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FredQuest Genealogy

James Barnes Eulogy (1939)

A Eulogy
to the Memory of


Founder of Barnesville, Ohio
Delivered by State Senator Ray Palmer
at the James Barnes Memorial Service Held Aug 3, 1939
in the First Methodist Church, Barnesville, Ohio


James Barnes was a second miler. His life here reveals that he too held it a vice in his goodness not to do mare than is requested. Most men would have been content to settle down to a life of ease and least resistance in the new town. But not he.

Money which he received from his business or from the sale of lots was plowed back into the economic soil of this community. He first established a tannery here; then his store; then a grist mill; later a woolen mill; then great tobacco warehouses that meant so much in the growth of the new town, and finally a saw mill. His vision was always at work. He not only dreamed of a "bigger, better Barnesville," he worked unceasingly and untiringly toward that objective.

When the route for the National Road through Belmont county was being considered, James Barnes used all his influence to have it pass through Barnesville, but he was overruled. Turning to those who had voted against him, and again showing his vision, he said to the group: "Never mind, gentlemen. Thee have refused to put the pike on the natural route, but let me say to thee, that after a while a railroad will come through Belmont county, and then thee'll see that it will pass through Barnesville."

Years later, his prophetic words came true.

What we have said thus far facilitates that James Barnes was a religious man. In fact, his Quaker faith was probably the most dominant of his innumerable admirable traits of character.

His ancestors, the Bairns of England, became followers of George Fox shortly after the Restoration, and it is said that their loyalty to the English throne had much to do with the liberal attitude toward the Quakers under William and Mary and George I.

From the minutes of the Plainfield Ohio Meeting of the Society of Friends we read the following:

"Plainfield Preparative meeting informs that James Barnes requests to be received into membership with Friends, therefore, Jacob Branson, Charles Pidgeon, Levi Hollingsworth and Israel Wilson are appointed to visit him, enquire into his motives and also respecting his life and conversation, and report their sense of the propriety of his request to the next meeting."

His request was granted on Oct. 10, 1813 and he was admitted to membership in the Plainfield meeting. He transferred to Stillwater meeting on March 4, 1814.

When he laid out this town, he donated two acres of ground for a Methodist Church and graveyard. This was done gladly at the request of the Rev. James Round, a tanner, whom Mr. Barnes sent here to start the first tanyard in the new town.

All the information we have regarding the life of James Barnes in Barnesville indicates that he was true to his deep-seated religious believes and practiced them in his every-day dealings with his fellow-men. We are told that he not only supported generously his own church, but assisted all other churches that sought establishment here. There was no intolerance or bigotry in his make-up as regards other faiths. His minds was as broad as the broad-brimmed hat he always worn.

Let us turn again to the sketch of Mr. Hibbard for a picture of the founder of Barnesville. He writes:

"The personal appearance of Mr. Barnes was very commanding. He was more than six feet in height and of portly build. His complexion was slightly florid, with auburn hair, blue eyes and a very benevolent countenance. His voice was very strong and sonorous and so powerful that he could be heard when in ordinary conversation at a distance of 100 yards. He was dressed in drab-colored cloths, cut to the precise pattern of the Quaker costume, and always wore a broad-brimmed hat. He walked slowly with deliberate and measured step, and if once seen would never be forgotten by the beholder."

James Barnes was born in Baltimore county, Maryland in 1772. He was the son of David Barnes, one of three brothers who sailed from England for America about 1758. David Barnes was a man of feeble constitution and the maintenance of the family fell upon his sons when they were quite young.

James Barnes reached his 21st year practically penniless, but in his make up were courage, determination, faith and vision worth far more than riches.

He rented lands to others on the shares and farmed during the summer. When winter came he made shoes for his neighbors, having learned this trade without the assistance of an apprenticeship.

A short time after his marriage to Elizabeth Harrison, he bought a farm in Montgomery county, Maryland and laid out there a town called Barnesville. In this hamlet, he started a store, in which his wife acted as clerk while he made shoes.

Shortly after the turn of the century, he heard the call of the west and started for the Ohio country, arriving in 1803 at St. Clairsville where he went into business. In 1806, he entered the lands on which Barnesville now stands and on Nov. 9 1808 laid out the present town.

