Biography of Burgess W. Garrett
Decatur County, IA Biographies





Burgess Wilson Garrett, clerk of the supreme court of Iowa, has won much commendation by the able fashion in which he is discharging the duties of his important office. He was born on a farm in Van Buren county, Iowa, on the 24th of February, 1872, and is descended in the paternal line from Scotch-Irish ancestors, while in the maternal line he is of German lineage. His father, William Carlisle Garrett, was born on the 1st of July, 1823, in Highland county, Ohio, a son of Robert Wilson Garrett, whose parents were William and Margaret Garrett, both born in 1770, the former on the 23d of April and the latter on the 23d of March. They were married on the 17th of April, 1794, and on emigrating to the United States settled in South Carolina. The birth of their son, Robert Wilson Garrett, occurred on the 17th of December, 1795, in that state and he remained there until he was a young man, when he removed to Highland county, Ohio. In 1849 he and his family settled in Van Buren county, Iowa, and six years later he died of the cholera. He was a farmer by occupation and was successful in his work. His wife, who bore the maiden name of Sarah Isabel Patterson, died about 1875 in Troy, Davis county, this state, not far from the Garrett homestead in Van Buren county.

William Carlisle Garrett was a prosperous and well to do farmer and was also prominent in political affairs. He represented his district in the tenth general assembly and proved an able and upright lawmaker. He was a whig and on the dissolution of that party became a republican, being one of the organizers of the new party in his county. He served as justice of the peace and as a member of the town council and was a man of influence in his community, as he was unusually widely read and as his mind was naturally keen and logical. He passed away in Decatur, Iowa, on the 25th of March, 1904, when almost eighty years of age. In religious faith he was a Presbyterian. In Highland county, Ohio, Mr. Garrett married Miss Libbie Simpson, who died not many years after the removal of the family to Iowa. To them were born five children: Sarah Isabel, who was born in Ohio, became the wife of Henry Peacock, a resident of Davis county, Iowa, and she died in 1876, leaving a son, Mervin, who is now living in Texas. John A., likewise a native of the Buckeye state, was born in the later '40s and is now living at Canyon City, Colorado. For a number of years he taught school and farmed in Pottawattamie county, this state. Adolphus H., born in Van Buren county, Iowa, resides at Bush, Colorado. He received an excellent education, attending Troy Academy, and for some time taught in Pottawattamie county, Iowa, where his marriage occurred. Robert Austin, also a native of Van Buren county, Iowa, has given considerable attention to farming but for the last decade has conducted a livery business in Essex, Page county, this state. Alvah M. was born in Van Buren county, ands is now farming in the vicinity of Chadron, Nebraska. In August, 1869, the father married Miss Rachel Yost, and they became the parents of four children: Clyde M., who was born September 5, 1870, is now residing in Spokane, Washington, and is engaged in the real estate business. Burgess W. is next in order of birth. Sarah Adella, who was born on the 7th of January, 1874, is the wife of J. L. Martin and they reside in Graham, Idaho. Eva A., born September 22, 1876, married Robert L. Campbell, who is farming near Malvern, Mills county, Iowa. The mother of our subject was born in Belmont county, Ohio, on the 20th of September, 1829, a daughter of Jacob Yost. Both her father and mother were natives of Virginia but her ancestors came from Germany. The family has been prominent in Virginia and Ohio and the name is a highly honored one. She taught school for a number of years previous to her marriage and removed from Ohio to Pulaski, Davis county, Iowa, although her marriage was celebrated in Van Buren county. She passed away on the 15th of March, 1898, in the faith of the Presbyterian church, to which she belonged.

