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Thomas Garrett

Thomas Garrett


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Thomas Garrett, the son of a farmer, was born on 21st August, 1789, in Delaware County. He became involved in the iron trade and after marrying settled in Wilmington, Delaware. A Quaker, who was strongly opposed to slavery and joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.

Delaware was a slave state and adjacent to Pennsylvania and New Jersey on one side and Maryland on the other, was a particular target for runaway slaves. Garrett turned his home in Wilmington into the last station on the Underground Railroad before the slaves reached freedom in Pennsylvania. It has been estimated that Garrett helped more than 2,000 runaway slaves escape from the Southern states. The Maryland authorities were so angry with Garrett that they set a reward of $10,000 for his arrest.

In 1848 Garrett was brought before a Federal court. Garrett admitted he had aided fugitive slaves and would continue to do so. This resulted in a heavy fine that forced him into bankruptcy. However, with the help of his anti-slavery friends, Garrett was able to re-establish his business.

During the Civil War Garrett was vulnerable to pro-slavery elements in Delaware and his home had to be protected by African American volunteers.

After the passing of the 15th Amendment which gave the vote to African Americans, Garrett was drawn through the streets of Wilmington by former slaves in an open carriage inscribed with the words "Our Moses".

Thomas Garrett died on 25th January, 1871. He left instructions that he was to be carried to his grave by African Americans and that they should participate in the Quaker service.

The date of the commencement of her labors, I cannot certainly give; but I think it must have been about 1845; from that time till 1860, I think she must have brought from the neighborhood where she had been held as a slave. from 60 to 80 persons, from Maryland, some 80 miles from here.

No slave who placed himself under her care, was ever arrested that I have heard of; she mostly had her regular stopping places on her route; but in one instance, when she had several stout men with her, some 30 miles below here, she said that God told her to stop, which she did; and then asked him what she must do. He told her to leave the road, and turn to the left; she obeyed, and soon came to a small stream of tide water; there was no boat, no bridge; she again inquired of her Guide what she was to do. She was told to go through. It was cold, in the month of March; but having confidence in her Guide, she went in; the water came up to her armpits; the men refused to follow till they saw her safe on the opposite shore. They then followed, and, if I mistake not, she had soon to wade a second stream; soon after which she came to a cabin of colored people, who took them all in, put them to bed, and dried their clothes, ready to proceed next night on their journey. Harriet had run out of money, and gave them some of her underclothing to pay for their kindness.

When she called on me two days after, she was so hoarse she could hardly speak, and was also suffering with violent toothache. The strange part of the story we found to be, that the masters of these men had put up the previous day, at the railroad station near where she left, an advertisement for them, offering a large reward for their apprehension; but they made a safe exit. She at one time brought as many as seven or eight, several of whom were women and children. She was well known here in Chester County and Philadelphia, and respected by all true abolitionists.


Quakers in the World

Thomas Garrett was born into a Quaker family on 21 st August 1789 in Delaware County Pennsylvania. His father was a farmer and scythe maker. As a young man Thomas was instrumental in helping one of the family servants to escape from men who had captured her, with the intention of selling her into slavery. This incident is said to have influenced him to devote his life to the abolition of slavery and to helping fleeing slaves. He was a follower of Elias Hicks, who also supported the abolition of slavery and goods made using slave labour.

He married Margaret Sharpless in 1813 who died after the birth of their fifth child in 1828. Two years later he married Rachel Mendenhall, the daughter of a fellow abolitionist. The Garretts moved to Quaker Hill in Wilmington in Delaware. This was the dividing line between the north and the south. Garrett continued to aid runaway slaves and soon became known as the &ldquostation master&rdquo of the eastern route of the underground railroad, for which he worked for the next forty years. During this time he worked with &ldquoconductors&rdquo such as Harriet Tubman to help to move the slaves to a place of freedom. His generosity to her is recorded in the records maintained by William Still. He was the inspiration for the character Simeon Halliday in the novel Uncle Tom&rsquos Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

In December, 1845, The Hawkins family escaped from Queen Anne's County, Maryland. The father was a free man, but his wife and six children were enslaved. Two of the children belonged to Charles Glanding, and their mother Emeline Hawkins and the other four children belonged to Elizabeth Turner. The Hawkins family were captured by slavehunters while hiding at the Underground Railroad Station of John Hunn, and taken to the New Castle County Jail. The sheriff, Jacob Caulk, told the slavehunters that the commitment that they had obtained to imprison the Hawkins family was not legal, and that they had to get a new commitment. Meanwhile, Thomas Garrett learned of the family's plight, and brought the fugitives before Judge Booth (Chief Justice of the state of Delaware) on a writ of habeas corpus. Judge Booth ordered the family's release. Garrett ordered a coach for the fugitives, and sent them to Pennsylvania.

