Among the oldest residents of Douglas county, is Caleb Garrett, of Tuscola. His ancestors early made their home in America, his father's great-grandfather, John Garrett by name, and an Englishman by birth, having settled in Virginia. He had a son, John Garrett, and a grandson, Welcome Garrett, who was the grandfather of the subject of our sketch. Welcome Garrett was born in Virginia, and when a young man moved to Surry county, North Carolina. He served in Tennessee during the Indian wars prior to the Revolution. He married Phoebe Sumner, a Pennsylvanian by birth. The Garretts were a strong, vigorous race of men. Joshua Garrett, a brother to Welcome, was killed at the battle of Brandywine, during the Revolutionary war. Lewis, another brother, was shot by the Tories before enlisting. William was with Marion in South Carolina through the war, and after the conclusion of the struggle died of disease contracted in the service. This William Garrett was a man of powerful build and of great strength. He weighed two hundred and forty pounds, and was called the strongest man in the state of North Carolina.

Welcome Garrett became a member of the Society of Friends. In 1824 he moved to Wayne county, Indiana. He died in Hamilton county of that state, at the age of eighty-four. Isom Garrett, Caleb Garrett's father, and the son of Welcome Garrett was born in Surry county, North Carolina, in 1796. In 1814 he married Mary Puckett, and the same year moved to Clermont county, Ohio. After a residence there of a year he went to Clinton county, Ohio, where his son Caleb was born. In 1819 he moved to Randolph county, Indiana, and in 1823 to Vigo county of the same state, where he lived till his removal to Illinois, with the exception of part of the year 1839, when he resided in Texas.

The date of Caleb Garrett's birth, in Clinton county, Ohio, was the 16th of July, 1816. He was consequently seven years old when the family moved to Vigo county, Indiana, in the vicinity of Terre Haute. His early opportunities for securing an education were very limited. One of the schools which he attended was about three miles and a half from his father's residence near Honey Creek bridge. Here school was sometimes kept for three months in the year, an unusually long period at that day. Another school was afterward established nearer home under the care of Joel Butler, of the state of New York, which for a time afforded excellent advantages. The next school he attended was taught by one Joel Thayer, an excellent teacher, but so confirmed and inebriate that the children soon discontinued attendance on his instruction. His father was a man of considerable education, and under his care he learned rapidly. According to Isom Garrett, his father, obedience to his parents was one of his marked traits. His mother died in 1830, and for a period of nine years succeeding this event, the father and the sons, Caleb and Nathan, kept house for themselves, and did their own cooking, besides attending to their usual occupations. During part of this period Mr. Garrett was in the employment of Chauncey Rose, of Terre Haute, and now one of the wealthiest and most liberal citizens of Indiana. He drove an ox team for Lucius H. Scott, now of Philadelphia. He dropped corn for twenty-five cents a day, and split rails at from twenty-five to thirty cents a hundred, averaging one hundred and fifty for a usual day's work. For a long time he worked for a wealthy Scotchman, William Walker, at six dollars a month. At twenty-one he was probably the strongest man in all the country round. Although full of life, he had no intemperate habits. He was a favorite in the community. "He could do as big day's work as anyone," says his father, "and at a country frolic could play a tune on the fiddle second to none."

In the period from 1834 to 1839 he made several trips down the river on a flat boat, and thus became well acquainted with the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The greater part of one winter he remained in New Orleans. On a return trip at one time with Captain Shallcross, of Louisville, he was stuck in the ice near Paducah, Kentucky, and the men were reduced to two crackers a day. On this same trip, in coming home, he walked from Evansville to Terre Haute through snow eighteen inches in depth. Out of the forty boatmen who started at the same time, only Mr. Garrett and a companion succeeded in going through, the others falling behind and giving it up before they had gone far.

