Mills Gardner, attorney-at-law, Washington, was born at Russellville. Brown County, Ohio, January 30, 1830, and is a son of Scth and Elma S. (Barrere) Gardner. His father was a native of New York, and his mother of Ohio. They had a family of three children.
Our subject was married, October 9, 1851, to Miss Margaret A. Morrow, daughter of John Morrow, of Highland County. They have two children—Gertrude and Hortense. Mr. Gardner has always lived in this state, and has resided in Fayette County since 1854. He received a common school education, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1855, and has followed the profession since. He was prosecuting attorney of Fayette County for four years; was a member of the state senate in 1862-64; was a presidential elector on the Lincoln ticket, in 1864; was a member of the state house of representatives in 1866-68; was a member of the state constitutional convention of Ohio, in 1873; and was elected to the forty-fifth congress, as a Republican, receiving 16,549 votes against 16,098 votes for John S. Savage, Democrat.
From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County
The late Mills Gardner, of Washington, C. H., Ohio, was one of the distinguished lawyers and educated men of his day and was a son of one of the honored families of Ohio. A man of high moral character and unimpeachable integrity, persistent industry and excellent professional judgment, he stood as a leader in his state for nearly half a century, in the largest and best sense of the term. Mr. Gardner was one of the notable men of his day and generation and as such is entitled to a conspicuous place in the annals of his state. As a citizen he was public-spirited and enterprising to an unwonted degree. As a statesman he was the peer of any of his contemporaries. As a business man he exercised those qualities which distinguish men of industry; and, as a friend and neighbor, he combined those qualities of head and heart that won confidence and commanded respect.
Hon. Mills Gardner, the son of Seth and Elma Sands (Barrere) Gardner, was born at Russellville. Brown county, Ohio, January 30, 1830, and died at Washington C. H., Ohio, on the 20th day of February, 1910. His father was born in New York and his mother in Ohio. For most of their married life they lived in Russellville, Ohio, where they reared their three sons, George B., Mills and Thomas. Seth Gardner was a merchant in Russellville for many years and died there late in life. His widow, Elma S. Gardner, died in Washington C. H. at the age of eighty-five. Seth Gardner was a son of Benjamin and Lucy (Hawks) Gardner. Benjamin Gardner was born in Exeter, Washington county, Rhode Island, and served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. The maternal grandfather of Mills Gardner was George W. Barrere and his wife was Abigail Mills, both of whom were natives of Virginia.
Mills Gardner received his early education in the common schools of New Market, Highland county, Ohio, and afterwards attended an academy taught by the Rev. John Rankin at Ripley, Ohio. He left school when he was fourteen years of age to enter a dry goods store as clerk. It was while he was working as a clerk in this store that he began the study of law under the supervision of his uncle, Hon. Nelson Barrere, of Hillsboro, Ohio. In 1854 Mr. Gardner moved to Washington C. H., Ohio, where he lived until his death. He was admitted to the bar in 1855 and was engaged in the practice of his profession and in public service for the remainder of his days.
Mr. Gardner was a life-long Republican and was a leader of his party for more than a quarter of a century. In 1855 he was elected prosecuting attorney of Fayette county and re-elected to the same position, serving four years. In 1862 he was elected to the State Senate and served two years in the Legislature. In 1864 Mr. Gardner was presidential elector from his congressional district and voted for Abraham Lincoln. In 1866 he was elected to the House of Representatives in the State Legislature and served for one term. His next public service was as a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1872, to which he was elected by the voters in his district. The highest official position to which he attained was that of member of Congress, to which he was elected in the fall of 1876. He was a member of the forty-fifth Congress from the third congressional district of Ohio, and in the same year was a member of the Republican national convention, which nominated Rutherford B. Hayes for President. While in Congress, Mr. Gardner sat between the two martyred Presidents, James A. Garfield and William McKinley, and was a warm friend of both men. This position completed the official career of Mr. Gardner, which gave him distinction.
As a lawyer Mr. Gardner had a large practice and as a pleader before the jury he had few equals in the state. He was interested in business affairs and was a stockholder in several financial institutions of his county. He was president of the Commercial Bank for several years. He built one of the most beautiful residences in Washington C. H., where his two daughters are still residing.
