The ancestors of James Barnes were of English descent and the pedigree of the family may be persued back very distinctly to the troublesome days of Charles I. At that time the parental progenitors of Mrs. Barnes resided in the north of England, held high positions under the unfortunate monarch and throughout the vehement and boisterous contentions between that sovereign and the parliment remained rigid adherents to his failing cause. During the Commonwealth, of necessity they sank into obscurity, but at the restoration were again advanced to place of power.
The Bairns, as the name was then spelled, possessed large land estates, and the various lucrative offices filled by them added much to their great wealth. Shortly after the Restoration the Barnes became converts to the religious opinions of Fox, Penn and Barclay, and abandoning the allurements of public office, retired to the privacy of their landed estates, to be the better prepared to carry on their spiritual communion with the Most High, so greatly desired by the (Supus) as the (Friends) were then called. Their influence at court still continued to be powerful out of consideration for the ancient attachment to the Crown, and to the Bairns is due much of the honor for the liberal enactments toward the Quakers in the Subsequent reigns of William and Mary and George I.
The English law of descent as to real estate has the effect however of making a few of a family rich while the larger number are thrown off on the world in moderate circumstances or poor and penniless. By this means the great bulk of the Aristocracy of the kingdom, as far as property is concerned, are forced to the lowest levels of society, to be again elevated to distinction by services to the state, success in business or by the commanding influence of talents. It is to this perpetual revolution of pecuniary position that much of the stability and tenacity of the British Government is to by attributed.
The rule of "primogeniture" had it usual effect on the Bairns family, and the immediate ancestory of James Barnes were of those reduced by it to slender fortune. So about 1758 three brothers shipped from Liverpool to the new world, One settled in New York, another in Pa. and the third, David, the father of James Barnes, selected Maryland as his future home. He located in Baltimore county, purchased a small plantation, and in a year afterwards was married.
James Barnes, a son of this marriage, was born in this country in the year 1772. His father being a man of feeble condition, his family fell upon his sons. So when James arrived at his majority, he had not one cent with which to begin the battle of life. But he rented farms of others on the shares, and raised crops during the summer, and in the winter made shoes for the neighbors, having taken up the trade of cord-wainer without the assistance of a regular apprenticeship. In a few years he married Elizabeth Harrison, whom our readers of middle age will well remember as the old Quaker lady who used to blow the dinner horn at the front door of Mr. Barnes's residence in the long ago, regulating the punctuality of its occurrence, the time-pieces of the little village.
In the year following his marriage, he rented a mill, but still continued his shoemaking during the winter. But a short time elapsed before he was able to buy a farm in Montgomery County, Maryland. Or this farm, he laid out a town called Barnesville, which name it still bears.
In this village he opened a little store, his wife acting as clerk while he made shoes. The Indian troubles in the Mississippi Valley have ceased, and the flood of emigration setting in for that region, Mr. Barnes concluded to remove to the West.
He arrived at St. Clairsville, in 1803, and immediately opened a tavern on the present site of the Frazier House. The business was carried on by him for a year or so, when he commenced a dry goods trade near the southwest corner of Main and Marietta streets, where he remained until he removed to Barnesville in 1812.
In the year 1806 he entered the lands then entirely in the woods, on which Barnesville now stands In 1808 he associated himself with Rev. James Rounds in the tanning business and Mr. Rounds removed to the lands to open up the tan yards. On November 8, 1808 Mr. Barnes laid out the town of Barnesville, and at once offered all the lots for sale, except the first block east of Chestnut, fronting on Main and Church streets. That block he reserved for himself and family.
Mr. Barnes in 1809 caused to be erected on lot No. 18 a frame storeroom and dwelling under one roof and in 1810 opened out a mercantile establishment under the supervision of William Philpot, the first in the village. Mr. Barnes with his family removed from St. Clairsville to Barnesville in 1812, The first house occupied by him in the town was the front part of the present residence of Robert Harper, on lot No. 42. In 1813 or 18l4, he removed to lot No. 17, on which he resided till his death.
Ref: An Historical and Pictorial Booklet "Centennial Souvenir 1808- 1908",
published for the 100th Anniversary of Barnesville, Ohio.
Once settled here, he (James Barnes) went to work promoting and developing various enterprises that tended to make the village grow and flourish. He engaged largely in the ginseng business, built a flouring mill and woolen factory, and various other industries. About 1823, the leaf tobacco business having assumed much importance Mr. Barnes became a, large handler of the product, buying large quantities of it.
Because of their great distance from the eastern tobacco market and the difficulty of knowing what the market would be, in the 1830's there was a great overproduction of tobacco in the area and there were a number of bankruptcies. In the disastrous tobacco dealings of 1834 and 1838 Mr. Barnes and wife became insolvent and gave a mortgage on their home as well as the store and everything they had. Before the case was settled in 1841, Mr. Barnes died.