This resulted in the trial of Thomas Garrett and John Hunn in 1846 as the slave owners sued them under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. There were six trials: John Hunn was involved in two and Thomas Garrett was involved in four. The trials took place in the U.S. Circuit Court in Delaware with court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney presiding. Both men were given considerable fines although Garrett as the &ldquoring-leader&rdquo was given the larger fine amounting to $5,400. In his closing address, Garrett told the courtroom that he would continue to work to free slaves. He said to Judge Taney &ldquoThou has left me without a dollar. I say to thee and to all in this court room, that if anyone knows a fugitive who wants shelter. send him to Thomas Garrett and he will befriend him." At the conclusion of the trial one of the slave owning jurors from Southern Delaware rose and shook Garrett by the hand and apologised.

Thomas Garrett is reputed to have helped about 2,700 slaves to freedom. When the Civil War brought an end to slavery he said that he was disappointed not to have reached 3,000 freed people. Garrett continued to work for minority groups in America. In 1870, when black Americans were given the right to vote by the establishment of the 15th Amendment, Garrett was carried on the shoulders of his supporters through the streets of Wilmington as they hailed him "our Moses". He retired from active work on behalf of minority groups in that year. Less than one year later, on January 25, 1871, Thomas Garrett died. His funeral was attended by many of the black residents of the city. There was a procession with Thomas Garrett's coffin borne from shoulder to shoulder to his final resting place in the cemetery at the Wilmington Friends Meeting House at 4th and West Streets in Quaker Hill.


Thomas Garrett

Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), American abolitionist, openly defied state and Federal statutes by giving aid to fugitive slaves, thus strengthening resistance to proslavery legislation.

Thomas Garrett was born of Quaker parents on Aug. 21, 1789, in Delaware County, Pa. His father, a farmer and scythe and edge-tool maker, taught his son his skills. Garrett married, raised a family, and made a career in the iron trades. He was early sympathetic to the antislavery movement, joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, and engaged in its work of aiding runaway slaves.

In 1820 Garrett moved to Wilmington, Del., where he became a wealthy iron merchant. He increased his abolitionist work, though Delaware was a slave state. Adjacent to Pennsylvania and New Jersey on one side and Maryland on the other, Delaware was a particular target for runaway slaves and offered many opportunities for Underground Railroad activities. Garrett explored all of these, aiding fugitives from several states and probing the various means for concealment and transportation. The State of Maryland set a reward of $10,000 for Garrett's arrest and employed all kinds of stratagems for surprising him in his illegal work.

Notorious for his antislavery campaign in this slave environment and vilified in the press, Garrett nevertheless managed to circumvent enemies and law officers until 1848, when a suit was brought against him in Federal court. His case was not helped by his bold declarations in court that he had aided fugitive slaves and would continue to do so. Judgment against him was rendered by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Roger B. Taney, and he was fined. The fine, coupled with business reverses, put Garrett into bankruptcy at the age of 60. However, friends helped him reestablish his business.

Garrett estimated that he had helped more than 2,700 slaves to freedom--a figure which became famous in antislavery annals. He was the prototype of Simeon Halliday in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin . Abolitionists of all persuasions, as well as the African American community, admired Garrett. During the Civil War, African Americans protected his home from angry proslavery partisans. In 1870, when the African Americans in Wilmington were celebrating the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution (which gave the vote to African American men), they drew Garrett through the streets in an open carriage preceded by a transparency on which the words "Our Moses" were inscribed.

Garrett died on Jan. 25, 1871. He had stipulated that he was to be carried to his grave by African Americans. They not only honored his request but participated in the Quaker services.


References

McGowan, James A. Station Master on the Underground Railroad: The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett, rev. ed. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 2004.

"More Slaveholding Law, and Slaveholding Outrages!" Pennsylvania Freeman V:22 (1 June 1848), p. 3.

Still, William. The Underground Railroad. New York: Ayer, 2004. [Reprint of Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872 ed.]

