Recollecting Marmaduke Gardner, 1812-1879

I do like church news, even if it dates to 1872. This post started as a one-note joke about a minister in a town with a funny name, but uncovered a Universalist pioneer in Texas. According to the University of Texas archives abstract (see below), he “he moved to Texas in 1854 and subsequently organized the first Universalist Society in Texas at Smith Springs, now Lawhon Springs.” (Lawhon Springs is extinct, save a cemetery; perhaps the one below.)

The following comes from the Board of Trustees report of the Universalist General Convention. The General Convention had the power to extend fellowship to ministers and churches in places not covered by a state convention, thus,

Under the powers conferred by Article III, Sec. 6 of the Constitution, your Board has granted a letter of Fellowship to the Rev. Maramduke Gardner, of Sand-Fly, Bastrop Co., Texas.

Some notes. Bastrop County is immediately to the southwest of Lee County. The UGC had just been reorganized with new powers, so it seems more like the “rehabilitation” of an experienced, senior minister with no other fellowship, pending research to the contrary. He came from South Carolina, making me wonder if he’s a descendant of the German Brethren-Universalists whose descendants survive in Universalist churches in Newberry, S.C.; Canon, Georgia and elsewhere.

His obituary, from the papers of the 1880 Universalist Register, speak of servant whose labors were little known among the bulk of the Universalist ministerial college

Rev. Marmaduke Gardner was born in 1812, in South Carolina, and died in McDade, Texas, May 4, 1879, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. He spent the earlier part of his life in his native State, though he lived for some years in Mississippi previous to his removal to Texas, which occurred more than twenty-five years ago. Ho began to preach May 12, 1848, was ordained Sept. 2,1849, and received the fellowship of the General Convention Jan. 10, 1872. He was pastor of the Universalist Church in Williamson Co., Texas, twenty-five years, where his memory will long be fragrant in the hearts of those who best knew him. He travelled very extensively in Texas, and did a great amount of missionary work, and was a very faithful and useful minister, highly esteemed in the community where he lived for his integrity and sincere Christian spirit. His faith in the full grace of God sustained him in life, and was more fully manifested as the shadows of the tomb gathered around him, and he died peacefully and happily. Mr. Gardner was twice married — first March 12, 1833, to Miss Rhoda Ussery, by whom he had nineteen children. She died in 1878, and he was married a few weeks before his death, to Mrs. Jones, of McDade, Texas.

And an interesting polity note. Gardner and his church locally ordained another minister, J. C. Lawhon, who then — about 18 months after Gardner’s death — ordained a third minister, J. S. Dunbar. The Universalist General Convention recognized these ordinations, given that “ordination in the regular form was at that time impractical” and admitted them into direct fellowship.

His and family papers at the University of Texas

Family cemetery, in Lee County, where he and family members are buried

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Marmaduke Gardner was born in what is now Barrwell County SC, and moved to Mississippi in 1836 and then Texas in 1854. He became a Baptist in 1834, but was one of the many southerners that was converted by a layman – who’s name has slipped me for the moment, but is most often called the “Yankee Peddler” as he was indeed that – but would give Universalist tracts to his customers. Active in the Carolinas in the 1820s-1930s.
    Gardner had a small congregation in Mississippi during his stay there. He was a consulting editor for the Universalist Herald.
    His grandfather was an Irish immigrant who moved to the Barnwell County area in probably in the 1780s.

  2. my great grandfather was married by marmaduke gardner in Bastrop co. texas oct. 30th 1870. I have a copy of the marriage certificate, the marriage being between mr. Isaac stephens and miss nancy Mariah bachman both of the state of texas and county of Bastrop. I am 72 years of age. my mother born in 1911 was francis stephens camp and her father, my grandfather was Charles day stephens, born in 1880. my great grandfather was, obviously Isaac stephens. my name is Charles hardin camp

  3. marmaduke gardner (2) was my 2nd great grandfather’s brother. my second great grandfather was named george washington gardner. he had a doctorate as a greek scholar but made his living as a farmer. they came to texas with another brother in the 1850’s after their mother, mary mccreary gardner died in clark co miss. their father died between 1830-1834. his name was james gardner and some accounts say that he was killed by a runaway slave. george lived in williamson co tx and is on the census for 1860,1870 and 1880. there is no census for 1890 but i believe that he died in 1890. his first wife died and the second was a widow with two children. she was named anna youngblood gardner. i know that they lived in an area in williamson co known as post oak island. it no longer exists today. i have tried “forever” to find out where george washington gardner (sr) or (dr) is buried. he was born in feb 13, 1818 and died in 1890. i cannot find where anna is buried either. i have visited the graves of my grandfather, and great grandfather, but would love to visit george’s grave.
    i never give up!!!!

  4. I’ll be glad to try to help you find them. I’m finishing up my second book about Post Oak Island. It’s called “The Vanished Plantation.”

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