LILLIAN JANETTE JOHNSON GARDINER
1910 MS –2007 TN
Memphis, Shelby Co., TN—Tuesday, 9 January 2007
Lillian Johnson Gardiner, of Memphis, died
peacefully at her home Monday, January 8, 2007. She was the daughter of Tyree
LeRoy and Lillian Campbell Johnson of Humboldt, TN.
After college she worked for the State
Department of Agriculture in Nashville until World War II when she early became
a member of the team of patriotic war workers at Wolf Creek Ordinance Plant in
After her marriage in 1944 to Lawrence Bridges
Gardiner, of Memphis, where they made their home, she soon was an active worker
in Idlewild Presbyterian Church. Later she and Mr. Gardiner became founding
members of Independent Presbyterian Church. She was a charter member of the
Tennessee Genealogical Society, she started and edited its magazine “Ansearchin
News”. The Gardiners were interested in genealogical research and have several
books of family history and tools of the trade to their credit, as well as
being in demand for talks on various facets of research. This led naturally to
her interest and membership in The National League of American Pen Women, a
professional group of writers and artists. Lillian’s interest and work as a
member of Mary Latham Chapter of United Daughters of The Confederacy led to an
appointment to the “Civil War Centennial Commission” by the governor. Her
interest in family history led to membership in many other Hereditary,
Patriotic and Historical groups such as: The First Families of Virginia, The
Jamestown Society, D. A. R. Ft. Assumption Chapter, Daughter of the American
Colonists, of which she was honorary state president, The Order of the Crown,
Colonial Clergy, The Colonial Dames of America, Chapter VII, The Descendents of
the Knights of the Garter, thru which group she was a guest at Windsor Castle.
A past leader of Garner Circle of King’s Daughters, life member of Brooks
Museum League, and life member, for many years Parliamentarian of APTA; and
long time member of E.S.U. She was also an honorary member of the Women’s Board
of the Mid-South Fair. She was also proud of being a charter member of the UT
Benefactors Society. When Lillian retired as National President of “The
Huguenot Society, Founders of Manakin in The Colony of Virginia”, she was
honored by the Tennessee Society by having “The Gardiner Scholarship Fund”
founded, which was a thank you for the many hours the Gardiners spent in
promoting the aims of the organization. Her many civic and social activities
kept her active and interested.
She was preceded in death by her husband,
Lawrence Bridges Gardiner. She is survived by her sisters, Jane Johnson Smith
of Gainesville, FL and Marian Johnson Graves of Memphis. She is also survived
by several nephews, nieces and cousins as well as her caregivers, Lottie
Wilson, Carol Johnson and Michelle Nichols.
Visitation will be held at Independent
Presbyterian Church at 1 p.m., Wednesday, January 10 with the funeral following
at 2 p.m. Interment will be in Elmwood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers memorials
may be sent to Independent Presbyterian Church, Elmwood Cemetery or the
Huguenot Society. Canale Funeral Directors 901-452-6400.
Photo from Elmwood Cemetery,
Memphis, Shelby Co., TN—www.findagrave.com
Permission granted by
the photographer, Dale Schaefer
NOTES: SSDI records show that Lillian J. Gardiner (SS# issued in TN)
was born 15 Aug 1910, last residence Memphis, Shelby Co., TN.
She and her husband joined AAFA in 1990 and
instead of birth dates she entered “50+.” She was actually age 80!
Her nearest Alford ancestor is Elizabeth Alford,
born 1719, of New Kent Co. VA, daughter of John & Grace Alford, who married
John Bates. We don’t have her connecting lineage to Elizabeth Alford Bates.
John Bennett Boddie’s book 1955 book Southside
Virginia Families, Volume I, p. 84 [available at Ancestry.com], says Lillian
Janette Johnson was the daughter of Tyree LeRoy Johnson and Lillian Janette
Campbell. She was “born in Greenwood, Miss., Aug. 15, 1910, and married Dec.
13, 1944 at Humboldt, Miss., Laurence Bridges Gardiner, born in Memphis Tenn.,
July 21, 1906, the son of Pearl Eglentine (Bridges) and Joseph Lock Gardiner.”
Memphis, Shelby Co., TN—Friday, 8 February 2008
House Full of History—Worried what would happen to home of
childless couple, friends pool funds to buy it
By Michael Donahue
house at 1863 Cowden was built by Laurence Gardiner’s father in the late 1800s.
Originally it was a two-story structure, but a third floor was added after a
fire around 1900.
and Lillian Gardiner had no children. Laurence died in 1994 at age 88. After
Lillian died last year at 96, the Browns and the Higdons decided to buy the
home from the estate.
[See more photos at http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/2008/feb/08/house-full-of-history/]
When they moved into their house on Cowden in
the early ’90s, Joe and Paula Higdon were intrigued with the old three-story,
wood-frame house next door.
“You couldn’t see the house because the brush
was so thick,” Joe said.
They didn’t know much about the elderly man and
woman—Laurence and Lillian Johnson Gardiner—who lived there. “We thought they
were recluses because we never saw them,” Paula said.
“I cut through the bushes and looked out back,”
Joe said. “There was an old carriage house that had been converted into a
chicken house. But there weren’t chickens in it; there were 500 pigeons. And
you could smell them. I told Paula, ‘This is not going to last very long. I’ll
call the health department and get this taken care of.’”
“Well, when it was all said and done, Laurence
was ill years later and I’m taking care of the pigeons for him.”
They discovered Laurence Bridges Gardiner was a
renowned cattle expert, genealogist, philanthropist and civic leader and the
longest-serving member of the Mid-South Fair board. He was retired from his
highly successful cattle breeding business, Pure Bred Jersey Sales Nationwide.
