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Ring Lardner, Jr.
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The Lardners

Part One:  From England to Michigan


Updated 25 March 2006

 

 

 


Ring Lardner celebrated his Niles, Michigan roots, and his association with small town America was an integral part of his personae; however, as his biographers noted, Lardner was not a typical small town boy (if such a thing exists).  He grew up in a "privileged" home--wealthy, educated, and cultured.   By looking closer at the Lardner family tree, the precise nature of the privilege becomes clear.  The Lardners are a remarkable family, one with "old money" which merges with other old money, and one with many accomplished members--war heroes, governors, and businessmen.  It is also a family with confusing names.


Following family histories is like following a very long Russian novel.  Even charts don't help.  The Lardner family treasures their history and honors their relatives by naming sons and daughters after the previous generation, leaving an endless trail of Johns and Jameses and Lynfords.  To complicate matters, until the 20th Century, the Lardners subscribed to the "be fruitful" theory of procreation.  Families of nine or more children are not uncommon.  So when I speak of Lynford, it is easy to confuse him with his cousin Lynford, or his grandfather Lynford, or any number of other Lynfords lurking in the bushes.  John, who died young, has a brother John, a father John, a couple uncles John, countless Johns that followed, and so forth.   
 

Pre-America (a little)

Ring's great-great-great-great-grandfather Lyn, married Miss Ferrars, and they had four children:  John, Thomas, James (a Clergyman), and Sarah (who married a Springall, but died without children). 

John, the eldest, is Ring's great-great-great-grandfather.  He attended Christ College, Cambridge, became a London physician and married a Winstanley.  They had seven children:  Lynford (18 July 1715- 6 October 1774), Frances (died, unmarried 18 June 1774), John (died, unmarried, 1740-1), Hannah  (died 20 April 1785), Thomas, James, and Elizabeth (who married a Wells).  Three of these children figure into the history of the Lardners in America.  John was written about by his namesake (Lynford's son John (1752-1825)) as being "an extravagant, dissipated character" who wasted a great part of what was left of the family estate.  Hannah and Lynford have a much more direct influence.  Hannah married Richard Penn in 1728 and later moved to Pennsylvania.  Richard (17 January 1705-6-4 February 1771) was the third son of William Penn and a proprietary of Pennsylvania. 

 

 

 





Lardners in America


Lynford
Lardner (sometimes Lyn Ford), is Ring's great-great-grandfather.  He was named for a friend and near relative, Reverand Thomas Lynford (Rector of St. Nicholas's and Chaplain to King William and Queen Mary).  He was educated at the University of Cambridge.  Having little success securing a position for himself in England, he was fortunate to be offered a position through Thomas and Richard Penn (his brother-in-law) in Pennsylvania.  He set sail on 5 May 1740 and arrived in the Colonies in early September.  He held a number of official offices until becoming Provincial Councillor on 13 June 1755.  He was well known for his dances and hunting parties, and, before marrying, very popular with the ladies.  A renaissance man, he belonged to the American Philosophical Society and was a trustee to what would become the University of Pennsylvania.  Though his primary residence was in the city, he built a beautiful waterfront estate, "Somerset" in 1760.  Lardner's Point (on the Delaware River near Tacony), home of a famous pumping station, is named for him.  He was married first on 27 October 1749 to Elizabeth (1732-26 August 1761), daughter of William Branson, a wealthy merchant.  Through Branson, he secured business positions and inherited a great deal of money and property.  He was married the second time on 29 May 1766 to Catherine Lawrence.

The first generation born in America include the children of Hanna and Richard Penn:  John (governor of Pennsylvania), Richard, Hannah, and William (another governor of Pennsylvania).  The direct line to Ring, though, is through Lynford.  He and Elizabeth had six children:  John (6 September 1752-12 February 1825), Elizabeth Hannah (1753), Frances (8 November 1754-24 April 1800), Hannah (28 November 1756-23 November 1829), William (8 December 1758-November 1827), and James (lost at sea).

John Lardner is Ring's great-grandfather.  He lived at Somerset, was a Revolutionary War soldier, a member of the Pennsylvania legislature (1791), and became outspoken in his advocacy of armed resistance.  He was married 24 December 1789 to Margaret Saltar (8 May 1767-23 May 1834), and died on 12 February 1825.  Together, John and Margaret had eleven children. 

This generation of Lardners--some of the children of John and Margaret and some of their cousins, the children of John's brother William and Ann Shepherd--eventually moved  to Niles, Michigan, Ring's home town. 

 

    What's in a Name?

Though the name Ring Lardner eventually worked in his favor (being memorable), he seems to have struggled with it his entire life, most famously fighting to prevent his son from being named after him (a fight he lost).  First, he shortened Ringgold to Ring.  He never used Wilmer, but did sign his name with a "W."  Eventually, that went by the wayside as well.  The history of the name proves that things could have been worse for Lardner.  He could have been Cadwallader.

The short version of the Ring's naming is that Ring's father named him after his cousin, Ringgold Wilmer Lardner, with whom he kept in contact and had frequent business dealings.  Where did that originate?

The Ringgold comes from Rear Admiral Cadwallader Ringgold (20 August 1802 - 29 April 1867), a friend of Rear Admiral James Lawrence Lardner, brother of Ring's grandfather.  Both Ringgold and Lardner had ships named for them.  James and his second wife Ellen named one of their sons Ringgold Wilmer Lardner.

The Wilmer, which Ring may have been more uncomfortable with than his first name (He didn't even tell his wife Ellis what the "W" in his name stood for until a couple weeks before their marriage), comes from his grandfather's generation as well.  Henry, Ring's grandfather, had two brothers who married into the wealthy Wilmer family which had three girls.  His oldest brother Lynford (12 June 1792 - 23 June 1834) married Elizabeth Wilmer in 1823.  Lynford graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, served in the War of 1812, and was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.  James Lawrence Lardner, the naval hero, married the other two:  Margaret Wilmer in 1832, and Ellen Wilmer in 1853.

 

   

Lawrence Salter Lardner (20 November 1802 - 2 March 1873), Henry (February 1804 - 1882), Ring's grandfather, and Elizabeth (January 1791 - ?) all came to Niles.  Of William and Ann's nine children, two, William (d. 14 August 1870) and Lynford (d. 1882) also came to Niles. 

The twin brother of Lawrence Salter Lardner, James Lawrence Lardner (20 November 1802 - 12 April 1881), is probably the most honored of John and Margaret's eleven children.  James was a Rear Admiral and Civil War hero, after whom the USS Lardner was named. 

Another Lardner of note in this generation, is John (July 1801 - 3 March 1865), son of John and Margaret (and actually the second named John--the first, John Salter (December 1797 - October 1798)).  He married Mary Perot Downing (6 November 1818 - 3 September 1870), thus marrying the Perot fortune, some of which found its way to the Niles Lardners later on.

 

Sources:

Keith, Charles.  The Provincial Councillors of Pennsylvania 1733-1776.  Philadelphia, 1883.

Lindsey, Jack L. "Lynford Lardner's Silver" The Magazine Antiques April 1993: 608-615.

 

   


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