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The Diaries of Theodore L. Gardiner, former President of Salem College

Posted by Jane Metters LaBarbara.
October 19th, 2015

Blog post by Ashleigh Coren, Resident Librarian, WVU Libraries.

Portrait of Theodore Gardiner

From the Men Of West Virginia, Volume I

The diaries and ledgers of Reverend Theodore L. Gardiner (April 15, 1844 – July 3, 1938), collection A&M 4130, offer a glimpse into the history of Salem College (now Salem International University) and the life of a man who suffered many tragedies during his lifetime. While Gardiner led a long and memorable life, he is mainly known for being the former president and instructor of Salem College in Salem, WV from 1892-1906, and for being an active member of the Seventh-Day Baptist Church.

Salem College, Salem, Harrison County, W. Va.

Salem College, 1912 (Photograph from the collection of the WVRHC.)

Salem College was founded in 1888 by the Seventh Day Baptist Educational Society in Salem, West Virginia. Originally Salem Academy until January 1889, the college served the needs of young Seventh-Day Baptists and also non-members of the church. After becoming President in 1892, Theodore Gardiner oversaw the expansion of the college and worked to alleviate institutional debt until his resignation in 1906. A few of the diaries and ledgers are filled with information regarding the financial state of the college at the turn of the century, showing a President dedicated to his students and the mission of the institution.

Page 1 of Salem College Book of Pledges, from 1896

Book of Pledges for Salem College, 1896

Gardiner maintained ledgers detailing yearly expenses, such as the one above, for several years. These ledgers also functioned as grade books and, although briefly, as a place to monitor his own personal expenses.

The diaries also provide an illuminating, though at times mundane, look into the personal life of Theodore Gardiner, which had its fair share of loss. Before his death in 1938, Gardiner outlived three wives and his youngest daughter, Dora (Theodora) who died at the age of 28. The diaries show the escalation of their illnesses and his despair over their passing:

Page from Theodore Gardiner's diary, July 1888

Gardiner’s first wife, Emily I. Gardiner, died in 1888

Page from Theodore Gardiner's diary, October 1902

Gardiner’s second wife, Hannah Gardiner, died in 1902 at the start of his tenure at Salem College

Page from Theodore Gardiner's diary, February 1905

Gardiner’s youngest daughter Dora passed away one year before his resignation from Salem College

Like the majority of the items in the West Virginia and Regional History Center, these diaries not only tell the story of notable people or institutions in the region, they also provide greater context for understanding the different groups of people who have lived in West Virginia, and the routine of their daily lives.



A&M 4130, Gardiner, Theodore L., President of Salem College. Diaries and Other Material.  West Virginia and Regional History Center, West Virginia University Libraries.

Men of West Virginia. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1903. 255.

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