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Solon Barnes, Pioneer

A Scotch/Irish farmer gives an account of what life was like around Taylorsville, in Fayette County, Iowa from 1855-1865.



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This is part of series of pages devoted to the genealogy and history of Zachariah Thompson and Priscilla Albaugh, who came to Brush Creek or Arlington, Fayette County, Iowa, in 1865, following the lead of sons Samuel and Morris J.  who pioneered in the Taylorville/Brush Creek area in 1854. Sons William and Alex would soon remove to Fayette County .   The Thompson's were a true pioneer family in the southeast corner and central part of Fayette County, Iowa, and in Harrison/Carroll County, Ohio in the 1820's.  All of  the other Thompson children would also migrate to Fayette County, Iowa, and many descendents would remove to the west as land opened up in the 1870's through the 1890's

Fayette County Genealogy Web Page,
has links to other Fairfield Twp. information including
The Saga of Taylorville
1865 Fairfield Twp. School Register
Charles Robbins Biography
List of Fairfield Twp. Residenct in 1878
First Land Surveys and Entries in Fayette Co.
To Open a Search or Find-a-Word Window, press "Ctrl" and "F" at the same time.

INTRODUCTION:  The following  words are edited out of a manuscript on the internet posted by Dale Robbins (you can contact him from his email address posted on the full version)  and are just as C. L. Robbins wrote them, regarding Solon W. Barnes who took up land in November of 1854, in  the northeastern part of Fairfield Twp., Fayette County, Iowa.  These words are an important "window" into life in Fayette County at a time when there was nothing but a few pioneer farms. And the villages of  were only small clusters of log or hand hewn cabins.  All transportation and farming  was by ox and horse teams.  Roads were non-existent.  Only general travel paths through the timber and wet prairie were available.  Almost all items were made locally from wood, leather, plant and animal fiber, except for the few metal tools, as axe heads, knives, etc., brought with them.   Life was "pioneer" tough and harsh, and basically remained that way until the railroads moved into Fayette County starting in 1873.  There are very few actual accounts available of what life was  like in Fayette County  through the eyes of actual farming  pioneers, thus Mr. Robbins account is invaluable.  Only the parts of the actual online manuscript which are the most useful in understanding the life of the  Thompson Clan and other family members have been copied.  The full version can be found at, Biography for Solon Barnes.  

There are a number of similarities between Solon Barnes's removal to Fayette County and the two Thompson brothers Samuel I Andres and Morris I Jackson. They came from Ohio, were of Scotch descent, took up land in November of 1854 within three miles of each other, attempted to improve farm land by clearing trees and brush and tall prairie grasses, plowing and planting.  They would have traveled the same route to Fairfield Twp., would have brought the same basic survival farming skills and tools,  lived in a log cabin, built log barns and out buildings.  They made a "living" in exactly the same way in Fayette County frontier.  The families would have know each other from living so close and visiting the same neighbors and tiny hamlets of Taylorsville, Wadena, Fayette, West Union, Lima, Albany, Volga City, Brush Creek.  I suppose there is a chance they knew each other in Ohio and may have even made the trip together, as both parties seemed to arrive in the same area of Fayette County at the same time and take up land in the same location.  If you are a descendant of the Thompson Clan that came into Fayette County, Iowa in the 1850-1870's, it is a must that you read and internalize this short account of the pioneer, Solon Barnes,  in order to get a feel of life of the Thompson Pioneers, Samuel I and Morris J. I, and William who would follow shortly.  Solon was still alive and living in Taylorville with one of his children at the same time Zach I and Pricilla, and all of their children had moved from Ohio to Brush Creek.  Thus the Barnes and Thompson families would have been constantly interacting within the area. 

Solon Washington Barnes
Full Biography for Solon Barnes
from Barnes'History by Charles L. Robbins, October 18, 1916
posted on Fayette County, Iowa, GenWeb by Dale Robbins

This is an 1875 map and thus slows cleared land, roads, villages, that were  not present when Solon W. Barnes entered his land.  Like the Thompson offspring, some of the Barnes children would farm and live in the area and/or migrate to the west.  Solon W. like most of the older generation moved in with one of the children, in this case, into Taylorsville sometime in the late 1860's.

Solon Washington Barnes
Full Biography for Solon Barnes
The material below has been copied from the full biography posted by Dale Robbins on the Fayette Co. GenWeb Site.
You can find his email address at the bottom of the the link above if you wish more information on his work.

Solon W. Barnes moved to Iowa {1854,bz} , as Ohio was too much settled for him despite the fact that a panther had nearly eaten one of his children. About this time he married Rebecca Trout; but it is not known whether this was in Ohio or on the way to Iowa, as it is supposed that he came by Keokuk, Iowa where his sister, Minerva lived. Minerva Barnes (Sigourney, Keokuk Co.) married a man named Hiland Mead and lived at Sigourney, Keokuk Co., Iowa.

My grandfather, Solon W. Barnes was a stern uncompromising man. He was of a very quick temper and never hesitated or in the least considered the outcome of his hasty actions. He was Scotch-Irish [Note: now known to be pure Scotch actually] and brought with him from one side the never yielding nature of the Scotch and from the other side the quick tempered impulsiveness of the Irish, a combination of blood very dangerous to himself and his posterity, and has resulted in trouble to all those who have Scotch-Irish Barnes blood in their veins.