Stowe, Harriet Beecher. The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. New York: Arno Press, 1968. [Reprint of 1854 ed.]

"Thomas Garrett and John Hunn." Pennsylvania Freeman V:23 (8 June 1848), p. 3.

Thomas Garrett Biographical Materials, Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College, PG7 Garrett.


Thomas Garrett and the Underground Railroad

On March 27, 1857, an elderly Quaker abolitionist named Thomas Garrett climbed the stairs to his office in Wilmington, Delaware, and penned the following letter to a fellow conductor on the underground railroad: &ldquoI have been very anxious for some time past, to hear what has become of Harriet Tubman. . . . Has thee seen or heard anything of her lately? It would be a sorrowful fact, if such a hero as she, should be lost from the Underground Rail Road.&rdquo

Garrett&rsquos words remind us of three things. First, the institution of slavery directly contradicted the spirit of liberty that was wafting through America in the 1800s. Second, the Underground Railroad was a key to freedom for fugitive slaves. Third, for the Underground Railroad to be successful, black and white had to work together&mdasheffectively and courageously.

Historians often neglect this last point, but it is critical to understanding the story of freedom in America. Blacks, of course, risked their lives when they tried to escape from their masters. But the white &ldquoconductors&rdquo on the Underground Railroad, who housed and then transported the slaves northward, risked jail terms or large fines. According to the Fugitive Slave Act, slaves were property, economic assets helping runaway slaves, therefore, was theft&mdashthe transporting of stolen goods across state lines. Slave owners were allowed to go into free territory in the North, using the power of the state to recover their property, and to prosecute those who trafficked in stolen goods. For the Underground Railroad to function, black and white had to share risks and work together to fulfill the goals of the Declaration of Independence.

Thomas Garrett was perhaps the busiest stationmaster on the entire Underground Railroad. From his hardware store in Wilmington, which had a secret panel, he helped over 2,300 fugitive slaves slip through the last 20 miles of slave territory into Pennsylvania. The audacious Garrett also tried to feed the often exhausted blacks and give them each a pair of shoes before smuggling them toward the border. His most frequent guest was Harriet Tubman, who had escaped from a plantation in Maryland and who not once but dozens of times courageously crisscrossed the Delaware-Pennsylvania border to help over 300 of her fellow fugitives secure freedom. Garrett, as his letter indicates, came to care so deeply for Tubman that he was in anguish whenever she was endangered.

On one of her excursions she could not get to Garrett&rsquos store because the local police had been aroused and had posted sentries at the Wilmington bridge into the city. Tubman had a secret note sent to Garrett explaining her problem, and the imaginative Quaker hatched the following plan. He hired a group of sympathetic bricklayers and had them leave the city crossing the Wilmington bridge in two wagons, seemingly off for a day&rsquos work on a farm. The police, of course, noted the wagons and expected their return later. Once Garrett&rsquos henchmen were safely outside the city, they rendezvoused with Tubman and carefully hid all the fugitives in the bottom of the wagons, under blankets and tools. Later that day, the bricklayers returned to Wilmington and, with gaiety and song, recrossed the bridge, ambled through the roadblock, and fooled the unsuspecting guards. Once the fugitives were safely inside the city, Garrett emerged to direct them north to freedom.

Life-Threatening Dedication

Garrett&rsquos and Tubman&rsquos decision to challenge slavery angered many Americans. When one enraged slave owner threatened to shoot Garrett, he boldly visited the man, opened his arms, and said, &ldquoHere I am, thee can shoot me if thee likes.&rdquo The bewildered slave owner was so startled by Garrett&rsquos demeanor that he let him go. Garrett was regularly watched by local police and was even denounced by U. S. Chief Justice Roger Taney.

Meanwhile, Tubman had problems of her own. Her husband had denounced her and tried to turn her in. Had he been able to do so, he might have become a wealthy man because his wife&rsquos capture, dead or alive, would have fetched a $12,000 reward.

Such a sum tempted another escaped fugitive, Thomas Otwell, to try to catch her. Tubman entrusted him to help sneak eight more fugitives to Garrett and then to freedom. Otwell almost delivered her and the fugitives to the police, but Tubman left the group early, and when Otwell took the others to the Dover, Delaware, jail, they managed to break out. Six of them made it safely to Garrett, who quickly rushed them to Pennsylvania before the police could stop him.

As these stories show, one of the most startling truths of the Underground Railroad is that much of the conflict was black versus black and white versus white, rather than black versus white.

