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The ancestors of Joseph Gardner were descended from Quaker stock which landed upon the shores of Nantucket Island in 1620. Later they lived in North Carolina and emigrated from there to the Territory of Indiana in the latter part of the eighteenth century. It was in Union County, Indiana, that Joseph Gardner was born in July, 1820. His parents, William Gardner and Mary Hollingsworth, were ardently opposed to slavery, hence adhered to the anti-slavery wing of the Quaker Church.
Upon attaining his majority, Joseph Gardner aligned himself with the Abolitionists and finally died fighting for the freedom of the slaves. He secured a common school education and chose teaching as his profession.
In 1841 he married Eliza Weaver, a native of Warren County, Ohio. To this union were born three children: Mary W., born January, 1842, married Lyman M. Sawyer in May, 1864. Theodore, born November 13, 1844, was married in March, 1872, to Wilhelmina Selig, a native of North Germany; and Eudorus E., born October, 1848, married Emma Smith in 1873. Eliza Weaver Gardner died in October, 1848, in Union County, Indiana. In August, 1849, Joseph Gardner married Sarah Maxwell, a native of Union County, Indiana. There were three children by this union: Enos M., born in May, 1850, and married Elizabeth Wallace July 4, 1871; Eva St. Clare, born in August, 1852, married Charles Lindell in December, 1875; and Orlando B., born in November, 1857, was married in September, 1880, to Emma Aimsted.
In May, 1855, Joseph Gardner came to Kansas and staked a claim, designated upon the records of Douglas County as the southeast quarter of section 30, town 13, range 19 on Washington Creek near Lone Star. After performing the necessary preliminary work required under the United States Preemption Laws he returned to Indiana. In the spring of 1856 he was again on the claim and incidentally participating in the stirring events of the border war. Returning again to Indiana in the fall of 1856, he arranged his affairs for his final departure from the old Hoosier State.
In February of 1857 he embarked at Cincinnati with his family upon the new side-wheel steamer “Silver Heels,” bound for Kansas. After fourteen days of strife with floating ice and sand bars, he landed safely at Leavenworth, where he was compelled to pay a liveryman $20 in gold to transport himself and family to Lawrence, where he arrived March 6th. In due season, through the agency of a yoke of trusty oxen, he reached his claim.
The first subject for consideration after his arrival was a shelter. Pending the erection of a shanty the family secured temporary quarters in a vacant cabin on an adjoining claim, where on Sunday, April 5, 1857, he essayed writing a letter to the Union County Herald, at Liberty, Indiana, but the ink froze on his pen so rapidly that he was forced to abandon the undertaking.
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In June, 1859, he participated in the rescue of Dr. John Doy from the jail at St. Joseph, Missouri, in consequence of which he became a marked man, by reason of reward of $500 for his head (dead or alive) offered by the sheriff of Buchanan County, Missouri.
In the early fall of 1859 he assisted in the organization of the first Douglas County Agricultural Society, being elected its president, Paul H. Berkau being secretary. The first fair was held in October, 1859, in West Lawrence, the original Congregational Church at the corner of Louisiana and Pinkney streets, being used as the fine arts hall.
In November, 1859, he joined a party organized for the purpose of liberating John Brown from Harper’s Ferry Jail. Brown’s positive refusal to be a party to the scheme necessitated its abandonment.
Because of his well-known abolition sentiments, he was heartily disliked by his pro-slavery neighbors, of whom he had several. In the summer of 1860 he employed two runaway negroes from Jackson County, Missouri, and put them at work openly, quarrying rock. It took but a short time for this interesting piece of news to reach Lecompton and Kansas City, and on the night of the 9th of June, 1860, cutthroats from these places attacked his dwelling with a view to kidnapping the negroes and incidentally obtaining the reward before mentioned. In the ensuing battle he succeeded in wounding Hard Petrican of Lecompton, while Jake Herd killed one of the negroes. Finding they could not dislodge him by gun fire, the assailants essayed the torch, but a light shower just before the attack dampened their matches and they failed to ignite, thus saving himself and family from annihilation. Thus ended the last battle of the border war.
In July, 1861, he enlisted at Fort Leavenworth in the Third Kansas Infantry and spent the winter with Lane’s Brigade at Camp Defiance on Mine Creek, Linn County, Kansas. In the summer of 1862 he was discharged to accept a commission in the First Kansas Colored Regiment (later the Seventy-ninth United States Colored Infantry), and assisted in recruiting a company at Lawrence. In October, 1862, while out on a reconnaissance, at a place known as Island Mound, Bates County, Missouri, his command, consisting of three officers, including himself, and twenty-two enlisted men, was attacked by a band of guerrillas under the rebel Colonel Cockrell. In the fight that ensued he was grievously wounded and one other officer killed. Eight privates were killed and eleven wounded, only one officer and three privates escaping injury.
In April, 1863, having sufficiently recovered from his wounds, he rejoined his regiment at Fort Scott.
On that fateful night of June 9, 1860, when my father opened the door of his domicile in the face of desperadoes, standing upon its threshold with cocked revolvers, bent upon murder, planting the muzzle of his navy against the breast of one of them, and shooting him down, he exhibited a shining example of the indomitable courage of the pioneers of Kansas, who by such deeds of valor saved her virgin soil from the blighting curse of human slavery.
Again, when he positively refused to participate in the bacchanalian revelries indulged in by his superior officers, thereby incurring their enmity to such an extent that, upon his being attacked by serious illness, he was refused permission to return to his home, where loving hands could minister to his wants and nurse him back to health, he displayed that fine trait of moral character which shone with brilliant luster throughout his entire life.
He passed on over the divide into the realms of the great mysterious beyond at Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, August 23, 1863, idolized by his family, respected by his neighbors and friends, and cordially hated by his enemies.
If there be records in the great hereafter upon which are registered the names of those who died battling in the cause of freedom and humanity, the name of Joseph Gardner will be inscribed there in letters of shining gold.