Gardner Lanning

by Bruce Whitaker

Gardner Lanning was born on August 11, 1837 in Fairview. He was the grandson of John and Sarah Whitaker and son of James Lanning (1804-1885) and Polly Vaughan (1807-1877), the fifth of eleven children born to James and Polly. James and Polly Lanning had more misfortune with their children than any Fairview family I know of; although Gardner Lanning only lived to be 25 years old, he outlived 6 of his 10 brothers and sisters. Gardner’s oldest brother Henry Harvey Lanning died of typhoid fever in 1855 at age 26.

Gardner’s sister Martha Lanning was standing too close to the fireplace in 1834, caught her dress on fire and burned to death at the age of two years and six months. His twin sister Elizabeth Lanning died of scarlet fever on October 21, 1842 at age five, and his nine-year-old sister Amanda died six days later, also of scarlet fever. Brother Jasper Lanning died in the Civil War on June 3, 1862, at age 20. An infant sibling died at birth on April 7, 1844.


Lanning wrote several letters to his sister Alcy Lanning Garren (1840-1912) during the war; the following are excerpts from the letters that survived:

“Tell Mama that I got my clothes; I got a shirt, a pair of slips [shoes], a pair of socks and gloves. I was glad of them… they done first rate, only I have to get on a stump to get in my shirt pockets… they are so high on my shoulders. They come in a good time; there has been some very cold weather here. We have not drawed blankets yet, but I have got as many clothes as I can tote and more than I can tote if the Yankees get after us….” [here Gardner Lanning mentions his cousin B. Lanning having measles.]

“Noah Whitaker [there were two Noah Whitakers; since they were cousins and about the same age they called one Noah Whitaker (1832-1908) “Branch” and the other Noah Whitaker (1839-1909) “River”] “and Russell Jenkins [1839-1916] washing their shirts today… Sunday…as tis, they are trying to bile [boil] the regulars [bed bugs or lice] to death! I will bile a little tomorrow myself, I do not like to many bedfellows… “Newton [Gardner’s brother], you wrote that you had a dull Christmas; I want you to save about five gallons of brandy till I come home, we will have a new Christmas.”

Gardner writes of getting sick riding railroad cars going to Tennessee. He said he went through three tunnels. “It was dark as three black cats in a cellar and they [the railroad cars] run so fast, sometimes I had to hold to keep them from running from under my feet.”

A short time after these letters were written, Gardner Lanning came down with tuberculosis, and he was sent home to die. Gardner Lanning died at his parents’ home in Fairview on April 11, 1863. He is buried in Cane Creek Cemetery in Fairview.

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