Sam Garrett gave his life to the ministry, figuratively and literally.
The widely-respected Baptist minister, who pastored several churches locally and preached in revivals both far and near, died of a heart attack in the pulpit at the age of 84.
This past week, the last remaining monument of Rev. Garrett in Scott County was razed; the building that housed the store he once operated at the corner near the intersection of West 3rd Avenue and Stanley Street was razed.
Garrett, who was known as much for his full mane of brilliant white hair as much as for his preaching style, spent most of his life in Fentress County, and he’s buried there, in the Mt. Helen Cemetery not far from where he grew up. But he also spent time in Scott County, and was a resident of Oneida at the time of his death.
In addition to owning a store in Oneida, Garrett pastored more than one church here.
Ordained in 1908, Garrett spent 60 years in the ministry. He helped organize eight churches and is credited with ordaining 35 preachers. He pastored 37 different churches throughout the years. Those churches were scattered through Scott, Fentress, Campbell and Pickett counties in Tennessee, as well as in Whitley County, Ky.
Among the churches pastored by Garrett was New River Missionary Baptist Church, where Garrett was pastor in the 1940s. In fact, Garrett was one of four men on the building committee when New River’s current church was built on U.S. Hwy. 27 in the late 1940s.
Prior to his tenure at New River, Garrett served as pastor at Helenwood Baptist Church. He also served as pastor at Winfield Baptist Church at one point. And he served three different tenures as pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Oneida: 1922, 1932 to 1934, and 1935 to 1937. Garrett preceded Roy Blevins at Bethlehem; Blevins would lead the church for 47 years, until 1984.
Other churches in Scott County where Garrett pastored included New Haven Baptist Church, Buffalo Baptist Church, Black Creek Baptist Church, West Robbins Baptist Church, Huntsville First Baptist Church, Cherry Fork Baptist Church, Antioch Baptist Church, Opossum Rock Baptist Church, White Pine Baptist Church, Hazel Valley Baptist Church and New Haven Baptist Church.
“When my time comes, I want to be in the pulpit preaching for the Lord.”
Those were the words attributed to Garrett many times throughout his life, and the words that would later lead his obituary. On a Friday night in 1964, that’s exactly what happened.
Garrett was preaching in Muncie, Ind. He had preached several revivals in and around the Indianapolis suburb where so many from “back home” in Scott and Fentress counties had moved to seeking work, including more than one of his daughters. On Sept. 25, while preaching at the Eastside Baptist Church on Holland Street in Muncie, Garrett suffered a heart attack. He was rushed to nearby Ball Memorial Hospital, but never made it there. He had died exactly how he wished: In the pulpit, preaching.
Garrett’s body was returned to Oneida three days later for a funeral service at Bethlehem Baptist Church, where he had last pastored more than 30 years before. Blevins, who had succeeded Garrett as pastor at the church and continued to pastor there, officiated the funeral.
Garrett followed his father into the ministry. He was born April 26, 1880 in Allardt, the small German settlement near Jamestown. His parents were Shadrack H. Garrett (1834-1916) and Sarah Jane Hancock (1841-1928). He was the third-youngest of 14 children. Shadrack Garrett was also a Baptist preacher in Fentress County, and baptized his son in 1893.
Other members of Sam Garrett’s family have pastored in Scott County, as well. His great-great-grandson, Chris Sewell, was a recent pastor at Winfield Missionary Baptist Church. Clifford Garrett, a first cousin two times removed who later moved from Fentress County to his present home in Oneida, has pastored several churches in Scott County, as well.
On Jan. 20, 1901, Garrett married Lorinda Belle Range in Armathwaite. They had five daughters: Lucreta Oza, Roxie Evadell, Elfie Avina, Flora Alice, and Ruth Aza. Two of Garrett’s daughters followed him to Oneida. Lucreta married Elie Hammond and moved to Oneida, where both were members of New Haven Baptist Church. Flora married James Harrison Terry, a native Scott Countian, and is buried at Litton Cemetery in Oneida.
The last surviving daughter, Ruth, died in 2002.
Garrett was a part of the line of Garretts who migrated from Virginia to the Cumberlands in the early 19th century. His sixth-great-grandfather, Lord John Garrett I, migrated from London, England to Pennsylvania in the mid 17th century. His fourth-great-grandfather, William Kirke Garrett, migrated from Pennsylvania to Virginia, where the Garretts remained until Elijah “Caleb” Garrett Sr. made the move through the mountains to near present-day Byrdstown sometime between 1810 and 1814. From there, the Garretts began to spread through parts of Pickett and Overton counties. Shadrack Garrett — Caleb Garrett’s grandson — moved from Overton County to Fentress County, in the Mt. Helen and Honey Creek areas. Several of his siblings made the move with him, including younger brothers, John Perry Garrett and Zachariah Garrett, and several younger sisters, including Elizabeth Garrett Smith, Mary Polly Garrett, Martha Emeline Garrett, Julia Garrett Piercy.
All of Sam Garrett’s aunts and uncles who moved to Fentress County are buried in the Mt. Helen Cemetery, which is also where Sam and his wife, Lorinda, are buried.
When he died in 1964, Rev. Sam Garrett had 24 grandchildren and 54 great-grandchildren. While his children were all daughters, more than one of his grandsons followed him into the ministry. And one of his daughters, Elfie Terry, married a preacher.
Among the preachers who Garrett ordained were Calvin Terry, Willie Marcum, J. Wheeler Blevins, S. Porter Garrett, Gayson Terry, Isaac S. Garrett, Omar Garrett, Dowal Lawson, Lensy Davis, Fayett Claborn, Alford Garrett, Elmer Garrett, Steven T. Sewell, Leland Thomas, Freddie Peters, Clay Slagle, Bill Parmley, Emit Abett, Henry Terry, Virgil Voiles, Daniel Voiles, Willie Voiles, Levi Voiles, C.C. Cravens, Lee Smith, J. Jeffers, Robert Burchfield, Luther Crabtree, A.J. Cope, Gilbert Phillips, Jim Acres, Ves Chitwood, George Smith and Rhoads Acres.
An estimated 1,500 people turned out for Garrett’s funeral at Bethlehem, and many of the ministers in Scott County served as honorary pallbearers.
He was pastor at Opossum Rock Baptist Church, now Leatherwood Baptist Church, at the time of his death.