Time does not permit consideration in detail of all that happened during the ensuing 30 years, but much of it has already been covered in a general way. We know that the tiny hamlet carved out of a wilderness and virgin forests grew and prospered in direct ratio to the vision of its founder translated into his own indomitable energy and faith in the future.

We are forced to skip over the years of his middle life and come to what should have been for him a glorious sunset. If ever a man richly deserved to sit back and enjoy the fruits of his labor he did. But a cruel and unkind fate decreed otherwise.

The thirties of the previous century like the thirties we are now leaving were years of terrible depression. He lost heavily in his tobacco business during 1828 and 1832, but continued the battle of life with spirit undaunted. In 1837 came the worst panic the young country had known up until that time. The waves of adversity swept away his vast enterprises and in the years that immediately followed, he found himself ending life as he had started it penniless.

This brings us to one of the most magnificent episodes of his exemplary life. In 1843, at the age of 75, when most persons would give hope, he literally set out to start life anew. He left the town bearing his name and started for Baltimore, Md. to make arrangements to enter the commission business. He made the arduous journey, finished his business there and started for home. On his way back he stopped at a tavern at Little Crossings, near Grantsville, Md., for breakfast and dropped dead there. He was buried in country graveyard near Grantsville.

It is with a deep sense of humility and a consciousness of my own shortcomings that I endeavor to fill this important place on today's program. I am here only because one far better fitted to eulogize the founder of our town is speaking at the moment in Albany, N.Y.  The homecoming committee very appropriately selected Barnesville's first citizen, Louis J. Taber, Master of the National Grange, as the speaker of the day, but an earlier engagement made it impossible for one of the great men of the nation to pay tribute to the memory of a great man of more than a century ago.

The more I have read about the indomitable spirit and splendid character of James Barnes the greater has been my feeling of inadequacy and insufficiency .

Twenty-five years ago I heard a university baccalaureate speaker say that every one who undertakes to speak publicly should have a text. A text, said he, is like a shoemaker's last around which one can fashion and form his thinking. It also provides, he continued, a starting point and, what is ofttimes more important, a stopping place.

In considering the life of James Barnes; in evaluating the rich heritage which he left all of us and in turning back to his example for sign posts to guide us now and in the future, I can think of no text more appropriate than these words from the Proverbs of Solomon: "Where there is no vision, the people perish."

James Barnes was a man of vision, of great vision. He was a true pioneer with all the optimism, courage and faith of the sturdy founding fathers who gave us the greatest nation in the world.

James Barnes sprang form distinguished lineage, the Bairns of early England, but far more important than his ancestry in the life he lived and the man he was.

To paraphrase the words of Lincoln, there will be little note of what we say here, but Barnesville can never forget what its founder did here. Truly, he founded well.

The life of James Barnes, little as we know about him, is an inspiration. It is unfortunate that there is not a more complete biography of this remarkable leader of men.

There is inspiration in the fact that although he started life penniless and ended life practically the same way, he has today two enduring monuments in towns that bear his name. To him money was not an end, He was not interested in the accumulation of wealth. The meager story of his life furnishes evidence that what he accumulated here was used to better the town which he founded and to assist his fellow-citizens in improving their position in life.

In his excellent sketch of James Barnes, Mr. Francis Hibbard used the following language:

"He was kind, generous and benevolent to a fault. No poor man who asked assistance was refused if in Mr. Barnes' power to help him; and no person approached him for consolation without receiving the influence of his compassionate regards. He sold us town lots on easy terms to secure population, and leased his farms at low rents to enable the industrious poor to prosper. The needy he parceled out his lands that they might have homes and exhausted his means that the community might grow rich on the aid afforded by the distribution"

Words like these reveal that the founder of Barnesville did something more than carve a town out of a wilderness. His life was an ideal which any of us might well take as a design for living.

Those who conceived the ideal of brining the remains of James Barnes back to the town he established deserve our thanks and congratulations. The town will not benefit particularly by the fact that what is left of the material side of James Barnes has been brought home. But it should undergo a revival of civic spirit as we consider the great soul of the father of our fair city.

