Opinion: Franklin Garrett’s love of history, railroads, Atlanta – Part II | Opinion

This article is part two of the story of Franklin Garrett, who was named Atlanta’s official historian in 1974. Find part one here.

In the 1980s, the Atlanta History Center held several events called “Stump Franklin Garrett,” where history fans asked questions either to learn more from Garrett or find gaps in his Atlanta history knowledge. Marc Hayes recalls hearing Garrett speak at the AHC, at a book signing, and hearing his Stump Garrett program on WSB radio. Hayes recalls that Garrett often knew the answer to who lived at a certain address in a particular year in Atlanta.

Hayes and a friend phoned Garrett in the mid-1970s to talk about history, back when telephone numbers were readily available in a paper phone book. They called from a speaker phone, which Garrett was not pleased with, and his response to one of the questions was the answer was in his book “Atlanta and Environs Volume 2.”

At a 1983 Stump Franklin Garrett night at AHC, almost every seat in McElreath Hall was filled. The first question asked was, “Did William Tecumseh Sherman ever sleep in the Tullie Smith House?” Garrett proclaimed that to be false, adding that Sherman did stay in a home that is now the clubhouse at Peachtree Golf Club. (Atlanta Constitution, Feb.24, 1983, “Garrett takes the stump in new Battle of Atlanta”)

There are Stump Franklin Garrett videos available on YouTube. In a 1988 video, an audience member asks what the historical connection is between Ivy Street, Cain Street and Harris Street in downtown Atlanta. Garrett quickly says only Ivy and Cain are connected, explaining that Ivy was the man who built the first home in what is now downtown Atlanta and Cain was his son-in-law. Harris Street was named for Atlanta’s first city clerk.

On the same evening, he was asked the family name of three women for which Wieuca Road is named. He could not recall their last name but knew that their first names were Wilma, Eugenia and Catherine. The first two letters of each name together form Wieuca. Then, he added the fact that Wieuca Road was previously known as Stephens Mill Road.

When the Atlanta Railroad line from Atlanta to Augusta was in its final days in 1983, the engine was named in honor of Franklin Garrett. People had the opportunity to ride the train one last time, and the train enthusiasts on board with Garrett heard him talk about trains and sing about trains.

The engineer was Bill Mauldin, and Garrett spent time riding aboard the engine and even operated the engine with Mauldin’s guidance. Garrett told passengers he first rode that train over 60 years earlier. Then he sang two old train songs, “Casey Jones” and “The Wreck of the Old 97.” Casey Jones began with, “Come all you rounders, if you wanna hear, the story about a brave engineer. Casey Jones was the roller’s name, on a 6-8-wheeler course he won his fame.”

Garrett lamented how railroad travel had suffered with the speed of airline travel.

“It is a bit frustrating to me and somewhat ironic that a city that was born of trains and railroads has only one daily passenger train now,” he told the other passengers. He considered train travel, with the ability to move around, a dining car and a bar car, to be superior to airplane travel. He also preferred how trains could take one right into the middle of a town. (Atlanta History Center, audio recording, 1983)

Franklin Garrett, age 93, died in March of 2000 and is buried at Oakland Cemetery. His Atlanta Constitution obituary summed up a life spent learning and loving Atlanta history. “Franklin Miller Garrett was not born in Atlanta, but he spent a lifetime making up for that inconvenient fact.”


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