I believe it to be right for me to leave some account of the vicissitudes and various exercises through which I have passed during my probation, and of the dealings of a gracious and merciful God with me, hoping that some at least who read me may be induced to shun the paths of folly, and improve their time and talents in such a way as to give glory to God and promote peace and good-will among men.
I was born the fourth day of the Seventh month, 1802, in the town of Rensselaerville (now Westerlo), Albany County, New York. My father's name was Elisha W. Gardner, and my mother's maiden name was Sarah Pattison; neither of them made any particular profession of religion. My father's native place was South Kingston, R. I.; his great-grandfather, William Gardner, who died in 1748, was one of the early settlers of that part of the country, and located on what was called McSparran Hill; the line of our family was through his son John, next William, who was my grandfather, who with his family settled in Albany County, N. Y., about the year 1790.The families formerly held slaves, and I remember seeing some of these who, in their state of freedom, were industrious, respectable people.
My mother's native place was in the town of Armenia, Dutchess Co., N.Y. Her grandfather, Thomas Pattison, came from the north of Ireland and settled in the colony of Connecticut; two of his brothers, William and John, came with him, one of whom settled in New Jersey or Virginia; their descendents are numerous in the United States.
Her grandfather's name on her mother's side was William Utter, whose family was mostly destroyed by Indians during the French war. They resided in the town of Coshocton, Sullivan County, N. Y. His wife, eight children, one white man and one colored servant were scalped and left dead on the floor; the father and one son being absent, returned next morning to behold the terrible sight, and to learn that two young girls about seven and nine years old had been carried away prisoners. Overwhelmed by grief they buried their friends with their own hands; the two girls, Hannah and Sarah, the latter of whom was my grandmother, were held in cruel captivity eleven months, and then redeemed by an exchange of prisoners. The father could not bear this severe affliction; he returned to Connecticut, and died of grief. Oh the horrors of war!
(EDITOR'S NOTE: For a lengthier account of the 1757 Wyoming Valley Massacre, written by Thomas Pattison, a cousin of Sunderland Gardner, go to: The Wyoming Valley Massacre of 1757).
I was the eldest of my father's family, and a great deal of care devolved upon me toward the younger children. It being rather an unfavorable country for people in limited circumstances, we all had to labor, which I have ever considered a blessing to us, except to my mother, who suffered her ambition and interest for her family to stimulate her work beyond her strength, which was the cause of much pain and feebleness during the latter years of her life. I think few mothers ever did more with their own hands for their children than she did for hers.
My privilege for getting school-learning was limited, both on account of the manner in which the schools were mostly kept in that vicinity and the necessity for my services at home for more than nine months of the year. I found, however, that some knowledge might be gained by improving such leisure hours as are generally spent by many lads in recreation or idleness; and in this way I acquired sufficient learning to do such business as I had deemed proper to undertake.
My natural disposition and will were very strong, but even in childhood I felt an inward check upon them which was both powerful and clear, so much so that I cannot refer to any period of my life in which I listened to and obeyed the Counselor which spake to my spiritual understanding, great was my peace and joy; but when I suffered my own will to gain the ascendancy and carry me beyond the bounds of propriety, sorrow and anguish of spirit were the consequence.
My mother would frequently, when at work, seat me near her and instruct me to read in the Bible, and would explain passages in answer to my many questions - endeavoring to impress my mind with the value of the more important subjects set forth in the Scriptures. Her labor and care in these respects had a tendency to fix principles in my mind which have not been eradicated, though too frequently neglected or apparently forgotten. I have not language to express the gratitude that flows from my heart to that dear mother.
Oh that mothers, especially young mothers, were more fully sensible of the effect that their influence has upon the subsequent conduct and lives of their children. It is to them more particularly that the care of the children is confided; they only possess that maternal feeling and tenderness which is adapted to the mental as well as physical wants of the children; it is very much with them in giving the first lessons of instruction to mould their minds and manners; the tender, innocent mind needs proper counsel and direction, and also like the tender plant needs protection from the rudeness of the storm. The mother next to God stands highest, in her stewardship to preserve immortal minds in innocence and prepare them for a glorious eternity.
In our neighborhood were people who held many foolish and hurtful traditions concerning witches and devils which for a time caused me to be afraid to be out in the evening alone, but I early became convinced of the absurdity of such things.