Throwback Thursday: Garrett Railroad in the John Martin Smith Collection

Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!

Garrett is known for their Railroaders, but do you know the history behind that nickname? Today, let’s take a look at Garrett’s connection to the railroad that brought about its founding.

New Beds

The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was the first commercial railroad in the U. S., laying hundreds of miles of track between its founding in 1827 and its financial troubles in 1846, when $6 million of track put the railroad in a difficult position. In stepped successful Baltimore merchant and shipper Robert Garrett, who offered financial assistance and help with management decisions, rescuing the railroad. His son, John Work Garrett, became President of the B & O in in 1958.


Under John Garrett, the B & O stretched westward toward Chicago, the growing railroad center of the U.S. To connect the Newark-Sandusky line of the B & O to Chicago’s rail network, Garrett decided to run a line through DeKalb County, much to the excitement of the locals.

Although progress was difficult—over land dotted with ravines and swamp—the railroad was practically complete by September 1874. However, the B & O still needed a division point, somewhere locomotives could be serviced and train crews could go on and off duty.


This division point was created on the Butler and Richland Township line, a growing railroad town named after the B & O’s president at the time: John Garrett. The town was laid out by Beverly L. Randolph and recorded in the 1875 plat books. Within ten months, the thriving community supported two hotels, a newspaper, stores and saloons, and several hundred citizens. With its connections through the railroad and the promise of employment opportunities, things were off to a bright start for Garrett, Indiana.

To see more, click here and search “B & O.”


About Jenny

I am the Associate Director of Eckhart Public Library. My office is in the Administrative Annex, but I can often be found roaming the Eckhart Public Library Campus, performing acts of librarianship in every department! I love to read and learn about history. I'm also a huge fan of movies, TV and pop culture in general, and I love to read books of all types. Currently, I'm working my way around the romance section, with some historical fiction and graphic novels thrown in for variety! But you never know what I'm going to pick up next.
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