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Henry & Caroline Gardner and Riverby

29 Jun

Henry Augustus Gardner and his wife Caroline Cole Mason Gardner were the progenitors of three subsequent generations with solid ties to Lizzie Borden and especially her sister, Emma.

Henry & Caroline about the time they married in 1864.

Caroline Cole Mason was the 3rd child of Zephaniah S. Mason, (born Jan. 27, 1804, died Nov. 11, 1844) and Susan Vinnicum.  Her brother Willlam was born in 1831, and her sister Ann Frances born in 1834.  Caroline was born December 12, 1839.  She married the handsome Henry Augustus Gardner on December 11, 1864.  Although younger than her sister, Ann, she married first.

Ann married William Morse – brother of Sarah Anthony Morse and John Vinnicum Morse – therein sealing the bloodline connection between Emma Borden and her sister Lizzie and the Morse family.

Henry Augustus Gardner, born Sept. 12, 1835, lived the early part of his life at the old homestead in Swansea, and then near Touisset Station, “Riverby – property that was originally in his wife’s family.

Henry had two brothers – also quite handsome ( “oval picture”) and one sister.  For all their lives they remained extremely close – helping one another and helping to raise each others’ children.  Henry had been a shoemaker but his life’s occupation was farming.

Henry and Caroline were Republicans, and members of the First Christian Church of Swansea.

They had four children:

(1) Orrin Augustus, born July 21, 1867

(2) Frank Henry, born Jan. 16, 1869,

(3) William Wilson, born Jan. 2, 1875,  and

(4) Mabel, born Aug. 16, 1876, died Sept. 2, 1876.

Orrin Gardner

Frank Gardner

William Gardner and Hamilton Gardner, father and son

(Emma remembered all of these people in her Will and/or other Trust investment funds.  Lizzie mentioned none of them in her Will and that is significant and will be explained in a later post.)

When Henry died he passed on to his oldest son, Orrin, the family possessions, including bibles, documents, albums, etc.  Orrin passed much of this  on – along with most of the things he acquired from Emma’s estate – to the boy he raised:  Hamilton, son of his deceased brother William.  There had been some albums, photographs, autograph albums, portraits, etc. which he turned over to the Swansea Historical Society in the years when he was long retired and in ailing health.   Hamilton Gardner, whom
Emma had known  since he was born and until her death, would end up selling some of these things but did pass down to the 4th generation some of what remained.

After 50 years of marriage in1911.

“Riverby” was a place that Emma visited often, in addition to  visiting Swansea and the people from the “oval picture” and their offspring.  Riverby was, in fact, the last place she visited prior to her interment at Oak Grove Cemetery.  When Emma died in 1927, only nine days after her sister Lizzie, her cousin Orrin Gardner, son of Henry & Caroline, had her remains brought to Riverby for service (her wake)

The house and grounds looked much like this in the mid to late 1920’s.


Caroline can be seen standing in the top photograph; below is the fireplace in the first floor sitting room.


Borden case enthusiasts will cruise by “Riverby” to see where Emma was taken and snap pictures from the roadway, never imagining how much the landscape has changed.  Little is left by way of documentation to know of its true history and the richness of the two generational “band of brothers” connected with it.

This is how it looks today:


Although Gardners were prominent among the founding families of Swansea, none of their bloodline remain in that town today across the bay from Fall River.  Many of their homes still stand and their graves can be found at Mount Hope Cemetery but none of their descendants live in Swansea.  Virtually all of the descendants of the original Gardners long ago moved on – not unlike the Bordens of Fall River.

But I take a moment here to pay homage to Henry Augustus Gardner:  He lived a long (to age 96) and decent life – a truly devoted husband, father, brother and friend.  His character and morals were passed on to his children and grandchildren.  When we speak about quality of character, when we speak about the fabric of America and the honest, hard working salt-of-the- earth types – we speak of men like Henry Augustus Gardner of Swansea and Touisset.

More to come on this inspiring family – their aunts, uncles, cousins – and of course, Lizzie and Emma.


Sources:  History of Swansea; estate records of Henry Augustus Gardner; emails from Gardner descendants; letter from great grandson of Bailey Borden; correspondence with great grandson of Henry Augustus Gardner.

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