Located on U.S. 70 and the Southern Railroad southeast of Raleigh, Garner is situated in St. Mary's Township, which got its name from a Church of England parish.
It is known that there were settlers in the area before the Revolutionary War. There are documented records of a church south of Garner in the Panther Branch Township as far back as 1756.
According to the late Parker Rand, a 3,000-acre tract of land was granted to his forefathers by King George in 1759. Part of this area later was to be the site of a community known as Rand's Mill. Rand's Mill Pond was later renamed Lake Benson. It was enlarged in 1951 and is now used as a reservoir.
Other tracts of land in the Garner area are known to have been granted before the revolution to Allens, Banks, Leaches, McCullers, Johns, and Turners. There was a school in the area as early as 1804, and at least four churches before the Civil War, all indicating settlements in the area.
It is an undisputed fact that, as a town, Garner got its start with the coming of the railroad. The railroad station in Garner was constructed in 1901. In 1967, the depot was closed after railroad authorities decided that the station's services were no longer needed.
Garner has continued to grow and prosper since its early beginnings. In 1891, the village of Garner's Station had its charter repealed, and in 1905 application was made and granted for its reinstatement as the Town of Garner.
The first town officials in 1905 were J.B. Richardson, mayor; H.D. Rand, J.J. Bagwell, H. Bryan, M.C. Penny, and J.S. Buffaloe, all Aldermen. These gentlemen were appointed to serve one year or until their successors were duly elected and qualified.
There are several legends as to how Garner got its name. One story has it that Thomas Bingham named the town. Bingham is said to have combined a general store with handling the mail. Since Webster defines 'garner” as a 'granary,” hence figuratively, a “store,” he named the town “Garner.”
The late Parker Rand believed that Garner was named for a family that lived in the area and later moved to Texas.
Others believe the town was named by Henry Fort, a black cabinetmaker and carpenter who owned some land along the railroad after the Civil War.
William S. Powell stated that Garner was named for its founder, H.C. Garner. An article in "The State" also named H.C. Garner as its founder, but not much information has been found about the man.
Garner experienced actual combat in the closing days of the Civil War. Some skirmishes occurred in the area as witnessed by the carefully preserved bullet holes in Bethel Church and the Garner house said to have been used as a hospital for wounded soldiers.
Times immediately after the close of the war must have been difficult, but by 1878 the little community had succeeded in getting a post office established. This was when the name "Garner's Station” originated. Thomas Bingham was the first postmaster.
An old map dated 1887 shows Garner connected with the city of Raleigh by a road, listed as Holloman's Road. This was a typical country road at the time, unpaved until about 1918. Its importance, aside from its serving as a link between the small Garner community and the State Capitol, lay in the fact that it was a small section of what was to become one of the oldest and longest traveled corridors in North Carolina, the Central Highway.
In 1910, the road became jointly known as Number 10 and U.S. 70 on the popular maps of the day. Highway 70 was the first paved road to be built in the state and was financed by the first bonds sold by the state to build highways.
The Central Highway from the mountains to the sea was started in 1911. The portion of the highway between Garner and Raleigh had been paved about 1916 or 1917. Sam Mitchiner recalls going to the W.W. I by way of the muddy dirt road and returning to find it paved. This section of the highway today is known as Garner Road.
Farming was the chief source of income for the early settlers of Garner and nearby ares, with cotton the principal crop. Before the turn of the century some businesses were beginning to be developed.
The first business in Garner is said to have been a wood shop owned by Henry Fort. Fort was said to have been a fine cabinetmaker and carpenter, making bureaus, and other pieces of wood furniture used by some Garner residents today.
One of the first grocery stores in town was run by Thomas Bennett. Other early businesses included a mercantile business owned by H.D. Rand, a drug store operated by George Montague, and several general stores operated by people such as C.H. Dupree, J.R. Garner, J.B. Hobby and J.R. Williams.
In 1896 Garner had one physician, Dr. M.C. Gattis. By 1900, Dr. Braxton Banks had moved to Garner, and in 1901, Dr. J.S. Buffaloe began his medical practice associated with Dr. Banks. Dr. Buffaloe's practice continued for many years in Garner.
The main business life in Garner and its nearby areas in the early days seems to have been concentrated in the general stores and cotton gins.
A reading of the first ordinances gives one a fairly good idea of just what the town must have been like in those days after the town was incorporated in 1905.
There was to be a street committee to have control of all matters relating to the streets and in addition "to keep town cemeteries in neat and clean condition, and to control the market house and guard house." No hog, sow, or pig was permitted to run at large in the town. No wagon, cart, carriage, buggy or other vehicle was permitted to stand in any street at night.
The street on which the first stores were built ran parallel with the railroad tracks and was once referred to as "Railroad Street." It is now known as Main Street.
Other early streets mentioned in the first zoning regulations were named for some of the early settlers: Dupree, Montague, Rand, and Wrenn.
In addition to general stores and cotton gins in the area, other businesses such as blacksmith and repair shops, barber shops, livery stables, and boarding houses existed.
The first bank was established in Garner in 1910. H.D. Rand was president and J.A. Weathers was the cashier. In 1912 telephone service came to Garner. In a short while, there were as many as 10 subscribers. The First switch board was operated in the home of Vera Jones. The telephone service closed after two years and returned in 1924.
The business and residential life of Garner continued to grow steadily throughout the years, with more rapid growth in recent times.
With the increased population and residential growth, Garner has burgeoned in business and service establishments, both within the corporation limits and the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the town. Town officials predicts the town will continue to grow at a rapid rate.
Much of the historical information was taken from the publication, "History of Garner and Environs," compiled by the Garner Historical Committee in 1971. Members of the committee included Mrs. W.R Banks, Mrs. Portia Banks, Mrs. Carson Carmichael, Ms. Lucile Stevens, Walter Rand, Jr., Sam Powell and Jack H. Webb. We extend our appreciation to Portia Banks, who lived in Garner over 50 years and provided a copy of the report for use in this publication.
Reprinted from The Garner News
February 27, 1985