Life Sketch of John Gardner

This is one of the saddest stories in early Mendon history. John was frozen to death while trying to deliver a letter to Maughan's Fort (Wellsville) through the mountains from Brigham City.

Mendon Utah Logo

John Gardner

John Gardner was born October 24th, 1832 at Dalhouise, Lanarkshire, Upper Canada. His father was William Gardner, born January 31st, 1803 at Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. His mother was Ann Leckie, born April 12th, 1809 at Glasgow Lanarkshire, Scotland. He had two brothers, Robert and William, and one sister Jane.

When I was fifteen we left Canada and started for the States. We crossed the Missouri River. The first company had built a boat. The Gardner’s got their team and wagon on too. One yoke of wild steers jumped in, someone caught their tails. We came to Utah with the Mormon Battalion. [?]

In 1848 the Gardner’s built a sawmill on the stream of water near the upper county road. In 1849 they build a flower mill at Mill Creek ward, Salt Lake City, Utah. John Gardner married in January 1856 to Elizabeth Hill. They had one child, Emerine Elizabeth Gardner Bird. Great-great grandfather lived at Gardner’s Creek, south of Mendon in 1856. In the winter of 1856 his son John started from Weber on Sunday morning on horse back for Maughan’s Fort, but his horse gave out in the canyon. He put his saddle on a serviceberry bush and leaving his horse started on foot. The saddle and his horse were found by some brothers going after the mail. On their return they found it. It was the first his father knew that John had left his horse.

His father, brothers and others started to look for him thinking he would go to his father’s house. It was three miles from the fort to the northwest. They searched that part of the valley for one week without finding any trace of him. The snow in places was eight feet deep, drifting more or less all the time. The next Sunday morning after John had left the fort, William Maughan and Mr. Riggs went out south of the fort. They noticed a faint trail coming from the mountain canyon. They followed it down to the bank of the creek, then up again and they looked across and there on the north bank of the creek lay John Gardner. He had knelt down, drank some of the ice-cold water, then waded the stream filling his boots with water and sat down on the bank to rest.

He was frozen stiff and it was evident that he had lain there since the Sunday night before. The wolves and foxes had made a large circle around him, but had not gone to him. They brought him into the fort on a sled and as I stood in my door and looked at him, I hoped I never would have such a feeling again. His right arm was stretched out straight, the other lay by his side. He was covered with frost. They found his father and brothers in the hills, still looking for him. On hearing he was found his father said, “Is he mangled?” they said “No,” he looked at them saying, “Have the wolves and foxes touched him at all?” “No they have not,” he said, “Thank God for that.” They had to thaw his body by laying him before the fire and as one place thawed out they turned him over. In his pocket was a letter from Mr. Maughan for me. This accounted for his coming to the fort thinking he would stay all night. It was so sad that he had perished only a short distance from our home.

On Mr. Maughan’s return from a business trip, John Maughan and William met him at Box Elder. It was a hard trip, but they got home safely after dark having traveled on snowshoes for some time. John Gardner was buried on Gardner Creek in December 1856. Later on April 24th, 1870 he was dug up and buried in Wellsville, Utah on one of the John Redford’s lots. John Gardner, son of William Gardner and Ann Leckie, Dalhouise Canada, died December 1856 in Cache Valley, Utah. Neil Gardner was baptized for and in behalf of John Gardner, November 19th and endowed on November 11th, 1885 for him.1


1. John Gardner, Mrs. William Maughan, 24 April 1870, unpublished manuscript.