Garrett’s Tavern

Garrett’s Tavern stood in section 26 of Frankfort Township, Franklin County. Since it was the first county seat, and the first roof that sheltered many a Williamson county pioneer, mention must be made. Moses Garret was the proprietor, his land entries made in 1814 as soon as the land office at Shawneetown opened. When Franklin County was formed, elections were held at the tavern and the county records were kept there from 1818 to 1826. There was post office service at Franklin courthouse after 1822, probably at Garret’s tavern. When the concessioners selected a site for the county seat in April 1821, Moses Garret donated the land, Lemuel Harrison surveyed a town, and Frankfort was built. The courthouse and jail were occupied in 1826.

Hezekiah Garrett had an interesting story. In 1817, he married Patsy Browning, a relative of Preacher John Browning. He was a soldier in Captain Jeff Stephenson’s company for the Black Hawk war and in Captain John B. Cunningham’s company for the Mexican war. He was really too old for the last service, and was discharged by a surgeon’s certificate before his fellow soldiers were. Hezekiah Garrett was probably a Williamson County man, for he made a land entry in Lake Creek Township, section 16, in 1851 and probably lived there until his death m 1857.

But one day in 1834 Hezekiah Garrett was in Frankfort, entered into an argument that led to blows, and had the misfortune to kill James Parsons with his fist. He ran away, and Governor William L. D. Ewing offered a reward for his delivery to trial. The reward of $200 was paid Abraham and William Duncan by a state auditors warrant December 22, 1834. The trial was slow, and not until 1838 was the first prisoner from Franklin County received at the state prison. The old register lists:

#40, Hezekiah Garrett.

“Received the body of Hezekiah Garret in the penitentiary at Alton, lllinois, said convict is five feet 11 inches high, stout made, dark hair, and eyes, a fair complexion, aged about 40 years of age, sentenced for manslaughter by him done in and for the County of Franklin at the Circuit Court of said county, and there to be kept for the term of fifteen minutes at hard labor done on the 28th of May A.D. 1836.

“Discharged the same day by expiration of time.”

Fifteen minutes at hard labor for an unintentional killing was an unusual idea of justice. Walter B. Scates, later Supreme Court justice was circuit judge at the time and probably conceived the unique sentence.

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(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939, on sale at the Williamson County Museum)