CAPTAIN JOHN G. BARR
(from FIFTY-FIVE YEARS IN WEST ALABAMA printed in the
Tuscaloosa Gazette August 12, 1886)
Hon. E. A. Powell
In 1847 the Whig party of Tuskaloosa county elected its entire ticket to the Senate and House. The delegation stood for the Senate Gen. Dennis Dent, and for the House, Robert Jemison, Jr., Benj. F. Porter and Hardin Perkins, a very strong delegation, not surpassed by any other county in the State.
In the election of that year, the Democrats made a special effort to elect Capt. Jno. G. Barr, a very brilliant young man, a graduate of the University. The young men of the city of Tuskaloosa and Northport, a majority of whom were Whigs, to a considerable extent united in his support, and the prospect seemed fair for his election.
But the people of the county were unwilling to throw overboard the well-tried veterans of the past and take up an untried young man, simply because he was brilliant, and subsequent events showed that the people acted wisely. The successful candidates in this election have all been noticed.
I suppose it will not be out of place to say a few words about Capt. Barr, the defeated candidate. He was a native of North Carolina. When a young man without means, he was sent to the University by David M. Boyd, a clothing merchant of Tuskaloosa.
He graduated in the class of 1841, with honors. He was for awhile employed in the University as a tutor. After the election in 1847, he raised a company of volunteers for the Mexican War and was appointed Captain.
His course in the army was highly creditable to him, and he returned to his home with increased popularity. In 1849, he was brought out by the Democracy in connection with Judge Peter Martin and Moses McGwin as a candidate for the House.
If his Democratic friends had simply brought him as an individual aspirant, he would in all probability have been elected; but they made the bold dash for the entire ticket, and the result was Capt. Barr was beaten by Moses McGwin.
In this canvass, the question of the Sons of Temperance figured to some extent. Col. Jemison and Capt. Barr had both joined the order, and in some localities both lost some votes on that account. Capt. Barr was not a candidate anymore until 1855, when he ran again for a seat in the House, but was beaten by a large majority. In this canvass, he pursued a very singular course.
Like all the other candidates of that year, except Jolly Jones, he had joined the Know Nothing party, while he was anxious to and did receive the strength of what was left of the old Democratic party. He did not canvass the county with the other candidates, but went by himself, and would make a little speech whenever he could get a few voters together, making sometimes as many as three a day. But as before stated he was largely beaten.
In 1856 he was District Elector on the Buchanan ticket and made a very fine canvass.
Letter from John G. Barr, Montgomery, Alabama, to Margarette Barr Gooch, Double Springs, Alabama, November 29, 1857
In 1857 his friends made a strong effort to have him nominated for Congress over General Moore, but his name finally withdrawn, and Moore’s nomination made unanimous.
Before the close of the canvass, he issued a circular to the people, which called for a very sharp reply from Col. Jemison and some others. In the latter part of 1858 after the Buchanon administration was fairly underway, Capt. Barr was rewarded for his services in the canvass of 1856, by the appointment of Consul to Melbourne. But he was not permitted to reach his destination.
He died at sea on his outward voyage. As a declaimer, Capt. Barr was very strong especially in fighting some things that already existed. As a political debater, he was not the equal of many whom he had to encounter, in his different efforts to get the position?
He made considerable noise in the Literary world, and over the signature of “Oswego”, he wrote many amusing stories which were published in the New York Spirits of the Times.
Capt. Barr, was the brother of Mrs. Gouch, a lady of high standing in the social circles. He was also the nephew of Mrs. Gorman, a lady who was loved wherever known.
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