A Genealogy of the Barnum, Barnam and Barnham Family

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A One-Name Study for the BARNUM/BARNHAM Surname



Notes for William Henry BARNUM


In the 1850 US Census for Salisbury, Litchfield County, Connecticut the family of William H. Barnum was enumerated as follows:
Dwelling #160; Family #178
William H. Barnum, 28, M, Merchant, b. Massachusetts
Charlotte A. Barnum, 27, F, b. Connecticut
Catherine Mahan, 15, F, b. Ireland
William M. Gaylord, 30, M, Clerk, b. Connecticut
[Note: His parents and his cousin James H. Barnum were living nearby]

From Wikipedia: William Henry Barnum (September 17, 1818 – April 30, 1889) was a United States politician, serving as a state representative, U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and finally as chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was known as "Seven Mule Barnum", a nickname he earned because it was reported that he had used those code words in a dispatch requesting "seven thousand dollars".
Though born in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, Barnum moved to Lime Rock, Connecticut and served in the state house of representatives from 1851 to 1852. He then served in the United States House of Representatives for Connecticut's 4th District from March 4, 1867 to May 18, 1876, until the death of Senator Orris S. Ferry. Barnum then became a United States Senator, serving until March 3, 1879. He was chairman of the DNC from 1877 to 1889. He died in Lime Rock on April 30, 1889 and is buried in Lime Rock Cemetery.
In addition to Barnum's political attainments — which also include defeating his third cousin, the famous showman P. T. Barnum, for Congress, and notably being the longest-serving chair of the Democratic National Committee — Barnum was a prominent industrialist. The Barnum Richardson Company, of which he was chief executive, was headquartered in Lime Rock (now a neighborhood of Lakeville) CT, was the leading company in the Salisbury iron district of that time, owning or controlling iron mines, charcoal production resources, limestone quarries, and rail transportation. Barnum Richardson Company was also the preeminent manufacturer of railroad car wheels at a time when the railroad industry held a place in the economy analogous to the computer industry today.
In 1872 he partnered with Collis P. Huntington to finance Ensign Manufacturing Company, a railroad freight car manufacturer. Among Ensign's products were the largest wooden hopper cars built for Central Pacific Railroad as well as a large number of high-capacity wood boxcars for Southern Pacific Railroad (both railroads were controlled in part by Huntington). Ensign was one of the 13 companies that merged in 1899 to form American Car and Foundry Company.
William H. Barnum was a founder of the Barnum & Richardson Company of Lime Rock, Connecticut, and Chicago, Illinois. The corporation grew to immense profitability and industrial volume, and became one of the foremost metal products manufacturers in the world. William H. Barnum had a nephew, Milo Barnum Richardson, who was a leader in New York City finance and insurance, having acted as a founder of the New York City branch of the Caledonian Life Insurance Company of Scotland. Milo B. Richardson, who also was a leader in the development and management of New England railroads, served as President of the Barnum & Richardson Company of Lime Rock, Connecticut, and Chicago, Illinois. Through the marriage of his sister to Connecticut industrialist and financier Leonard Richardson, William H. Barnum was collaterally related to the Jacob Bunn and John Whitfield Bunn industrial and financial family of Springfield, Illinois, and Chicago, Illinois.
William H. Barnum was also a pioneer in religious tolerance. Although an Episcopalian (he was the principal donor for the construction of, and chairman of the incorporators of Trinity Episcopal Church in Lime Rock) he did not discriminate against Roman Catholics as so many in that area of New England did at the time. Notably, according to several stories in 1883 in the New York Times, he contributed around $6000 to St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church of Lakeville, and later contributed $500 to build a new Roman Catholic church in Cornwall Bridge, CT. Importantly, when the local community angrily responded to the raising of a crucifix by the local Catholic priest by demanding that Barnum fire all his Catholic workmen, he declined to do so.

