Thomas Gardner

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Thomas Gardner signature.jpg
Thomas Gardner

Title/Occupation: Appointed by Dorchester Company as Overseer of Plantation at Cape Ann; Salem: Deputy to General Court, Constable, Selectman/Juryman; Landowner, "Old Planter," Surveyor; "First Governor" of Massachusetts.


Born: c. 1592, Dorchester, Dorset, England
Died: 29 December 1674, Salem, Essex County, Massachusetts, USA
Buried: Remains were removed in the 1840s (along with many others) to the Harmony Grove Cemetery. Originally Thomas Gardner was interred on Gardner Hill near present-day Boston Street and Grove in Salem, MA, USA. Harmony Grove Cemetery is reportedly very near the original site of burial.

Mother: Christine Saule – possibly
Father: Thomas Gardner, Sr.


Spouse: Margaret Frier, married 28 April 1617 (as recorded in Sherborne, England parish records)

Issue: Sarah Gardner

Emigrated to America
Thomas Gardner
Thomas Gardner »

"The First Governor of Massachusetts"

From: The Gardners of Massachusetts: An American Legacy By Anthony Taylor Dunn

For most, the Gardner name does not easily come to mind as do such historic family names as Revere, Copley, or Kennedy. However, the Gardner name has an important place in American history spanning from the birth of our country to the present day.

The First Governor of Massachusetts

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.

To read more: Link to Anthony Taylor Dunn article on the Gardners

From: The Thomas Gardner Society: Thomas Gardner was an Overseer of the "old planters" party of the Dorchester Company that landed, in 1624 at Cape Ann, to form a colony. The party landed at, what is now known as, Gloucester. Thomas is considered by some as the 1st 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). Thomas, and his wife, Margaret Fryer, had nine children and many descendants.

To learn more: Link to Thomas Gardner Society]


From the Cape Cod Genes Website:
Thomas Gardner, who is referred to as "the common ancestor of the Salem-Nantucket family" by Biographer Frank Gardner, was born about 1592 according to a deposition on file in the Essex County Court Paper, v. VII, p.3.

His biographer is certain that Thomas Gardner came from what is referred to in England as "The West Country." The men who accompanied him to form the colony at Cape Ann, where he was hired to be Overseer, were mainly from Dorsetshire or the neighboring county of Somerset. They sailed from Weymouth. There is no mention in the biography of the ship of his passage to America. Some have speculated that he come on The Charity, but genealogist Charles Banks cites the Zouch Phenix. (See "Passengers")

The group of people, including two wives and the children of those two families, who were sent by the Dorchester Company, the Cape Ann Planters, landed at Stage Point on the west side of what was later named Gloucester harbor...

To learn more: Link to Cape Cod Genes Website


Marriage to Margaret Frier/Friar

Link to discussion of Thomas Gardner marriage to Margaret Frier on Thomas Gardner Society, Inc. blog

Documentation of Marriage Between Balch, Gardner, and Woodbury "Old Planter" Families

Further Sources of Research

Link to Wikipedia page on "Old Planters"

Link to Cape Cod Genes Website

Link to transcribed Sherborne Parish weddings 1600-1619, includes Thomas Gardner and Margaret Frier, 1617

Link to Sherborne Parish records

Gardner, Frank A MD [1907] Thomas Gardner Planter and Some of his Descendants Essex Institute, Salem, MA (via Google Books), pg 7

Perley, Sidney [1924] The History of Salem Massachusetts (via, pg 1-68