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Buchanan County MOGenWeb Project

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Biographies of Buchanan County Residents:

John Fiske Barnard

Transcribed by Danielle Thompson

From the History of Buchanan County and the City of St Joseph and Representative Citizens

  JOHN FISKE BARNARD, a prominent and esteemed citizen of St. Joseph, was born at Worcester, Massachusetts, April 23, 1829, and is a son of John and Sarah R. (BIGELOW) Barnard.

     The Barnard family originated in England. John Barnard, our subject's father, was a descendant of John and Sarah Barnard, who sailed from the river port of Ipswich, Suffolk, England, in 1634, and settled at Watertown, Massachusetts, adjoining Boston. The Barnard family has scattered all over the United States and many members have become distinguished in the varied walks of life.

     Our subject was reared on a farm and until he was 17 years of age enjoyed only the educational advantages offered in the country schools during the winter seasons. In 1847, however, his prospects changed and he entered the State Normal School at Bridgewater, Massachusetts. His special talents attracted and interested his teachers, who suggested to him the wisdom of thoroughly preparing himself for a career in which his mechanical abilities might have play, and this resulted in his entering the Rensselaer Polytechnic School at Troy, New York, where he took a course in civil engineering, being graduated in 1850. It was to him a gratifying incident that he was almost immediately engaged by the chief engineer of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, now a part of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, to go to the Dominion, where he remained in the service of the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad Company and the Grand Trunk Railway Company until the spring of 1857, when he took charge of a short road on the banks of the Ottawa River in Canada. This was a part of the proposed, and partially built, Montreal & Bytown Railroad. The portion built was along the rapids and was intended during the construction of the road to connect two stretches of navigable water on which steamers plied. The company and contractors had failed to complete the work and the road built was only used during the season of navigation.

     Mr. Barnard remained in charge of the road until 1863, when he was appointed superintendent of the Montreal & Champlain Railroad, which extended from Montreal via St. John's to Rouse's Point, and also from Montreal via Lachine, to Moore's Junction, on the Ogdensburg & Lake Champlain road. After this road was merged, in August, 1864, into the Grand Trunk, his charge was divided between the superintendency of the Grand Trunk east and west of Montreal. Mr. Barnard removed to Brantford, Ontario, to become superintendent of the road previously known as the Buffalo & Lake Huron, which had, on August 1, 1864, been consolidated with the Grand Trunk. In March, 1866, Mr. Barnard was recalled to Montreal to take charge, as chief engineer, of that portion of the Grand Trunk road lying east and south of Montreal and the St. Lawrence River - between 600 and 700 miles.

     This responsible position he retained until 1869 when he came to the United States and took charge of the Missouri Valley Railroad, as chief engineer and superintendent. In 1870, the Missouri Valley and the Council Bluffs & St. Joseph roads were consolidated, and he remained with the consolidated company as chief engineer until the road was completed and some other work was accomplished. In 1871 Mr. Barnard left the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs Railroad, and then took charge of the St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad, as chief engineer and superintendent. This road was extended 50 miles under his supervision. He left this road in May, 1872, and in August was appointed superintendent of the Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs Railroad, which position he retained until he was made general manager of the same upon its purchase by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company in 1880, and in this position he continued until October, 1886, being also, from the autumn of 1884, general manager of the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad as well. From October, 1886, to October, 1892, he was president and general manager of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad Company. Subsequently for five years he was receiver of the Omaha & St. Louis Railroad. From January 15, 1897, he was also receiver of the St. Clair, Madison & St. Louis Belt Railroad, his tenure of that office continuing about four years, when the property was returned to the company, of which he has been and is now the president.

     On April 21, 1853, Mr. Barnard was married to Gertrude Agnes HARVEY, of Bath, England, who died March 25, 1865, leaving four children. His second marriage, on April 28, 1868, was to Julia Boswell KEEFER, of Galt, Ontario, and they have seven children. Eight of his children are living, his four sons being in railroad service. The family home at No. 117 South 15th street is one of the handsomest in the city, and its atmosphere is one of refinement, contentment and happiness. It is beautifully located in the midst of highly ornamental grounds, 129 by 240 feet in dimensions.

     Away from his native country for the 11 years preceding and eight years after the beginning of the Civil War, Mr. Barnard took no active interest in public matters at that time. He is a man of peace and sought no military glory, his work in life being constructive rather than destructive in its character. He is held in the highest esteem by his fellow citizens. During his active years he probably attained as much proficiency in his profession as any other man of his time.