One Hard Working Local Deere

By: Karen Zach

The Deere family of the Shades area of Montgomery County was one of the largest and biggest business oriented groups in our early days. I want to thank a descendant, Sharon R. for sending me Joel Garnett Deere’s biography written by one of the sons in 1912, who noted writing the family story was one of the “most sacred tasks of my life!” A nice job done!

Joel Garnett Deere received part of his mother and father in his name, his father being Joel and mother being Sarah “Sally” Garnett from the Boone County, Kentucky area where Joel Garnett was born March 29, 1828, the youngest (I believe) of their six children and four of Sally’s from a first marriage with Elijah Rice. Not long after he was born, the family headed to MoCo, Joel riding on horseback in his mother’s lap all the way. His father farmed but built Deere’s Mill in the early 30s. Sadly, Joel lost his mother in 1842, at the crossroads into adulthood, his father remarrying not long before Joel G did (April 1849). Joel, age 21 married Mary McGregg, just 19, after their courtship of two years and she was often noted to say that they did not step over the bounds of modesty!

They went to housekeeping in the what we all know as the Deer’s Mill hill area, beginning in a small cabin, building a home as the children came along and eventually ending up at the very top of the hill, first house on left after the Shades turn-off on 234 (which they built late 1873 or early 1874). He farmed some but ran the mill and then the children arrived being: (Joel Thomas March 4, 1850; Sarah Elizabeth April 14, 1852; William Edmund Oct 22, 1853; Charles Henry May 13, 1857; Susan Anne Sept 21, 1860; Elva Jane July 15, 1863; Albert Maywood Oct 19, 1865; George Washington Oct 10, 1868; John Harvey August 31, 1871 and Stephen Ellis Feb 13, 1874). Another child was welcomed to their fold who was as much theirs as any of their birth rights, Ellen being the child of Joel’s brother, Edmund, Ellen’s mother, Susanna McGregg dying shortly after her birth and begging Joel and Mary to raise her. They were thrilled. All their own children but Sarah grew to adulthood (died age 21 unmarried), all producing children of their own.

The name Joel continued somewhat, Joel Thomas parenting nine children, one being Joel Leroy; Albert Maywood having two daughters and four sons, one being Joel. Then, I absolutely love this – Elva Jane married William Tyre Whittington, mothered two daughters but wanted her daughter Mary to carry her father’s name as her middle (she married George Durham Manson, grandson of General Mahlon Manson) thus Mary Joel!

The biography continues by giving each marriage and number of children (although most weren’t named) but the next part is truly my favorite of the little pamphlet. “Physically, the father of us all bore the marks of his German extraction. He was about 5’9”, bulky built, with a short neck, high forehead and honest face (fits the photo from the biography quite well). Nature lavished strength upon this pioneer son, equal to the tasks of the farm, store, mill and the thousands of miles he covered during the many years of his daily journeyings.”

Also, the notation that had Joel been given scholastic opportunities, he’d have been a cut above any of his local fellow men. Certainly, “his honest nature, broad sympathies, dry wit, strong mentality” took him a great way nonetheless. Joel made sure his children were given what he was missing offering each $1000 for college or another choice of $1000 to get them started in their marriage.

A Republican, he wasn’t much into running for office, although he did serve as county commissioner one term due to pressure to get honest Uncle Joel signed up. Impressive that he was known to give the other the advantage, his honesty known all-around. Never would he have been accused of taking advantage and he abhorred those who would. My kind of man!

Joel Deere loved his family and the best joy to him was those gathering around the fireplace with a cheerful fire relishing a bucket of apples or munching on hickory nuts. A fairly quiet man, he did enjoy his Masonic life, serving as his lodge’s treasurer for many years. He planned the very first Deere reunion, making a reservation at the Shades for the noon meal, so that the women would not have to toil. Another joy was resting with his beloved on their porch or gathering garden vegetables, or in the shade of a tree, reading and just being together. They were married more than 50 years and he gave her the credit for their success. Both were extreme hard workers and members of Freedom Baptist Church along with most of their children. His faith was not of the boisterous kind but of the quiet, never-failing kind.

As Joel passed, his beloved dog was in the yard near his window, moaning in thought of losing his master and one of the sons was with him. He called his son to him and resting his hand on his rapid-beating pulse asked him, “What does this mean?” The son said, “Father, isn’t it fine to be a Christian?” Feeble Joel answered YES and on February 9, 1903, “he closed his eyes on the scenes of earth!” His thoughts rested with Victor Hugo, “The tomb is not a blind alley – it is a thoroughfare!” That said, Rest In Peace, Joel Garnett Deere!

– Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County. You can reach her at [email protected].