Images of the Past: John M Garrett, civic leader

Communities treasure people who are always there pitching in — when there is a need to meet or a project to accomplish. Often, their involvement is traced to a desire to give back to a place that is dear to them. Such was the case more than 50 years ago when Moulton wanted a library and John M. Garrett was looking for a suitable living memorial to honor his parents, W.F. and Jennie Fry Garrett. The Garrett Memorial Library (above) was the result, and generations of Moulton area residents and school children have relied on the library. John Garrett’s gift of $28,000 helped the project qualify for federal grants. (It should be noted that Garrett’s gift is equivalent to $207,000 today after adjusting for inflation. By comparison, Andrew Carnegie’s grant of $10,000 in 1911 for the library in Bloomfield would be equivalent to $266,000 in today’s dollars). The library was dedicated Memorial Day weekend in 1969, with Congressman John Kyl being the main speaker.

John Garrett died in August 1970. The Moulton Tribune wrote, “[His death] is deeply felt in the area where his philanthropy has been responsible for so many improvements. ... His constant efforts were devoted to the betterment of the area, and his warmth and understanding made him countless friends who grieve with family in his death. ... Moulton business houses closed during his funeral out of respect.”

John Milton Garrett was born in Centerville in 1893. He was named for his grandfather, Dr. John M. Garrett, who moved from Ohio to practice medicine in Troy. The doctor’s son, Wilber Franklin Garrett, or simply W.F., grew up in Troy, received his law degree from the University of Iowa and returned to Troy to become principal of the Troy Academy. Three years later, he moved to Moulton, where he practiced law for the next 33 years.

Growing up, John Garrett attended school in Moulton, college at Iowa City, and while in France

with the U.S. Army’s 88th Infantry Division, at the Sorbonne.  Prior to World War I, he was a teacher in New London, Iowa, and in Idaho and California. Back in Moulton in 1920, he returned to teaching. In 1923, he was appointed Moulton’s postmaster, a position he held for the next 13 years. Then in June 1936, Garrett was named secretary to Iowa Congressman Lloyd Thurston, a position he held for two years. But even more noteworthy that month was his marriage to Hazelle Hornaday.

In 1941, Garrett and his brother Lloyd began operating Garrett’s Chevrolet dealership in Bloomfield. He sold the business in 1953, when he became president of Time Loan Inc. in Ottumwa, a position he held until 1958, when he bought controlling interest in the Davis County Savings Bank, where he served as chairman of the board for the rest of his life. The bank, now known as Success Bank, is still owned by Garrett’s daughter, Nancy Garrett Logan, and his grandson, Neal Logan.

Throughout his life, Garrett maintained a deep devotion to the Moulton area and the

Moulton-Udell school district. He also helped establish the Little League baseball teams in Ottumwa and Bloomfield.      

 — Rudy Evans  |  revans1953@gmail.com