Archibald Gardner

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For the federal judge, see Archibald K. Gardner.
Archibald Gardner

Archibald Gardner (September 2, 1814 – February 8, 1902) was a 19th-century pioneer and businessman who helped establish communities in Alvinston, Ontario; West Jordan, Utah; and Star Valley, Wyoming based on flour mills and lumber mills. After 1858 he was a local leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) for 32 years.

As a businessman, millwright and practical engineer, Archibald Gardner built 36 gristmills and lumber mills, 23 in Utah, six in Canada, five in Wyoming, and two in Idaho. He also built hundreds of miles of canals, and many bridges in Utah.

Alvinston, Ontario[edit]

Archibald was born on September 2, 1814 in Kilsyth, Scotland. Archibald, brother Robert, and their mother emigrated to eastern Upper Canada (near Port Dalhousie) in 1822, about one year after their father, sister Mary, and brother William.[1] At 17, Archibald built his first mill by following the direction of his father. Six years later Archibald went on his own, moving to southwestern Ontario. In Alvinston, Ontario he built a gristmill in 1837 on the east end of the sixth concession of Brooke township. As was common to the technology of the period, Archibald Gardner's gristmills were "built without nails. Wooden pins and mortises were used instead. All shafts, bearings, cog wheels, etc. were of wood..."[2] Gristmills often formed the economic center of a community, producing flour to bake bread. The gristmill area was on a hill that faces Alvinston. The area was called Gardner's Mill for several years. Archibald also built a saw mill in this area to produce shingles. Under business pressure, mostly based on his joining the LDS Church, Gardner sold his Alvinston area mills at a reduced price. Archibald fled Canada in 1846 for the United States, documenting a miracle escape across an ice flow filled river.[3]

Mormon pioneer[edit]

In 1845, while living in Brooke, Kent, Western District, Canada (near Sarnia, Ontario), later named Alvinston, Gardner followed the example of family members and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Archibald was forced by a 'legal' mob to flee to Detroit across a partly frozen river based on a false warrant (years later $10,000 was paid to Archibald for the business transaction that had caused the false warrant).[citation needed] The family and others, 100 wagons total, left Canada, meeting up with Archibald in Joliet, Illinois. The Canadian group tried to meet up with Brigham Young in Nauvoo, Illinois. The group stayed in Nauvoo two weeks, and then caught up with the Mormon Exodus at Winter Quarters, Nebraska. In 1859, Gardner became an LDS Church bishop of a local ward of about 600 members, a position that he held for 32 years.

Life in the West[edit]

Arriving in Utah in 1847, Gardner first built, with his brothers William, and Robert, a mill near Warm Springs. In 1848 the family moved the mill to a site on Mill Creek where the water flow was greater, in time for the fall harvest. There the family claimed to have sawed the first lumber in the Salt Lake Valley.[2] West Jordan business boomed with the building of a gristmill. "Gardner Mill inspired a cluster of small industries, including blacksmith shops, logging and hauling operations, woolen and carding mills, a tannery, several stores, a shoe shop, and later a broom factory".[2] In total Archibald, partnering with many others, built 23 mills in Utah, with several of the mills selling its products to Camp Floyd and Fort Douglas. Archibald, working with other partners, also built miles of canals, tunnels and bridges. Archibald's canals, tunnels and bridges of this period were predominantly reimbursed by the Utah territorial legislature.

Archibald was also a miner and land developer, partnering and selling several mining properties. The largest was a site in Bingham Canyon, south of West Jordan, Utah, that was found in 1863 while logging with a partner.[4] For several years Archibald was the county recorder, recording mining claims and other deeds in the Bingham Canyon area. From 1878-1882 Gardner served in the Utah Territorial Legislature.

Archibald, and brother Robert, became polygamists by the requests of Brigham Young, and the approval of their first wives. The last of Archibald's 11 wives was 'illegal', taking place after the 1862 Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. Due to an unsettled polygamist status after 1882, Archibald was chased by federal agents enforcing anti-polygamy laws. In 1886 a trip to California to visit brother William was made. On his last trip evading federal agents Archibald visited Mexico, and brother Robert in southern Utah. In 1889 Archibald established a home in Afton, Wyoming (Star Valley). In Star Valley additional mills were built, he lived near and with two wives, Laura Althea Thompson, his fifth, and Mary Larson, his 11th, and near or with several of his 48 children. When Althea died in Afton in 1896, Archibald buried her in the Salt Lake cemetery's Gardner family plot. Archibald stayed on in Utah building another gristmill in Spanish Fork. Archibald Gardner died on February 8, 1902, and is buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. A new headstone was dedicated after a 1990 Afton, Wyoming family reunion when 5,000 of his 10,000 descendants attended.


Gardner's life is memorialized by a plaque in Alvinston,[5] and a monument in Afton Wyoming,[6] and a restored gristmill at Gardner Village. The site where Archibald built his original flour mill in West Jordan, Utah is now known as Gardner Village and features a collection of other early pioneer homes that now house shops and a restaurant dedicated to him called Archibald's Restaurant.[7]

Olympic Greco-Roman wrestling gold medalist Rulon Gardner is the great-great-grandson of Archibald Gardner.[8]


  1. ^ Dobson, David (1984–1993), Scottish Settlers in North America, 1625-1825, 5, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., p. 97 
  2. ^ a b c Bartholomew, Becky Bartholomew (November 1995), "Gardner Mill and the Birth of Salt Lake Valley's West Side", History Blazer , as found in an online reprint on the "Utah History to Go" section of
  3. ^ Archibald Gardner Journal, 1814-1857[non-primary source needed]
  4. ^ Powell, Allen Kent, ed. (1994), "The Oquirrh Mountains", Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City: University Press, University of Utah [not in citation given]
  5. ^ "Alvinston and Area History", Alvinston Community Website, Alvinston Community Access Program, Lambton County Library System, p. 1 [not in citation given]
  6. ^ "Archibald Gardiner (Afton Wyoming Monument)",, UntraveledRoad, LLC 
  7. ^ Wadley, Carma (2002-12-01), "Gardner Village: One woman's dream now an award-winning country retail outlet", Deseret News, p. M01, retrieved 2013-02-08 
  8. ^ Gardner, Rulon; Bob Schaller (2005). Never Stop Pushing. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 43. ISBN 0-7867-1593-6. Retrieved 2011-01-31. 

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