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Garner is a town in Wake County, North Carolina, United States and a suburb of Raleigh. The population was 17,757 at the 2000 census and was 25,184 in 2008.
Garner got its start with the coming of the railroad through the area beginning in 1847. In that year, after a tie-breaker vote by the Speaker of the State House of Representatives, what is now Garner was chosen as the location of a station of the North Carolina Railroad between Goldsboro and Charlotte. "Garner's Station" was established with the construction of a post office in 1878 and the Town of Garner's Station incorporated in 1883.
Garner is situated in the St. Mary's Township, which got its name from a Church of England parish. It is known that there were settlers in the area before the Revolutionary War. There are documented records of a church south of Garner in the Panther Branch Township as far back as 1756. According to the late Parker Rand, a 3,000 acre tract of land was granted to his forefathers by King George in 1759. Part of this area later was to be the site of a community known as Rand's Mill. Rand's Mill Pond was later renamed Lake Benson. It was enlarged in 1951 and is now used as a reservoir. Garner has continued to grow and prosper since its beginnings. In 1891, the village of Garner's Station had its charter repealed, and in 1905 application was made and granted for its reinstatement as the Town of Garner. The first town officials in 1905 were, J.B. Richardson, mayor; H.D. Rand, J.J. Bagwell, H. Bryan, M.C. Penny, and J.S. Buffaloe, all Aldermen. These gentlemen were appointed to serve one year or until their successors were duly elected and qualified.
There are several legends as to how Garner got its name. One story has it that Thomas Bingham named the town. Bingham is said to have combined a general store with handling the mail. Since Webster's defines “garner" as a "granary," hence figuratively, a "store," he named the town "Garner."
The late Parker Rand believed that Garner was named for a family that lived in the area and later moved to Texas. Others believe the town was named by Henry Fort, a black cabinetmaker and carpenter who owned some land along the railroad after the Civil War. William S. Powell stated that Garner was named for its founder, H.C. Garner. An article in The State also named H.C. Garner as its founder, but not much information has been found about the man.
Garner experienced actual combat in the closing days of the Civil War. Some skirmishes occurred in the area, as witnessed by the carefully preserved bullet holes in New Bethel Church and the “Garner” house, which is said to have been used as a hospital for wounded soldiers.
Times immediately after the close of the war must have been difficult, but by 1878 the little community had succeeded in getting a post office established. This was when the name "Garner's Station" originated. Thomas Bingham was the first postmaster.
An old map dated 1887 shows Garner connected with the city of Raleigh by a road, listed as Holloman's Road. This was a typical country road at the time, unpaved until about 1918. Its importance, aside from its serving as a link between the small Garner community and the State Capitol, lay in the fact that it was a small section of what was to become one of the oldest and longest traveled corridors in North Carolina, the Central Highway.
In 1910, the road became jointly known as Number 10 and US 70 on the maps of the day. Highway 70 was the first paved road to be built in the state and was financed by the first bonds sold by the state to build highways. The Central Highway from the mountains to the sea was started in 1911. The portion of the highway between Garner and Raleigh was paved around 1916 or 1917.
Sam Mitchiner recalls going to World War I by way of the muddy dirt road and returning to find it paved. This section of the highway today is know as Old Garner Road.
Farming was the chief source of income for the early settlers of Garner and nearby areas, with cotton the principal crop. Before the turn of the century, some small businesses were beginning to be developed. The first business in Garner is said to have been a wood shop owned by Henry Fort. Fort was said to have been a fine cabinetmaker and carpenter, making wardrobes, bureaus, and other pieces of wood furniture still being used by some Garner residents today. One of the first grocery stores in town was owned by Thomas Bennett. Other early businesses included a mercantile business owned by H.D. Rand, a drug store operated by George Montague, and several general stores operated by people such as C.H. Dupree, Jr., R. Garner, J.B. Hobby, and J.R. Williams. In addition to general stores and cotton gins in the area, other businesses such as blacksmith, repair shops, barber shops, livery stables, and boarding houses existed. The first bank was established in Garner in 1910. H.D. Rand was president and J.A. Weathers was the cashier. In 1912, telephone service came to Garner. In a short while, there were as many as 10 subscribers. The first switchboard was operated in the home of Vera Jones. The telephone service closed after two years and then returned in 1924. The business and residential life of Garner continued to grow steadily throughout the years, with more rapid growth in recent times.
With the increased population and residential growth, Garner has burgeoned in business and service establishments, both within the corporation limits and the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the town. Town officials predict the town will continue to grow at a rapid rate.
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