William Henry Barnum was a member of the United States Senate. As a Democratic candidate for Congress in 1867, he defeated his opponent, the famous showman Phineas Taylor "P.T." Barnum, who had been nominated by the Republican Party. During the campaign, P.T. Barnum wrote to the American author and editor George W. Curtis complaining of what he considered unfair treatment by his opponent. In the two-page letter, written on the front and back of a 4-1/2" x 8" ruled sheet of paper, he asked for a political favor to rebut some of what W.H. Barnum had said against him. The letter reads, in full: "Bridgeport, CT 22 March 1867. In the last column of the first page of this week's 'Nation' is an article on the Conn. election in which the religious element in this district is appealed to scratch my name. The 'Man' Barnum yesterday distributed thousands of copies of that paper in packages at the massive R.R. stations and it is said by authority that the Copperheads in this district preferred the article in question & ordered the papers in advance. This man WH Barnum is a [?] man and the 'democratic' party in this district is exhibiting more virulence & filth than was ever before seen in a political campaign -- WH Barnum expending $25,000 among the hotels & groggeries in the district for the [?] influence & yet they appeal to the susceptibilities of the religious community. As this is a very close district we need every good influence to counteract their poison, hence if you can say a word in reply to this last effort of theirs, you will benefit the Republic party & much oblige. /signed/ P. T. Barnum." W. H. Barnum was a distant relative of P. T. Barnum (3rd cousin, once removed) and also, apparently, the political "Boss" of Fairfield County.

W. H. Barnum is known for having done much to get Grover Cleveland re-elected as President. Both a Representative and a Senator from Connecticut; born in Boston Corner, Columbia County, N.Y., September 17, 1818; attended the common schools; apprenticed to the trade of iron founder and subsequently admitted to partnership by his father, who was engaged in the iron business at Lime Rock, Conn.; member, State house of representatives in 1851-1852; elected as a Democrat to the Fortieth and to the four succeeding Congresses and served from March 4, 1867, until May 18, 1876, when he resigned to become Senator; elected to the United States Senate to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Orris S. Ferry and served from May 18, 1876, to March 3, 1879; chairman of the Democratic National Committee 1876-1889; resumed his former manufacturing pursuits; died at Lime Rock, Litchfield County, Conn., April 30, 1889; interment in the Lime Rock Cemetery.

On March 3, 1999, I received an e-mail message from Larry McCagg, which stated, in part: "I have a bound, hand-inscribed-on-parchment book titled 'Ye Booke of ye Forefathers.' It begins with Thomas Barnum of Danbury Connecticut ('married before 1663') and traces the Barnum name to 1880 when my great, great, great grandmother, Laura Barnum died in the house of her son, William Henry, at Lime Rock, Connecticut. A curiosity item: I have the set of china, copied after the Lincoln Presidential china, that William Henry Barnum had made when he went to Washington in 1867 as a Representative from Connecticut. He was later a Senator (1876-1879) and chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1876 to 1889. This china was in daily use until 1963, so it's not complete for more than a dozen people and fewer for some bowls. Anybody for eighteen egg-cups so you can have friends over for breakfast?"

Here follows a history of the Trinity Limerock Church, built by Senator Barnum: The village of Lime Rock, founded in 1734, was the first place in the Colony of Connecticut to produce iron from the newly discovered Taconic Mountain ores. Thomas Lamb, an early entrepreneur, got the water rights to all the streams flowing down from Mount Riga to the Housatonic River and established the first forge and foundry in Lime Rock. Here, the iron was smelted and made into bars to be delivered to blacksmiths all over Connecticut. Although that foundry closed in 1919, you can still see some remains of its towering stack off Old Furnace Road in Lime Rock.

Lime Rock was the site of the area's first forge, built in 1735. A century ago, Lime Rock was the home of the Barnum Richardson Company, owner of eight blast furnaces and works that made railroad car wheels and other iron products. The Barnum and Richardson families, who ran the Lime Rock foundry from 1840 to 1919, as well as other iron furnaces and fabricating facilities in the area (the Beckley Furnace, in East Canaan, Connecticut's only official Industrial Monument, is the best preserved) were also responsible for the construction of Trinity Church in 1872. Originally parishioners of Saint John's Episcopal Church in Salisbury village, they tired of the (then) long carriage ride into Salisbury for church, particularly in the winters, and, as one story has it, broke the monotony by racing back to Lime Rock from Salisbury.

William H. Barnum (later Senator Barnum) had excellent horses, which he raced at a long-vanished track in the Falls Village area -- as well as one across the street from the site of the church -- so he was quite accustomed to winning these Sunday competitions. One muddy Sunday, however, he finished second, and, covered in mud, told his competitor that a church in Lime Rock was really needed. He is said to have resolved on the spot that they would have a church of their own.

