Sunderland P. Gardner was born in Rensselaerville, Albany Co., New York and moved with his parents to Farmington, Ontario Co., New York in 1814, when he was about 12 years old. In his youth, while tending to the family livestock, Sunderland P. Gardner would often kneel and pray near a large stone that sat at the north end of his father's farm, seeking guidance from God. He began attending services of the Society of Friends at the urging of his father, and always considered that his regular attendance at religious meetings when he was a child continued to be of great advantage to him as an adult.
When he was 23 years old he married Mary Willet, who died one year later, leaving him with one daughter (Mary, who married Nathaniel Powell). His second wife was Lament Gatchell (no children). Some years after the death of Lament, he married Annette H. Bell of Crawford Co., Pa., by which he had three sons: Sunderland P. Gardner, Jr., Oscar B. Gardner, and Anson L Gardner.
At the age of 30 he was called to the ministry and eventually became a leading voice among the religious Society of Friends (Quakers) throughout the United States and Canada. Besides other Gospel work, Sunderland P. Gardner was called upon to preach over 3,000 funeral sermons; during one year he estimated that he had traveled over nine thousand miles in the course of his religious visits among Friends. He worked constantly in a spirit of love and sympathy to the bereaved and sorrow-stricken, and his services on such occasions were much in demand. His sermons were always delivered extemporarily, as Gardner would not speak unless he felt that his words reflected the teachings of the Gospel. At times this practice was misunderstood, and impatience would be expressed; however, once Gardner began speaking with his characteristic plainness and vigor, he was listened to with great attention.
Gardner held no regard for the weather, travelling in rain or snow, by foot, horse, or train, to make his appointments. He once remarked that during a 42 year period he preached 2,261 sermons. News of his arrival always drew large attendance, and he was especially welcome in Canada. During the Pelham Half Year's Meeting in 1889, when he was 87 years old, nearly 1,000 people gathered to hear him preach at the First Day Meeting. Gardner did not limit his appearances to religious gatherings, as attested by his visit to Auburn State Prison in 1856.
According to his wishes, his dear friend Isaac Wilson - of Bloomfield, Canada - spoke at his funeral. Wilson read from Ps. 37: 37 - "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." Despite severely cold weather, the attendance was very large. A great man had passed the mortal plain.
Biographical sketch researched and written by Michael S. Smith, a descendant of Sunderland P. Gardner's youngest brother Thomas P. Gardner.
The Gardner Family. Charles H. Gardner, 1923.
A History of The Society of Friends in Canada. Arthur G. Dorland, Ph. D., 1927.
Memoirs of the Life and Religious Labors of Sunderland P. Gardner. Sunderland P. Gardner, 1895.