The real impetus for the growth of Garfield came with the coming of the Railway line in 1877. The original name for the siding was Cannibal Creek, but it was renamed Garfield in honour of the assassinated American President, James Garfield, who was shot July 2nd 1881 and died September 19th ,1881. By the early 1900s, the town of Garfield had a baker, a carpenter, a blacksmith, sweets shop, saddler, wood merchant, builder, carters, a butcher and a hotel. The Methodist Church and the public hall were also early additions to the town. The Cannibal Creek School (established in 1886 on what is now the Princes Highway) moved to the top of Garfield hill in 1900 and to its current location in 1910. The growth of Garfield was also spurred by the drainage of the Koo-Wee-Rup Swamp and the subsequent settlements south of the town at Cora Lynn, Vervale and Iona. The Garfield Picture Theatre (still standing) was built in 1924 for Mr Donohue and its power plant supplied the town with electricity until the arrival of the S.E.C.
The first European settler in the Garfield area was Mr Thompson, who was granted the lease of the Cannibal Creek Cattle run in 1845. The term Cannibal Creek is believed to refer to the killing of dogs by dingoes although another interpretation is that it was it was a corruption of the Aboriginal word coonabul from couna meaning “forehead” and bal meaning “he” or “she”. This possibly referred to the shape of Mount Cannibal, which was thought to resemble a head. Another early settler was J.James, the owner of the Pig & Whistle hotel, on the Old Telegraph Road.