Elizabeth Garrett, 1885-1947
Elizabeth Garrett, blind since infancy, charmed Southwest with songs
from the newspaper, Carlsbad Current-Argus
Posted: 02/23/2014 07:24:59 AM MST
Elizabeth Garrett. (Courtesy of UTEP Special Collections)
The curator of the El Paso County Historical Society, Pat Worthington, recently revealed sheet music of songs written by Elizabeth Garrett, the daughter of Sheriff Pat Garrett, including a 1927 song about El Paso.
Elizabeth Garrett was born in 1885 about four miles outside of Ruidoso. The third of eight children, she became blind shortly after her birth. At age 6, she started her education at the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. Although Elizabeth did well in all her academic studies, she excelled in music.
After graduation, she returned to her parents, who were now living in El Paso, where her father was the U.S. Customs collector. She opened a small studio to teach music and played at events around town. She later moved to Roswell.
This Feb. 9, 1934, El Paso Times article tells more of her story:
"The strength of her personality makes the concerts of Miss Elizabeth Garrett very live and intimate affairs.
"When she appears with her Roswell sextet at the Woman's Club Sunday afternoon, both her friends and strangers in the audience will enjoy the natural charm and quiet humor she inserts into her performances as much as her music.
"With a sort of magnificence, she has overcome a handicap suffered in her babyhood. She is known and loved throughout the Southwest. Her friends are to be found in the East, where she studied music, among them famed Helen Keller.
"She went to Chicago, where she studied voice with (Herbert) Witherspoon, and later to New York, where she continued her work in voice and piano.
"She has made the study of her native Southwest a part of her life. She probably knows more about New Mexico, its lore and beauty and color, than most natives of her state. She colors her concerts with that knowledge.
"She is the author and composer of the state song 'O Fair New Mexico' and many songs both of the Southwest and other themes.
"Miss Garrett has been in Roswell for the past five years. She is a teacher of voice there. She directs this group of Roswell musicians whom she will present in a varied program, including groups under the heading of international, sacred, songs for children and songs of love and springtime.
"Her voice is contralto.
"She is the daughter of the late Pat Garrett, Lincoln County sheriff who killed the outlaw Billy the Kid, ending with the deed the Lincoln County War, which is one of the bloodiest pages in the Southwest's history.
"Miss Garrett's personality is the blending of characteristics of her Irish father and her Spanish-American mother.
"Her mother (and sister) Miss Pauline Garrett, live at the family home in Las Cruces."
A June 29, 1937, article reported that Garrett would be traveling to Morristown, N.J., "to learn how to be as intelligent as a dog."
"With a rich chuckle, for which Miss Garrett is noted, she told of a 'gift from New Mexico friends, which could not please me more, not even if it were a solid gold piano.' "
Garret was to receive a German shepherd from the Seeing Eye Corp. The State of New Mexico Business and Professional Women's Club of Santa Fe presented Garrett with the dog. She had a month's training with her dog, and the two returned to Roswell together.
"A second honor recently conferred on Miss Garrett is the announcement that New Mexico has bought her 'O Fair New Mexico,' the official state song. The legislature has ruled that Miss Garrett will receive an annuity of $600 for the rest of her life."
Garrett died 10 years later — Oct. 16, 1947, after falling in the street in Roswell. She "died last night after an accident in which Police Chief Lloyd Blakeney said she apparently fell and struck her head on a curbstone.
"She was found unconscious in a street near the Roswell business district during a blackout caused by a power failure. Her Seeing Eye dog 'Tinka' was at her side. She died en route to a hospital. ...
"Miss Garrett was on her way home from a meeting of the Kennel Club last night when she met with the accident. Several other persons present at the meeting had asked to drive her home, but she had said that she wanted to walk. ...
"Police Chief Lloyd Blakeney said today that there was absolutely no evidence of foul play.
"Capt. Russell Quay, an R.A.F. doctor, first saw Miss Garrett lying in the street. He was driving home from the Kennel Club meeting.
"Miss Garrett suffered a deep gash over her right eye apparently suffered when she stumbled against the railing of the First Christian Church.
"Miss Garrett died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital.
"In an interview with Mrs. Georgia B. Redfield shortly before her death, Miss Garrett said: 'Quite frequently my father had to bring harmony with a gun in the early days. I tried to do so by carrying a tune.'
"For the last few years of her life, Miss Garrett lived quietly at her home in Roswell but previously she had been feted extensively throughout the United States. She has to her credit many children's songs, ballads, cantatas and Spanish American songs."
To see more information about this wonderful songbird, visit: Traildust of the Southwest...