The elusive Tubman never was caught, but Garrett once was. The court fined him $5,000 to compensate the slave owner for his loss of property. Such a steep fine left Garrett nearly bankrupt and at the mercy of the local authorities. &ldquoThomas,&rdquo the sheriff admonished him after the trial, &ldquoI hope you will never be caught at this again.&rdquo After a brief silence, Garrett replied, &ldquoFriend, I haven&rsquot a dollar in the world, but if thee knows a fugitive anywhere on the face of the earth who needs a breakfast, send him to me.&rdquo

Garrett not only survived his fine, but rebuilt his hardware business and helped more slaves than ever. &ldquoEsteemed friend,&rdquo he later wrote a black comrade in Philadelphia, &ldquothis is my 69th birthday, and I do not know any better way to celebrate it in a way to accord with my feelings, than to send to thee two fugitives, a man and wife.&rdquo

Garrett lived to see slavery abolished and died in 1871 at age 81. White and black together commemorated his life, and thousands lined the streets of Wilmington for half a mile to view the black pallbearers carry him to his church.

The Thomas Garrett story is omitted from almost all American history texts. Telling it to students can instruct and inspire them about a crucial chapter in the triumph of freedom in American history. Just as Garrett and Tubman worked for liberty together, so blacks and whites can work together today to strike down racial barriers and promote racial harmony.


This Obscure Little Delaware Cemetery Is The Resting Place Of One Of History’s Most Famous Americans

Behind a small church in the middle of Delaware’s busiest city is the final resting spot of a true American hero — Thomas Garrett. Garrett was one of the most prominent supporters of the Underground Railroad’s mission to bring fugitive and runaway slaves to freedom, and he left behind a legacy of equality, kindness, and character that we should all strive to honor. His grave is located in a small cemetery at Wilmington’s Friends Meeting House.

Garrett was a close friend and supporter of Harriet Tubman, one of the railroad's most famous conductors. He provided Tubman and her allies with lodging, food, clothing, financial support, and anything else he could to assist their missions of bringing fugitive slaves to freedom. He was also instrumental in bringing Tubman's parents to the North for safety.

Though the exact number of fugitive slaves Thomas Garrett brought to safety is unknown, in his own words, he "only helped 2,700" reach their freedom before the end of the Civil War.

For more about the history of the Underground Railroad in Delaware, read 7 Incredible Places Around Delaware That Were Once Part Of The Underground Railroad.


Edward Thomas Garrett II (abt. 1733 - abt. 1794)

According to http://services.dar.org/ , he provided supplies for the army during the American Revolution.

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF EDWARD GARRETT (1794)

Will of Edward Garrett State of So. Carolina County of Lauren's Before Daniel Wright, a Justice of the Piece for dec'd County, personally appeared Nelson Kelly, Stephen Mullins and Stephen Garrett and severally made oath on the holy evangelist almighty God and Sayeth That is to Say the dec'd Nelson Kelly Sayeth, that on Monday the 25 Instant that he was at the home of Edward Garrett who was then alive, and in his opinion, in his perfect Senses and Understanding. But, at the Same time on his death Bead which in a few hours the dec'd Edward Garrett Expired he this Despondent understood by the dec'd Edward that he had no will By him, but that made but little odds, as the laws of this County had made as good a will as he Could make only with this Reference, that his wife had been a good wife to him, and had too clear for a living and it was his will that his plantation where he then Lived on with the land belonging to the Same, She Should Enjoy as long as She lived, or as long as She Chose to live on it with a Comfortable living During her life, But if she should marry it was his will she should only have a Child's part. Further he observed that John Ashley has settled on part of the dec'd above mentioned land and that it was his will that Ashley should have dec'd land which he understood was 100 Acres which dec'd land was to be a certain price, and the price of dec'd land was to be deducted out of his dec'd Ashley's part of his Estate, as dec'd Ashley was one of the Legatees, and further Sayeth that he the dec'd Garrett said that his Son James had Conducted him Self so that he did not wish that his part as one of his Children Should Come into dec'd James hands until there was some Reformation in him. And further Sayeth that Pleasant Sullivan had Married a Daughter of his and She was Dead and as Such he did not wish for him to have any part of his Living. But there is a child that must have Something to the amount of ten pounds but it is among them and it must be Bred and have it's Schooling and I think that will do. Stephen Mullins further Sayeth that on the Day and time above Mentioned that he heard his Father-in Law, Edward Garrett, say that it was his will that his Estate should be so Conducted as above mentioned by Nelson Kelly, only Pleasant Sullivan and Child which he says he was not present when them words passed. Stephen Garrett Says on his oath that on the Same day within mention that he heard his Father, Edward Garrett, say that it was his will that his Estate should be disposed of the in the Same manner that Mr. Nelson Kelly has Declared only that he was not present and heard the objections Respecting his brother James Garrett and Pleasant Sullivan and Respecting his Mother, Anne Garrett, enjoying the Land as within Mentioned. Was not present nor did not hear, and Stephens Mullins Sayeth that he does not Remember hearing any mention about the Land, only Respecting John Ashley and on their oath Sayeth that they verily believed he, the dec'd, Edward Garrett was in his perfect senses all of which they and Each of them do solemnly Declare. Sworn to and subscribed to before me, this 27 day Aug. 1794. Samuel Wright, J.F. Nelson X Kelly his mark Steph Mullins Steph Garrett N.B. Anne Garrett and Mary Garrett also Makes oath that they were present and did hear the word spoken by the above named Edward Garrett Respecting Pleasant Sullivan and Pleasant's Child as the winhin Nelson Kelly Declared and that they know that was his will that dec'd Sullivan Should not have any part of his living, but that the Child, Garrett Sullivan Should have s witin proved By dec'd Kelly or have it's Raining By them that is by those Despondents Sworn to and Subscried before me this day of AUG. 1794. Ann X Garret ther mark Daniel Wright, J.P. Mary X Garrett her mark [2]


