Monday, January 26, 2009

Senator James Barnett of Peterbor, Madison County, NY

Grave stone of Senator Barnett and his son Captain Barnett

"I am satisfied that it is always safe to do right"
James Barnett speech Personal Liberty for All Men

Biography of James Barnett
Excerpts from Biography of James Barnett from the book "Life Sketches of the State Officers, and Members of the Assembly of the State of New York, in 1867" By Samuel R. Harlow, H. H. Boone. You can see the full biography with the link at the bottom of the page
James was born in Orange county, Vermont, May 18th, 1810. "James Barnett, attended the common schools of that day, during the winter months, laboring on the farm with his father in the summer, until eighteen years of age, when he engaged in teaching school in the winter, continuing his labors upon the farm, during the summer. In 1832, he accepted a clerkship in the mercantile business; and, in 1836, engaged in that business upon his own account, in Fayetteville, Onondaga county. He removed to Peterboro', in 1838, and has continued the same business until the present time(1867)."

James was first a Democrat. "On the formation of the Liberty party he became a convert to its principles, and was an active and leading member until the organization of the Republican party, at which time he joined its fortunes, and has ever since been an earnest advocate of its principles and measures."

"He was several times chosen Supervisor of his town by the Liberty party, which, by the influence of Hon. Gerrit Smith (a resident of the same town), Hon. Mr. Barnett, and a few other zealous advocates, had acquired quite an ascendancy in that immediate section."
"Mr. Barnett was elected to the Legislature in 1859, from the Second District of Madison county, by the Republican organization; and in 1860, was chosen Justice of the Peace, by the electors of his town."

"In 1865, he was elected by the Republican Union party to the Senate of the State of New York from the Twenty- third Senatorial District, comprising the counties of Madison, Chenango and Cortland. The first session of his present term as Senator, he served as Chairman of the Committees on Indian Affairs, and Charitable and Religious Societies, also as a member of the Committee on Retrenchment."

"During the late war for the suppression of the rebellion, he gave largely of his time and means, actively and effectively encouraging enlistments; and, with a heart warmly enlisted in the cause, did much to sustain the Government. Under his encouraging influence his two sons became volunteers in the Union army; the eldest, bravely representing the stock from which he sprang, going forth at the first call, to meet a hero's death at Antietam." (see my blog on his son Captain James Reuben Barnett)

"Mr. Barnett is a man of strong convictions. His religious sentiments are, and from his earliest years have been, of the Puritan orthodox type of his New England ancestors, adopting the radical congregational views of church polity. He is a devoted friend of Sabbath Schools, and has labored in the cause as Sabbath School Superintendent, for more than thirty years."

"He is a valuable public servant. Utterly incapable of duplicity, carefully scrutinizing all measures which come before him for decision, bringing to his aid, in solving their merits, a clear head, sound judgment and rigid uprightness, he discharges his duties with a fidelity and wisdom which cause him to be highly respected."

Many of Barnett's ideas seem to coincide with those of Gerrit Smith, multimillionaire from the same town. The families must have been close because Smith spoke at Capt. Barnett's funeral. I'm sure that Smith's influence and wealth helped Barnett to get some public exposure. It may be that Gerrit Smith liked Barnett's ideas and helped pave the way for him to get a seat in legislature and the state senate. Some common ideas they had related to slavery and prohibition of alcohol. James also worked to get African-Americans the right to vote.

James Seceded from his Presbyterian Church

According to Donna Burdick, Smithfield Town Historian, in (date) a group of members of the Presbyterian Church in Peterboro were upset that the church did not take a stand against slavery. This group of 29 people left the church. These 29 "seceders" were required to appear before the church leaders for their "breach of covenant." An original document from the Presbytirian Church lists the names of the seceders. James Barnett and Gerrit Smith were among the seceders. Gerrit Smith then formed the Free Church or the Church of Peteroboro (a church "free" from doctrine). There are not a lot of actual records of the church itself, only names of people who spoke there. The church did not actually require people to become "official" members of a church "society." Gerrit Smith wanted all people in the town to feel that it was their church. He also made it a forum for the dissemination of his political views. The singing was led by a former slave who was a hunchback (John "the Dominie" West). As James Barnett seceded with Gerrit Smith and his ideas coincide very much with those of Gerrit Smith he had to have joined with the Free Church.

In my own research I've found a few things to add. James was married twice. His first wife Julia Rich died in 1848 and he Ellen King. James Barnett eventually moved to Oneida, NY. The 1868-1869 Lenox Business Directory lists an Oneida business, “J. Barnett and Son.” It is possible that James Barnett may have continued his mercantile business in Oneida with his only living son, Thomas. The Utica Morning Herald 1874 wrote, "Mr. James Barnett, an old and highly esteemed resident of Oneida, has been stricken with apoplexy, and there is little hope of his recovery." James died Jul 23, 1874.

