|We are grateful to Alan Williams, one of the leading authorities on the descendants of Johann Jacob Barb, for so graciously providing information on the ancestors of our James and Jemina. Mr. Williams' work is an extension of the research begun by Olive Barbe McLaughlin in the 1870s.
Our great-great-great-great-grandfather, Johann Jacob Barb came from southern Germany to this country in the year of 1753. We believe that our particular branch of the Barbs had wandered
about for 200 years; Jacob had been in both Germany and England.
Johann Jacob was the father of ten children: Adam, Abraham, Henry, William, Isaac,
Peter, Jacob, Mary, Ann [Anna?] and Elisabeth. It is easy to see why this old
gentleman, having seven sons, is the ancestor of so many Barbs in the United
We are descended from Abraham Barb, who also fathered ten children: Adam, Jacob,
Abraham Jr., Joshua (we have heard from his descendants), Christian, John, Mary
(married Peter Reichman), Catherine (married John Spitler), Anna (married Peter
Sagger) and Susannah, who, we believe, remained unwed.
Abraham Jr. married Rebecca Bolinger and they had eleven children, all born in
Hardy County, Virginia:
||Amelia Barb, b July 4, 1816
James, b May 9, 1818
Levi, b Mar 17, 1820
Abraham III, b Dec 2, 1824
Lydia, b Sept 21, 1827
Mary Ann, b Nov 22, 1829
David, b Mar 29, 1831
Susan, b Nov 19, 1834
Rebecca Catherine, b Mar 25, 1837
Elizabeth, b Mar 15, 1839
[In 1933, when this history was first written, the text did not
include any mention of Lydia, which indicates that no information about her had been passed down to Doris Pogue, the author. However, Lydia is listed in Jemima's Bible and 1850
Virginia Census records, and other Barb researchers have record of her. Perhaps
she displeased the family in some way and was not generally discussed. Per Alan
Williams, Lydia married a German immigrant, Johann Francis Kotz, who was
most likely Lutheran. James was a devout Methodist, leaning toward Calvanist
beliefs. Perhaps Francis was as devout a Lutheran as James was a Methodist and
that was a source of intra-familial discord. There was also no mention of
Christena and no further documentation is available on her from the research of
Olive Barbe McLaughlin. Perhaps she died young.]
James Barb, born in Virginia in 1818, was our great-grandfather. We have perused
a number of old papers from the 1840s and 1850s which indicate that he held some
sort of small legal office in Barbour County, Virginia. Notes were left with him
to collect; among them were a number of bills of sale, including some for slaves. There is one, dated 1838 and signed by James Barb, that is nothing more than a
list of groceries and household supplies, all the way from a dozen pearl buttons
to a churn. Why in the world has it been kept all these ninety-five years?!
It was not until September 3, 1846, when James was twenty-eight, that he went home
to Hardy County to marry Jemima E. Baker. Together they returned to Barbour
County, as they are listed there in the 1850 Census.
Nine children were ultimately born to James and Jemima: Miranda, Lewis N., Sarah
Jane, twins Isaac N. and James Perry, Mary Virginia, William Price, Susan
Elizabeth and Benjamin Franklin.
Of all our family branches, we would say that the Barbs seem the most settled and
the least likely to roam. Yet the history of this tribe of the Barbs is one long,
slow but surely moving hegira from Virginia to California. Uncle Will Barb
(James' son) said mournfully, "Yes, we're buried from one coast to the other." Such statements come naturally to Uncle Will, he being very pessimistically
In 1850 James Barb, who had been married to Jemima for
about four years, brought suit for division of land that had been left by Jemima's father, Abraham.
In the years of 1852 and 1853 there are records of James Barb buying land in
Barbour County. The financial affairs of John Baker, Jemima's younger brother, seem to have been somewhat
involved with James Barb's, as they loaned money back and forth. Some of James'
papers were not clear to us, but it appeared that James may have been John's
guardian until John reached his majority.
Why James Barb decided to leave Virginia in 1856 and come West, when he apparently
was just getting settled as a man of property in Virginia, we do not know. We
suspect it may have been because of the hard times of that period. The boom
following the gold rush of '49 was over and the panic of 1857 was in the offing.
In those days when a depression got too desperate, the individual remedy was to
move on further west. It may also have been the slavery question: James freed his
one bound man and otherwise refused to take a stand on either side of the issue.
[In 1863, the area that became West Virginia (which included Barbour County)
seceded from Virginia and was admitted to the Union as the thirty-fifth state.]
