Friday, July 22, 2011

Jerothmul Bowers Barnaby (1830-1889)


   A prominent 19th century businessman and civic leader in Rhode Island, Jerothmul Bowers Barnaby ran two unsuccessful candidacies for political office in his home state. I have to extend a hearty thank you to my cousin Chris for discovering Barnaby's name via the Congressional Quarterly Guide to U.S. Elections, which was mentioned in an earlier posting on Pennsylvania politician Rhamanthus M. Stocker (1848-1917).
  Jerothmul B. Barnaby was born on October 27, 1830 in Freetown, Massachusetts. His parents, Stephen and Lucy Hathaway Barnaby had a total of 14 children, and were a family descended from very early New England settlers. After attending local schools in the Fall River area (which was later made infamous by the Lizzie Borden ax murders), Barnaby relocated to Providence, Rhode Island in 1852. It was here that he started a clothing business that he successfully ran for seventeen years. Jerothmul Barnaby married on September 15, 1857 to Ms. Josephine Reynolds, and this couple eventually became the parents of three daughters, who are listed as follows:  Mabel, Hattie Alena (1864-1879) and Josephine Maud.
  In 1869, Barnaby founded the J.B. Barnaby & Company, and within a few short years it grew to became one of the largest stores in Rhode Island. Barnaby also began to dabble in politics during this time, winning election to the Providence City Council in 1870, and successfully held this seat until 1879. He furthered his political career in 1875 by winning a seat in the Rhode Island General Assembly (serving one term) and towards the end of his tenure mounted an unsuccessful candidacy for the Governorship of Rhode Island. When the votes were tallied Barnaby came out on the losing end, being defeated by Republican incumbent Charles C. Van Zandt's 12, 455 votes to his own 11, 783.
  Even though he lost by only a few hundred votes, Barnaby didn't let defeat get in the way of his political aspirations. Within a year of his gubernatorial loss he launched a campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Barnaby was subsequently defeated in this election by the equally strange named Republican incumbent Latimer Whipple Ballou (1812-1900), a prominent Rhode Island lawyer who will eventually have an article of his own posted here!

                                       Latimer Whipple Ballou (1812-1900), who in 1877 defeated Jerothmul 
                                       Barnaby for a seat in Congress. Ballou will eventually be profiled here in 
                                      his own right, as his name is quite unusual.

    Following his two losing candidacies, Barnaby returned to his earlier business pursuits and remained the head of  J.B. Barnaby & Co. until his retirement on January 1, 1889. He died later that same year on September 19th and was subsequently buried in the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence. The 1891 book The History of Providence County (where the portrait of Barnaby above was found) makes note that soon after his death the Providence Board of Trade lowered its flag to half-staff to honor his memory.     
   While Jerothmul Barnaby's life and unusual name are of note, his widow Josephine's remaining years are also worth mentioning! Josephine Barnaby suffered a peculiar demise in Denver, Colorado in 1891 when she was poisoned with arsenic (via a tainted bottle of whiskey mailed to her) by Dr. Thomas Thatcher Graves, who had been Josephine's physician. It seems that Graves was after a large sum of money left to Mrs. Barnaby in her husband's revised will, and after being convicted of the poisoning in 1892,  committed suicide the following year while in police custody! An excellent write up on this case was written some years later by a grandson of Jerothmul Barnaby, under the title A Revolting Transaction. This case is also notable in the annals of American crime for being the first recorded murder case committed in the U.S. by mail!


                               A death notice for Barnaby that appeared in the Boston Globe in 1889.
   

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