Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Gardner Family Papers, 1776-1789

Finding aid created by
Philip Heslip, October 2009

Summary Information
Title: Gardner family papers
Creator: Gardner, Theophilus
Inclusive dates: 1776-1789
Extent: 10 items
The Gardner family papers document the management of Joseph Gardner's Jamaica plantation after his death in 1780. The letters primarily concern Joseph's brother Theophilus Gardner, a Philadelphia merchant, who inherited the estate and attempted to manage and sell the property over the course of the following decade.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1993. M-2931.4.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Gardner Family Papers, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is arranged chronologically.


Joseph Gardner owned a sugar plantation called Estate Mount Tirzah in Savanalamar, Jamaica. Gardner’s business affairs concerning the plantation were unsettled at the time of his death in 1780. His brother, Theophilus Gardner, a merchant living in Philadelphia, spent the next several years trying to manage or sell the property from afar, and in 1789 went to Jamaica to deal with the estate.

Information about either Joseph or Theophilus Gardner is scarce. Theophilus was a member of the Westmoreland parish church and probably married Mary Dyer in 1758 in Philadelphia.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Gardner family papers consists of 7 letters, 2 drafts of letters, and 1 financial document. The financial document is a note for £1103 with interest, addressed to John Gardner. The next six items are letters sent to Joseph's eldest brother Theophilus Gardner, who was the "heir at law" to the estate.

Items include the following letters: James White of Savanalamar, Jamaica, who informed Theophilus of his brother's death (1780); Andrew A. Robinson of Kingston, Jamaica, who warned that the estate was being mismanaged (1784); John Wedderburn, temporary manager of the estates, who described the production of and debts accrued by the estate and looked into having the property sold (1785 and 1786); and John Cunningham of Montego Bay, Jamaica, who took over the estate management (1789). The final three items are letters from Theophilus Gardner while he is in Jamaica with his daughter Betsy, including a letter and draft to his wife Peggy in New York, in which he described in detail his efforts to settle the estate (1789). The final item is a draft of a letter, written by Theophilus Gardner, that further details dealings with the estate (1789). These documents provide insight into plantation management and the difficulties of estate transfers in 18th-century Jamaica.

Subject Terms

    • Estates (law)--Jamaica.
    • Finance, Personal.
    • Jamaica--History.
    • Plantation life.
    • Plantations--Jamaica--Management.
    • Plantation owners--Jamaica--Economic conditions.
    • Robinson, Andrew A.
    • Rum industry.
    • Sugar trade.
    • Wedderburn, John.
    • White, James.
    • Gardner, Joseph.
    Genre Terms:
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Promissory notes.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   2, Small Collections  
    Gardner family papers [series]
    Folder   7  
    Edward Jackson and Robert D. Jackson to Joseph Gardner,  June 1, 1776
    James White to Theophilus Gardner,  May 21, 1780
    Andrew A. Robinson to Theophilus Gardner,  April 25, 1784
    John Wedderburn to Theophilus Gardner,  March 1785
    John Wedderburn to Theophilus Gardner,  January 5, 1786
    Folder   8  
    John Wedderburn to Theophilus Gardner,  April 25, 1786
    John Cunningham to Theophilus Gardner,  April 21, 1789
    Theophilus Gardner to Peggy,  September 3, 1789
    Theophilus Gardner,  December 31, 1789
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements library has several collections pertaining to colonial Jamaica including: