairs Roger Conant next to Endecott, was perhaps still the most important,,and held a more important position in the community than any of the other old Planters, though John Woodbury, Thomas Gardner and Peter Palfrey were sent as deputies to the General Court"[4]

Thomas was a selectman in 1636.[4]:

"In 1640 Mr. Hathorne, Robert Moulton and Thomas Gardner furnished bulls to go with the Salem Herd at 20 shillings a season."[4]

"In 1658 Thomas Gardner was on a jury to hear complaints of a disorderly meeting at which two Quaker missionaries were present. Most of the people present were women. The Shattuck family was represented. Samuel Shattuck was fined and imprisoned. He was whipped in Boston where he was imprisoned."[4]

Joseph was involved in the civic affairs of Salem, holding a number of positions. He joined the Salem Church in 1649. He was also a large landowner, owning most of the land between St. Peter's St. and Brown St. in Salem.(4)

In May, 1672, he was appointed Lieutenant in the Company of Salem Foot, under command of Capt. William Price.[1][3] Three years later in May the Salem Militia was increased to two companies and Joseph Gardner was appointed Captain of the 1st Co. of Salem Foot. During King Phillip's War he was appointed on 3 Nov. 1675 to command a company of men which was subsequently raised at Salem, Marblehead, Topsfield, Andover, Gloucester, Beverly and Lynn.[4] They mustered at Dedham Plain on 10 Dec. following with a total force of 95 then proceeded to Wickford. During the march they were involved in a number of incidents with groups of hostile Indians losing several men. He was killed storming a breech in the Narragansett's stockaid at Swamp Fort Dec. 19, 1675[5], And the manner of his death was described in Church's History of the War.

"Mr. Church spying Capt. Gardiner of Salem amidst the Wigwams at the east end of the Fort, made towards him; but on a sudden while they were looking each other in the face, Capt. Gardiner settled down, Mr. Church stepped to him, seeing the blood run down his cheek lifted his cap and calling him by name, he looked up in his face but spake not a word, being mortally Shot through the head."[7]

Additional Notes

  • Thomas Gardner, Jr. born March 4, 1590/1591 known to be in England, but questionable as to where. Most sources list Dorsetshire, England. Thought to have come to America on the ship Zouch Phoenix in 1624. First married to Unknown, by whom he had eleven children: second married to Margaret, who may have been Margaret Fryer/Fiar/frier; third married to the Widow Damaris Shattuck. Thomas, Jr., according to town records died December 29, 1674 in Salem, Essex, Massachusetts.
  • Thomas served as Governor of Cape Ann Colony at sometime according to Daggett & Skiffe & Butler History of Martha's Vineyard vol.3
  • Thomas Gardner and John Tilley were the chief rulers of the Cape Ann Colony during the time which preceded the appointment of Roger Conant as Governer
  • "The Gardner Family of Maine" by Stanly Israel Gardner (privately published, 1986) which begins with Thomas Gardner coming to MA from england in 1624 on the Zouch Phenix. He came to Cape Ann which is now Ipswich, MA to Oversee a fishing and farming settlement that did not succeed. The project was abandoned in 1626 so he moved to Salem where he became and original founder. He and a few others bought Nantucket Island. The house he gave his wife is now the Museum on Nantucket Island.

Lived in that part of Salem which is now Peabody. Married first probably Margeret Fryer, second widow Damaris Shattuck. [Perley Hist of Salem I:68]

Left will dated Dec 7 1668, mentions wife Damaris, six sons- Thomas, George, John, Samuel, Jospeh and Richard. Daughters Sarah Balch, Seeth Grafton, Miriam Hall, all by his first wife Margaret Frier. Two of his sons m daughters of their stepmother. Damaris had by Mr. Shattuck several children, all probably born England.


Damaris, m in Boston Sept 30 1653, Samuel Page or Pope.

Mary, m Hams, lived in Boston

Hannah, m George Gardner. Moved to Nantucket

Sarah, m in 1652 Richard Gardner and had Richard, Deborah, James, Damaris, Hope and Levi. He and his wife were excommunicated from Salem church for attending Quaker meetings; they removed in 1665 to Nantucket, where their two youngest children were born. [Shattcuk, Lem p 361f]

Write up in Great Migration Begins, Vol. II., pp. 731-737.

See Write-up Perley's History of Salem, Vol I, p. 68.


THOMAS GARDNER was born about 1592; lived in that part of Salem which is now Peabody; married, first, probably Margaret Fryer; second, widow Damaris Shattuck; she died Nov.28, 1674; he died Dec.29, 1674; children: 1. Thomas; 2. George; 3. Richard; 4. John, born in 1624; 5. Samuel, born in 1627; 6. Joseph; captain of the foot company; married Ann Downing; killed in the Narragansett fight with the Indians Dec. 19, 1675; no children; she married, second, Gov. Simon Bradstreet

Note: as an Innkeeper (Thomas Gardner, Sr., was repeatedly licensed during the 1660s to retail strong drink, but in June 1667 the license was amended to allow him to sell only to "strangers" and not to townsmen [EQC 3:339, 431, 4:36, 37, 161, 269, 397]).

