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Researched and contributed by: Gloria Olson


Freeland B. Gardner, who played a major roll in the development of the village of Pensaukee, never actually lived in the community.  On the 1850 federal census and 1855 Wisconsin State census he is enumerated in Pittsfield, Brown County with his family.

With the development of the Pensaukee Mill, Mr. Gardner did have a mansion built in the community, which he used when visiting the area.  The census records clearly show that he maintained his family in the Chicago area of Illinois in the later 1850’s and after.

The 1860 U.S. census shows H. B. Gardner, age 43, lumber merchant living in Ward 5 of the city of Chicago.  He has $25,000 in real estate and $35,000 in personal property.  His household now consists of his wife Anna age 42 and son Horatio age 14 all born in New York.  He also has two daughters Hattie age 9, born WI. and Nellie age 1, born Illinois.  The household also has Andrew Snyder age 22 and Ann Hedgegan, age 17 born Vermont, servants.

Freeland B. Gardner, age 52 is living in the 10th ward of the City of Chicago on the 1870 census.  His occupation is lumber merchant with real assets of $500,000 and personal property of $180,000.  The household consists of his wife Fanny. age 51, born N.Y. and daughter Hattie L., age 19, born WI. and Nelli age 11, born Ill.  There are also 3 domestic servants, Nelson Bidell, age 30, born Canada; and Kate Meyers, age 30 and Kate Brun, age 24 both born Ireland.

Son Horatio H. Gardner, age 24, born N.Y., occupation lumber merchant, is also in the 10th ward of the City of Chicago on the 1870 census.  He is married to Mary A. who is age 22, also born in New York, with son Freeland B., 1 year old, born in Illinois.  Their assets were $5,500 real and $20,000 personal.   They also have three household servants.

The 1880 U.S. census shows H.H. Gardner as head of household in District 109 in Chicago, Cook Co. Ill.

Horatio is age 42 is married to Mary A., age 31, born Maryland, father born Spain mother N.Y.  They have son Freeland B., age 11.  His occupation is lumber merchant as is his father’s Freeland B, age 64 born New York, as were his parents.  Freeland’s wife is now enumerated as Francis, age 61, born New York as were her parents and they have daughter Nellie, age 21 born Ill.  They are all members of Horatio’s household as are 2 servants.   It would appear Hattie was already married to Joseph Stockton, but I could not locate them in the census records.

Besides the above census records and the obituary below I was unable to locate the descendents on any other census records.  There is a Freeland B. Gardner, age 61, born Illinois, single living in Santa Barbara, Calif. in 1930, but this is not sufficient to identify him as a descendent, as the parents birth places do not match up.

 Obituary of  Freeland B. Gardner

Unknown Chicago Paper. –
Supposed date of death 24 Dec. 1883


    Mr. F. B. Gardner, for many years one the most prominent lumberman of the Northwest, died suddenly at Pensaukee, Wis., Monday, December 24.  Mr. Gardner was on his way to the depot that evening accompanied by a friend.  Before reaching the depot Mr. Gardner asked his friend to run to the depot and ask the conductor to wait a moment till he came.  His request was complied with, but after waiting a few moments and Mr. Gardner, not having put in an appearance, search was made for him and he was found lying dead on the sidewalk scarcely half a block form the depot.  His death was caused by ossification of the heart.

   In the life of  Freeland B. Gardner may be found a brilliant instance of what ability backed by indomitable energy and enterprise may accomplish.  Mr. Gardner was born at  Eldridge, Onondage county, N.Y., on July 30, 1817.  His first business venture was the starting of a small general store at Kingsbury, N.Y., when a young man.  On a capital of $100 he managed to close out in a few months with nearly $1,000, with which he came west in 1839, returning to Fort Ann, N.Y., however, very shortly afterward to again engage in mercantile business.  But he sold out and came west again in 1849, opening a store at Kenosha, Wis., then called Southport.  He embarked in the lumber business in 1850, starting a saw mill at Pensaukee, Wis., the second mill on that side of the lake.  His business prospered from the start and two years later he established himself in the lumber business in Chicago.  In 1857 he built a mill at Little Sturgeon, Green Bay, but it burned shortly afterward, entailing a loss of $25,000 on Mr. Gardner, and this was almost immediately followed by the financial crash of that year, which seriously crippled him.  But he was made of the stuff that wouldn’t permit him to stay down and he recovered very shortly from the effects of his reverses.  He was a sufferer, too, in the panic of 1873 but resulted as happily for him as did the panic of 1857.  In 1867 the firm was F. B. Gardner & Co., the company being his son H. H. Gardner and John Spry, which was changed in 1872 to F. B. Gardner & Co., Mr. Spry retiring.  Several years ago he withdrew from business in Chicago and devoted all of his time to the mill at Pensaukee, residing in Chicago, however.

