Tuesday Jan 9 2018
“Archibald Gardner, the mill builder, was known as the poor man’s friend.” Ruth Widdison Dawson read these words with great pride in her voice. “God never placed a truer man on earth. A sturdy oak standing alone in the field. A giant among men.” She was reading from The Life of Archibald Gardner, Utah Pioneer of 1847—a book written by family member, Delia Hughes Gardner.
Archibald Gardner had 11 wives, 48 children, and 201 grandchildren! Ruth Dawson is the last living grandchild in this impressive line. Her grandmother, Mary, was Gardner’s eleventh wife. To speak with someone who has direct ties to our state’s history and Gardner Village was a tremendous honor.
“He was no ordinary man, I tell ya,” Ruth beamed as she continued to describe her grandpa. Her pride in her heritage was evident and irresistible. “He built 36 mills in his lifetime. He was just 17 when he built his first and 85 when he built his last.”
Today, one of those 36 mills is home to Archibald’s Restaurant, CF Home, and Mill Plaza at Gardner Village. (Read more about The Village history here.) No wonder Ruth has such admiration for her grandfather. He was remarkably accomplished and did much to help establish Utah those many years ago. But it’s his heart and generosity that moved Ruth to tears.
“My mother was so proud of her father. He was always doing for others. People were hungry and didn’t have money for flour. They would wake up to find flour on their porches. The only evidence of where it came from were large footprints in the snow, leading back to my grandfather’s flour mill. He would take the flour as fast as it was ground, carrying it off to where it was needed.”
Ruth choked up as she continued to read from the book written about her grandfather, sharing a quote from Gardner to his son. “My boy, I have not lived for myself alone. I have not accumulated treasures on earth. But I have tried to lay some up in heaven. I want something to my credit when I get there. As long as I have any flour, I will share it with those in need.”
It’s easy to see why Ruth was emotional. As she put it, Gardner “lived honorably,” always serving others and doing what was expected of him. He worked hard from a very young age to make a better life for many, and his strength lives on in Ruth.
“Our mother said we have pioneer blood coursing through our veins,” Ruth laughed. “I am strong. I hate to tell you this, but… people think I’m amazing,” she said humbly and timidly. “I’m very grateful. I put up my own Christmas lights, mow my own lawn, walk three miles every morning, and work twice a week at the Ogden, Utah, temple…” Ruth didn’t say these things to brag. In fact, she was quite shy as she shifted the discussion to herself. She simply wanted to explain the connection she feels to her pioneer roots in the strength she continues to posses at 91 years of age. Good for you, Ruth! Like your grandfather, you are clearly strong and compassionate.
With Archibald’s Restaurant turning 28 this month, I asked Ruth what she thought about Gardner Village and her family’s history living on in the property.
“I went there when they first opened Archibald’s Restaurant. We sat in the silo where my Grandma Mary’s silver plates were on display. Since then, we’ve been several times. I’m quite impressed with it all. They do a lot of wonderful things and really go all out for the holidays. They’ve done well! I miss going there. Since my husband passed, I haven’t had as many opportunities to visit,” Ruth said, with sadness in her voice. It was all I could do not to hang up the phone and drive to Hooper, Utah right then and there, to get Ruth for an Archibald’s lunch date. She’s so kind and has such a fascinating story to tell.
“I do treasure my pioneer heritage,” Ruth said. “I always have, and I always will.” And we treasure you, Ruth Dawson. Thank you for keeping Archibald’s story alive. You have every reason to treasure such a unique legacy. Thank you for taking time out to share your special story with us. I’ll meet you at Archibald’s for a slice of cake anytime.
This is the perfect month to come by and see this look at Utah history for yourself. In celebration of Archibald's Restaurant's 28th birthday, you'll get a free slice of its famous carrot cake with your entree purchase in January. Yum!