Death of James Barnett

Gerrit Smith spoke at the funeral of Captain Barnett. Upon the death of James Barnett Sr., his sister-in-law wrote a letter to Gerrit Smith to inform him of the death and invite him to participate in the funeral services. She addresses him with "Dear Friend" and calls James his "friend." This again proves how close Gerrit and James were. Donna Burdick, Peterboro Town Historian provided me with the contents of the letter.
Oneida, July 24, 1874
Dear Friend
Your sorrowing friend has gone to his rest, my good brother Barnett died last night at 7 o'clock. On Tuesday morning he was found to be ill and soon passed into an apoplectic state, lying unconscious all the time till the last breath came. He had been ill for a long time, having much trouble with his head. I know you will pity the poor orphans and pray for them and us all.
We expect to have funeral exercises at the house on Saturday morning and set out for Peterboro at 10 A.M. arriving there about 1 P.M. We hope to meet you there and any part you may think best to take in the exercises will be grateful to our hearts.
We wake to find a house without a head for the first time this morning. May God enable us rightly to improve this added chastisement.
Affectionately yours
Caroline F. King

Barnett Family Geneology

James barnett was married twice. With his first wife Julia Ann Rich he had 5 children. After her death, he married Ellen King and they had 2 daughters. Below, I show their geneology. Donna Burdick, Smithfield Town Historian provided me with this in an e-mail. I cut and pasted what she wrote.

According to my info., Julia Ann Rich was born on Apr. 28, 1816, the dau. of Reuben Rich Sr. and his 2nd wife, Rachel Loveland. She married James Barnett on Mar. 23, 1836.

They had 5 children:
1. Helen M. Barnett born Apr. 10, 1837 -died 1924. In 1866 married Dr. Daniel D. Loomis 1827-1902. They had 2 sons, James and Lewis who both died young. The family is buried at Christ Church Cemetery, Sherburne, NY.

2. James Reuben Barnett born Aug. 29, 1838. Died Sept. 19, 1862. Buried Peterboro, NY.

3. Marionette A. Barnett born Jan. 24, 1840 -died circa 1920. In 1883 married Darwin C. Smalley c. 1832-1899. She had stepchildren but no children of her own. Marionette died in Bay City, Mich. and may be buried there? Stepchildren's names were Helen B. Smalley, Zaidee Smalley, and James Burt Smalley (taken from the 1880 census when Darwin C. Smalley was still married to Martha).

4. Xarifa H. Barnett born Nov. 2, 1841 -died Apr. 11, 1921. In 1872 married Joseph C. Ayers c. 1841-May 4, 1897. They had 1 child who died young. Xarifa died in Washington, DC, but is buried with her husband at Glenwood Cemetery, Oneida, NY. Joseph had been married before and had 2 daughters by this 1st marriage, Emma and Jennie.

5. Thomas Clarkson Barnett born Nov. 12, 1843 -died Jan. 14[?], 1896 Chicago, Illinois. In 1869 married Hattie F. Whitney. They had no children but she survived him. He is buried at Peterboro but, as far as I know, she is not.

Julia Ann died June 23, 1848. James Barnett married Ellen King of Hamilton, NY, on Dec. 25, 1849.

They had 2 daughters:
1. Caroline F. Barnett, born 1852 -died 1893. She married Edward B. Taylor, who was born c. 1849. She is buried at Peterboro but he is not. Don't think they had any children.

2. Ellen S. Barnett, born June 5, 1854 -died May 10, 1931. She never married, died at Bay City, Mich., and is buried at Peterboro. She is one who gave some materials to the Madison County Historical Society. I have 2 different obituaries for her. One states that she was survived by a niece Mrs. Jennie Ayers Benjamin of Wilton, Conn. The other says that this niece was Mrs. William Benjamin of Norwalk, Conn. I think this Jennie was the stepdaughter of Xarifa Barnett Ayers.
These 2 daus. of James & Ellen Barnett are buried in another part of the Peterboro Cemetery - not next to their parents.

Ellen King Barnett died in Oneida on Jan. 15, 1874. James Barnett died in Oneida on July 23, 1874. They are both buried at Peterboro.

Some of the exact dates given above, especially the birth dates for the 5 children of James & Julia Ann Barnett, come from the "Book Compiled and Written by Elijah D. Bacon, Aug. 16th, 1901," at MCHS, Oneida, NY. I have found that Mr. Bacon made several errors in dates, so I can't guarantee that he is always correct. He was married to Helen Rich, another daughter of Reuben Rich Sr. & his 2nd wife Rachel Loveland.

Please take a minute to look at my other blogs.

Captain James Barnett (Jr.) 35th New York Volunteer Infantry

35th New York Volunteer Infantry Civil War

James Barnett (Sr.) Anti-Slavery, John Brown Meeting Peterboro, NY

James Barnett (Sr.) Speech -Personal Liberty for all Men

James Barnett (Sr.) Battles for African American Man's Right to vote 1860 & 1867

James Barnett (Sr.) Speech -Prohibition of Alcohol

Please e-mail me if you would like original copies of any of my references. Contact me if you have questions, suggestions, or more interest in something that I have posted at

Web sites of interest:

Biography of James Barnett Sr.

Speech of James Barnett Sr. on the Fugitive Slave Act;idno=12851215;view=image;seq=1

Site that mentions James Barnett
Great site for searching early New York newspapers

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