There are other traditions as well that purport to define "the" reason for the creation of Trinity. Our experience is that rarely do families start entirely new congregations for a single reason, so likely there is a grain of truth in all of them. That Mrs. Barnum had noted that many of the workers in the Barnum Richardson Company facility seemed to be "at loose ends spiritually" and her husband's business acumen suggesting that a church might help keep the workers away from unattractive distractions may have been the single most important justification for Trinity's creation. We know that Barnum Richardson Company had a baseball field on company property, and a "casino" (the word had a different meaning at that time -- it was more of a recreational facility where educational and cultural programs could be held), so a church would have fit logically into this pattern.

At any rate, we do know that they obtained plans and undertook construction. Tradition has it that the plans came from the famed Upjohn architectural firm in New York City, but it is unlikely that as active and forceful an individual as Barnum was would have permitted the church to be built without his own substantial alterations, especially in what amounted to "his company town."

James and Julia Goodwin Ensign donated more or less an acre of the Goodwin farm, located at the corner of Dugway and Lime Rock Roads, across the Dugway from the cemetery, for the church and a rectory. The Goodwin family would figure heavily in the church for many years in the future.

The cornerstone for this Gothic Revival style church, constructed of light brown sandstone quarried from nearby Sharon Mountain, was laid on July 10, 1873. Bishop John Williams consecrated Trinity Church on November 5, 1874 and the Reverend Milledge P. Walker served as the parish’s first Rector, beginning in 1876.

The brass lighting fixtures in the nave remind us today of their nineteenth century gaslight origin. Acetylene gas, produced in Lime Rock, near the present Trinity Church structure, lit the streets and homes of Lime Rock more than 50 years before the streets of our neighbors, Lakeville and Salisbury villages, were illuminated.

Early parish records indicate that the building was paid for by (Senator) William H. Barnum, while most of the more expensive furnishings, such as some of the stained glass and the elaborate brass pulpit, were donated by the Richardsons. Senator Barnum, as well as the rest of the Barnum and Richardson families, remained active in the church. Senator Barnum died in 1889, and his funeral at Trinity Lime Rock was attended by President Cleveland, who also delivered the eulogy.

(It is believed that Senator Barnum's funeral drew the largest crowd ever to fill Trinity Church, until 1999 when the then-parishioner and network news anchor Tom Brokaw introduced his book about World War II and held a book signing.)

From The iron industry began to fade in the Upper Housatonic Valley not long after Trinity was founded. One by one, the blast furnaces fell silent as the economics of the Bessemer process made old fashioned iron smelting obsolete and the industry migrated to the midwest and the south. The landscape began to reclaim itself from its industrial era, and artists and writers discovered the area -- indeed, as a place to paint landscapes! The Lime Rock Artists Association had several members who served on the Vestry of Trinity Church beginning in this period and continuing until the demise of the Artists Association.

While the wheel foundry in Lime Rock was one of the last parts of the eastern end of the Barnum Richardson empire to close, it shrank gradually before the closing in 1919. The loss of so many jobs after the 1919 closing of the ironworks, and the sale of this component of the Barnum Richardson Company in 1920 to the Salisbury Iron Company (which went out of business in 1923), followed by the 1929 Crash and Great Depression, left both Lime Rock and Trinity Church struggling for many years. Eventually a number of young families (many drawn by Trinity's across-the-street neighbor, Lime Rock Park, the world-famous auto road racing facility), as well as retirees and weekenders from New York City began moving to the area.

From the very beginning Trinity was known as the "friendly church" -- one where everyone was welcome, regardless of station in life, at a time when such egalitarian attitudes were unusual, particularly among Episcopalians. The Barnum family made it clear that Trinity was to be a church for all the people, regardless of background, personal fortune, or social position. Through their own personal involvement in all aspects of Trinity's life they demonstrated that they meant that this tradition continue. Today we do our best to remember and honor their wishes.

The parish histories reveal that while the Barnum and Richardson families provided the lion's share of the funds to build the building (the Barnums), and to provide some of its grander furnishings (the Richardsons), the parish was always as accepting of the common worker in the Barnum Richardson forges and factories as it was of the Barnum and Richardson families themselves. We take pride in having continued to be a church for the whole community ever since, in being inclusive, and in warmly welcoming all who enter our doors.