The great English statesman, Gladstone, once said "Show me the manner in which a nation or community cares for its dead, and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender sympathies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals."

In the lofty sentiment of these words of the great Gladstone, Barnesville should find increased pride in the fact that it has taken this step to honor the memory of its father.

Study the life of James Barnes and you will learn that he possessed so many admirable traits of character that any eulogy of him becomes a matter of selection rather than enumeration. If he had a fault certainly it was nothing worse than that expressed in these well-chosen works of Mr. Hibbard:  "He exhausted his means that the community might grow...."

Who could ask for a finer epitaph. Works like these are closely akin to "Greater love hat no man than this..."

We have no record in a diary of James Barnes, but I am inclined to think that he must have said often to himself "All that I am, all that I ever hope to be, I owe to Barnesville." And he governed his life accordingly, seeking always to give back to the community what it has given to him.

If James Barnes were living today, I wonder whether he would give a moment's thought to the tax rate in connection with improvements essential to the material and spiritual growth of the town. I known he wouldn't. He constantly had a vision of a greater Barnesville and "he exhausted his means that the community might grown."

Lover of the Bible that he was, he knew that "where there is not vision the people perish."

In the play "Othello". Shakespeare has Iago, the villainish part-devil, to say about Desdemona that "that she holds it a vice in her goodness not to do more than she is requested." In developing this thesis, Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick, the great New York pastor, has written an inspired little book called "The Second Mile." He used as his text: "Whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two."

He points out that what Iago seized upon with devilish ingenuity for his evil purpose toward Desdemona; Jesus made the crown of moral life. Dr. Fosdick rightly emphasizes the fact that all the drudgery of life is in going the first mile; happiness and glory come in going the second mile -- in doing more than is expected or required.

The grave was forgotten for nearly a century, but fortunately was located 15 or 20 years ago by his granddaughter, Mrs. Vina Barnes Kidd of Beaver, Pa.

Now, all that remains of the majestic and heroic character who founded the city we love has been brought home.

We are gathered here today to give belated recognition and honor to the man whose vision created this beautiful city on the sunkissed hills of "Bonnie Belmont."

As we meet to honor his memory, no tribute is more fitting than these words from the pen of a Barnesville poet, Alan Sill.

Within our midst there rises one today
    Who sought not fame, for such is ever cheap;

But planted here a seed, then dropped to clay
     And with his fathers did, in fastness sleep.

And on the east there broke a happy dawn,
     And o'er the hills the sunbeams came to play;

And little children romped upon his lawn.,
     And joyful lovers near his home, did stray.

And nodding flowers in rare profusion grew,
     And stately trees did wave their branches high;

And songsters came to fill the air anew
     Beneath the arching canopy of sky.

And now your ashes come back home to rest,
     May they by heaven's amplitude be blest,

And may those yet unborn attest
      Thy sacred memory.

I say you sought not fame for such is cheap.
      I say you marked this spot with simple aim;

I say, you rise before us now to reap
     The glow which we heap upon your name.

It is good for us to be here today.  It is time well-spent to turn our thoughts backwards to the noble life of the founder of our city.  As we think of what he wrought here, let us remember that

"Lives of great men oft remind us
     We can make our lived sublime

And departing leave behind us
     Footprints in the sands of time."

This homecoming memorial service will justify the time spent in planning and arranging it if we today can somehow catch anew the faith and vision of James Barnes.  Just as the surveyor turns his transit sights for a backward look when planning to go ahead, so can we chart the course of a better community by turning our thoughts backwards to the life of James Barnes.

In it we will find a design for better and finer living.  A better and finer town.  In the life of this man of vision who held it a vice in his goodness not to do more than is requested we have a perfect pattern for progress.

May we reflect deeply on his noble examples and say to his memory with grateful hearts.

"Faith of our fathers, living still
     We will be true to thee, 'till death."

Manuscript. A Eulogy to the Memory of James Barnes (1772-1843), Founder of Barnesville, Ohio. Delivered by State Senator Ray Palmer at the James Barnes Memorial Service held Aug 3, 1939 in the First Methodist Church, Barnesville, Ohio. Given as part of the Fourth Annual Barnesville Homecoming. Barnesville Hutton Memorial Library, Barnesville, Ohio