Jessie Winston Garth was born on October 17, 1788, in Albermarle County, Virginia. Raised in Virginia, he served in the U.S. Army in the War of 1812 where he rose to the rank of General. He eventually moved to near present day Decatur, Alabama where he was one of the city's founders. A prominent banker, planter, and lawyer and at one time a member of the Alabama Legislature, he married Unity Spotswood Dandridge who was a niece of Patrick Henry and she was also a cousin of Martha Washington. Jessie spend much of his youth at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello. This childhood influence on him and his wife's family heritage may have played a role in his opposition to Alabama succeeding from the Union in 1860. His son-in-law, Dr. Francis Sykes was a founder of the Alabama Republican Party in 1867.