A Narrative History of The People of Iowa


BURGESS WILSON GARRETT. The clerk of the Supreme Court of Iowa, Hon. Burgess Wilson Garrett, is now serving his fifth term in this office to which he was elected in 1910. However, his public service has extended much further back than this, for he first became a public servant in 1901, during the administration of Governor Cummins. His record is a splendid one and one well worthy of emulation, and stands upon its own merits rather than upon the power of oratory, which is so great a part of Mr. Garrett's personal equipment.

    Mr. Garrett was born in a log cabin on a farm in Van Buren County, Iowa, February 24, 1872, and is a son of William C. and Rachel (Yost) Garrett. His paternal grandfather was Robert Garrett, a native of South Carolina, who came to Iowa with his family at an early date and died in 1856, during an epidemic of cholera. William C. Garrett was born in Highland County, Ohio, and came to Iowa about the year 1849, purchasing a farm in Van Buren County, where he resided for a number of years. Later he moved to Davis County and finally to Decatur County, where his death occurred. Mr. Garrett was a man of some prominence in his community and represented Van Buren County in the Iowa Legislature during the Civil war period. He was an ardent abolitionist, and his home was one of the stations of the famous "Underground Railway," his worthy wife always being ready to furnish food to the fugitive slaves who were endeavoring to make their way to the Canadian line. They were faithful members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and he was a stanch Republican. Of their nine children three are living: John A., a retired citizen of Kansas City, Missouri; Clyde W., who is engaged in farming at Ontario, Oregon; and Burgess Wilson. The maternal grandfather of Mr. Garrett, Jacob Yost, was born in Ohio, and was an early settler of Iowa, making his way overland from Belmont County, Ohio, where his daughter, Mrs. Garrett, was born.

    Burgess Wilson Garrett attended the public schools of his native community, following which he pursued a course at Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa. He was reared on the home farm and for a time taught school and was principal of the high school at Decatur, but with the election of Governor Cummins, in 1901, took up his residence at Des Moines, where for five and one half ye3ars he served in the capacity of pardon secretary. He assisted in the organization of the parole board, and was secretary thereof until 1910, when he ran for the office of clerk of the Supreme Court, to which he was elected and took office in 1911. He is now serving his fifth term in that capacity, and his record has been an admirable one. Mr. Garrett has always been an active Republican. He began making speeches in behalf of his party when only nineteen years of age, and at the present time is called upon more frequently in this capacity than any other man connected with the State House. In 1916 Mr. Garrett was temporary chairman of the Republican State Convention which met in Des Moines, and was both temporary and permanent chairman of the State Judicial Convention at Cedar Rapids in 1928, setting a new record of speed in state conventions by making the "keynote" speech and transacting the business of the convention all in twenty-three minutes. For seven years Mr. Garrett has been president of the Iowa State Christian Missionary Society and for fourteen years has been an elder of the Capitol Hill Christian Church of Des Moines. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Modern Brotherhood of America.

    In April, 1863, Mr. Garrett was united in marriage with Miss Rachael Woodmansee, a daughter of John and Mary Ann (Cook) Woodmansee, the former born in Indiana and the latter in Missouri. Mr. Woodmansee was the third white settler of Decatur Township, Decatur County, and his brick house, one of the first of this construction erected there, still stands as a monument to his memory and progressive spirit. To Mr. and Mrs. Garrett there have been born two sons. Neil Garrett, the elder, who is now assistant attorney general of Iowa, enlisted in the World war and was the youngest man to receive a commission at Fort Snelling, whence he was sent to Camp Dodge and assigned to the Eighty-eighth Division. He was promoted from second lieutenant to first lieutenant and then to captain, and was made commander of the Nineteenth Supply Train, with six companies under his command. At the same time he was commander of Motor Transport Service and was to have been promoted major, but the armistice was signed four days before he received his commission as such. He received his degree of Bachelor of Laws from Drake University and was engaged in the practice of his profession at Des Moines until he received his appointment as assistant attorney general of Iowa. Julian Cummins Garrett, the youngest son, also attended Drake University, form which he received his degree, and is now engaged in the practice of law at Des Moines.


~ source: A Narrative History of The People of Iowa with SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY, BUSINESS, ETC., by EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M. Curator of the Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa Volume IV THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc. Chicago and New York. 1931
~ transcribe by Debbie Clough Gerischer for the Great War