24 May 2010

J. D. Garrett Touched Many Lives in Eastern Kentucky

Compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber 2010

Recently I wrote about preserving the early records of Garrett Chapel Church, located in Lawrence County, Kentucky. I mentioned that while J. D. Garrett, John Martin and J. C. Crooks were not on the minister's list for the church they had received many into the Garrett Chapel flock.

These minister's all traveled great distances sharing their Methodist Episcopal faith. I have heard the story many times that John Martin stayed so much at the Sexton/Klaiber home on Long Branch in Boyd County that one of the upper rooms in the home was simply called the Martin Room.

Of all the entries in the Garrett Chapel Ledger, J. D. Garrett's name appears repeatedly. Time and again I have run across marriage entries in Greenup, Boyd and Lawrence County where J. D. Garrett was the minister. The entries are always signed with given name initials: J. D. Garrett.

Strangely enough, J. D. Garrett never resided in Eastern Kentucky. J[ames] D[oliver] Garrett was born in Wayne County, Virginia [now West Virginia]. He appears consistently on the Wayne County, Virginia/West Virginia census from 1850 thru 1910. The only census that lists his occupation as "preacher" is 1900, all others list him simply as a farmer.

J. D. Garrett grew up in the household of Benjamin Garrett born about 1733 in North Carolina and wife Sarah. A simple Google search shows multiple entries listing J. D. Garrett as the son of Benjamin and wife Sarah Bloss Garrett who had settled in Wayne County. James Doliver Garrett married Mary Helen Staley 5 April 1864 according to Wayne County, West Virginia marriage records. Census records show eleven children all born in West Virginia.

Not only did J. D. and wife Mary Helen have 11 children, J. D. was one of 14 children of Benjamin Garrett. The Big Sandy News published that the surviving sons and daughters of Benjamin had a reunion at Reverend J. D. Garrett's four miles below Wayne in the 8 November 1901 issue. Busy in Wayne County West Virginia, J. D. Garrett still allotted valued time in Eastern Kentucky.

Not one of these genealogical entries shows the personality or a flicker of the person J. D. Garrett was. It is rather sad that our generated cut and dry data bases don't reflect the energy, vitality and personality of those we are trying to document.

J. D. Garrett was performing marriages in Wayne County prior to 1880. The "Rev." J. D. Garrett married Joseph P. Malcom and Sophia Sprecker at the home of Joseph McCormack's "all of Wayne County" 1 May 1879 according to The Central Methodist. When he married Henry B. Keyser and Ida Philbrick in Greenup County, Kentucky in 1885 he signed as "Elder M. E. Church" on the return filed in the courthouse.

The Big Sandy News proudly announced, 18 July 1889 that "The new Methodist church known as Cyrus Chapel on Durbin Road in Boyd County will be dedicated August 18, 1889. Reverend John W. Hampton of Ashland will preach. Dinner will be served on the grounds. J. D. Garrett, pastor." Colonial Dames XVII Century honored Cyrus Chapel a few years ago. I was privileged to sit among the members of this tiny rural church and enjoy a beautiful service followed by some of the best desserts you could put in your mouth. I can just imagine what that dinner was like in 1889.

The Conferences of the Methodist Episcopal Church published annual minutes. Several of these are readily available on line. J. D. Garrett is listed in the Prestonsburg District at Logan in 1889, the same year that he is cited as a pastor for Cyrus Chapel. Understand that travel back and forth across the Big Sandy River was and is done daily from West Virginia to Kentucky. The minutes in 1898 show him at Mt. Zion in the Catlettsburg District, as stated in my prior article. Mt. Zion is another pretty little white painted church on Route #3 just a few miles north of Garrett Chapel.

An inspirational story has been repeated at several religious web sites that involves J. D. Garrett. The story is found in Dying Testimonies of the Saved and Unsaved Part 3. It tells of a lady near death that had attended a revival conducted by Rev. J. D. Garrett. He visited her and as he entered she exclaimed "I am lost, lost, lost, lost, lost!" Thus the title of the segment. The ill woman felt that had she been saved during the revival it would have been ok but felt it was to late. The article quotes Garrett as saying "...it seemed as though hell were near them that night, and was uncapped as the poor, dying woman wept over her lost condition." ...."He went to her bedside, threw his arms about her, and told her of the Savior's love for sinners, but she cried, "It is too late for me...until her soul took its departure."

Garrett appears to have brought joy in marriage and stayed with many as they left our earthly home. As late as 1906 he presided over funerals. The Wayne News announced the death of Mrs. Lucy McComas near the Cabell County line who had died in April 1902 with the funeral conducted by Reverend J. D. Garrett.

A wonderful article about another circuit rider, Rev. John T. Johnson, appears in the History of Lawrence County 1991. The article submitted by Dallas A. Johnson states that John T. Johnson left a request for "a Rev. Garrett to preach his funeral..." There is no doubt in my mind that Rev. Garrett is J. D. Garrett. Johnson had been an active circuit rider in Boyd and Lawrence County even prior to the Civil War. He died in April 1906.

Knowing that J. D. Garrett's mother was a Bloss I turned to my office library and copy of Bloss, Pyles, Ross, Sellards published in 1990. I was hoping that the author Harry Leon Sellards had written more about Garrett's calling. The publication simply says "Rev. James Doliver Garrett. Born 22 March 1845 and died 12 February 1913 both on Garretts Creek in present day Wayne County, WV., son of Benjamin, Jr., and Sarah Bloss Garrett. ..." The publication gives data for his wife and children but no further acknowledgment on how he touched so many lives in West Virginia and Eastern Kentucky.

Many people were touched by J. D. Garrett at Garrett Chapel in Lawrence County, Kentucky as shown by the multiple entries in the copy of the ledger now on file at the Boyd County Library. Many were joined together in marriage and many blessed as they left this life by J. D. Garrett. The next time you fill out your genealogical forms take time to review information about the minister performing the many events in the lives of our ancestors and remember how they formed and touched their lives.


  1. Hello, I am curious if this pastor was related to the Garred family of Louisa, Lawrence County, Kentucky. David Jacob Garred and his wife Jane "Jennie" (Graham) Garred moved from Virginia to an area on the Big Sandy River just north of Louisa. On their land they had a chapel that was called the Garred Chapel. The spelling of their name had many variations, including Jarrett, Garred, Gerrad, etc. Was this the same chapel? I descend from this family and am also a believer, so this is especially of interest to me. Thank you!

  2. At this time I have not made a connection of the Garrett families of this area with the Garred family. Further genealogical research would be advised. The Chapels are two separate church's.

  3. I enjoyed reading about James Doliver Garrett, my great-great grandfather.Thank you for the time it took to put this together.