Friday, July 22, 2011

Jerothmul Bowers Barnaby (1830-1889)

From the History of Providence County, 1891.

    A prominent 19th century businessman and civic leader in Rhode Island, Jerothmul Bowers Barnaby was a Democratic candidate for Governor of Rhode Island in 1877 and in the following year made an unsuccessful run for Congress. I have to extend a hearty thank you to my cousin Chris for locating Barnaby's name via the Congressional Quarterly Guide to U.S. Elections, which received mention 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 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 took work as a clerk in his brother-in-law's store. Barnaby relocated to Providence, Rhode Island in 1852. It was here that he started a clothing business that he 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, having removed to larger accommodations on more than one occasion. Barnaby also began to dabble in politics during this time, winning election to the Providence City Council in 1870, and would hold that 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 incumbent Republican 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 curb his political aspirations. Within a year of his gubernatorial loss he launched a campaign for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from Rhode Island's 2nd Congressional district. Barnaby was subsequently defeated in that election by another oddly named man, Latimer Whipple Ballou (1812-1900), who triumphed with 5,572 votes to his own 4,520.

                                                  Portrait from the Boston Daily Globe, September 18, 1875.                                                           
    Following his two losing candidacies, Barnaby achieved some political success when he was named to the Democratic National Committee from Rhode Island in 1882, succeeding his brother Abner. Barnaby would serve in that capacity until his death seven years later. He continued with his 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 History of Providence County makes note that soon after his death the Providence Board of Trade lowered its flag to half-staff to honor Barnaby's 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. Graves' motive was 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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