By Mark Gutglueck
Moses B. Garner, Jr., the son of Moses Baumgarner, a German immigrant, was born in Paducah, Kentucky on January 8, 1828. His father had changed his name upon arrival in America to Moses Baum Garner, and then to Moses B. Garner.
Shortly after young Moses’s birth, the family moved to Southern Illinois. The senior Garner was active in community affairs and esteemed a “thrifty and fine farmer.”
The family farm, located at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, was benefited by the fertile land there and the family prospered.
Both of his parents, however, perished in the great cholera plague of 1851.
Educated in county schools, Moses Garner had no special advantages in his youth, such that he had no choice but to earn his own way from an early age. As a very young man he took a position as a Pony Express rider. He then signed on as a deputy sheriff, and was later Hamilton County sheriff.
While holding this latter position, he married Hanna Hulda Heard on August 25, 1850, at McLeansborough, Illinois. His wife , who had been orphaned at the age of three and was raised by her grandmother on a large thoroughbred farm in McLeansborough, was born on January 21, 1835. At that time, Southern Illinois was as renowned for its racing horses as Kentucky. Hannah was only fifteen at the time of her marriage. Upon her grandmother’s death, Hannah inherited a considerable estate.
In 1861, Moses Garner sold the Illinois property he owned with his wife, and they moved, together with their five children, to Montana, various regions of which were parts of the Oregon Territory, the Washington Territory, Idaho Territory, and Dakota Territory, where gold had been discovered. They settled in Virginia City, where Garner partnered with a man known now only as Mr. Storey in a gold mine operation in Alder Gulch. He also managed to build and manage a hotel in Virginia City. His mining and venture into the hospitality industry proved profitable.
Winter in Montana was very severe. As a result Moses Garner developed what was diagnosed as “inflammatory rheumatism,” which left him all but fully incapacitated. Seeking a more moderate climate, he sold his Montana interest, and left with his family for Los Angeles in 1864..
They traveled by covered wagon, taking a route through Salt Lake City. When they encountered large rivers, they removed the wagon wheels and floated the wagons across. Salt Lake city was a major trading post and junction for those heading to Oregon and California. The Garners stayed for a time at the home of Brigham Young while they obtained supplies and made arrangement to join a large wagon train forming for the sojourn to Southern California..
They came across the Mojave Desert and made the descent through the Cajon Pass. Before them on the way down, the San Bernardino Valley lay before them like an emerald paradise. Lucinda, the Garner’s third daughter, had been quite ill with the measles and she begged that they go no farther, so the family left the wagon train with a few of the others who were intent on settling in San Bernardino. The family found temporary lodging in an abandoned adobe dwelling in a cove on the north side of Little Mountain. Mrs. Garner made this abode habitable by lining it with calico from blots of cloth she had stowed in the covered wagon.
Reconnoitering his business opportunities and his prospect for success in their new community, Garner opened a meat market, and shortly thereafter, a restaurant. He purchased some property on 7th Street between Waterman and Sierra Way and constructed a home for his family on a small hill overlooking what is now Seccombe Lake, but which was then pasture land. Warm Creek ran through it. There was also a large pond fed by fed by artesian wells. They lived at that home for many years.
Garner prospered in the real estate business, buying and selling valley properties. He also had a citrus grove in Rialto and another in the Del Rosas area. He established a large truck farm at 3rd and Waterman, known as the “China Garden” because it was leased to and farmed by Chinese. Still interested in the breeding and racing of thoroughbred horses, the Garners opened a race track below 3rd Street, between Arrowhead and E Streets . It was known as “The Association.” He also had a financial interest in the narrow-gauge rail line between Redlands, San Bernardino and Harlem Springs.
Moses Garner became vice-president of the First National Bank of San Bernardino in 1875. The bank failed in the 1880s when the bookkeeper embezzled a large amount of the bank’s funds and left the country. Garner raised money to pay off the depositors by selling most of his personal holdings. He remained solvent only upon the timely repayment to him of a large loan made several years earlier. Eventually, he was able to recoup his fortune.
He was elected one of three Third District supervisors in 1882, joining Edward B. Daley and George Cooley in that capacity, and served from January 8, 1883 to January 8, 1885. After the county was officially divided into five supervisorial districts on August 6, 1884, he was elected Fifth District supervisor in the 1884 election and served on the board from January 5, 1885 until January 7, 1889.
While he was Third District supervisor, the city of Riverside, which was then a part of San Bernardino County, was incorporated as a city. Some eleven years later, after Moses Garner was no longer on the board of supervisors, Riverside County seceded from San Bernardino County.
The education of his children and grandchildren was a matter Garner took very seriously. He was a member of the school board for many years. He was a Mason and looked upon this affiliation in an almost religious sense, considering the Masonic Temple to be his church, although he was also involved as a member of the Southern Methodist Church for the entirety of his life. An ardent Democrat, fate spared him the shock of living long enough see one of his grandsons become a Republican Congressman and another a bipartisan state senator.
Garner died in San Bernardino on September 1, 1900 at the age of 72. He was survived by his wife, Hannah, who lived until age 105, and by seven of their ten children. Of the Illinois children, Mary Francis( Mrs. James W. Swing), Lucinda Celeste (Mrs. Henry T. Bryant). William c. and Robert F. were living. Margaret (Mrs. John H. Barton) had died. Of the California children, Jennie E. (Mrs. Elias Leamaster), John T. and Florence K. (Mrs. Frederick Park) were living. Emma Maude had died in her teens and Joseph A. had been killed in a hunting accident at the age of thirteen. Most of Mr. Garner’s descendants have stayed in California
His wife paid him perhaps the highest compliment a woman can, saying of him, “He was a good provider.”
By Mark Gutglueck