You are here

Hon. John Piper Barnes

Submitted by vsample on Mon, 2016-03-28 15:07

[ This article was excerpted from the book "Progressive Men of the State of Montana"]


John Piper Barnes:

Hon. John Piper Barnes, son of George W. and Martha (Thomas) Barnes, was born in Boone county. Mo., January 28, 1832. His father, George W. Barnes, born in Culpeper county, Va., removed with his parents to Kentucky when he was three years old. They were pioneers, settling there in 1797, and there the grandfather of John P. Barnes died in 1810 at the age of 103 years. He had six sons by his first marriage, all of whom served in the Revolution. There were five sons and four daughters by the second marriage, George W. being the youngest. All the sons of the second marriage served in the war of 1812 under Col. Johnson, in Gen. Harrison's army. George W. Barnes was the bugleman of the troop of mounted infantry, and an incident worthy of note in this connection is that at the battle of the Thames an order to blow a retreat was understood by him to mean blow a charge, which he sounded, the result being that the forces rushed forward to victory instead of backward to defeat. George W. Barnes settled in Missouri in 1820, studied medicine and was long in practice in Clay and Piatt counties.

He married there Martha Thomas about 1826, and they had six children, Richard T., Sarah F., John P., Elizabeth R., Margaret J. and Mary. Richard T. died at Helena, Mont., in 1898, aged seventy years, and John P. is the only member of the family now resident in the state. The Doctor's wife died in 1852, and he accompanied the family of his son John to Montana in 1865, and died a year later at the age of seventy-two.

John P. Barnes had the common school advantages of his day and location, supplemented by a short term at a high school, and acquired a practical knowledge of business in his father's drug store. He engaged in merchandising, first as a clerk until 1852, then in trade for himself at Parkville until the breaking out of the Civil war, when, throwing business to the winds, he followed his state in the cause of the south and enlisted as a lieutenant in Gen. Price's army. After serving one year, on account of a severe attack of typhoid fever he resigned his commission at Memphis, Tenn., when he was in command of his company. He was succeeded in the command by R. S. Kelly, well known to Montanians as United States marshal of this state under Cleveland.

Mr. Barnes was ill and confined to his room at the time of the capture of the city, and witnessed much of the fighting from his window. On recovering his health sufficiently to travel, he secured a pass from Gen. Lew Wallace, the Union commander, and came up the river by steamboat to his old home. The Federal authorities were then in control, and Mr. Barnes was placed under bonds and given no opportunity to leave that part of the country until 1864, when he came west in the employ of a man named Couch, having charge of a drove of cattle and some freight wagons, the Federal commander giving him a pass for this purpose.

He arrived at Virginia City on September 12, 1864, the trip being accomplished in 120 days, said to be the best time ever made on

the route. After prospecting for a few weeks, Mr. Barnes settled for a short time on a ranch in Jefferson valley, and on December 24, 1864, he came to the present site of Helena, took up a claim in Grizzly gulch and mined with fair success until the fall of 1865, when, on the arrival of his family from the east, he moved across to the New York mining district.

He continued mining and milling in the New York, Eldorado and Helena districts for ten years, until 1874, with varying success, in company with W. W. Arnold, who was his companion in his trip from the east. In 1867 and 1868, in company with A. G. Clarke and Alexander Kemp, he constructed the Eldorado ditch from Trout creek to Eldorado bar. This cost $103,000 and proved to be a losing proposition. They then engaged in the sawmill business near Helena and in the constniction of a mining flume on Clancey creek in Jefferson county.

During a portion of this time, 1870 and 1871, Mr. Barnes resided in Helena and was in charge of a lumber yard. He then removed to the flume on Clancey creek and remained there until the fall of 1874, when he purchased a ranch on the Spokane, and made it his home until 1882. Then he and Mr. Arnold sold their mining properties and divided their other possessions, Mr. Arnold retaining the ranch and Mr. Barnes taking the stock, which he removed to the Judith basin and located on a ranch near Philbrook, entering a homestead of 160 acres. He added 160 acres to this tract by purchase, and made it his home until he removed to his present residence in Lewistown in 1894. It is now the property of Alexander Raw.

Always stanchly Democratic, Mr. Barnes has been an active force in the ranks of his party, and has been honored with important official trusts, which he has discharged with fidelity and advantage to the people whom he served. In 1867 he was appointed by Gov. Green Clay Smith one of the commissioners to organize Meagher county, including all the territory between the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers as far south as Flathead Pass. In the fall of 1868 he was chosen one of the first members of the legislature from this new county, and the ne.xt fall was elected to represent Choteau, Meagher and Gallatin counties in the upper house.

Having removed to Jefferson county, in the fall of 1871 he was elected the joint representative of Lewis and Clarke and Jefferson counties in the council, and in 1877 was nominated as a member of the same body for Lewis and Clarke county, but, giving no personal attention to the canvass, was defeated by A. M. Holter by the small majority of sixty votes. In 1886 he was one of the commissioners elected to organize Fergus county, and held the office for three years until the first election of state officers under the state constitution in 1889.

On July I, 1894, Mr. Barnes took possession of the office of receiver of the United States land office at Lewistown, to which he had been commissioned on the preceding 24th day of May. He held this office for four years and discharged its duties with satisfaction to the people. When the city of Lewistown was incorporated he was elected its first mayor, but refused to be a candidate for a second term. In 1850 he joined the Methodist Episcopal church, and consequently has been a member of that religious body for over half a century. He was made a Mason in Compass Lodge No. 63, at Parkville, Mo., in January, 1858, and is now affiliated with Lewistown Lodge.

In the fall of 1887 Mr. Barnes purchased a onehalf interest in three mining claims in the North Moccasin mountains, and in 1888, with his son C. E. Barnes, he bought the other half interest from A. D. Harmon. He developed these and added others to them until they had a group of fifteen claims, known as the Barnes-King group of mines. Their mill, nominally of 100 tons capacity, had really a capacity of 300 tons, and they easily run through 100 tons in eight hours. The ore has an average value of $10 to the ton. The Barnes-King group was bonded to an Eastern syndicate in December, 1901, for $1,000,000.

Mr. Barnes was united in marriage February 23, 1853, with Miss Rosetta L. Beeding, a daughter of Craven P. and Rosetta L. (Lackland) Beeding. She was a native of Hagerstown, Md., from whence her parents removed to Parkville, Mo., in 1844. Mr. and Mrs. Barnes have reared six children, Clarence E., John S., Martha E. (Mrs. Joseph Wunderlin), Anna M. (Mrs. R. L. Neville), Loretta (Mrs. M. L. Woodman), and Carlotta (Mrs. John L. Raw). Mrs. Barnes died in March, 1899, aged sixty-five years. Mr. Barnes contracted a second marriage on May 8, 1901, being then united with Mrs. Jennie Larson, whose maiden name was Sheridan. She was born in Lindley, Steuben county, N. Y., in 1855.

Mr. Barnes is one of the rare specimens of manhood whose modesty has kept him from the full measure of honorable station to which he might probably have aspired. It has been said of him, by one who knows him well, and who is an excellent judge of character, that he might have had any office in the gift of his people if he had aspired to it. But while he has not pushed himself forward in official lines, he has held responsible positions with great ability, has dignified and adorned every walk of life in which he has been found, and has been an inspiration and example to good men of all classes.