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Remembering Louis B. Garrison
Sandlot Slugger & Hometown Hero
Louis Blaine Garrison, Courtesy of Janet Goins
In 1905, Louis Blaine Garrison, or “Garry” as he was known, was one of the most revered baseball players to ever hit the sandlots of Carmel, Brewster, and beyond. His pitching style was legendary; one newspaper reporting that his “curves moved in such mysterious ways and performed such wonders that the visitors never had a chance.”
Garrison stood out for many reasons as a great player, friend, community member…all of which trumped the one small detail that made him different…he was a Black man in a very white community.
During his local career as a fast and feared pitcher, Garrsion’s home turf was known as Seminary field, located on the lands of Morgan Mead just east of Drew Seminary. Oftentimes, according to The Putnam County Courier archives, “an occasional heavy hitter would send the ball over the fence into the railroad cut,” referring to the “Old Put” railroad line (what residents know today as the Putnam Trailway or bike path).
Recently, Janet Goins, a resident of Florida and Louis Garrison’s great granddaughter, connected with the Putnam County Historian’s Office in Brewster, New York, to help augment Black history files in the Historian’s Collection. As February temperatures dropped to freezing levels, the Historian’s Office was warmed by a heroic story Janet told of Garrison’s past. Aside from being a star athlete, Louis was a humble hero.
During the winter of 1905, young Louis and his friends were out on Reservoir D playing ice hockey when two children, Marion Cornish and Earl Ryder, skated out on to thin ice and plunged into frigid waters. Garrison took the lead and helped form a human chain along the ice, skillfully and carefully using his hockey stick to push his younger friend, Ralph Twiname, out over the thin ice to allow the two to grab hold of his skates. Once they latched on, all three were pulled back onto thick ice and saved from certain doom.
Says Goins of her great grandfather’s heroics, “I am so thankful my great grandfather was dazzling with a ball and a brilliant thinker.”
Louis was born on October 19, 1884, in the Drewville section of Carmel. He was a student at the Rock Mills Common School and later attended Carmel High. He was an officer of his class and one of only five students who graduated in 1905. After high school, Garrison took odd jobs in the Carmel area and continued playing baseball with local teams. His talent wasn’t limited to hurling and slugging – in 1914 he used his interests to help establish a new baseball team which resulted in the formation of the first Carmel Athletic Association.
Prior to Louis’s glory days, generations of the Garrison family lived on a large parcel of land that would eventually become affected by New York City’s acquisitions for the construction of the West and Middle Branch Reservoirs. At that time, Black families in the town of Carmel were few, but the Garrisons had working ties with the prominent Drew, Crosby, and Everett families, and were popular throughout the community. Louis’s grandfather, James Garrison, worked many years for Judge William Watts, a successful merchant and town elder. When Watts died in 1869, James and his wife, Mary, were bequeathed an impressive sum of money.
“I have been blessed to have been able to trace the roots of my early African ancestors in Carmel dating back to at least the 1700’s,” says Goins, “Including Louis’s parents, Ichabod and Augusta Anna Butler-Garrison, and his grand-parents, James and Mary.”
Goins is able to trace all of her family members back as free Black families in Putnam County and life-long residents of Carmel. Many of her ancestors are buried in the large family plot within the historic Gilead Cemetery.
Making connections, such as Janet’s, from near and far is important to the work performed by the Historian’s Office. “Janet’s connections and correspondence has inspired us to reexamine the collection and make room for the Black experience in our records,” says Sallie Sypher, Deputy Historian.
Goins’s family collection on file now at the county archives includes extensive genealogy, memoirs, and photographs. Recently, Bob Mayer, local baseball historian, was able to bring the collective storytelling together with an impressive team picture from the early 20th Century. Louis Garrison, the only Black team member, pictured here.
“My early ancestors were so very proud of the community in which they lived. They were proud people who never had time to think of themselves, or take a moment to pat their own selves on the back. The Garrison family were often busy helping their neighbors and being their best,” Goins says in hopes she has inherited some of the family traits.
“Based on Janet Goins’s incredible contributions to Putnam County’s history and connections with our office,” says Jennifer Cassidy, of the Historian’s Office, “She has continued her family’s proud, neighborly traditions.”
In adulthood, Louis Garrison relocated to Brooklyn, New York, prompted by the appeal of playing for a “colored” baseball team. While living there, he passed Civil Service exams and worked with the U.S. Postal Service at Grand Central Station, well into the mid-20th century. He married Mary Randolph and they had five children; Ethel Lois, Raymond, Carol, Ellsworth, and Louis Jr., Louis Sr. died in 1969.
According to Goins, Louis Garrison loved baseball, Jazz, and raising his family; but he always found time to come home to visit Carmel, his hometown.
“As the great-granddaughter and descendant of a long line of Garrisons in New York,” says Goins, “I am overwhelmed with delight, just knowing the heroic act and accomplishments of my ancestors are still being remembered in Putnam County.”
Early 20th Century photo of the Brewster baseball team featuring Louis B. Garrison, from the Collection of Bob Mayer
Janet Goins, great granddaughter of Louis Blaine Garrison
68 Marvin Ave.
Carmel, NY 10512