The Alford American Family Association
HOME    ·    Databases   ·    Contact Us   ·    Updates     




AAFA #0332

1910 MS –2007 TN




Memphis, Shelby Co., TN—Tuesday, 9 January 2007


            Lillian Johnson Gardiner, of Memphis, died peacefully at her home Monday, January 8, 2007. She was the daughter of Tyree LeRoy and Lillian Campbell Johnson of Humboldt, TN.

            After college she worked for the State Department of Agriculture in Nashville until World War II when she early became a member of the team of patriotic war workers at Wolf Creek Ordinance Plant in Milan, TN.

            After her marriage in 1944 to Lawrence Bridges Gardiner, of Memphis, where they made their home, she soon was an active worker in Idlewild Presbyterian Church. Later she and Mr. Gardiner became founding members of Independent Presbyterian Church. She was a charter member of the Tennessee Genealogical Society, she started and edited its magazine “Ansearchin News”. The Gardiners were interested in genealogical research and have several books of family history and tools of the trade to their credit, as well as being in demand for talks on various facets of research. This led naturally to her interest and membership in The National League of American Pen Women, a professional group of writers and artists. Lillian’s interest and work as a member of Mary Latham Chapter of United Daughters of The Confederacy led to an appointment to the “Civil War Centennial Commission” by the governor. Her interest in family history led to membership in many other Hereditary, Patriotic and Historical groups such as: The First Families of Virginia, The Jamestown Society, D. A. R. Ft. Assumption Chapter, Daughter of the American Colonists, of which she was honorary state president, The Order of the Crown, Colonial Clergy, The Colonial Dames of America, Chapter VII, The Descendents of the Knights of the Garter, thru which group she was a guest at Windsor Castle. A past leader of Garner Circle of King’s Daughters, life member of Brooks Museum League, and life member, for many years Parliamentarian of APTA; and long time member of E.S.U. She was also an honorary member of the Women’s Board of the Mid-South Fair. She was also proud of being a charter member of the UT Benefactors Society. When Lillian retired as National President of “The Huguenot Society, Founders of Manakin in The Colony of Virginia”, she was honored by the Tennessee Society by having “The Gardiner Scholarship Fund” founded, which was a thank you for the many hours the Gardiners spent in promoting the aims of the organization. Her many civic and social activities kept her active and interested.

            She was preceded in death by her husband, Lawrence Bridges Gardiner. She is survived by her sisters, Jane Johnson Smith of Gainesville, FL and Marian Johnson Graves of Memphis. She is also survived by several nephews, nieces and cousins as well as her caregivers, Lottie Wilson, Carol Johnson and Michelle Nichols.

            Visitation will be held at Independent Presbyterian Church at 1 p.m., Wednesday, January 10 with the funeral following at 2 p.m. Interment will be in Elmwood Cemetery. In lieu of flowers memorials may be sent to Independent Presbyterian Church, Elmwood Cemetery or the Huguenot Society. Canale Funeral Directors 901-452-6400.


Photo from Elmwood Cemetery, Memphis, Shelby Co., TN—

Permission granted by the photographer, Dale Schaefer


AAFA NOTES: SSDI records show that Lillian J. Gardiner (SS# issued in TN) was born 15 Aug 1910, last residence Memphis, Shelby Co., TN.

            She and her husband joined AAFA in 1990 and instead of birth dates she entered “50+.” She was actually age 80!

            Her nearest Alford ancestor is Elizabeth Alford, born 1719, of New Kent Co. VA, daughter of John & Grace Alford, who married John Bates. We don’t have her connecting lineage to Elizabeth Alford Bates.

            John Bennett Boddie’s book 1955 book Southside Virginia Families, Volume I, p. 84 [available at], says Lillian Janette Johnson was the daughter of Tyree LeRoy Johnson and Lillian Janette Campbell. She was “born in Greenwood, Miss., Aug. 15, 1910, and married Dec. 13, 1944 at Humboldt, Miss., Laurence Bridges Gardiner, born in Memphis Tenn., July 21, 1906, the son of Pearl Eglentine (Bridges) and Joseph Lock Gardiner.”


