Biography of Captain Richard M. Garratt

Captain Richard M. Garratt, an honored veteran of the Civil War, who is now capably filling the position of superintendent of the almshouse of Milpitas, was born at Worcester, England, on the 3d of March 1840. His parents, Richard and Jane (Staples) Garratt were also natives of that country and belonged to old English families. They conducted a large millinery establishment in England and were prominent manufacturers of that country. The father died in 1898, while the mother’s death occurred in 1897. They were the parents of three sons and one daughter, namely: Richard M., Jane, Walter, and Frank.

In his early boyhood days Captain Garratt was sent as a student to a private school and afterward entered Oxford College in 1858. He had spent a year as a student there, when becoming dissatisfied with his conditions and wishing to see America, he ran away and took passage on a westward-bound sailing vessel, which brought him to the United States. He had been in this country for but a brief period when the Civil War was inaugurated. His study of the questions of the day had enlisted his sympathy for the Union cause, and in 1861 he offered his services in its defense, becoming a member of the Ninety-sixth Illinois Volunteer Infantry, of which he was later made first sergeant. Subsequently he became a first lieutenant in the Fourteenth Regiment of the United States Colored Infantry and afterward was promoted to the rank of captain of the Forty-fourth Colored United States Infantry. He continued with the army until after the close of hostilities, when, in 1866, he resigned. He took part in many important engagements, and his record for loyalty and valor compared favorably with that of any native-born son of America.

After leaving the army Captain Garratt came to California, locating first in Sacramento, where he entered the employ of the Central Pacific Railroad Company as a freight clerk. When the station was opened at San Jose he was transferred to the latter place, being the first agent there. He filled that position for ten years and was then promoted to general freight agent of the northern division of the road. Subsequently he resigned in order to accept the position of general manager of the Santa Cruz and Felton Railroad Company and the San Lorenzo Flume and Transportation Company. When this railroad became a part of the South Pacific Coast Railway system, he was made general freight and passenger agent for the company and acted in that capacity until he resigned in order to accept an appointment as state superintendent of construction for the Agnew Asylum. On the completion of his work there he went to Ukiah to superintend a similar work in Mendocino County. In 1897, attracted by the discovery of gold in Alaska and the development of the rich mineral fields there, he went to the northwest, but after spending two years he returned to San Jose, and was appointed city superintendent of streets, filling the position for two years. In March 1902, he received the appointment of superintendent of the almshouse of Milpitas and has since acted in that capacity.

Captain Garratt was married in 1870, the lady of his choice being Miss Abbie Farmer, a native of Illinois, and a daughter of Life Farmer, one of the early settlers of Kankakee County, that state. Six children, three sons and three daughters, have been born to the captain and his wife, namely: Richard, now deceased; Walter; Clifford; Grace; Florence; and Maude. Mrs. Garratt died October 11, 1881, and on September 29, 1882, the Captain was again married, his second union being with Mrs. Thomas Mann, a widow.

In his political affiliations Captain Garratt has always been a staunch Republican, unswerving in his loyalty to the party and its principles, and he has taken an active interest in local and state politics. He belongs to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Improved Order of Red Men, the Knights of Pythias fraternity, and to the Masonic fraternity, and in the last named he has attained the thirty-second degree of the Scottish Rite. His life has been one marked by eventful and varied experiences. Reared in England, coming to America as a young man with no capital, he has been dependent upon his own resources, and not only has he achieved success, but has been identified with labors resulting in the material upbuilding and improvement of his adopted state.

Source: Leigh H. Irvine; A History of the New California Its Resources and People, 2 Volumes; New York and Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903.

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