James M. Barr


Not only has James M. Barr seen Allamakee county grow from a wilderness with only a few inhabitants into a rich agricultural district containing thousands of good homes and a number of growing towns, but he has participated in the slow, persistent work of development which was necessary to produce the change which has been so complete that Allamakee stands in the front ranks of the leading counties of the state of Iowa. Mr. Barr is numbered among its most honored pioneers and is further entitled to a place in this volume as a veteran of the Civil war, to whom the country owes a debt of gratitude that can never be forgotten and never fully repaid.

Mr. Barr was born in Glasgow, Scotland, June 26, 1843, and is a son of John C. Barr, of English ancestry but a native of the north of Ireland. The father was reared in Scotland and there married Katherine Allen, also a native of that country, coming from a long line of Scotch ancestors. John C. Carr emigrated to America in 1852 and went by way of New Orleans up the Mississippi river to Dubuque, where he worked in the lead mines for some time. He later came to Allamakee county, locating in Hanover township, where he took up two hundred and forty acres of raw land, which he cleared, fenced and improved opening up a new farm, upon which he resided until his death.

James M. Barr’s childhood was spent amid pioneer conditions and it was he who aided his father in breaking the raw prairie land. He had a five yoke team of oxen and a large breaking ploy, which cut an eighteen inch furrow, and with this he accomplished a great deal of the initial work in the improvement of the homestead. When he was eighteen years of age, in August, 1861, he joined the Union army, enlisting in Company H. Ninth Iowa volunteer Infantry, as a private. With his command he went south to St. Louis and into Benton Barracks, where the regiment was drilled and its organization completed in preparation for active field duty. It later followed General Price through Missouri and was first under fire at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, under command of General Curtis. There Mr. Barr received a slight gunshot wound in the left shoulder and the next day was wounded in the right leg. Though disabled for a time he did not leave the field. During his term of service he participated in thirty-tree different battles besides the guerilla fights through Arkansas to Helena. He was in the thick of battle at Vicksburg, Jackson and Meridian, met the enemy again at Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge and under General Sherman marched to the sea, fighting every day until Atlanta was reached. The regiment helped to drive General Johnson out of Resaca and was in the battles of Rome and Kenesaw Mountain. In the latter engagement Mr. Barr was wounded for the third time when a cannon ball struck the top of the rebel fortification knocking down a large log which struck Mr. Barr, causing serious and almost fatal injuries. He was confined to his tent for six weeks under treatment and was at death’s door a number to times. However, he responded to roll call every day, his captain and comrades nursing and caring for him and answering to his name. This was not the only time Mr. Barr just escaped death, for in the charge at Vicksburg he received five bullets through his clothing, the shots coming so close that his skin was burned but not broken. He aided in taking Jonesboro and Atlanta and participated in the Carolina and Virginia campaigns. After Lee’s surrender the troops marched to Richmond and thence to Washington, where they took part in the grand review at the close of the war. Mr. Barr was later sent to Louisville, Kentucky, where he was mustered out, receiving his honorable discharge at Clinton, Iowa, July 26, 1865.

After the war Mr. Barr returned to Allamakee county and purchased a threshing machine outfit, which he operated here, wearing out three machines before he abandoned that line of work. Eventually, however, he purchased land in Hanover township and opened up a new farm of one hundred and sixty acres, upon which he continued to reside for a number of years. When he disposed of it he removed to Howard county, where he purchased a wagon and blacksmith ship, which he conducted until 1900, when he refitted the place for his sons, who now carry on the business. Mr. Barr resided in Howard county nineteen years but at the end of that time sold his interest there and removed to Duluth, where for two years he made his home with his daughter. At the end of that time he purchased forty acres of wild land in Douglas county, Wisconsin, on Eau Claire lake, a body of water clear as crystal, five mile in length, with a smooth and beautiful shore. Mr. Barr built a neat cabin near the lake and furnished it completely, making it an ideal summer retreat. He spends every summer on the lake shore, fishing in Eau Claire lake and hunting in the adjoining woods. In 1911 he purchased a lot in Waukon and upon it built a neat and comfortable home, in which he now resides, taking great delight in working upon and improving his place. He is his own housekeeper and has proven an excellent one, keeping his home neat and attractive in every respect. His leisure hours are spent in reading and his life is quiet, peaceful and happy, a fitting crown to his many years of honorable and useful labor.

In Hanover township, in 1871, Mr. Barr married Miss Anna Anderson, who was born in Christiania, Norway, but who was reared in Iowa. They became the parents of seven children. John C. is an extensive landowner in Wisconsin, Robert T, is a plumber in Osage, Iowa. Alfred is engaged in merchandising in Leonard, North Dakota. Ella K. gew to maturity and married, but has passed away, leaving two daughters, Mabel and Mary Flo. James died at the age of twenty-five years in Denver, Colorado, and Nellie died in Wisconsin at the same age. Aldine died December 1, 1910, when he was also twenty-five years of age. Mrs. Barr passed away in Howard county, July 26, 1903.

Mr. Barr was formerly a member of the Knights of Pythias, having helped to organize the lodge at Elma, Howard county, and he was also at one time identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He belongs to John J.. Stillman Post, G. A. R., and thus keeps in touch with his comrades of the Civil war. His life record has at all times been a creditable one and in matters of citizenship he has displayed the same patriotic spirit which he manifested as a soldier on the battlefields of the south. In politics he has always been a stanch republican since reaching manhood.

-source: Past & Present of Allamakee County; by Ellery M. Hancock; S. J. Clarke Pub. Co.; 1913
-transcribed by Diana Diedrich

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