Monday, February 05, 2007

Enquiring Minds Want To Know

So how does a guy that hails from Iowa and has a family whose roots go back to a religious (Church of the Brethren) German family's 18th Century emigration become a lefty. Was it the depression, was it the exposure to a broader world view due to the war, was it the rural progressivism of Henry Wallace (the Garsts were friendly with Wallace)? I'm pretty sure Jim's grandfather was this guy:
CHARLES E. GARST was born in Dayton , Ohio , August 21, 1853 ; he died in Tokyo , Japan , December 28, 1898 . His family came to Iowa and settled in Boone during his boyhood. He grew up on his father's farm adjoining that city, receiving his education in the public schools and the Iowa Agricultural College . He was appointed a cadet at West Point Military Academy in 1872, graduating in 1876. He was promoted to a second lieutenancy in the 15th U. S. Infantry the day after his graduation. His service in the army was wholly on the western frontier and continued until January 10, 1884 , when he resigned and became a missionary of the Christian church in Japan , whither he went at once. He returned to Iowa in 1891, where he was detained two years on account of the illness of his eldest son. Resuming his missionary labors in 1893 he remained in Japan until his lamented death. He was a man of large ability and the most thorough culture, devoted and enthusiastic in his missionary work in which he bade fair to become distinguished. He was a brother of Hon. Warren Garst, at present State Senator from the Carroll District. The japan Evangelist for February, 1899, presents his portrait and devotes a dozen pages to tributes to his memory.(Warren Garst would later be Governor of Iowa)
This guy, I believe was an uncle::
Roswell “Bob” Garst (1898-1977) was born 14 June, 1898 in Rockford, Illinois, the youngest child of Edward and Bertha Goodwin Garst and raised in Coon Rapids, Iowa from the age of two weeks. Edward Garst (1843-1923), a graduate of the University of Michigan, came to Coon Rapids in 1869 and established the Garst Store. His brother, Warren Garst (1850-1924), served as Lieutenant Governor of Iowa (1907-1908) and Governor of Iowa (1908-1909). Edward and Bertha had a son, Goodwin, who married Lovena Kline, with whom he had Rosemary, Carolyn, Barbara, Edward, and Roger. Another son, Jonathan, married Aida Gilchrist and had Perry and Andrew. Their only daughter, Dorothy, married Jack Chrystal, with whom she had Tom, John, and Virginia.

Roswell and his brother, Jonathan, began farming Apple farm, the 200-acre Coon Rapids Garst homestead in 1915. Jonathan left to fight in World War I and in the fall of 1919 Roswell enrolled in college; although he never received a degree he attended Iowa State University, Wisconsin University, and Northwestern University. Roswell returned to Coon Rapids in 1922 and married Elizabeth Henak.

Elizabeth Frances Henak was born 29 November 1895 to Frank Henak and Mary Shimerda in Oxford Junction, Iowa. Her mother left her father when Elizabeth was a child and the strained finances forced Elizabeth to borrow money after high school to enroll in a small college. She transferred to the Iowa Normal School at Cedar Falls (now the University of Northern Iowa), which she attended for two years before leaving to teach history in the nearby Waterloo, Iowa schools. She eventually returned to school and received her B.A. (1921) in history from the University of Iowa.

After a year of letters and telegrams, Elizabeth agreed to marry Roswell “Bob” Garst on January 31, 1922. The couple had five children: Jane, Stephen, David, Antonia, and Mary. After his sister, Dorothy’s early death in 1936 they also helped to raise her sons, John and Tom Chrystal.

Roswell and Elizabeth lived in Des Moines, Iowa and worked in real estate from 1926 –1930, during which time they became friends with Henry Wallace, who developed hybrid corn and the Pioneer Hi-bred International, Inc. This fortuitous meeting led Roswell and Elizabeth back to Coon Rapids in 1930 to begin farming Wallace’s strain of hybrid corn for seed to sell to local farmers.

During the winter of 1930-1931, Roswell and Elizabeth invited Charlie and Bertha Thomas to become partners in their new operation – Charlie would produce the seed and Roswell would market it. The Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company grew quickly and is credited with spreading the use of hybrid corn seed throughout the Midwest. In addition, Roswell was among the first to recognize the need for fertilizer. He also initiated experiments to prove the feed value of corncobs for cattle, working with Iowa State College (University) professor Wise Burroughs during 1948-1949.

Early in 1959, Roswell and Elizabeth visited with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and his wife while traveling in Europe. Upon the conclusion of their visit, Elizabeth invited the couple to Coon Rapids, should they come to the United States. The August 1959 visit of Khrushchev to Iowa catapulted the Garsts and Iowa on to the international agricultural scene. Both Roswell and nephew John Chrystal served as agricultural advisers to the United States government.

Roswell died in 1977. He was inducted into the Businessman’s Hall of Fame by Fortune Magazine in 1979.

Anyway, here's a youtube musical salute to the Garsts with images from the extensive Garst family site:

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