Genealogy Trails History Group Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led

McLean County, Illinois
History and Genealogy



CALVIN BARNES, a pioneer settler of Illinois, was born in Herkimer County, N. Y., on the 13th of April, 1805, thus having arrived at the venerable age of over eighty-two years. His father, Elijah Barnes, was of New England parentage and a native of Massachusetts, and his mother, Miss Lucy Hunter, was a native of the same State. Their family included seven children. The forefathers of our subject were of Scotch and English descent, and the Hunters, of English origin, were among the early settlers of the Bay State. Elijah Barnes served three years in the Revolutionary War and received a pension from the Government. The maternal grandfather of our subject was Capt. Hunter, a native of England. Elijah Barnes, soon after his marriage, removed from Massachusetts to Herkimer County, N. Y., making the trip overland with an ox-team. There they established a permanent home, where they passed the remainder of their lives, the father of our subject dying at the age of eighty-four years and the mother at eighty-six, the families of both having been noted for longevity.

The boyhood of Calvin Barnes was passed mostly upon the farm of his father, and in the meantime he received a limited education. At the age of twenty-one years, after spending two summers running on a packet on the Erie Canal he purchased fifty acres of land adjoining his father's farm, and engaged in the pursuit of agriculture, meeting with success. As time progressed he added to his first purchase until he became the owner of 280 acres, all in one body, and became one, of the most prosperous and prominent citizens of that locality.

Our subject was married on the 26th of January, 1836, to Miss Lucinda Keyser, of Herkimer County, N. Y., by whom he became the father of six children. In the fall of 1853 he emigrated with his family to McLean County, Ill., and settled in Bloomington, where he lived for two years. In the meantime he had purchased a section of land in Towanda Township, and during these two years had been making ample preparations to take possession. After the removal was effected he engaged principally in raising grain, his first wheat crop yielding 1,700 bushels. The wheat crop, however, for the following three years was a failure, and the fourth year the army worm swept away the grain while it was green. Mr. Barnes, however, by good management weathered the storm, while many of his neighbors were ruined. He then seeded his farm to grass, and then, the war coming on, he found a good market for the 300 tons of hay which he cut in one summer, and which he sold at $16.25 per ton. This assisted him out of his difficulty. He then started a dairy, having sixty-five cows, and found a ready sale for the products thereof, butter and cheese, never selling the cheese for less than fifteen cents a pound, and during one season of the war sold it at twenty-five cents.

In the meantime Mr. Barnes was giving all his spare time to the raising of cattle, of which he had 250 head at the close of the war. Three years in succession he raised 100 calves. He purchased two tracts of land adjoining the main farm, which gave him 1,000 acres, all in one body. After the war he abandoned the dairy business, sold off a part of his cattle, and engaged extensively in raising corn. The first amount worthy of notice was 12,000 bushels, and he kept increasing the acreage devoted to this purpose until one year he had 700 acres planted in corn, which yielded 35,000 bushels which, when husked and cribbed, he sold at prices ranging from forty to seventy cents per bushel. He had four sons to assist him in his farming operations, but finally, desiring to change his occupation somewhat, he rented a part of his land and engaged with his four sons in the importation of full blood Norman horses, and at this time they have about sixty-five head of high grade and full blood, and sell quite a number from the farm each year.

At the time Mr. Barnes took possession of his farm there was no place to hitch a horse, so he set a post in the ground for that purpose, which is now the present site of Barnes Station on the Illinois Central Railroad. The farm is now laid out into convenient fields, the boundaries marked by beautiful hedges, there being twelve miles in all of this kind of fence. An artesian well furnishes water for nearly all the stock on the farm. The water is raised by means of a wind-pump and deposited in a large tank, whence it is conducted wherever required by means of pipe.

Mr. Barnes reared a family of six children, four sons and two daughters, all of whom were born in Herkimer County, N. Y., and five are still living. The record is as follows: Elizabeth is deceased; Franklin; Alden; Monroe; Lucy, the wife of Joseph Thomas, and Calvin, Jr.

Mr. Barnes started in life at the foot of the ladder, and his accumulations are the result solely of his own enterprise and industry. He furnishes a striking illustration of what may be accomplished by resolution and perseverance, and as one of the landmarks of McLean County is held in high esteem as having contributed largely to its wealth and prosperity.

[SOURCE: Portrait and biographical album of McLean County, Ill. : containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county, together with portraits and biographies of all the governors of Illinois, and of the presidents of the United States. (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887). Transcribed and annotated by Judy Rosella Edwards.]


Copyright © Genealogy Trails
All Rights Reserved with Full Rights Reserved for Original Contributor