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Item of the Week: Gardiner Family Gossip From 1889

Wed, 03/27/2024 - 18:46

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

On July 16, 1889, while staying in Lenox, Mass., Sarah Diodati Gardiner Thompson (1807-1891) wrote to her daughter Sarah Thompson Gardiner (1829-1916). At the time, her daughter was staying near the popular vacation spot of Lake Winnipesaukee in Holderness, N.H., at a hotel called Asquam House.

Sarah Thompson begins by referring to the death of First Lady Julia Gardiner Tyler (1820-1889), the sister of Sarah T. Gardiner’s husband, Col. David Lion Gardiner (1816-1892), reporting that she had heard about the loss only in the newspapers until the Gardiners’ Horsford cousins came to see her with more details. Phoebe Dayton Gardiner Horsford (1826-1900) and her daughter Cornelia Horsford (1861-1944) had visited her.

Sarah Thompson then reflected on the work “Mrs. Tyler” — presumably Julia Tyler’s daughter-in-law, Sarah Gardiner Tyler (1848-1927), the wife of John Alexander Tyler (1848-1883) — did in “beautifying” and building a “monument” for her late husband “and Julia.”

She goes on to share additional gossip with her daughter from the Horsfords regarding Julia’s other son, Robert Fitzwalter Tyler (1856-1927). Apparently, “Fitz Walter” was “married last winter very much to the surprise of his mother and every one else.” Sarah tells her daughter that his wife is “much older than himself,” but his relatives seemed to think his bride would take care of him and help him with his farm.

The letter seems to refer to Robert Fitzwalter Tyler’s Oct. 15, 1888, wedding to his first wife, Fannie A. Glinn Tyler (circa 1851-1902), who was probably only about five years older than her husband.

Sarah Thompson closes with an update about her son Frederick Diodati Thompson (1850-1906), who wrote from Rotterdam in the Netherlands and planned to travel next to Copenhagen in Denmark. Frederick’s travels would take him around the world, and four years after the date of this letter he published “In the Track of the Sun,” an account of his globetrotting.


Andrea Meyer, a librarian and archivist, is head of collection for the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.

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