Wilde Family

Nelson Kershaw (1857-1939) was born in Bradford, England and migrated to America in 1860 with his father John and mother Ruth Pickard. Both parents are buried in Calvary Cemetery in Rockdale, Aston Township. Nelson was naturalized in 1880 along with a brother John. His father was a weaver who worked in the Rockdale textile mills.

In the 1880s, Nelson already owned the Glenwood Mills located near today’s intersection of Palmer Mill Road and Sycamore Avenue and when the Tuscarora Mills became available he absorbed them into his company. He became wealthy producing toweling material. Kershaw owned sixty-five acres of land that later were developed as part of Westbrook Park. In 1905 he purchased twenty-five acres and a beautiful mansion still standing where Palmer Mill Road meets Sycamore Avenue. Additionally he owned several mill houses that stood on Sycamore Avenue until they were demolished in 1986. One mill house, substantially modified, still stands on the corner. An unrelated Kershaw family has lived in it since 1900, when they worked for Nelson Kershaw. In the early l920s Kershaw Mills employed around 200 people.

The 1929 financial crash and subsequent depression severely damaged Nelson Kershaw. The Kershaw mills produced MAR towels for many years until 1934. Then it became impossible to compete with the cheap labor market of the southern textile mills. Kershaw declared bankruptcy and closed his mills in 1934. They never opened again and after years of deterioration they were demolished in the 1940s.

Kershaw was active in Township politics, having served on the Board of Commissioners for fifteen years, five as its President. He was Superintendent of Schools, a Vice-President of the First National Bank of Clifton Heights. Director of the Lansdowne National Bank, a member of the Masonic Lodge and the Manufacturers Club of Philadelphia. He was married to Christina Bennett and they had three children: Lillian, Nelson Jr.,and Edward. Kershaw died in 1939 at his son’s home at 433 Burmont Road and is buried in Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill. Dr. James Dunn, who purchased the mansion house in 1936, believed that portions of this house were built by the Levis family in 1720. The Township purchased the original Kershaw Mill area and converted it into a playground.

Many houses standing today in the Addingham area were built in the 1880-1900 period. A few are older. Many original residents were mill workers who migrated from the Philadelphia textile areas. Several of today’s residents are related to each other and to the original residents of the area. Crawfords still live on Bloomfield Avenue where their family operated the M. S. Crawford Dairy until it went out of business in 1962. The Crawford family moved to 531 Bloomfield Ave. in 1921. That house is believed to be more than 200 years old and the oldest home remaining on Bloomfield Avenue. Mrs. Salzman, still living on Bloomfield Avenue, had two grandfathers— Henry Taylor and John S. Henderson. Henderson was a Civil War navy veteran who lived in the area until he died early in this century. About 1882, Henry Taylor built a row of mill houses off Bloomfield Avenue called Henderson Row. The house that Mrs. Salzman lives in today, 515 Bloomfield Avenue, was built by Henry Taylor between 1860 and 1865.