   Mr. Gardner was a very public spirited man, and the city of Pensaukee owes nearly all of its prosperity to his open-handed liberality.  He built miles of docks, expended large amounts of money in street and other improvements, and built the Pensaukee House, one of the largest hotels north of Chicago.  Just after the great Chicago fire he built the Gardner House, now the Leland Hotel, at the corner of Michigan avenue and Jackson streets, this city, it being the first hotel opened in the burned district after the fire.

   Mr. Gardner was married to Miss Fanny Copeland in 1841.  She died in September, and the only surviving members of the family now are his son, H. H. Gardner, of the lumber firm of the Gardner & Spry Company, Chicago, and two daughters—Mrs. Joseph Stockton of Chicago, and Mrs. W. B. Alley, of Boston.

    The funeral was held from his late residence, No. 141 Pine street, Thursday afternoon, a large number of his many friends paying their last tribute of respect to his memory.

   In memory of Mr. Gardner, a meeting of the board of directors of the Chicago Lumbermen’s Exchange was held Wednesday afternoon, at which suitable resolutions were adopted.

The famous Gardener Hotel
which was known as the 
"Finest Hotel North of Milwaukee"

It was destroyed by the tornado of 1877 in Pensaukee, WI.

The obituary does not mention another financial stress for Mr. Gardner, which occurred when the tornado on July 7, 1877 struck Pensaukee wiping out a lot of his interests; mills, hotel, general store, houses and etc.  The obituary refers to Mr. Gardner concentrating his business interests for several years before his death on Pensaukee, but did not indicate why.  He was a major part of the development of the village of Pensaukee, owning massive acres of land in the area, several mills, stagecoach stop, boarding houses, stores, hotels and etc. over the years.  With his personal life centered in the city of Chicago, there are no church or vital records available in the immediate area to try and fill in the blanks but lots of land records for those who choose to search them.

As with many early obituaries and written history, it seems everyone wanted to be there first, second, third or fourth.  The obit states he built the second mill on west side of the lake.  Just staying on the northeastern shore from Green Bay and north to the current state line, there were mills at Pensaukee, Marinette, Peshtigo, Oconto and Oconto Falls prior to 1850.  With his death he left a tangled web of finances and the destruction of the last of his mills on the Pensaukee River, reported in The Oconto Reporter, on August 21, 1886, outward signs of his commercial impact in the area were gone.

1 Freeland Barney GARDNER b: 30 JUL 1817
  + Fanny COPELAND b: 12 FEB 1819
    2 Horatio Copeland GARDNER b: FEB 1844 d: MAR 1845
    2 Horatio Hobart GARDNER b: 29 MAR 1846
      + Mary A. LUNAR b: 21 DEC 1847
        3 Freeland Barney GARDNER b: 28 NOV 1868
        1920 was living in Jacksonville Ward 10, Duval Florida boardinghouse, age 49, married, born in Ill., father in NY, mother in Maryland, Manufacturing, Lumberman
         1930 In Ca as above and parents are correct, boarder, no occupation
    2 Hattie GARDNER b: 18 FEB 1851
    2 Nellie GARDNER b: 5 JAN 1858

Freeland B Gardner Pittsfield, Brown, WI abt 1820 New York
Lumberman who owned a boarding house with 35 other people house in it. All ship male builders and lumbermen except for one family with a wife and 4 children.

In 1835, Increase Claflin established a trading post at what laterbecame Little Sturgeon, and Claflin became the Door Peninsula’s first white settler. Although he only stayed a short time, others followed his lead and set up homesteads on the protected bay. Over the next several decades, modest pursuits in fur trading, fishing and farming characterized the village’seconomy. However, the arrival of Freeland Gardner in 1854 transformed the sleepy village into a prosperous commercial center. Claflin may have founded the settlement of Little Sturgeon, but Gardner built it into a thriving commercial center. Born in Elbridge, New York in 1817, Gardner moved from New York to Kenosha, Wisconsin at age 27, where he operated a dry goods business. He later relocated to Chicago to run a lumber handling facility. 

Around 1850, Gardner established a lumbermill in Pensaukee, Wisconsin. Seven years later, the enterprise included a steam and water mill, a large boardinghouse, and a dock for small steamers. Moving to Little Sturgeon in 1854,Gardner purchased Increase Claflin’s old homestead. By the fall of 1856, Gardner constructed a large lumbermill in Little Sturgeon capable of cutting long timbers for bridges and vessels. 

The following year, Gardner improved the mill by installing a larger engine, which enabled the facility to produce 4 million board feet of lumber. Later he added a lath mill, shingle mill and a circular saw. It did not take long for Gardner to expand his operations in Little Sturgeon. Soon a gristmill, boarding-houses, a general store, and rail extension from the mill to the bay’s docks all operated in the village. These developments marked the beginning ofa period in Door County’s history dubbed "The Golden Age of Little Sturgeon."

