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Local American Legion Post Named For Garrett Cochran Soldier, Athlete, and Industrialist

The first American Legion post in Pennsylvania, Post 1, located here in Williamsport, is named for a remarkable man: Garrett Cochran. He was an accomplished figure in athletics, soldiering, and industry.

He was born in Driftwood, Pennsylvania, on August 26, 1876, the son of J. Henry, a prominent area financier and later a state senator, and his wife, Avis.

His family came to Williamsport in 1885, and he attended its schools. He later attended several distinguished private schools, such as Trinity College School and the Lawrenceville School.

He attended college at Princeton University from 1894 to 1898, where he excelled as an athlete. He was captain of the football team in 1896 and 1897 and was named to Walter Camp’s All-America Football Team as an end.

One sportswriter at that time wrote of Cochran, “No name is better known in American football than that of Garrett Cochran.”

After graduation, he coached football and baseball at the University of California at Berkley and the United States Naval Academy.

He also worked for a year in a mining operation in Arizona.

When Cochran returned to Williamsport, he became associated with the Williamsport Wire Rope Company, where he eventually became the plant’s general manager. He was also a director of the Northern Central Trust Company and the Cochran Coal Company.

He married Eleanor McNeely of Philadelphia in 1902. The couple had two sons and a daughter.

He became keenly interested in military matters and joined the Pennsylvania National Guard, Battery D, where he was commissioned as a first lieutenant.

He was mustered into federal service for service along the Mexican border in July 1916, fighting the bandits of Pancho Villa until December of that year.

When the United States entered World War I in April 1917, he was again called into federal service.

While sailing for France in April 1918, he contracted a severe cold while standing guard duty as an anti-submarine lookout. When he landed in France, he was urged to seek medical attention but refused so he could join his unit for artillery training.

His cold reportedly evolved into tuberculosis. He died on July 8, 1918, while sailing home on the U.S.S. Susquehanna (ironically) as it was ready to sail from the French port of St. Nazaire.

Cochran was widely mourned throughout the community. The Grit noted his death this way, “Garrett Cochran was one of Williamsport’s finest citizens. His service to this city in finance, industry, and business activities and in support of every activity that enhanced the city’s well-being was superb. That service earned him the esteem and gratitude of the citizens of this community.”

The Gazette and Bulletin editorialized, “Lieutenant Cochran was one of the highest type of volunteer soldier. He not only played a large part in the upbringing of Battery D, using his influence to induce the right kind of men to become members. He has made the supreme sacrifice, given the last full measure of devotion, and yielded his life that posterity might be free. No man could do more.”

Cochran’s body was brought home and rendered full military honors. His flag-draped coffin was escorted from his home to a hearse by an honor guard from Battery D while the Imperial Teteques Band played a hymn. He is buried in Wildwood Cemetery.

When the first American Legion post in Pennsylvania was organized, the members decided to name it Cochran as a tribute for his service and contributions to this community.