Whatever the driving force, in 1856 James, Jemima, their five children, Miranda,
Benjamin, Sarah Jane, twins Isaac and James, and James Sr.'s brother, Levi, left
Barbour County and journeyed to Missouri. They left behind the grave of their
second son, Lewis, who had died in early infancy. The twins were only six months
old and Isaac did not survive the trip. He was buried somewhere along the route,
the second grave referred to by Uncle Will.
In the spring of 1857 James Barb paid taxes in Scotland County, Missouri. Also in James' papers are documents dated at Kirksville and Memphis, Missouri.
James and his family remained in Missouri for six years. It was there that
William and Mary were born. During part of this time, of course, the Civil War
was in progress. Grandfather James absolutely refused to fight or even to take
sides. He said that the question could be settled without war and he, being of
this opinion, remained neutral under the most difficult circumstances.
The state of Missouri was overrun with guerilla bands who took sides with a
vengeance – first one side and then the other according to their convenience,
their objects being stealing and general meanness. It seemed to particularly
irritate these villains for Grandfather to say he wasn't on either side. He was
badly persecuted, abused, and on one occasion, he was strung up on a limb and left
for dead! Grandmother Jemima cut him down and revived James when the band left.
She used to say that she thought that her terrors during this period "marked" her
son, William, and caused him to be so ugly. He is certainly no Apollo, but we are
doubtful that this caused his lack of beauty. The Barbs are not noted for their
good looks. The huge Barb nose is a famous feature of the older ones and they
have cold, stern blue eyes. The older Barbs were also of medium stature and had
quite dark hair.
When the situation in Missouri became fraught with tension and danger, James decided once more to
emigrate, this time to Illinois. In the spring of 1863 he came to Hancock County
and bought a piece of rather poor land. He began to clear and till the property,
and remained here during the summer months raising a crop. In the fall he
returned to his family, intending to stay another winter in Missouri before
bringing the family back with him to Illinois. But conditions were so hopeless
that he abandoned the idea and they came to Illinois at once.
Levi Barb stayed in Missouri and eventually raised a family whose descendants still
In Illinois, no house was ready to receive James and his family, and winter was at
hand. A neighbor, Charles Washington Parker, with the pioneer hospitality of that
day, received this family of seven into his own home and gave them shelter until a
new log house was erected on the Barb farm.
Our grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Barb, was thirteen years old when the move was
made. He has told how, with both families living in a double log house, the
evening gathering around the fireplace was so large that the bigger ones held the
little ones, and that he always elected to hold seven year old Ada Parker, because
she was such a pretty little girl. But no later romance came of this childhood
admiration. It was a Parker son, Charles Zachariah, and a Barb daughter, Sarah Jane, who later
married. The Parker and Barb families were fast friends for years. [Later
research shows that Ann E. Parker, the eldest daughter of Charles Washington
Parker, was born in 1855, while Ada was born in 1863. It seems more likely that
Ben was referring to Ann rather than Ada.]
James Barb learned to be a surveyor and practiced this trade along with his
farming. According to the research of Olive Barbe McLaughlin, James had been
educated at Woodlawn Academy, Shenandoah Co., Virginia, and was also a
teacher at some point in his life. He was an industrious man, honest in the
extreme. He had many sterling qualities but it seems he was woefully lacking
in some of those lighter tendencies that are the basis of a pleasant personality. He
endeavored to be a just and good father, we suppose, but he was a very stern one.
Among his fads and peculiarities, Grandfather James insisted on absolute quiet in
his home. He would abide no childish prattle, no laughter, no patter of little
feet. Instead, his children learned to cease their play when their father was
present. They would sit quietly or move about just as quietly, if they had to
move at all. We have been told that anyone calling at the home during the day
heard no usual household sounds; all was as quiet as if no one were living and
working in the house. An aunt of ours, James' granddaughter, told us that she
never liked to go to her grandpa's house when she was a child, because he was
continually admonishing his grandchildren, "A little less noise in there!". But,
she said, she and her sister later forgave their grandpa Barb all of this when he
gave them a dime apiece to ride the merry-go-round at a county fair. Maybe he was
Here we will interpolate a short story which our neighbor, Frank Meyers, related
to us. When Frank was a child, he led a hard existence as a bound boy in the
service of Eli Munson, husband of James' and Jemima's daughter Mary Virginia. Eli
was a harsh master and frequently gave the Meyers boy hard thrashings for little
cause. Our great-grandfather earned Meyers' undying gratitude by saving him from
one undeserved whipping at Eli's hands, even though Eli was a great, strong young
man at the time and Grandfather was old. "Don't put your hand on that boy, Eli! He's done nothing to be whipped for and I'll not see him whipped!"
