Secor Family Genealogy: Exploring Our Ancestry

Lion Gardiner and Gardiner's Island

We have a double dose of Gardiner blood in our ancestry. Two of our ancesters were daughters of David Gardiner, Lion Gardiner's son, the first white child to be born in Connecticut. We are related to the Gardiners in the Secor line.

Lion Gardiner was born in England in 1599. He was an engineer in the English Army and was sent to Holland (an ally) to help with fortifications for the Prince of Orange. During this time he married a Dutch woman, Mary Wilemson, and was offered the job to go to Connecticut to build a fort at the mouth of the Connecticut River, Fort Saybrook. They crossed from Holland to England in then to Boston on the Batcheler in 1635 and stayed in Boston for the winter to finalize preparations for Saybrook. The Connecticut River Valley was also very attractive land for the natives, who were not happy with the European settlement.

There is quite a bit of documentation about what happened at Saybrook with too much detail to go into here. The fort was built and soon the trouble with the Pequots began. The colonial officials wanted the Pequots to hand over the murderers of a Captain Stone and some others. When the Pequots refused, the negotiators meeting with them returned a gift of peace that the Pequots had given them. The Pequots interpreted this as war. Lion Gardiner was hit by quite a few arrows in one battle, but, according to his own words, his "buff coat" saved his life. As the war raged on, Roger Williams negotiated peace with the Narragansett and Mohegan tribes and then the colonists sent a party of 90 to attack the main Pequot settlement, which ended the war.

As Lion Gardiner was finishing out his 4 year contract at Fort Saybrook, he negotiated the purchase of Manchonat, an island off the coast eastern Long Island from the Indians. He named the island the Isle of Wight and obtained the appropriate permissions to make it independent from New England and New York. Gardiner is said to have treated Native Americans with respect and was life long friends with a Montauk named Wyandanch. While all of the Indians on Long Island weren't friendly with the English settlers, Gardiner's friendship with Wyandanch allowed the English to settlements relatively safe.

Lion Gardiner was a major player in the purchase of the land and founding of the town of East Hampton. He is buried in East Hampton in a grave marked by an elaborate monument erected in 1886. The Isle of Wight was later renamed Gardiner's Island. The land is still in possession of the family and contains a manor house built in 1774, a storage shed that is one of the oldest wood frame buildings in the U.S., and a 3,000 acre stand of old growth forest. Since maintenance of the island is so high and the trust put in place to pay for it is depleted, the owners negotiated a conservation easement with the city of East Hampton, with a stipulation that no development will occur on the island.

Most of the above is summarized from: Gardiner, Curtiss C. 1890. Lion Gardiner and his descendants. St. Louis: A. Whipple.

Some links about Lion Gardiner, his family and Gardiner's Island