Martha Platt was the area’s midwife and delivered hundreds of area babies. Dr. Nicholas of Clifton Heights was the local family physician.

Bloomfield Avenue, the heart of Addingham, was so named because it led to a large farm called Bloomfield, now Drexelbrook Apartments, that was owned by Nathan Garrett. This farm belonged to several generations of the Garrett family and the original homestead was built in 1771. Before Drexelbrook it was the Aronimink Country Club and later the Hi-Top Country Club and sometimes called Delaware County Country Club. The Clubhouse, built in 1807, was originally Nathan Garrett’s home.

Garrett was a charter member of the Upper Darby Building and Loan Association, a corporation formed in 1868. That year Garrett purchased from his cousin’s husband, George B. Allen, a large tract of land just South of the Bloomfield Farm. That tract was bounded by Darby Creek, Bloomfield Avenue (the upper part), Childs Avenue and Huey Avenue. In 1877 Nathan Garrett submitted his plan to the County Development Board proposing to develop this area. The proposal included subdividing the area into 142 lots, mostly 40 X 120 feet. It contained Upper Darby’s first systematic, perpendicular layout of proposed streets but its development was slow. Although the lots were sold quickly, only nine houses were built in the Bloomfield Tract by 1892. By 1900 approximately 200 people lived in all of Addingham including the Bloomfield Tract.

In the l920’s, Anne Culver was the postmistress of Addingham and her house, the Burnley Mansion, was the post office. Before the Garrettford School was built in 1909 the children of Addingham attended the Central School, built in 1838 and still standing at Burmont Road and School Lane. The Bishop Avenue bridge was built in 1958, but before its construction, Garrett Road turned at Burnley Lane and then ran down Rosemont Avenue to a covered bridge that crossed the Darby Creek. Nearby stood Beaver Springs, a place where people came to purchase bottled water or fill their own jugs. Near the covered bridge stood a row of mill houses called Haigh Row. Another row of old mill houses, demolished in 1956, stood near the Rosemont Avenue bridge. Lillian Palmer, granddaughter of Nelson Kershaw, remembers this row of houses. Her mother, Emma Chadwick was born in this row and her mother’s sister-in-law, Minnie Chadwick, lived in one of the houses.

Today, Addingham remains a picturesque village much as it was eighty years ago when artists and film crews recorded its beauty. Mill remains are scarce.


History: Jesse Thomas ‘Tommy’ Garrett loved his work with children

Editor’s Note: Russell County has a long history that is important to the State of Alabama and its evolvement from an area described in the book “Russell County in Retrospect” by Anne Kendrick Walker as a “barbaric land” to what it is today. Many of the people who set their roots in the county in its early days including the state’s first Territorial Delegate to the United States Congress, important Native Americans who paid with their lives to cede land that created the county, a family that started a place of higher learning in south Russell County that later led to the establishment of one of the state’s most known institutions of education today and a former slave who placed a monument to honor his former owner, are very much important to the formation of Alabama. The story that follows is another of a series to inform you – our readers – about the history of Russell County.

Jesse Thomas “Tommy” Garrett Jr. was born February 21, 1917 in the small mill town of Tallassee, Alabama to Jesse Thomas Garrett Sr. and Aurelia Mae Hornsby. He was one of six children – Ailean, Lillian, Mary Jo, Jeff and Joyce were his siblings. The family moved to Phenix City in when Tommy was six years old.

Garrett married Kathryn “Kate” Bockman of Phenix City. The couple’s first date was to attend the annual Central High reception. The couple was married for 57 years and had three children – Kathryn, Rebecca and Tommy III.

Garrett received his education through the Phenix City school system, attending Phenix City and Summerville Elementary schools and Central High. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Education from Troy State Teacher’s College and a Masters degree in Education Administration from Auburn University. He worked for both the Phenix City and Russell County school systems during his adult years.

Garrett gained his first notoriety as an athlete at Central where he lettered in both baseball and football. It was football where he excelled. A local newspaper in 1936 said of the senior running back, “As long as Central can call on Tommy Garrett to run with the ball, the Red Devils are always a threat, Garrett is fast but not big and powerful. His great gift is control over his hips and feet and containing him is almost impossible. Tommy is a keen passer, too.”