When but a child Burgess W. Garrett accompanied his parents on their removal to Davis county, Iowa, and in 1882 the family home was established in Decatur county, the father having purchased a farm three miles east of Leon. Our subject was educated in the public schools, Simpson College and St. Joseph's University, from which institution he was graduated in due time. He earned the money for his school expenses by working upon a farm and later taught school. For two years he was principal of the Decatur high school and maintained the high reputation of that institution. He then entered public life as deputy treasurer of Decatur county and in 1898 became his party's nominee for clerk of the district court, but although he led his ticket he was defeated at the election. For one year he was in the office of Secretary of State Martin as corporation clerk and on the inauguration of Governor Cummins he became pardon secretary, serving in that capacity until July 1, 1907. During that time he organized the department along lines of advanced thought in criminology and it was his work that made possible the establishment of the indeterminate system. From the 1st of July, 1907, until the 1st of March, 1910, he was secretary of the board of parole and in that capacity prepared the rules and blanks which are still used in the administration of the law. He is a recognized authority on criminology in Iowa and is often called upon to address church societies, conventions, etc., on that subject. In 1910 he became the republican candidate for clerk of the supreme court and accordingly resigned his position as secretary of the board of parole on the 1st of March of that year in order to prosecute his campaign. He was successful in the election and his work during his four years' term was so satisfactory that in 1914 he was reelected for another four years, the people thus expressing their confidence in his capability and integrity.

On the 15th of April, 1892, in Decatur county, Mr. Garrett was married to Miss Rachel Woodmansee, a daughter of John Woodmansee, of Leon. His father preempted the second claim taken up in Decatur township and built one of the first mills in the county on Grand river. Mrs. Garrett was educated in the public schools and taught for about two years in Decatur county. By her marriage she has two children. Neill, born in Leon on the 26th of June, 1894, is a junior in the law school of Drake University. Julian Cummins, born in Des Moines on the 1st of September, 1903, is attending the Public schools of that city. He possesses musical ability of an unusually high order. Mrs. Garrett and the elder son are members of the Christian church.

Mr. Garrett is a stalwart republican in politics and has served as chairman of the county committee and has been a member of the senatorial and congressional committees, his advice and work being important factors in securing the success of his party. He also belongs to the Christian church and since January, 1906, has been an elder in the Capitol Hill church of that denomination at Des Moines and has also been president of the board of trustees with the exception of one year. He is one of the leaders in Sunday school work, teaching the Bible class of one hundred and twenty five members and also instructing the seventeen teachers in the school at the teachers' meeting each Wednesday night. The Sunday school numbers over five hundred students and the church membership is fifteen hundred. Mr. Garrett is also president of the Inter Church Council of Des Moines, embracing eighty of the local churches which promoted the Sunday campaign. Since 1910 he has been president of the Iowa Christian Missionary Society and has held the office much longer than any other incumbent therein. He is likewise a member of the American Christian Missionary Society and takes a great interest in the missionary work of his church, believing that the denomination that is not active in missionary work of some sort will soon lose strength and power. He is president of the City Mission Council of Des Moines and a member of the Iowa Branch of Federated Churches of Christ of America, being one of the three representatives from the state of Iowa. In 1911 and 1912 he was chairman of the auxiliary committee which conducted a campaign known as a "religious appeal to men" and which was very successful in promoting the growth of a religious spirit and interest among the men of the city. While living in Leon he was superintendent of the Sunday school of the Christian church there and religious work has always played a large part in his life.

Mr. Garrett is a man of remarkable energy and efficiency and in addition to his official duties and his great activty in church work he cooperates with movements seeking the business and civic expansion of Des Moines and is a valued member of the Commercial Club of that city. His public spirit prompts him if need be to sacrifice personal gain to the general good and his influence is always on the side of justice and right. Fraternally he is a member of Leon Lodge, No. 84, I. O. O. F., and has filled all of the chairs in that organization. Both he and his wife belong to Equal Rights Lodge, No. 319, of the Rebekahs. He is also identified with Hanley Lodge, No. 1701, M. B. A., of Des Moines. He understands thoroughly the work that devolves upon him in his capacity as clerk of the supreme court and is systematic and accurate in the performance of his duties, proving an excellent official. Those who are associated with him have found him not only thoroughly competent but also accommodating and courteous, and the state is to be congratulated upon choosing Mr. Garrett as the clerk of its supreme court.

From:
History of Decatur County, Iowa
And its People
Vol II
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co.
Chiago 1915


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