From Trinity Limerock: History - The Barnum Richardson Company: http://www.trinitylimerock.org/history/barnum_richardson_company.htm - The development of the Bessemer process for making steel, along with the growing popularity of steel railroad cars, which were too heavy to use cast iron wheels, spelled the end of Barnum Richardson as an entity based in Lime Rock.  By 1920 the company there was  had run off its inventory of iron ore, charcoal, pig iron, etc., and that year the company's local real estate was purchased by the Salisbury Iron Company, said to represent the former Holley family interests.  Fred Warner provides a date of April 28, 1920 when the first mortgage for these assets was filed with the Guaranty Trust Company.  The final quitclaim deed for the Lime Rock properties, to Alfred Stone, the developer who gradually sold off the Lime Rock properties, was dated January 21, 1926. 
While local folklore had it that the Barnum and Richardson Company was completely defunct by 1920, this is demonstrably not the case.  The New York Times of April 1, 1928 recounts the estate settlement for William Milo Barnum, son of William H. Barnum, who died on October 5, 1926.  The appraisal of his estate included $168,039 in stock of the Barnum and Richardson Company.  Especially considering that William Milo was the son who became a Wall Street lawyer, and not the one who managed the family business, it is clear that Barnum Richardson was still very much a going concern well after the operations in the town of Salisbury and the Northwest Corner area had shut down.   We do not know the date when other Barnum and Richardson businesses, such as the company's works in Chicago and the iron ore mine in the Lake Superior iron range, were disposed of. 
Interestingly, the oldest Barnum Richardson Company entity in Northwest Connecticut that has survived in original form is Barnum's first experiment in taking a major role in supporting organized religion:  Trinity Church in Lime Rock.  Barnum stressed at the time it was built that his company church was to be a church of the entire Lime Rock community, regardless of social position, and to this wisdom, Trinity most likely owes its survival.

From The Political Graveyard: Index to Politicians: Barnum, William Henry (1818-1889) — also known as William H. Barnum; "Seven Mule Barnum" — of Salisbury, Litchfield County, Conn.; Lime Rock, Salisbury, Litchfield County, Conn. Born in Boston Corner, Berkshire County, Mass. (now Columbia County, N.Y.), September 17, 1818. Third cousin once removed of Phineas Taylor Barnum. Democrat. Member of Connecticut state house of representatives, 1851; U.S. Representative from Connecticut 4th District, 1867-76; delegate to Democratic National Convention from Connecticut, 1876, 1888 (Speaker); U.S. Senator from Connecticut, 1876-79; Chairman of Democratic National Committee, 1880-88. Died in Lime Rock, Salisbury, Litchfield County, Conn., April 30, 1889. Interment at Lime Rock Cemetery, Lime Rock, Salisbury, Conn.

Although some sources mention the importance of Barnum Richardson in the burgeoning market for railroad car wheels, it wasn't really that important outside of Lime Rock, at least by the end of the century. That was before the cast iron wheel business was pretty much put out of business by the heavier steel cars and higher speeds, which the cast iron wheels couldn't handle. It wasn't the introduction of Bessemer steel that caused the problem; only when the open hearth process became common did the steel wheel really take off, but the cast iron wheels simply weren't capable of handling railroad cars over 50,000 or 60,000 pounds and the newer steel cars were pushing 80,000 or 100,000 pounds. There were over 100 companies producing car wheels in 1898, not counting those wheels being produced directly by various railroad companies for their own use, a figure significant in itself. Taking only the cast iron wheels being produced by wheel companies per se we find a figure of more than 3,450,000 wheels. Barnum Richardson in Lime Rock and Barnum & Richardson in Chicago had a combined capacity of 85,000 chilled car wheels, only about 2% of the total. There were another 2,363,200 wheels of various types being made by other companies, including wheels made for railroads, streetcars, mines and other uses, but those were not sorted out and included, either. Certainly that figure included thousands of cast iron railroad car wheels. That leaves Barnum Richardson with well under 2% of the business. Ensign alone made more than the combined Barnum Richardson foundries, and Griffin had several foundries producing 525,000 wheels annually, greatly overshadowing Barnum Richardson's 85,000.
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