While playing sports, Garrett was honored as an All-Bi-City player in football and baseball. He lettered in both sports at Troy. He was named an All-Alabama Conference back and Little All-American honorable mention while at Troy.

While at Troy, he once ran 40 yards for a touchdown on a twisted ankle. As a leading scorer in the Alabama Inter-Collegiate Conference, Garrett was one of the most feared players though he was the smallest player on the Troy football team.

After his playing days were over and after graduating from Troy, Garrett returned to Phenix City and Central High as an assistant coach for football under Head Coach William Frank Darnell in 1940. He was also named the school’s baseball coach.

Over his coaching career, Garrett would coach football, baseball, basketball and track and field at Central. Upon the retirement of Darnell as football coach in 1942, Garrett took over and began Central’s first era of winning. He produced the school’s first undefeated football season in 1944, a perfect 9-0. Central did not have another undefeated team until the 2018 Red Devils went 15-0 and won the Class 7A State football title. His overall record of 91-49-14 (1942-1958) was not topped until Wayne Trawick (185-85-2, 1973-1997) and Ron Nelson (92-42, 1998-2009) did so during their years with the Red Devils.

In 1986, Phenix Municipal Stadium was renamed in Garrett’s honor. The same stadium he coached his teams in – Martin Stadium – was renamed Garrett Stadium. Many of his former players gathered to help honor their former coach. He had a special dinner held in his honor and was given a new car.

During his coaching career, Garrett’s teams won the Bi-City title outright six times and tied for it once. He coached the South squad to a 32-0 victory over the North squad at the Alabama All-Star Football Game. He was named Man of the Year in 1944.

In the summertime when Garrett could have rested from his coaching duties, he chose not to rest. He spent many hours working with youth in the programs sponsored by the Phenix City Parks and Recreation Department. He always wanted to be there to help children grow to adulthood.

Outside of sports, Garrett was also active. He was a member of the “C” Club at Central, the “T” Club at Troy, was a past president of the Phenix City Rotary Club, Russell County Civitan Club, and Troy Alumni Association on the Board of Directors of the Phenix City Boys Club and a member of the Phenix City School Board.

During his career in education, Garrett was a teacher, coach, and principal. He was principal at Central Elementary and Central High and at Ladonia Elementary. After he retired from that career, he became County Manager for Alabama Farm Bureau in Troy.

While he coached many of the best athletes to ever step on the turf of a football field in Phenix City, Garrett was reluctant to name an all-star team of those former Central players.

“I couldn’t do that. I might forget someone and they were all my boys and they were all great players,” Garrett said years after his retirement to a local sports writer. When the sports writer pushed saying he had coached both Leroy Propst and Don Bailey, Garrett said, “Yes, they were both very good players and they played with other boys who were very good. I loved coaching them all.”

It is most unfortunate that such a beloved coach and educator spent the final 12 years of his life battling Alzheimer’s disease. Even so, he continued to participate in community activities.


People, Locations, Episodes

*Thomas Garrett was born on this date in 1789. He was a white-American businessman and abolitionist.

Thomas Garrett was the son of a farmer from Delaware County. He became involved in the iron trade and after marrying, moved to Wilmington, Delaware. A Quaker, Garrett was strongly opposed to slavery and joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. Delaware (a slave state) was a particular haven for runaway slaves. Garrett turned his home in Wilmington into the last station on the Underground Railroad before the slaves reached freedom in Pennsylvania. It has been projected that Garrett helped more than 2,000 runaway slaves escape from the Southern states.

The Maryland authorities were so fearful of him that they set a reward of $10,000 for his arrest. In 1848, Garrett was brought before a Federal court, where he admitted he had aided fugitive slaves and would continue to do so. This resulted in a heavy fine that forced him into bankruptcy. However, with the help of his anti-slavery friends, Garrett was able to re-establish his business.

During the American Civil War, Garrett was vulnerable to pro-slavery elements in Delaware, and his home had to be protected by Black volunteers.

After the passing of the 15th Amendment that gave the vote to Blacks, Garrett was drawn through the streets of Wilmington by former slaves in an open carriage inscribed with the words "Our Moses." Thomas Garrett died on January 25, 1871. He left instructions that he was to be carried to his grave by Blacks and that they should participate in the Quaker service.

Reference:
The Delaware Agricultural Museum and Village
866 North DuPont Highway
Dover, Delaware 19901
302-734-1618 / fax 302-734-0457


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