Biography - Christopher Gardiner

REV. CHRISTOPHER J. GARDINER. - That class of men who should elicit our warmest sympathies and the heartfelt gratitude of subsequent generations, are those who penetrate into the fastnesses of the wilderness, and there teach the tenets of the Christian religion. Not amid scenes of splendor, fashion and pomp, such as surround the clergy of to-day; for they discoursed not in princely edifices, like those now devoted to divine worship, resplendent in symmetry and grand artistic beauty, or beneath tesselated or gorgeously frescoed walls, or stood behind the richly wrought desk, the Holy Book lying before them on the finely-wrought velvet cover, or the costly organ lending its aid with sweet streams of inspiring music to those who sit beneath the sound of the gospel. Not so of those who preached fifty years ago in the then sparsely-settled state of Illinois. Rough log school houses, with puncheon benches, or the neighboring grove, served for the receptacle of the congregation. Instead of the beautiful desk, the preacher could be seen standing beside some rough stump, with the Bible lying on it before him. In place of the frescoed ceiling, nothing but the shadowy foliage and the blue vault of heaven were o'er his head. Thus he communed with that Being who created the starry sky, and keystoned it with a thought. Society at that period was like the diamond in its rough, which requires the work of a skillful artist to reveal its latent beauties. Preaching in those early times was an arduous task.
One of the cotemporaries of that period was Christopher J. Gardiner who was born in Prince William's county, Virginia, on the 10th day of June, 1798, where he resided with his brother-in-law, William Evans, till he was sixteen years of age, his parents having died in his infancy. In the spring of 1814 he emigrated to Kentucky, and located in the town of Hopkinsville, where he made a profession of religion and united with the Methodist church, of which during his life he lived an exemplary member, and was a minister for about fifty years. In July, 1818, he again emigrated and located in St. Louis, landing at that city from off a flatboat, August 18, 1818. There he established a tanyard, the second one in the village of St. Louis, which he continued to operate until the fall of the next year; in the meantime being the first, and part of the time the only, Methodist class-leader in St. Louis. In December, 1819, in company with one other young man, he came to Greene county, and Mr. Gardiner located on the farm, where he spent the remainder of his life. After selecting his land he buried his money, which was in coin, and then made a brief trip to St. Louis. After his return he commenced the improvement of his land, situated in township 9, range 12, on the south bluff of Macoupin creek, near what is now Riverdale, on the Jacksonville branch of the Chicago & Alton railroad.
On the 14th of December, 1823, he was married to Miss Margaret Mains, daughter of Robert Mains, who was one of the early pioneers of Illinois. Mr. Mains was formerly from North Carolina. By that union Mr. Gardiner had six sons, five of whom are yet living. The eldest, James B. Gardiner, is now in mercantile business at Kane; the second son, William P., many years ago left for California and has not since been heard from; Samuel G. is also a resident of Kane, and a partner with his brother, James B.; Joshua A. Gardiner is now a resident of Livingston county, Missouri; Christopher J. Gardiner, Jr., is now residing at the old homestead, and L. D. Gardiner is a citizen of Christian county, Ill. All are married excepting Christopher J. Gardiner, Jr. Those sons living are all members of the masonic order, a fact which we seldom see in one family. All are men of good character, and comfortably situated in the enjoyment of the benefits of life. Rev. Mr. Gardiner has the credit of having preached the first sermon in the township where he resided in this county, and besides being a good citizen, of contributing his part to the growth and development of the county. He raised a large and intelligent family of children, who grew up to be honorable men and women. The partner of his early life died at their residence on the 10th of October, 1835. On the 26th of March, 1837, he was married to his second wife, Sarah Aronspiger, by whom he had three children, two boys and one girl, the former of whom died in infancy. Their daughter, Mary E. Gardiner, has been thrice married, and is now the wife of Dr. Weir. Mrs. Gardiner's demise occurred on the 5th of June, 1844, and on the 20th of August, 1845, Mr. Gardiner was united in wedlock with Elizabeth Burch. By that union they had one daughter, who is yet living.
When he landed in Greene county he had a small capital, only about three hundred dollars, but being a man of considerable energy and economy, he early learned the secret of success in business. His general occupation was tanning and farming, which was diversified into many branches, such as horticulture, grape and stock growing, and as the result of his efforts he was eminently successful. The latter years of his life were crowned with the satisfaction of being in affluent circumstances. Besides giving considerable of his time to preaching in various localities, and ever ready to be called to the bedside of the sick or dying, to administer spiritual comfort, he was one of the early advocates of the temperance cause in Illinois. From principle he became a member of the Whig party, and was the early friend of the free-soil movement. He lived under every administration from John Adams down to 1872, and often he reverted to the history of his own native state, Virginia, with regrets that she should have raised her hand against the life of the Union. He never failed, when he had opportunity, to cast his vote for Henry Clay, his ideal statesman. He voted twice for the illustrious Lincoln, and during the darkest days of the late rebellion his prayer ever went up for the cause of the Union. He was beloved and respected by a large circle of friends; the purity of his Christian character was know to all. On the 30th of May, 1872, he died, and his spirit left the tenement of clay and soared aloft to the effulgent gardens of heavenly bliss.

Transcribed 05 Jan 2017 by Norma Hass from Atlas Map of Greene County Illinois, 1873, pages 27 and 30,

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