Mr. Gardner was always an active worker in the Methodist Episcopal church and was one of the committee which built the present church at Washington C. H. This was the third church of this denomination and Mr. Gardner had helped to build the first two as well. He was a very liberal contributor to the church and was never happier than when engaged in some kind of religious work. He conducted a large men's class and a Bible school for several years and was regarded as a most efficient teacher.
The domestic life of Mr. Gardner was very happy. He was married at the early age of twenty-one, in October, 1851, to Margaret Ann Morrow, the daughter of John and Martha Morrow. There were nine children born to Mr. Gardner and his wife, all having died in childhood with the exception of two daughters, Gertrude and Edith Hortense, both of whom are still living. Mrs. Gardner died October 20, 1898, and her husband survived her only a few years. The two daughters, Gertrude and Edith, took care of their father very tenderly after their mother's death. These two daughters are very prominent members of society and interested in everything pertaining to the advancement of the educational and religious welfare of their city. They were both active workers in the church and their influence is always used for the best things.
From History of Fayette County Ohio - Her People, Industries and Institutions by Frank M. Allen (1914, R. F. Bowen & Company, Inc.)
The official work of this gentleman has extended over many years and has brought him prominently before the gaze of the public, and in him his constituents have found a man of ability and integrity and one whose activities have ever been employed for the good of the community. He now makes his home in Washington C. H., with whose interests he has been connected since 1854.
The original of this sketch was born in Russellville, Brown County, Ohio, January 30, 1830, thus being one day older than James G. Blaine. His parents, Seth and Elma S. (Barrere) Gardner, were natives respectively of New York and Ohio. The father followed the combined occupations of merchant, hotel-keeper and farmer, and, emigrating to Brown County in an early day, departed this life in 1871, aged eighty-one years.
Mills Gardner received a good practical education in the common schools of Highland County, after which he engaged as clerk for an uncle for nine years at New Market. During that time, he read law with his uncle. Nelson Barrere, of Hillsboro, and in 1855 was admitted to the Bar. Our subject has built up a very flattering reputation, and from 1856 to 1860 was Prosecuting Attorney. In 1861, he was elected State Senator, during which time he served on many important committees in the Senate. He was later a member of the House of Representatives of the Ohio Legislature, during the years 1866 and 1867, and served as Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1872 and 1873. He was also a member of the Forty-fifth Congress, his term beginning on the 4th of March, 1877, the day on which President Hayes was inaugurated. Previous to the formation of the Republican party, the Hon. Mr. Gardner voted the Whig ticket. In connection with his duties as a lawyer, our subject is a member of the Ludlow Soap Company and the Washington Stamping Company.
October 9, 1851, Miss Margaret A., daughter of John Morrow, was united in marriage with our subject. They have become the parents of two daughters, Gertrude and Edith, both of whom are at home. Mr. Gardner, with his family, is an influential member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with which denomination he has been connected for over forty years, during that time serving as Superintendent of the Sunday-school and as a member of the Board of Trustees. In social matters, he is connected with Fayette Lodge, Fayette Chapter, Fayette Council and Garfield Commandery of the Free and Accepted Masons.
The mother of our subject was known in her maidenhood as Miss Elma Sands Barrere. She was the daughter of George W. and Abbie (Mills) Barrere and was born in New Market, Highland County, Ohio, July 4, 1806. She was married to Seth Gardner in 1827 and became the mother of three sons, viz.: George B., our subject and Thomas F.
Grandfather George W. Barrere was born at Wheeling, W. Va., March 17, 1770, and on emigrating to Kentucky was there married. In 1803, he removed to Highland County, this State, and reared a large family of five sons and three daughters, whose average life was seventy-eight and one-half years. The mother of our subject departed this life July 13, 1891, in this city, and was the last of this remarkably long-lived family to pass to the land beyond. She was a very strong-minded woman, having not only convictions as to right and wrong, good and evil, the true and the false, but had also the courage of her convictions. She kept herself well informed upon subjects of general interest and always manifested a lively and loving interest in the welfare of young people, who in turn loved, confided in and were devoted to her, finding in her society' a delight and joy that grew as their knowledge of her character increased.
From PORTRAIT & BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD OF FAYETTE, PICKAWAY AND MADISON COUNTIES, OHIO - Chapman Bros. [Chicago, 1892]