Logs into Ships 

On July 3, 1866, as part of the Independence Day celebration, there built vessel F.B Gardner slid into the waters of Little Sturgeon Bay. Over the previous winter and spring, crews lengthened the vessel 60 feet and converted it from a brig to a barque. This was the first vessel launched in Little Sturgeon. Gardner had obtained the services of Thomas Spear to manage the shipbuilding operations. Spear’s sons, an expert caulker and a carpenter, helped run the yard.

Later in 1866, Spear rebuilt the steamer Union and built the 92-foot John Spry. Suppliedwith timber felled from Gardner’s lumber camps and towed to his lumbermill, the shipyard built or rebuilt a total of ten vessels, plus an unknown number of scows and barges, over its nine-year tenure. All but two of the ten served in his fleet. Employing up to 60 workers, the yard remained the largest shipbuilding facility to operate in Door County before the twentieth century.

In 1868, Gardner sold his Little Sturgeon holdings to Erastus Baily and Tristam Vincent, for an estimated $100,000. Despite reports of favorable business and relations, Baily and Vincent ended their operation in Little Sturgeon in the fall of 1869, selling the facilities back to Gardner, who ably took over and shipped out in excess of 5 million board feet, 8 million cut shingles and 150 cords of wood that year.

In 1857, a fire swept through Gardner’s mill devouring 250,000 board feet of lumber, and causing $65,000 worth of damage. Gardner had no insurance, but managed to rebuild the following year cutting 1 million board feet with 50 men. These types of disasters were not uncommonin the world built of wood. On October 8, 1871, after a winter with little snow and a long dry summer, devastating fires swept across the west shore of Green Bay and the southern half of Door County. Known as the Peshtigo Fire, it was the deadliest in American history. With more than one million acres and 1,200 people devoured by the flames, the inferno wreaked more damage than the Great Chicago Fire that occurred the same night. 

Just south of Little Sturgeon sat Williamsonville, a small lumbering village of 76 people. The blaze completely destroyed the settlement, claiming every building and 59 residents. The fire advanced to Little Sturgeon, where Gardner’s laborers met it head on and battled the blaze with the bay’s water. "The fire had  come within a stone throw of the hamlet," wrote the State Gazette, "and when the scattering little population had made ready to plunge into the protecting shallows of the Bay, the flames were whirled off to the northward, and the town was saved." 

Little Sturgeon thrived in the wake of the disasters. After the fire, the Green Bay Advocate wrote that Little Sturgeon had "the finest dock and sawmill left standing on the peninsula. It … has expended $100,000 on piers, mills, shops, shipyards, store rooms, and tenement houses." Business at the mill continued to boom, and in 1872 it produced 7 million board feet of lumber, and over 7 million shingles. 

Feeding off the huge demand created by the Chicago, Peshtigo and Michigan fires of 1871, lumber concerns enjoyed a major market boom. However, a market collapse followed, compounded by the Panic of 1873, causing many companies to fail. Gardner, also facing personal financialtroubles, sold his entire Little Sturgeon holding to Spear for $26,000 in November 1875. Cutting pine along the Peshtigo River and rafting it across Green Bay to Little Sturgeon, Spear’s mill prospered.

In 1876 the Door County Advocate reported: Boards drop from the saw logs like shingles from a machine, and the men whose duty it is to "clear the saw"don’t loaf worth a cent. The amount of lumber turned out will average 65,000 feet a day in addition to the cants prepared for shingle bolts. The shingle machine … is managed by one of the best shingle sawyers in the West. The average drop is about 100,000 shingle a day. …Spear had the operation running more efficiently than ever, and cutover 13 million board feet of lumber in1876, with over 1 million board feet shipped directly to Europe. Aside from distant markets, the forests supplied Little Sturgeon’s other industries. Spear used lumber for his ship yard. The town’s lime kiln burned acres ofcord wood, and mountains of saw dust provided crucial insulation for ice harvested by the A.S. Piper Co. 

After escaping the flames of the Peshtigo Fire and the depression of 1873, the sawmill ran out of luck on February 22, 1877. Just north of the mill, smoke billowed from the blacksmith shop, and flames quickly engulfed the building. A strong wind pushed the blaze across the village.The mill and its contents were completely destroyed. This $30,000 loss, with only a third insured, proved more than Spear could endure and he sold his holdings, ending Little Sturgeon’s lumbering era. William Anger, who ran the lime kilns, purchased Spear’s interests, and soon sold the land to the A.S. Piper & Co. for their ice business. Reference:Gray, J.J