Barnes Family Included Mill Operator, Relic Hunter

Sunday, July 9, 2017 - by John Wilson
George D. Barnes, relic hunter
George D. Barnes, relic hunter

Jacob Barnes operated a mill on the Tennessee River in the vicinity of Soddy Creek for over 60 years. He fathered 15 children by two wives,and many of his descendants are still at Soddy-Daisy.

Jacob Barnes was born in 1819 and he apparently lost his father at an early age. He was taken in by Major Robert C. McRee, who was one of Soddy's leading citizens. Major McRee sent him to school and, after his graduation, gave him $300, a horse and new saddle and told him he could go where he wanted. Barnes replied that he was already at home and intended to stay. He lived the remainder of his life near Major McRee and Col. William Clift, McRee's brother-in-law.

John Barnes was the second husband of Col. Clift's sister, Catherine. John Barnes was living in Hamilton County at the time of the 1840 census. Josiah and Abraham Barnes were here in 1830. Margaret Barnes, who was born in North Carolina about 1799, was living beside Jacob Barnes in 1850. She resided with Samuel and Elizabeth Carr.

In January of 1843, Jacob Barnes was married to Eliza Cranmore. Their children were John, Abraham, Robert C., Addie, Mary J., Elizabeth, Isabel and Joseph Brooks. The latter son eloped with Bertha Idella Abernathy, daughter of Matt and Janie Gray Abernathy, in 1894. Eliza Cranmore Barnes died in 1874, and the next year Jacob Barnes married Lydia Gann Jones. She had briefly been married to Steven H. Jones, but he abandoned her in 1866. Col. Clift performed the marriage of Jacob Barnes and his young bride, who was born in 1845. Lydia, who was a skilled seamstress, also assisted at the mill on Clift Mill Road. The miller was often paid by taking a "toll'' of the grain - usually an eighth of the total amount, according to family researcher Phyllis Horsman. Many who came to the mill crossed the river at Igou Ferry at the Blue Springs steamboat landing.

When Jacob Barnes was interviewed by the Soddy Banner on his 87th birthday, he was described as "tipping the beam at 105 pounds,'' but still able to "lift a bushel of grain with ease.'' He was "not very tall and had white chin whiskers down to his waist.'' He was an ardent Republican and "still exercised the elective franchise.''

Jacob and Lydia Barnes had Sarah Jane, Kate A., Nancy Ann and Margaret Aldine. Sarah Jane married John W. Hughes, a coal miner, and they moved to Whitesburg, Ky. Kate married Lafayette "Fate'' Eustice, and Nancy Ann married Julius "Jules'' Dyke. Margaret Aldine was unmarried. Jacob Barnes died in 1907 and Lydia in1911. They are buried at Soddy Presbyterian Church.

James Barnes, who may have been a younger brother of Jacob Barnes, was another county resident with his wife, Nancy. Their children included William, Cynthia, John and George Robert "Bob.'' Bob Barnes married Millie America Coleman, the youngest child of Benjamin Franklin and Nancy Hughes Coleman, and they lived at Bakewell between the Big Opossum and Little Opossum creeks. Bob Barnes died in 1899 and was buried at the Gray Cemetery, but Millie lived to be over 100. Their children were James Franklin, William Larkin, John Robert, Ethel Cordelia, Daisy Mary and Laura Estella.

James Franklin Barnes completed college and became a top reporter for the Chattanooga News, where he was constantly "trying to execute a scoop.'' He married Eva Hayden in 1903, and they had a daughter, Marguerite, and son, Hayden. The family lived in Hill City, but James F. Barnes had sold the house and was preparing to buy his own paper in North Alabama when tragedy struck on March 30, 1908. He poured kerosene on a kitchen fire and it exploded, engulfing him and his three-year-old daughter in flames. They were buried together at Forest Hills Cemetery.

William Larkin Barnes married Alice Spradling, and he operated a country store at Bakewell for 40 years. John Robert Barnes married Bessie Vandergriff. Ethel married Samuel James Smith, and Laura married Richard F. Green. Daisy was unmarried.

Wilson Barnes, who may have been another brother of Jacob Barnes, was born in Missouri in 1827, but lived many years at Ooltewah with his wife, Lavinia. Their children included James, Elvira, Rhoda Jane, Elizabeth J., Sarah, Champion and William. Rhoda Jane was unmarried and Sarah married a Cantrell.

The Barnes Coal Company was operated by W.W. Barnes, who was a native of Sumter County, Ala., and made his way to Chattanooga in 1900. A resident of 440 McCallie Ave., he was on the City Council. W.E. Brock, who often spent time with Barnes "on the road,'' accompanied him home from the John Hopkins Sanitarium at Baltimore in early 1912, with both knowing he had a woeful diagnosis. He died on March 22 at the age of 46.

Another Barnes here was George Abram Barnes, who was general agent for the Southern Railway and resided at 1801 McCallie Ave. Born at Lancaster, Mass., in 1841, he rose to corporal with a voluntary infantry regiment from his home state. He was seriously wounded at the second battle of Bull Run. George A. Barnes went west for 15 years after the war and worked with the railroad. He was with the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad when he arrived in Chattanooga in 1885. He married Jeannette B. Feller at Greenfield, Ohio, in 1880. A son, Clarence A. Barnes, moved to Los Angeles. A daughter, Esther, married Paul W. Shepherd.

There was also George D. Barnes, who resided on Missionary Ridge and was a deputy federal marshal and marshal at Chickamauga Park. He began a hobby of hunting Indian relics in 1887. When he died in 1909, his children were listed as Mrs. Allie Brown, Nellie, Cora,Mabel, Irene, Mary Louise, George D., William,Arthur and Raymond.

The younger George D. Barnes began searching for relics with his father when he was 13 in 1892. He explored mounds all along the Tennessee River - especially at Williams Island and Moccasin Bend. By the early 1930s, he believed that all the mounds had been located and the great discoveries found. Barnes would complete a collection, then sell it to a wealthy collector or to a museum here or abroad. His thirteenth collection was sold for $12,500 to an Asheville millionaire, then he began a new search. Barnes worked for TVA in its land acquisition department and he kept his rarities at his home at Dayton. He also collected old historical documents,and he once salvaged two wagon loads of papers that had been removed from the Rhea County Courthouse as rubbish. The documents dated to the early 1800s and contained the signatures of Sam Houston and other famous Tennesseans.


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