In a related article:



Memphis, Shelby Co., TN—Friday, 8 February 2008


House Full of History—Worried what would happen to home of childless couple, friends pool funds to buy it

By Michael Donahue


The house at 1863 Cowden was built by Laurence Gardiner's father in the late 1800s. Originally it was a  two-story structure, but a third floor was added after a fire around 1900.

The house at 1863 Cowden was built by Laurence Gardiner’s father in the late 1800s. Originally it was a two-story structure, but a third floor was added after a fire around 1900.


    Laurence and Lillian Gardiner had no children. Laurence died in 1994 at age 88. After   Lillian died  last year at 96, the Browns and the Higdons decided to buy the home from the estate.

Laurence and Lillian Gardiner had no children. Laurence died in 1994 at age 88. After Lillian died last year at 96, the Browns and the Higdons decided to buy the home from the estate.


[See more photos at]


            When they moved into their house on Cowden in the early ’90s, Joe and Paula Higdon were intrigued with the old three-story, wood-frame house next door.

            “You couldn’t see the house because the brush was so thick,” Joe said.

            They didn’t know much about the elderly man and woman—Laurence and Lillian Johnson Gardiner—who lived there. “We thought they were recluses because we never saw them,” Paula said.

            “I cut through the bushes and looked out back,” Joe said. “There was an old carriage house that had been converted into a chicken house. But there weren’t chickens in it; there were 500 pigeons. And you could smell them. I told Paula, ‘This is not going to last very long. I’ll call the health department and get this taken care of.’”

            “Well, when it was all said and done, Laurence was ill years later and I’m taking care of the pigeons for him.”

            They discovered Laurence Bridges Gardiner was a renowned cattle expert, genealogist, philanthropist and civic leader and the longest-serving member of the Mid-South Fair board. He was retired from his highly successful cattle breeding business, Pure Bred Jersey Sales Nationwide. Prior to that, he had been a field man for the American Jersey Cattle Club, traveling eight Southeastern states helping farmers find markets for milk.

            He’d raised pigeons most of his life. As a young man, he sold squab to The Peabody.

            Laurence and his wife, who were founding members of Independent Presbyterian Church, wrote books on genealogy. Her last book was “Our Indian Ancestry; Davis-Hess-Burks Campbell-Dunlap and Associated Lines.”

            Their 6,000-square-foot house with 12-foot ceilings and heart pine floors at 1863 Cowden was built in what is now Midtown by Laurence’s father in the late 1800s. The house originally had two stories, but another was added after a fire around the turn of the 20th century. The house was divided into apartments for relatives during the World War II housing shortage.

            Over the years, smaller houses were built on Cowden. “They watched three different generations of people go through here,” Joe said. “Nobody understood them very well anymore and nobody thought much about them anymore.”

            When they moved across the street in 2000, Mark and Courtney Brown met and became friends with Lillian and the Higdons.

            Laurence died when he was 88 in 1994. After Lillian’s death last year at age 96, the Browns and the Higdons, who had moved to a house on Belvedere, began seriously thinking about buying the Gardiners’ house. “I think everybody who’d ever seen that house had said, ‘Since they have no kids, I want that house,’” Mark said.

            He called Joe and said, “I don’t want it to fall in the wrong hands.”

            “We didn’t want everybody to go in there and just look at all their stuff,” Paula said. “It would have bothered them.”

            They decided to buy the house together from the estate. It sold for about $240,000. “So, we said, ‘50-50. No contract. We’ll shake hands and gentlemen’s agreement,’” Mark said. “And everything’s worked so far.”