In 1840, on the day succeeding the exciting presidential campaign of that year in which Mr. Garratt voted for General William Henry Harrison, he took a steamer for New Orleans on his way to Texas. The steamer stuck fast in the rapids below Terre Haute, the pilot became intoxicated, and Mr. Garrett, in company with two other young men bound for points south, procured a rough spring wagon in which they journeyed from Mt. Carmel to Evansville on the Ohio river, when the three took a steamer and continued their voyage. One of his companions left him to go up to the Cumberland and the other up the Tennessee river. At New Orleans he secured a passage on a steamship for Galveston, Texas. When out on the Gulf of Mexico the vessel encountered a terrific gale, and for seventy-two hours the ship and crew were in danger of going to the bottom. At Galveston a steamer was taken for Houston. But the steamer stuck fast on the bar, and for a day or two the passengers had time to amuse themselves by fishing in the shallow water for oysters. Mr. Garrett was aiming to make his way first to Independence, in Washington, county. To this point he traveled on foot, with the exception of thirty or forty miles before reaching the town, when he had opportunity of riding. At Independence he obtained a mustang pony, and continued his journey to Austin City. The route led two hundred miles through a frontier country inhabited by hostile Indians. At Austin City, on his arrival, the Congress of the Republic of Texas was in session. Texas had then achieved its independence from Mexico, and formed a separate republic, of which Lamar was president. Sam Houston was one of the prominent members of the Congress. Mr. Garrett remained several weeks in that section of the country, and was frequently in attendance on the sessions of the Congress, on one of which occasions he heard Houston deliver his speech on sectionizing and selling the lands of the Cherokee Indians. Mainly for the purpose of seeing the country, he joined a surveying party, and was absent for some time on the exposed frontier. On his return a company was organized for a buffalo hunt and general exploring expedition, which Mr. Garrett joined, still animated by a desire to see something further of frontier life before he should leave Texas. The partv consisted of nine men and two boys. They were attacked by a party of Indians, between thirty and fifty in number. The horse of a young man named Osburn was shot under him, the rider having received a spear wound in the back. The unfortunate man, after being knocked insensible with his own gun by the Indians, was scalped within sight of the remainder of the party, and left for dead on the field. He was afterward rescued, and finally recovered from his wound. The whole party effected their escape to a block-house.

Mr. Garrett's visit to Texas had for its end an object different from any yet described in a record of these incidents. On the 20th of December, 1840, he had been married to Irene Puckett, a native of Vigo county, Indiana, but who at that time resided on the Colorado river, twelve miles below Austin City. He had previously been acquainted with her in Indiana. In February, 1841, he, with his wife, set out on his return home. In company with three or four others they journeyed by an ox team to Houston, where they took a steamer, and ran down the Buffalo Bayou, and thence across the bay where the vessel struck an old ship anchor, tore off part of the planking, and was in danger of sinking. Remaining some days in Galveston, they took passage on the steamer New York for New Orleans. From here they proceeded up the Mississippi and Ohio to Evansville, Indiana, and there took stage for Terre Haute, at which place they arrived on the 5th of March, 1841.

Mr. Garrett now engaged in farming and stock raising, at first renting a farm five miles south of Terre Haute. He was soon called upon, however, to discharge other duties. In August, 1842, he was chosen to represent the county of Vigo in the Indiana Legislature. He took his seat in December, 1842, and served the following winter. The next year he was re-elected, and served another session, performing his duties with credit to himself and satisfaction to his constituents. He was only twenty-six at the time of his first election. Like his father before him, Mr. Garrett was a Whig, and it was as a candidate of the Whig party that he was elected to the Indiana Legislature. At the conclusion of his second term of office he declined a re-election, and devoted himself more assiduously than ever to farming and stock raising. He bought a small farm six miles south of Terre Haute, but sold it after making improvements upon it. He continued to reside in Indiana till 1849. His business operations were attended with success. He desired to invest his surplus funds in new land, and in consequence resolved to settle in Illinois.

He had visited Illinois in company with three others in the fall of 1833. He traversed the state from Edgar county to the Mississippi, passing through Sadorus Grove, Springfield and Beardstown, to Quincy. His course was then up the river for a considerable distance, when, leaving it, he journeyed southeast to the Illinois, and thence through Springfield by the old Springfield trace, across the Okaw, through what is now Douglas county by the Wayne stand, to Paris in Edgar county, and thence to Terre Haute. There were no settlements on the route traveled through Douglas county except at the Shaw stand.

About 1846 Mr. Garrett bought one hundred and sixty acres of land near William Brian's in what is now Douglas county. The next spring he came out with an ox team and began improving it. In 1849 he removed with his family to Douglas county for the purpose of making a permanent residence. He had previously been accustomed to driving cattle from Indiana, and herding them in Douglas county. He located on section three, of township fifteen, range seven. He devoted his whole attention to farming and stock raising. In 1856 he and his wife revisited Texas. They were absent about three months, during which they traveled extensively over the northeastern part of the state. His farm of eight hundred and sixty acres, on which he lived till recently, was sold in May, 1875. He now resides in Tuscola. For two or three years following 1868 he was in the grocery business at Tuscola in partnership with Mr. John M. Maris.

Mr. Garrett served on the first grand jury that ever convened in Douglas county. In 1854 he was elected justice of the peace and held that office until his resignation. On the organization of the county into townships, Mr. Garrett was chosen a member of the board of supervisors from Garrett township. His public trusts he has discharged with fidelity, and few citizens of the county have gained a larger share of the popular esteem.

Extracted 03 Apr 2020 by Norma Hass from the Historical and Biographical Record of Douglas County, Illinois, published in 1900, pages 291-295.

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