Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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GARDINER, Lion, military engineer, born in England in 1599; died in Easthampton, New York, in 1663. He was an officer of the English army, and served in the Netherlands. While thus employed he was persuaded by Hugh Peters, and other Englishmen then residing in that country, to enter the service of a company of lords and gentlemen, the proprietors of a tract of land lying at the mouth of the Connecticut River, he was to serve for four years, and to be employed in drawing plans for a City, towns, and forts in that locality, and to have 300 able-bodied men under his control. On his arrival in Boston on 28 November, 1635, the authorities requested him to draft designs for a fort. This he did, and a committee was appointed to supervise the erection of the work, each citizen being compelled to contribute two days' labor. Gardiner then sailed for his destination and proceeded to build a fort, which he named Saybrook, after Lord Say and Seal and Lord Brook. Here he remained for four years during the exciting period of the Pequot war. In 1639 he purchased from its Indian owners an Island called by them Manchonat, which he renamed the Isle of Wight, but which has since been known as Gardiner's Island. This was the first English settlement within the present boundaries of New York state. While at Saybrook a son was born to him, 29 April, 1636, which was the first white child born in Connecticut. His daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in the " Isle of Wight," was the first white child born in New York. The original grant by which Gardiner acquired proprietary rights in the Island made it an entirely separate and independent " plantation," in no way connected either with New England or New York. He was empowered to draft laws for Church and state, observing the forms, so ran the instrument, " agreable to God, to the king and to the practices of the country." Several other patents were subsequently issued, the last by Governor Dongan, erecting the Island into a lordship and manor to be called " Gardiner's Island," giving Gardiner full powers to hold "court leer and court baron, distrain for rents, exercise the rights of advowson," etc. The Island is now a part of the township of Easthampton, Suffolk County, New York, and is nine miles long and a mile and a half wide, containing about 3,300 acres. Lion Gardiner was a man of sterling qualities, and acquired the esteem of all with whom he came in contact. In the autumn of 1886 a recumbent effigy was erected to his memory, and his supposed grave was opened. In it a skeleton was found intact. It was that of a man over six feet in height, with a broad forehead and strong jaws. The Island was entailed on the first male heirs of the Gardiner family, and was never to be alienated. These conditions were observed up to the close of the last century, DAVID JOHNSON, the eighth lord of the manor, who died in 1829, being the last to receive the property by entail. His brother, JOHN GRISWOLD, succeeded as ninth lord, but died, unmarried and intestate, in 1861. The third brother, SAMUEL BUEL, having purchased the interest of his sister, Mrs. Sarah Diodati Thompson, became the tenth proprietor. At his death, in 1882, the Island was left to his eldest son, DAVID JOHNSON, as eleventh lord of the manor; but it is now (1887) owned by the latter's brother, JOHN LYON. This is the only illustration of the practical working of the law of primogeniture in this country, covering so long a period. The manor-house, built in 1774, is shown in the accompanying illustration. During the life of JOHN, the third owner, the Island was visited by Captain Kidd, who deposited goods and treasure there, which were secured by Governor Bellomont after Kidd's death. (See KIDD, WILLIAM.) During the early part of the last century the Island was frequently visited and pillaged by privateersmen, smugglers, and free-booters, and suffered greatly from their depredations. The British fleet made Gardiner's bay a rendezvous during the Revolution, and took supplies from the island. The same thing occurred during the war of 1812-'15 between the United States and England, and in 1869 it was selected as the rallying-point of an expedition intended to liberate Cuba from the Spanish yoke.
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