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The family from which Charles L. Gardner came is one of very old New England ancestry, as his first forebear in this country was an early settler in Massachusetts, known as John Gardner, of Hingham, who settled and died in that town November 24, 1668. More than ten generations of Gardners have made New England their home, the family, of course, originating in England. Charles L. Gardner, noted as lawyer and legislator, aided in making the name illustrious.
John Gardner, of Hingham, and his wife, Mary, were the parents of the second John Gardner (a), who was baptized July 18, 1652, and they had eight other children. Of these, Benjamin, born April 8, 1666, died June 30, 1736, married Sarah Dunbar, and they had two children, Benjamin (2) and Sarah. Benjamin (2) was born May 15, 1700, and in 1725 married Joanna Jones. Their son, Benjamin (3), was born in 1729 and died in 1821. In 1748 he married Rachel Smith. Their son, Jacob, born in 1761, died in 1816, married Deborah House. Their son, Jacob (2), born in 1780, married Hannah Cook in 1806. They had a son, Elisha, who married Elvira Sprague, and they had a son, Charles L. Gardner, with whom this history is concerned.
Charles L. Gardner was born in Cummington, Massachusetts, May 27, 1839, and died in Springfield, Massachusetts, March 20, 1913. He was a famous lawyer, and for half a century was a leader of the bar of Hampden County in that State. His early education was acquired in the Cummington schools, and later he was graduated from the Sanderson Academy, Ashfield, Massachusetts. He soon afterward began to study law, his preceptor being Judge S. T. Spaulding, of Northampton, under whom he studied until admission to the bar. Mr. Gardner began practice of his profession at Palmer, where his success was immediate. He at first became the partner of Judge James G. Allen, but this partnership was dissolved in 1870, and Mr. Gardner continued practice alone until 1890, when his son, Charles G. Gardner, became associated with him. Mr. Gardner moved to Springfield in 1897, and in 1901, his second son, Edwin S. Gardner entered the partnership. For many years this partnership of Gardner & Gardner was among the better known and more successful legal firms of that city, and in fact of Western Massachusetts. The senior member of this firm continued as its active head until shortly before his death.
Charles L. Gardner’s success and many friendships were well based. His ideals were high, his integrity unimpeachable, and his personal qualities won him many strong friendships. His standing at the bar, and his prominence in politics-he was a Republican-made him a leading citizen. He served his party as he served his clients, in a manner and with an earnestness that brought confidence in his efforts. Soon after he began- the practice of law at Palmer he was appointed a trial justice of Hampden County, and he held this office until the establishment of the district court in 1872. He was a member of the lower branch of the Legislature in 1875-76, representing the Third District. During both years he was a member of the judiciary committee, and the second year he was a member of the joint special committee on constitutional amendments. Mr. Gardner was a State Senator in 1878-79, and served both years on the judiciary committee of the Senate. Here his legal knowledge and training were of great value to the committee and to the State. Upon retiring from the Senate he was elected a member of the Republican State Committee, and during the two years he continued in that position he acted upon the executive committee. Mr. Gardner also held the office of assistant internal revenue inspector until it was abolished in 1886. In that year he was appointed as a member of the board of trustees of the State primary, and reform schools. He declined a reappointment upon the expiration of his term, and in 1892 he was elected district attorney for the western district, which comprises the counties of Hampden and Berkshire, and received two reelections, closing his term of office in January, 1902. Mr. Gardner’s administration of that difficult office was in every way painstaking and efficient, and he was commended on every hand. A stem and insistent lover of the law, he had a gentler characteristic which was manifested in his attitude toward its youthful offenders, and justice was tempered with mercy. Mr. Gardner was intolerant of obstinate and determined wrong doing, but was always ready to give young offenders an opportunity to show that contrition and a will to do right were genuine, and many of them were put upon probation at his suggestion. His cases were always carefully prepared and ably presented, and this meant success. He prosecuted the noted case against Dominick Krathofski, whose execution by hanging marked the passing of this form of punishment in Massachusetts.
Mr. Gardner was deeply interested in the affairs of Palmer, where he began his professional life, and nothing that related to the welfare of the town locked his concern. For years he was president of the Palmer Savings Bank, which he did much to promote in growth and usefulness. Soon after removing to Springfield he was made president of the Hampden Savings Bank, a position he held for many years. For three years he was president of the Hampden County Bar Association.
On May 19, 1869, Mr. Gardner married Esther Ely Gilmore, of Monson, who died July 25, 1919. Mrs. Gardner was a sister of the late Dwight O. Gilmore, of Springfield Two sons were born of this marriage: Charles Gilmore Gardner, born march 30, 1870, and Edwin Sprague Gilmore, born May 1, 1876. They have continued the firm of Gardner & Gardner, in which they were made partners by their father.