The historical accounts were so ambiguous and at times outright contradictory that at times I was frustrated. I kept wishing I had the use of Merri’s Beautiful Houses software to clear things up. Here are some of the confusing issues. You could check my sources at the end of this article if you like. But here’s a summary of what I found:
The correct spelling of the family’s surname is one of the first questions that came up. Although Reynolds and Perkins spell it Garretson, Annals of the West, the earliest history I found, spells it Garrison. And in later years, Garrison was firmly established, and James’ friend Shadrach Bond bequeaths property to him as James Garrison.
But on the gravestone put up by DAR it is spelled Garretson. And the Garretson family claims James and Isabelle in their family tree listed on Genealogy.com, and they definitely spell it Garretson.
One member posted that Cornelius was the son of Garret Garreston. I agree with Merri that that bit of information clenches it. I figured the family would be more likely to know the truth of the matter than an outsider. My theory is that the name devolved from the original Garretson into the more familiar sounding word, Garrison. Maybe the family just got tired of spelling it to everyone they met.
James Garretson Senior or Junior?
Another error perpetuated through the years was the combining of the two James Garretsons—senior and junior. (Genealogists, wouldn’t it be wonderful if people stopped naming their sons after their fathers and grandfathers?) This led to confusion about which James was injured in the Indian attack. I decided making it the father made more sense. And the error also led to confusion about which Samuel Garretson was actually scalped.
Samuel Garrison—son or brother?
Governor Reynolds and Carl Baldwin claim that James Garretson senior’s brother Samuel came along with the five original families who settled at Bellefontaine (later Waterloo). It was this brother, they claim, who was killed and scalped by Indians in the hay field. They also claim that it was Samuel’s daughters Mary and Jane who were kidnapped by Indians.
No disrespect, Gov. Reynolds and Mr. Baldwin, but I think you’re wrong. The problem arises because James Garrison had both a brother and a son named Samuel. (People, have pity on researchers. Come up with original names for your children!) But according to the Garretson family tree posted HERE Samuel, James senior’s’ brother, never left Pennsylvania. He died August 21, 1822 and is buried in Newberry, Pennsylvania.
The Samuel Garretson scalped by the Indians was James and Isabelle’s son. It was a bad time for the Garretsons, to be sure. And that wasn’t even counting what had happened two years previously.
Mary and Jane Garrison—daughters or nieces?
According to James Baldwin:
In 1786 Indians kidnapped two small children of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Garrison. The youngsters were taken to the upper reaches of the Sangamon River in central Illinois. Scraps of information about this event tell us only that the kidnap victims were returned to the Garrisons a year later through the intercession of Nicholas Jarrot, Cahokia’s prosperous Indian Trader.
But the only Samuel Garretson in the Illinois Country settlement was Mary and Jane’s brother, not their father. Knowing this also clears up another confusing issue. It’s one thing for families to name a son after a father. But if we believe Reynolds’ and Baldwin’s accounts, we’d also have to believe that both James and his brother Samuel named their daughters Mary and Jane.
No, it was James and Isabelle’s daughters who were kidnapped. I thought about including this kidnap story in Once Again, but figured readers wouldn’t believe one family could suffer so much hardship. Truth is truly stranger than fiction.
Arrowheads to Aerojets January 1, 1967. Historical Book Committe of Monroe Historial Society. Helen Ragland Klein (Editor)
Annals of the West by James Handasyd Perkins and James R. Albach. (1852)
Captains of the Wilderness. Carl R. Baldwin. (1986)
The Pioneer History of Illinois by Illinois governor John Reynolds. (1887)
The History of the Lemen Family of Illinois and Virginia by Frank B. Lemen (1898)
Echoes Of Their Voices” A Saga Of The Pioneers Who Pushed The Frontier Westward To the Mississippi by Carl R. Baldwin
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