Came from Dorset, England, was in Sherbourne Town 1624, governor of Cape Ann Colony, came on the ship Zouch Phoenix in 1624. Some information on children other than Richard Gardner, are from the book "The Triumphant Capt. John, by Will Gardner, 1958. The descendants of Richard are from Starbuck's History of Nantucket, available from Mitchell's Book Corner 54 Main St, Nantucket, MA 02554, price $75. A book on the Swain Family for $20, and a book on the Starbuck Family for $29.95. The book on the Coffin Family was available from the Nantucket Historical Assoc. for $20, currently out of print. Also many other books about Nantucket are available from Mitchell's Book Corner that will be of much interest, a most important book it Hinchmans "Early settlers of Nantucket" for $35.


Overseer, Cape Ann Plantation

Thomas Gardner 1591-1674 Governor of Cape Ann Colony 1623 Deputy 1637, Daggett & Skiffe & Butler History of Martha's Vineyard Vol.3

Thomas Gardner and John Tilley were the chief rulers of the Cape Ann Colony during the time which preceded the appointment of Roger Conant as Governor.

Source: Thomas Gardner Planter and Some of His Descendants, compiled and arranged by Frank A Gardner, MD, 1731, Essex Institute, Salem, Mass

Thomas Gardner married twice. We know this from the fact that in his will he mentions his wife as the mother-widow of his sons. The Margaret Gardner, who united with the first Church in 1639, is supposed to have been his wife. Various writers, including Rev. Joseph B. It, have stated that her maiden name was Fryer (or Frier), but the writer has thus far failed to find the authority for this statement.

Rev. Charles Henry Pope, in his "Pioneers of Massachusetts" suggests that the Margaret who united with the Salem Church in 1639, may have been the wife of Edmund Gardner of Ipswich.

While Edmund's wife may have been named Margaret, it seems improbable that she was the one above mentioned as uniting with the Salem church, for the following reasons: Edmund is mentioned in the Ipswich Town Records as early as 1635, and very frequently thereafter. The Ipswich church was organized in 1634 and the wife of a man so prominent in local affairs would, in all probability, have united with the "home church."

His second wife was Damaris Shattuck, a widow, who was admitted to the church in Salem in 1641. She had several children by her first husband, one of whom, Sarah, married Richard Gardner son of Thomas. She, like most of her Shattuck relations, evidently favored the Friends, as she was called into court many times for being "present at a Quaker meeting," and for absence from her own church. In the 9th Mo. 1667, and the 4th Mo. In the year following, "Old Mrs. Gardner was fined 5 shillings for absence from public worship. She had no children by Thomas Gardner. The date of her death is given in the Salem Town Records, as 28, 9, 1674.

Thomas Gardner died the 29th 10th Mo. 1674, and was buried in the Gardiner burying ground, a hillock described as lot III. MIGRATION: 1624 FIRST RESIDENCE: Cape Ann REMOVES: Salem 1626 OCCUPATION: Innkeeper (Thomas Gardner, Sr., was repeatedly licensed during the 1660s to retail strong drink, but in June 1667 the license was amended to allow him to sell only to "strangers" and not to townsmen ). CHURCH MEMBERSHIP: In list of Salem church members compiled in late 1636 . FREEMAN: 17 May 1637 . EDUCATION: Signed his name to several petitions and inventories. OFFICES: Deputy for Salem to the General Court, 26 September 1637 . Essex grand jury, 25 February 1641, 27 January 1643/4, July 1644 . Petit jury, failed to appear and fined 29 June 1641 ; appeared 27 January 1642/3, 28 January 1646, 28 January 1647/8, 26 January 1648/9, 26 June 1649, 24 June 1651 (foreman), 29 June 1652, 28 June 1653, 6 March 1653/4, 13 June 1655, 27 November 1655, 30 June 1657, 29 June 1658 . Jury, 27 August 1636, 27 June 1637 (foreman), 27 September 1639, 29 January 1640 . Coroner's jury on Ralph Elwood, August 1644 . Salem selectman, 1635, 1637, 1642-6, 1650, 1655-6 . Salem constable, 1639 . Salem fenceviewer, 1636 . Overseer or surveyor for Salem highways 1637/8, 1639, 1642, 1643, 1649, 1655-8 . Salem rater, 1639/40 .

He came to America in 1624. He lived in Salem, Massachusetts with his wife Margaret who was mother to their ten children: Sarah, Miriam, Seth, Grafton, Thomas, George, Samuel, Joseph, John, and Richard.

view all 27

Thomas Gardner, "Old Planter"'s Timeline

Weymouth, Or Sherbourne, Dorset, England
Age 22
Dorchester, Dorset, England
Age 28
Dorset, England
Age 28
June 13, 1621
Age 29
Sherborne, Dorset, England
Age 32
Cape Ann, Essex, Massachusetts, USA
Age 33
Nantucket, Nantucket , Massachusetts
Age 35
Salem, Essex, Massachusetts
Age 36
Massachusetts Bay Colony, USA