The Captain of the Emerald City
Andrew William Garrett was born in Sparta, Georgia on November 10, 1870. Although Garrett possessed only the rudimentary elements of a small public school education, the Hancock countian became one of Dublin's most astute financial men. When Cap Garrett first arrived in Dublin, he found his new home, a Phoenix rising out of the mire of alcohol loving and uneducated men, governed by the remaining sons of the Antebellum plantation days. Dublin was still without a true bank. It would be several years later before the formation of the Dublin Banking Company. Garrett was first hired as the bank's exchange clerk. He left the bank for a better position in the bank across the street, the Laurens Banking Company.
Cap's stay at the Laurens Banking Company was short lived, for in 1902, Frank Corker, President of the newly chartered First National Bank of Dublin, hired Garrett as the bank's first Cashier. A decade later, the First National would move into its new quarters, a skyscraper on the corner of South Jefferson and West Madison streets. Known as the tallest building between Macon and Savannah, the bank itself became the largest bank between the two cities as well. In 1917, just before the boll weevil attacked and killed the cotton crop, Laurens County was home to seventeen banks, a total matched only by Fulton and Chatham counties.
As Vice-President, A.W. Garrett oversaw the daily operations of the bank. When the economy began to collapse during the years of World War I when vital cotton crops, which had only years before pumped millions of dollars into the local economy, collapsed, tenant farmers began to migrate to the North. One by one, Dublin banks began to fail. Garrett stood firm in his opposition to buying the assets of the Dublin-Laurens Bank, the merged institution of his former employers. Nevertheless, his fellow directors disregarded Garrett's advice and went ahead with the purchase. The result was a financial disaster. In 1928, after desperate attempts by Garrett and others, the powerful First National Bank closed its doors, leaving the once thriving city without a bank. To Garrett, who had invested nearly all of his assets in the bank, the failure was financially fatal. He lost everything he had.
Cap Garrett had known despair before. His beloved Mamie died in childbirth in 1906. She was only 29 years old. Garrett had left his home and moved to Dublin to establish himself as a businessman before proposing marriage to the love of his life, Miss Mamie Culver, a Sparta school teacher. The couple married in 1902. To the union were born, two daughters, Elizabeth (Mrs. B.B.) Page and Martha (Mrs. Lewis W.) Turner. When Mamie died, Cap Garrett was left a busy businessman with two small daughters. Garrett wrote an eloquent letter to his sister, Addie in Sparta beseeching her to "come and raise his two motherless little girls to be Christian women." Addie moved into the Garrett household and raised her nieces in the first Garrett home, which was located on the present site of the post office.
A very eligible bachelor, Cap was inundated with casseroles by the eligible ladies of the city. Andrew Garrett married Mary Elizabeth Felder, who had come to Dublin to live with her sister Lula Felder Fuller, who lived across the street from Garrett's home.
In 1910, Garrett, at the zenith of his business career, hired John A. Kelley to build a handsome home on the corner of Bellevue Avenue and North Calhoun streets.
Garrett invested large sums of money into his farm at Garretta, Georgia. Garretta was a rail stop on the Dublin and Southwestern Railroad where it crossed Turkey Creek on present day Highway 441 South. Garrett named his highly successful and productive Greystone Farms, which produced large quantities of cotton, crops and fine livestock, in honor of the favorite summer camp of his daughters.
It was the custom of the day for the city's wealthiest men to subscribe shares of stocks in as many ventures as they could to minimize their losses by diversifying their assets. Garrett was no exception. Cap Garrett's primary interests outside of banking were in the area of insurance and private loans. Garrett joined his neighbor, J.M. Finn, known as Dublin's Number One Citizen, to form the real estate investment firm of Finn, Garrett and Holcomb. He formed the Citizens Loan and Guaranty Company, said to have been the section's largest insurance Company. Garrett invested huge sums into his company, Mutual Life Industrial Insurance Associates.
But, Andrew Garrett was more than just a businessman. He gave back to the community he loved. Cap Garrett helped to form the city's first Y.M.C.A. chapter and the first Board of Trade. And, he was an early advocate and promoter of city parks. He was active in the founding and operation of the first Chamber of Commerce. When the call came out to organize a local Red Cross Chapter in World War I, Cap Garrett jumped to the forefront to help lead the effort. His list of agri-business interests included the Middle Georgia Fertilizer Company, the Dixie Fertilizer Company, and the Dublin Lumber Company.
Garrett generally shied away from politics, but did serve a term as Treasurer of the City of Dublin and a term as an alderman. Late in his life, Garrett conducted an unsuccessful campaign for Tax Commissioner of Laurens County.
Cap Garrett was a devout Methodist. He was Superintendent of the First Methodist Church Sunday School, member of the Board of Stewards, and the founder of the Leaders Sunday School Class - what other class would this inveterate leader be a founder of? The highly reverent Garrett was not too keen on the modern day ways of the youth of his day. But, nearly every Sunday night after church, Garrett allowed his daughters to entertain their friends with punch, cookies and games. When the curfew time came, Garrett would come to the head of the stairs, clear his throat, and watch as his daughters' guests said pleasant goodbyes and thank yous for a fine evening, remembered his granddaughter, Betty Page. Betty fondly remembers the Sundays when her grandfather would stop by on his way to church to take his grandchildren to Sunday School, but not before taking the time to read the funny papers, to them a ritual which always amused everyone.
Captain Andrew William Garrett, dubbed a monarch of finance, and with integrity of the highest order, was loved for his concern for the common folks of the city. Garrett, who had seen economic booms and financial calamities, maintained that good crops were the key to financial prosperity. He said, "Good crops provide abundant work, not merely in the harvest field, but on the railroads, the factories, and in every department of business. The farmer is the real fountainhead of progress."
January 23, 1939 was a sad day in Dublin. Cap Garrett was dead. For the first time in nearly fifty years, Andrew W. Garrett was not there at the helm to improve and keep building the town he loved, Dublin, The Emerald City.