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Garst Family papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MS-0579

Scope and Content

This collection contains photographs, as well as drawings, scrapbooks, and some correspondence of the immediate and extended families of Roswell and Elizabeth Garst.

Series 1 (circa 1890s-2006, undated) consists of photographs of Roswell and Elizabeth, their children, Jane, Stephen, David, Antonia, and Mary, and grandchildren.

Series 2 (circa 1860s-2006, undated) includes photographs of Roswell and Elizabeth’s parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, and other members of their extended families. Most of the photographs in this collection have not been identified.

Series 3 (1941-1997, undated) consists of photographs from trips taken by the Garst family for both leisure and business, including vacations, conferences, diplomatic trips, and family visits.

Series 4 (1910-1997, undated) includes photographs of the Garst farm and the Garst and Thomas Hybrid Seed Company, some of which were personal images, but many of which were used in publications and publicity for the seed company.

Series 5 (1955-1997, undated) documents the Khrushchev visit in 1959, and includes professional and amateur photographs, including images in a scrapbook of the visit, given as a gift from the Garsts to the Khrushchevs.

Series 6 (1880-1997, undated) includes photographs of buildings and events in Coon Rapids, Iowa, including the Garst Store.

Series 7 (circa 1910s-2011, undated) consists of photographs of friends of the Garst family.

Series 8 (1947-1997, undated) includes materials related to the preparation and publication of Roswell Garst: a Biography, by Harold Lee (1986), as well as other articles written by or about Roswell Garst.

Series 9 (circa 1950s, undated) includes slides, negatives, and reprints of images found elsewhere in the collection.

Series 10 (1897-2007, undated) includes personal letters received by the Roswell and Elizabeth Garst family from friends, relatives, and the Garst children.

Series 11 (1881-2006, undated) consists of legal and personal documents, as well as other materials related to the Garst family. The series includes the Last Will and Testament of Elizabeth Garst, Titles and Deeds belonging to Edward Garst, and Elizabeth Garst’s Diplomas.

Series 12 (1941-1990, undated) includes films and videos of activities on the Garst Farm, including farming, fishing, employee parties, etc.

For additional information on the Garst family and their professional activities, please see the Roswell Garst Papers, RS 21/7/12; the Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company Records, MS 173; the David Garst Papers, MS 590; the Stephen Garst Papers, MS 639; the John Chrystal Papers, MS 422; the Garst Company Records, MS 642; and the Whiterock Conservancy Records, MS 691.


  • Creation: circa 1860s-2012

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

Open for research.

Use/Re-use Restrictions

Consult Special Collections and University Archives. All photographs related to the Khrushchev visit in 1959 are copyrighted by the photographer’s estate. Please contact the Ohio Historical Society’s Joe Munroe Archives for permission and/or more information.


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 are 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 Garst’s 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.

Elizabeth lived on the Coon Rapids farm until nearly her 101st birthday. She passed away November 17th, 1996. Soon after her death, her granddaughter Elizabeth Garst set about establishing the Garst Farm Resort, highlighting the historic role Apple Farm has played.


28.72 Linear Feet (1 records center carton, 33 document boxes, 5 half-document boxes, 8 over-sized boxes, and 1 small artifact box)


The collection is organized into twelve series:

Series 1, Roswell and Elizabeth Garst Family, circa 1890s-2006, undated (alphabetical)

Series 2, Extended Family, circa 1860s-2006, undated (alphabetical)

Series 3, Travel, 1941-1997, undated (alphabetical)

Series 4, Garst Farm and Seed Company, 1910-1997, undated (alphabetical)

Series 5, Khrushchev Visit, 1955-1997, undated (alphabetical)

Series 6, Coon Rapids, 1880-1997, undated (alphabetical)

Series 7, Friends, circa 1910s-2011, undated (alphabetical)

Series 8, Garst Biography by Harold Lee, 1947-1997, undated (alphabetical)

Series 9, Slides, Negatives, and Reprints, circa 1950s, undated (alphabetical)

Series 10, Correspondence, 1897-2007, undated (alphabetical)

Series 11, Garst Family Documents, 1881-2012, undated (alphabetical)

Series 12, Films and Videos, 1941-1990, undated (alphabetical)

Processing Information

Released on 2018-11-01.

MS-0579. Garst Family papers, circa 1860s-2012
February 13, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives Repository

403 Parks Library
701 Morrill Road
Iowa State University
Ames Iowa 50011-2102 United States
(515) 294-6672