            Mark remembered when they walked through the house for the first time after Lillian died. “We went on a tour of it and said, ‘There’s no way in the world we’re going to re-do this thing.’ It needed a lot of work. Every ceiling needs to be re-done. In 2000 (Lillian) had put about 30 grand into the outside, the story goes, new roof, paint and all that.”

            The house had a slate roof, but a conventional shingle roof was put on after the ice storm in the mid-1990s, Higdon said.

            A room used by Laurence for his office once housed pigeons. “At some point in time he had some pigeons get ill and he brought them in here to take care of them,” Joe said. “And he never moved them out.”

            Details of the house include colored tile around a fireplace, Victorian-looking wooden lions’ heads on another fireplace and Ionic columns on the front porch. The enclosed stairway in the entry hall apparently was free-standing at one time. The old newel post is in the attic.

            Mark brought in contractors to look at the house. “Two have done the full inspections. All of them have said, ‘You could hit it with a crashing ball and you wouldn’t hurt it. It’s just solid.’”

            The Higdons and the Browns thought about buying the house separately and restoring it.

            “We’re not as young as we used to be,” Paula said.

            “We live in that room right there, all three of us,” Courtney said, indicating the den in their house. “I don’t know what I’d do with a house that big.”

            They decided to clean out the Gardiner house and sell it for $279,000.

            The Gardiner house was packed with antiques. “It all came up the Mississippi from New Orleans,” Paula said. “There was a little bit of French, a little bit of English.”

            And, she said, there was an inlaid table that supposedly belonged to Napoleon. Someone from Nazi Germany “during the war came over and stayed with them and, for thanks, sent them this table.”

            “Laurence had no living relatives,” Joe said. “Lillian left everything to her two sisters. One’s in Knoxville and one’s in Florida.”

            The two sisters sent their children to take what they wanted.

            Most of the furniture and artwork is gone. “There were two huge portraits here. Family portraits,” Paula said as she walked through pocket doors separating the parlor from the dining room. “They were oils from the 1800s. It was a man and a woman.”

            Trunks, quilts and some furniture and art were left. “I found a World War II uniform in one of those two trunks,” Mark said.

            Paula found some love letters from Lillian to Laurence.

            “They didn’t marry until they were in their 40s ,” she said. “They met at a Strawberry Festival in Humboldt.”

            The family left numerous books and papers. Two rooms of the house were devoted to the dairy industry. Mark called Cherie Bayer, director of development with the American Jersey Cattle Society.

            Last summer, Bayer visited Memphis and took back books and papers.

            “I think the thing that struck me was, first off, this gentlemen’s dedication to the pure-bred Jersey industry at a very important time in this organization’s history (the late ‘40s and early ‘50s),” Bayer said. “He was a meticulous correspondent and kept everything—literally.

            “At that point in time, he knew everybody and was involved in some of the critical decisions that affected where this association went.”

            And, she said, “Those are the kinds of things that put a little bit of person in the business of cows.”

            The Browns and Higdons have just about finished cleaning out the house. “You just had to turn your back and say, ‘We’re gonna throw it out,’” Joe said. “One thing I’ve learned from all this is don’t let somebody else throw away your old stuff. At some point in time you’ve got to turn your back and just do it.”

            Walking through the house brings back pleasant memories.

            The Higdons remembered how excited the Gardiners were the day the Higdons’ daughter was born. “It must have been 105 degrees outside and they were sitting out on the porch in their pajamas waiting for us to get home,” Paula said. “They never had any children of their own.”

            Lillian enjoyed having the Higdons’ daughter at her home. “She was a Daughter of the American Revolution, had the teas and all that. I think she invited me over there with the baby so we’d run all those old ladies out of the house.”

            On July 4, 1994, the Higdons brought over fireworks and grilled hotdogs and hamburgers in the Gardiners’ front yard.

            It became a neighborhood tradition. “We would close the whole street off and everyone would bring a dish,” Paula said.

            “I feel so fortunate that we got to know them. They were great people.”