Garner is situated in 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 (12 km2) 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 In 1891, the village of Garner’s Station had its charter repealed, and in 1905 application was made and granted for its reinstatement as the Town of Garner.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.
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.
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.