Doubtless most of Grandfather James' children suffered no actual hardship in a
quiet life, nor felt themselves too repressed, for they were a good deal like him. And we believe that James and Jemima were much alike in disposition. [A
handwritten note in the history states that there was some evidence that James and
Jemima may have been cousins. Per Alan Williams, it is possible that they
were cousins. If they were first or second cousins it would have to have been
through James' maternal side, the Bolingers. There were many Bakers in Shenandoah
County who were Barb descendants, distantly removed from James.]
We have heard Grandmother Jemima described as a driving woman. Certainly she was
a hard-working and thrifty one, with but a very small amount of lightness in her
makeup. She took life with great seriousness and a steady stare.
The Barbs and the Beckwiths were close neighbors and our uncle Fred Beckwith
happened to be present during a certain domestic scene. Jemima's daughter Susan,
at the time a young lady school teacher, so far forgot her dignity as to quarrel
and come to actual combat over a small, but very personal matter with her sister-
in-law Jennie Daugherty Barb, William's wife. If you must know, Jennie didn't want to carry Susan's chamber pot. Uncle Fred may have been quite amused but Grandmother Jemima most distinctly was
not. The two young women were upstairs when the sounds of their conflict reached
Jemima's ears. Jerking open the stairway door, she called out in her Virginia
dialect, "What, hyar! You giruls a-fightin' hyar?!" She was aghast. "Well, I'll
be bound! That's pretty carryings-on, I reckon!" And she darted upstairs and
soon restrained the excited combatants.
We remember our aunt Susan Barb Loggie as a dignified and solemn looking woman
whom we can scarcely imagine in a scene like this.
Our great-aunt Miranda used to come often to the Beckwith home, an environment in
many ways a complete contrast to her own. Aunt Lillie Almeda Beckwith, who was a
demanding judge of people, told us that she liked Miranda best of all the Barbs.
Miranda loved to hear the lively music that often resounded at the Beckwith house,
for they were quite a musical family. She would have liked to dance to it, too,
but she was too afraid to learn due to her (almost fanatically) religious father's
ire. Grandfather James would never have allowed even a violin to be played in his
house. At the Beckwith home, at least she could listen to the music and singing,
and she would urge the others to dance. Occasionally she would get up and march
around with them in time to the music. Poor child, she wanted to make some noise!
When Miranda was not very old, people began to say that Miranda Barb was odd. Aunt Lil said that Miranda was hurt and terrified when she began to understand
these opinions. Of course this helped matters along; she gradually became worse
and worse. We do not know that she ever became dangerously insane, but she was a continual care. Finally one spring, she was more disturbed than usual and, with the rush of spring work at hand, it was decided to take Miranda 'away'. At that time there were no asylums for the care of people like Aunt Miranda, so she was taken for detention to the county poor farm in Carthage, Illinois. She was shut in a room, alone. This was the straw that completely broke her troubled mind. She wept and screamed and continually tore at the locked door; she refused to eat
one bite of food. After one week of this, the authorities sent word to her
parents to come and get her, which they did. Poor Miranda did not trouble them
much longer. Soon after they brought her home, when she was only 31 years old,
Miranda died. The year was 1878. We don't know if disease killed her; we suppose
that the old-fashioned reason of a broken heart may fit as well as any diagnosis.
The following is carved on her tombstone in Majorville Cemetery:
|"Oh, weep not my parents, no longer repine,
For in Heavenly brightness thy daughter doth shine;
But dry all your tears, and prepare soon to come,
And join in the praises of Father and Son."
With no irreverence intended, we hope Aunt Miranda's future in the "heavenly
brightness" was more lively than that. There is no other record of insanity in
the Barb family – that we know of.
We do not for one moment think that James Barb
took any blame for faulty treatment of his oldest child. He thought he was doing
right. We have mentioned his fervid religiosity. He was a member and a deacon for some years at the Majorville Methodist Episcopal Church. He truly believed in a just and
omnipotent God. Two hoodlums of the community who had a grudge against him, once
caught James riding on a lonely road. They overpowered him and beat him severely. Grandfather James felt that this evil deed should be punished, but he left it up
to God to do so. He said that if these two wretches were not punished for their
treatment of him, he would renounce the Deity! Whether the Deity was much
concerned over the affair is somewhat doubtful. It is our opinion that our
respected ancestor made an ass of himself that time, and that he would have
accomplished considerably more vengeance if he had provided himself with a stout
club and done a little waylaying of his own.
Grandfather James had a great antipathy to being away from home after nightfall. On one occasion when he saw that he would not get home before dark, he actually unhitched his team from the wagon and proceeded homeward by a short cut though the
timber. This idiosyncrasy descended as far as his grandson, our father. Many
times we have had to leave a picnic just when we were most enjoying ourselves!