VALLEY OF HEART's DELIGHT
JOHN S BARNUM
Surnames: SLOUGH, SIBLEY, STREATOR, MUNGER, VIRGUS, GREEN, CARSON,
JOHN S. BARNUM-For mare than a quarter of a century, John S. Barnum has been identified with the commercial activities of San Jose, and has contributed much to developing the natural resources of Santa Clara County. He was born in Knoxville, Ill., on October 24, 1842, the son of Amond and Catherine Barnum, the former a hatter by trade. Deniedthe opportunity of an education, and losing both parents when only a small lad, John S. Barnum was forced to earn his own way, and being of a roving disposition, and without restrictions of any kind, he concluded to make the journey across the plains, and finally landed in Denver, Colo., in 1861.
On August 1, 1861, he offered his services to his country, but was refused on account of his youth; however, the enlistment officer agreed to accept him if he would get the consent of his parents. He told them that both of his parents were dead, and that he had no guardian, and upon his word he was accepted and joined the First Colorado Infantryunder Col. John P. Slough. The Colorado troops weree used to protect the frontier from invasion, and were sent on an expedition into New Mexico under Colonel Slough. General Sibley, the rebel general, had organized a brigade to attack the frontier of New Mexico, but Colonel Slough was so well acquainted with the lay of the land along the frontier of New
Mexico that he and his troops overtook General Sibley at Apache Canyon, and a sharp encounter was engaged in, in which the rebel troops were routed; following them up, a second engagement at Peralta, N. M., was fought with disastrous results to General Sibley's forces. Out of 3,800 well equipped men who left Texas, only two squads returned, one of 184,and one of ninety men, all their arms and ammunition having been destroyed. Mr. Barnum was returned to Colorado and discharged, his term of enlistment having expired. He at once reenlisted with his old command, which became the First Colorado Cavalry, and with them he served until the close of the war.
During the year of 1863, Mr. Barnum was on a furlough to join his brother, Col. W. L. Barnum, who was in command of the Eleventh Missouri Volunteer Infantry, had been wounded and was left for dead on the battlefield, was recognized by his wife and sent to a hospital and later recuperated near Springfield, Ill. Arriving at Springfield, he found that his brother had gone to Memphis, Tenn., only the day before his arrival. His first thought was to proceed on his journey to Memphis; but he joined a company of convalescents on their way to St. Louis, Mo.; however, before reaching his destination, his furlough had expired and he was arrested as a deserter. After some time spent in explanation, he finally convinced the commanding officer that he was not a deserter, but that he was endeavoring to join his brother in Memphis, Tenn. The commanding officer gave him orders to return to Colorado to his own regiment. However, after spending several days trying to get transportation back to Colorado, he finally was obliged to purchase a saddle horse, and made the trip across the plains on horseback, which consumed eighteen days, from St. Joseph, Mo., to Denver, Colo., via the Platte River route, a distance of 720 miles. He then remained with his own regiment until he was mustered out at Leavenworth, Kans., on
November 18, 1865.
Returning to civil life Mr. Barnum went to Chicago, Ill., and visited his brother for a short time. During military service he succeeded in saving something like &1750 and he made up his mind he would travel and see something of the world. With the true spirit of adventure, he had decided to take the first boat out of Chicago, going whithersoever it was bound, and had decided to end up at the South Sea Islands; but here again he was to be disappointed, for the extreme cold weather prevented him from leaving Chicago, the lake being frozen for three miles out. He then went to Junction City, Kans., where a friend, Mr. Streator, owned and operated a large merchandise house. He was employed by Mr. Streator, and in 1866 was placed in charge of ten four-mule wagons loaded with sutler supplies bound for Fort Lyon, Colo.
When 120 miles out from Junction City, at Fort Harker, he was ordered not to go on, because of the activities of the Cheyenne Indians; however, undaunted, he proceeded on his journey across the plains. After being out but one day from Fort Larned, at Owl Creek, the trains was overtaken and stopped by Indians; however, his presence of mind served him well; hurriedly making a corral of his wagons, so as to protect his men and supplies in case of necessity, Mr. Barnum, who was the youngest man in the party, boldly went out among the Indians, and when he began speaking to them in their own language, they listened attentively, and an old Indian, whom he had befriended two years previously, recognized him and told his associates what Mr. Barnum had done for him, and the wagon train was allowed to proceed on its way. Many men had attempted
this journey, but had met disaster.
Probably few pioneers enjoy such a record of frontier life as Mr. Barnum; it is recorded that he crossed the plains twenty-two times before the railroads were in operation. He has the distinction, together with a Mr. Munger and Mr. Virgus, of naming the city of Wichita, Kans. They met with some opposition, others wishing to have it named Sedgwick, but Mr. Barnum and his companions were determined that the city should bear a distinctive name so it was finally decided to name it Wichita, after the Wichita Indians, the cleanest of all tribes. Mr. Barnum made a trip in 1909 to Wichita to see the town he had been away from for thirty-one years. In the '70s he served his government as a U. S. deputy marshal; and was also deputy sheriff of Ellsworth County, Kans. After leaving Colorado, he spent ten years in the vicinity of Santa Fe, N. M.,
and then went to Washington and engaged in the butcher business for a time in Toledo, a town at the foot of Mr. Rainier. In 1892 he came to California and settled in East San Jose, then the border of the settled section of San Jose, establishing the fuel business in which he is engaged at the present time.
The marriage of Mr. Barnum at Topeka, Kans., on December 31, 1867, united him with Miss Anna F. Green, a native of Vermont and a daughter of A. G. and Charlotte Green, whose father was a native of Maine, but who migrated to Kansas in early days, when the daughter was but eight years old. He had the distinction of being a member of the first legislature of Kansas; was a personal friend of the famous John Brown and was a strong abolitionist. Two children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Barnum: Alberta Lou is deceased, and William L., is an attorney practicing in Chicago. Politically, Mr. Barnum is an ardent Republican.
Mrs. Barnum served twelve years as treasurer of Dix W. R. C., in San Jose, and was an active worker in church and charitable circles, and she died in San Jose in 1919. He is an active member of Sheridan-Dix Post No. 7, G. A. R., and has the honor of being the colonel of the Union Battlefield Regiment of San Jose, a Republican organization composed of soldiers of the Civil War, who have participated in at least one engagement; also a member of San Jose Lodge No. 10, F. & A. M.
Mr. Barnum was one of the organizers of the Fuel Dealers Association of San Jose, that has grown to such and extent that it includes the whole state of California. It is to such men as he that the present and future generations in Santa Clara County owe a debt of gratitude, for through his labors the path to future successes in the work of developing the resources of the county has been made clearer and easier. Mr. Barnum is typically western, having been in the west since eighteen years old; he has served on three vigilance committees, witnessed five hangings, none legal; he became acquainted with Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill (William Mathewson) and other noted scouts of pioneer days; also served as scout
himself and was known as "Happy Jack."