Prior to that, he had been a field man for the American Jersey Cattle Club,
traveling eight Southeastern states helping farmers find markets for milk.
He’d raised pigeons most of his life. As a young
man, he sold squab to The Peabody.
Laurence and his wife, who were founding members
of Independent Presbyterian Church, wrote books on genealogy. Her last book was
“Our Indian Ancestry; Davis-Hess-Burks Campbell-Dunlap and Associated Lines.”
Their 6,000-square-foot house with 12-foot
ceilings and heart pine floors at 1863 Cowden was built in what is now Midtown
by Laurence’s father in the late 1800s. The house originally had two stories,
but another was added after a fire around the turn of the 20th century. The
house was divided into apartments for relatives during the World War II housing
Over the years, smaller houses were built on
Cowden. “They watched three different generations of people go through here,”
Joe said. “Nobody understood them very well anymore and nobody thought much
about them anymore.”
When they moved across the street in 2000, Mark
and Courtney Brown met and became friends with Lillian and the Higdons.
Laurence died when he was 88 in 1994. After
Lillian’s death last year at age 96, the Browns and the Higdons, who had moved
to a house on Belvedere, began seriously thinking about buying the Gardiners’
house. “I think everybody who’d ever seen that house had said, ‘Since they have
no kids, I want that house,’” Mark said.
He called Joe and said, “I don’t want it to fall
in the wrong hands.”
“We didn’t want everybody to go in there and
just look at all their stuff,” Paula said. “It would have bothered them.”
They decided to buy the house together from the
estate. It sold for about $240,000. “So, we said, ‘50-50. No contract. We’ll
shake hands and gentlemen’s agreement,’” Mark said. “And everything’s worked so
Mark remembered when they walked through the
house for the first time after Lillian died. “We went on a tour of it and said,
‘There’s no way in the world we’re going to re-do this thing.’ It needed a lot
of work. Every ceiling needs to be re-done. In 2000 (Lillian) had put about 30
grand into the outside, the story goes, new roof, paint and all that.”
The house had a slate roof, but a conventional
shingle roof was put on after the ice storm in the mid-1990s, Higdon said.
A room used by Laurence for his office once
housed pigeons. “At some point in time he had some pigeons get ill and he
brought them in here to take care of them,” Joe said. “And he never moved them
Details of the house include colored tile around
a fireplace, Victorian-looking wooden lions’ heads on another fireplace and
Ionic columns on the front porch. The enclosed stairway in the entry hall
apparently was free-standing at one time. The old newel post is in the attic.
Mark brought in contractors to look at the
house. “Two have done the full inspections. All of them have said, ‘You could
hit it with a crashing ball and you wouldn’t hurt it. It’s just solid.’”
The Higdons and the Browns thought about buying
the house separately and restoring it.
“We’re not as young as we used to be,” Paula
“We live in that room right there, all three of
us,” Courtney said, indicating the den in their house. “I don’t know what I’d
do with a house that big.”
They decided to clean out the Gardiner house and
sell it for $279,000.
The Gardiner house was packed with antiques. “It
all came up the Mississippi from New Orleans,” Paula said. “There was a little
bit of French, a little bit of English.”
And, she said, there was an inlaid table that
supposedly belonged to Napoleon. Someone from Nazi Germany “during the war came
over and stayed with them and, for thanks, sent them this table.”
“Laurence had no living relatives,” Joe said. “Lillian
left everything to her two sisters. One’s in Knoxville and one’s in Florida.”
The two sisters sent their children to take what
Most of the furniture and artwork is gone. “There
were two huge portraits here. Family portraits,” Paula said as she walked
through pocket doors separating the parlor from the dining room. “They were
oils from the 1800s. It was a man and a woman.”
Trunks, quilts and some furniture and art were
left. “I found a World War II uniform in one of those two trunks,” Mark said.
Paula found some love letters from Lillian to
“They didn’t marry until they were in their 40s
,” she said. “They met at a Strawberry Festival in Humboldt.”
The family left numerous books and papers. Two
rooms of the house were devoted to the dairy industry. Mark called Cherie
Bayer, director of development with the American Jersey Cattle Society.
Last summer, Bayer visited Memphis and took back
books and papers.
“I think the thing that struck me was, first
off, this gentlemen’s dedication to the pure-bred Jersey industry at a very
important time in this organization’s history (the late ‘40s and early ‘50s),”
Bayer said. “He was a meticulous correspondent and kept everything—literally.
“At that point in time, he knew everybody and
was involved in some of the critical decisions that affected where this
And, she said, “Those are the kinds of things
that put a little bit of person in the business of cows.”
The Browns and Higdons have just about finished
cleaning out the house. “You just had to turn your back and say, ‘We’re gonna
throw it out,’” Joe said. “One thing I’ve learned from all this is don’t let
somebody else throw away your old stuff. At some point in time you’ve got to
turn your back and just do it.”
Walking through the house brings back pleasant
The Higdons remembered how excited the Gardiners
were the day the Higdons’ daughter was born. “It must have been 105 degrees
outside and they were sitting out on the porch in their pajamas waiting for us
to get home,” Paula said. “They never had any children of their own.”
Lillian enjoyed having the Higdons’ daughter at
her home. “She was a Daughter of the American Revolution, had the teas and all
that. I think she invited me over there with the baby so we’d run all those old
ladies out of the house.”
On July 4, 1994, the Higdons brought over
fireworks and grilled hotdogs and hamburgers in the Gardiners’ front yard.
It became a neighborhood tradition. “We would
close the whole street off and everyone would bring a dish,” Paula said.
“I feel so fortunate that we got to know them.
They were great people.”