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Barber, Austin
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Barber, Austin
Contributed by Barbara
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Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Pike and Calhoun Counties, Illinois, 1891; Page 281-282

AUSTIN BARBER. Among the honored citizens of Pike County who have been well rewarded by Dame Fortune for their years of toil and assiduity is the gentleman above named. This venerable man now occupies a cozy home in Pittsfield, where he is surrounded by all the comforts that money can purchase and enjoys the pleasures and friendships that make life worth living. His landed estate consists of seven hundred acres, most of which is near the county seat, and so has an additional value beyond that depending upon its fertility and improvement.

The natal day of our subject was October 31, 1809, and his birthplace Marietta, Washington County, Ohio. He is of English descent in both lines, and his parents, Levi and Elizabeth (Rouse) Barber, were natives of New England. The former was born in Vermont October 16, 1777, and was one of the first settlers in Marietta, Ohio, where he died at the age of sixty years. His business was that of a merchant, and he held the position of Postmaster many years, also serving for a considerable period as Member of Congress, and did a great deal of surveying in Ohio and Kentucky. Politically he was a Whig, and was a personal friend of Henry Clay. Mrs. Barber went to Ohio with her parents during her girlhood and spent long years in Marietta, dying there in her fifty-ninth year. The family included four sons and one daughter, all being now deceased except our subject. David died in 1877; Elizabeth was the wife of Dr. Felix Regnier, both being now dead; Levi died in infancy, and another son, who was given the same name, breathed his last in 1888.

Austin Barber passed his early school days in his native place, and then pursued his studies two years in the Athens (Ohio) College. His first connection with business life was as a clerk in his father’s store and Assistant Postmaster. He remained with his parents until he had grown to manhood, and in September, 1833, first set his foot on the site of the town which is now his home. That was the year in which Pittsfield was platted, the first lots having been sold in May preceding the arrival of Mr. Barber. This gentleman and Robert R. Greene established a store under the style of Greene & Barber, carrying a stock of general merchandise, in which they continued to deal until 1841. The business was then closed out and the partners removed to Florence, on the river, where they carried on a general store, ran a steam flouring mill and handled large quantities of produce and pork.

In 1847 the gentlemen returned to Pittsfield and Mr. Barber engaged in farming, an occupation in which he continued until 1870. The land which he operated was a fine tract one mile from Pittsfield, in what is now Newburg Township and is still in his possession. He remained on it until 1853, when he was elected County Clerk on the old Whig ticket, and in order to fully discharge the duties of his office he gave over his agricultural pursuits for a time. When his term of two years had expired he retired to private life and devoted himself with renewed ardor to his former occupation. In 1839 he had erected a dwelling which still stands in a good state of preservation. The weather-boarding was of black walnut, and having been kept well painted, is as good as the day it was put on.

The first marriage of Mr. Barber was solemnized in 1838, in this county, his bride being Miss Caroline Johnson, a native of Missouri. She shared his joys and sorrows until 1850, when she passed away, leaving three sons – Levi, a merchant in Kansas; George, a resident of Pittsfield; and Austin D., a farmer in Hancock County. Three daughters who were born of this union died in infancy. The second wife of Mr. Barber was Emily W. Raynard, with whom he lived happily twenty-seven years. Mrs. Emily Barber was a devoted member of the Christian Church, and our subject has been identified with the same body thirty years.

Mr. Barber represented Pittsfield two terms on the Board of Supervisors. His political adherence was first given to the Whig party, his initial vote having been cast in 1832, and for many years past he has been a stanch Republican, his last ballot having been given to Benjamin Harrison. Mr. Barber is an enthusiastic sportsman, and although now in his eighty-first year he has by no means given up hunting. He is hale and hearty and can see to shoot as well as ever, and it is no unusual thing for him to kill nineteen prairie chickens out of twenty shots. He makes an annual hunting trip to the West, and no member of the party enters more heartily into the spirit of outdoor life than Mr. Barber. Few men possess a more genial, kindly nature than he, or can call a greater number of their acquaintances by the royal name of “friend.”

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