Friday, October 12, 2012
Mary Gardner has been found!
Actually, Mary Gardner was never lost. This mystery began last April when I wrote a column on Mary Gardner, the recipient of a Winyah High School diploma dated June 8, 1923. The diploma was given to me by a friend, Barry Price, who found it in a Lowcountry antique store.
I wrote the column hoping to find some of Mary’s living relatives. Through my own research of early Federal Census records, I found a four-year-old Mary C. Gardner living in Georgetown in 1910.
I also searched the “Georgetown County Cemeteries” records created by The National Society of the Colonial Dames, Georgetown Committee. I found graves for two people who were listed as being in the same household as four-year old Mary. They were Annie Conklin Gardner, 1882–1955, and James Edward Gardner, 1877–1924. They’re buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Georgetown.
Was this the same Mary Gardner who graduated from Winyah High School in 1923? Were these her parents?
Last week, the mystery was solved. I received a phone call from Mary Gardner’s niece, Rosalind Gardner Funk, of Columbia. Next, I got a call from Mary Gardner’s grandson, Bob Davis, of Peachtree City, Georgia. Finally, I received an email from Mary Gardner’s granddaughter, Jackie Davis Abels of Charleston.
Putting all of their information together, I found out that Mary Gardner grew up in a house just one block from where I live today. The house was on the corner of Wood and Highmarket streets, at one time the site of the U.S. Post Office, and now the location of the Palmetto Child Development Center.
Her parents were, indeed, James Edward and Annie Conklin Gardner. They had eleven children, including a set of twins who died. James Edward was foreman of a pulp mill here and died in 1924 as a result of injuries he sustained on the job.
After his death, Annie ran a candy and miscellaneous store located next to their house. The family attended Prince George Episcopal Church and the children went to the Winyah School.
Mary’s first marriage was to Henry DeWitt Smoak and they lived in Mount Pleasant. Sadly, Henry drowned in the Cooper River in the early 1950s, leaving behind Mary and two children – Henry, Jr. and Anna Laurie.
Mary later married Herbert “Bertie” Coleman. They lived on Pitt Street in the old part of Mount Pleasant.
Mary’s daughter, Anna Laurie, had four children: Bob Davis, Jackie Davis Abels, Rick Davis, and Jimmy Davis, Jr., who drowned shortly after finishing high school.
Bob told me that everyone referred to Mary as “Mamie”. She loved her grand and great-grandchildren. Mamie loved gardening and showed her camellias in flower shows and competitions.
When her New York relatives came to visit, she took them all to the Isle of Palms to crab, then came back to her home on Pitt Street for a crab feast.
Bob said that Mamie was a very generous person. She put Bob through college and when anyone visited her and complimented her on something in her home, she made sure that they took it home as a gift.
Mamie loved Charleston, but never once drove herself over the old Cooper River bridge from her home in Mount Pleasant. I can understand why, as I found it terrifying as a child and would hide on the floorboard of the car when Daddy drove us over it.
Bob remembers visiting relatives in Georgetown who were on the Smoak side of the family. They were Jenny and Rudy Blasky and their children, George, Marjorie, and Thedra.
To Rosalind, Bob and Carolyn, Jackie, and Barry ... thanks for the memories.
I may be reached at (843) 446-4777 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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