He believed that the father of a family was the sole ruling power in the family, and had complete jurisdiction over wife and children alike. Prompt obedience was demanded by him by wife and children alike and in the few times that this was denied him, he did not hesitate to enforce it with any means at hand. Like his Irish [Scotch] father before him, he would not for a moment tolerate back talk and many incidents my mother have related to me lead me to believe him harsh and cruel and that he would not have hesitated to have taken human life to enforce obedience after he had taken a stand and made orders. He always acted without the least thought or advice and was never known to admit that he was wrong. The following incidents more clearly show what manner of man he was than any other descriptions I might give:

When Grandfather Barnes was still a young man he was taken down with fever and ague which were very common in new countries or where there were lots of new breaking {Clearing ground of trees, brush, tall grasses and generally plowing the top soil under using ox teams and a wooden plow with the plow board covered with an iron plating made by the village smith or by home-smithing. The breaking of the thick, tough prairie soil would require the development and acquisition of harder tempered steel plow shares which would be coming within the first few years of the settlement of Fayette County by European whites. bz} being done. Everyone had it more or less, but most of them only had it on alternate days. One day they would be able to work as usual and the next day they would be down with chills. Now grandfather Barnes did not like that day in bed, and would not go to bed unless he was compelled by weakness. He despised weakness in any one and could hardly bear to be confined in bed when there was so much he wanted to be doing. At one time he was very sick and knew he must be very quiet or he would not live through it. In those days the warmth of a room was from the large fireplace at one end of the room, and in order to keep the farther end warm it was necessary to keep plenty of fuel in the grate. {Check out some of the pictures of cabins in the photo albums of Lincolnís New Salem Village, at They will show pioneer quarters of the same type in much of Fayette, the County from 1840 to about 1870, and  surf around in the Sitemap for other items of interest to Fayette County. There are maps, pics, histories of the County and of Brush Creek, plus many other related tidbits at bz} These fireplaces were built very large and the wood was cut in large logs, four or five feet long and it was a good lift for a man to put one in place. My grandmother was trying to get one of these large logs in the fireplace, and could hardly lift one end at once when grandfather noticing her futile effort became impatient and unable to stand it any longer he jumped out of bed and picking the log up bodily, he threw it to the back side of the fire. He then collapsed on the floor, After many weeks at death's door, he finally recovered, but his hair had turned white and remained so to his death.

Another incident which shows to what extreme his temper would carry him is shown by this story: My grandfather was a great lover of dogs and living in the woods and frontier made them almost necessary to the family. He always had several and took great delight in training them. He insisted on the strictest obedience from them and never hesitated to kill one that disobeyed him. My mother told me that he had two very fine dogs and the children thought the world of them. They were very fine hunters and watch dogs. One time the boys took them with them after the cows that run in the woods during the daytime and were brought up to a small rail yard during the night. The boys set the dogs on the cows to get them out of the brush and weeds; but the dogs were not satisfied with that, but chased them clear home and continued to bark at them after they were in the yard. Grandfather went to the door and called them to come off and when they did not do so at once, he returned to the house and got his rifle and shot them both there before the children who stood crying near them. At another time he shot one of his own dogs that he had found eating a dead sheep and he did not know how the sheep had been killed.

All his children stood in awe of him and if they ever disobeyed in the least, he would punish them severely and would not let their mother take their part. When he finally broke up housekeeping [after the death of his second wife] and put the children out among the neighbors he was very harsh with them, and threatened all kinds of things he would do to them because they were homesick and did not want to stay where he had gotten them homes.

Once my grandfather had a cow with a new calf and had kept them both at the barn for a few days, and then decided to take them to the pasture. When he started with them the calf had become used to the barn and lot and refused to go with its mother. He brought her back a time or two and then when it still refused to follow he laid it down on a block and cut off its head with an ax with his children standing frightened by.

My Grandmother Barnes was married to Solon W. Barnes probably in Ohio though this is not known for sure to be the case. I have been unable up to this time to find any trace of her people. Her maiden name was Rebecca Trout. She was of Pennsylvania Dutch origin and this showed up in her house-keeping and in the way she tried to keep the yard. She was a very good housekeeper and her efforts to keep the rough mud plastered log house in order taxed her to the utmost. My mother tells me that she could make all kinds of paper ornaments and did her best with what newspapers she could get hold of to cover the walls. My mother still has in her possession a sheet of paper on which are arranged little dolls and wreathes made from locks of hair taken from the children's heads.

Grandmother was very meek and patient with Grandfather and tried the best way she could to tone down his quick temper and make the home life bearable. How well she succeeded is shown from the fact that the children never ceased being homesick and one of the boys was away in Dakota when she died. When he came home and his mother was dead, he could not bear to stay; but returned at once to his regiment. She was the mother of twelve children -- ten of whom grew up under her Christian teaching. She died at the birth of the last one in June 1862. Her death occurred at the old homestead on the County line between Clayton and Fayette Counties in Iowa.

On the day of her funeral Grandfather Barnes got a letter for her telling her that her Uncle, Noah Trout, her father's brother had died and had left her $300.00. In those days this was a fortune, and if it could only have come while she was living, it would have been a Godsend to her. Grandfather Barnes was compelled to go to court to get possession of this money as after her death it belonged to her children. Jacob H. Moore was made their guardian. Joseph Hobson of West Union, Iowa, was his attorney. An account book in the possession of my mother has in it a receipt written by Solon W. Barnes receipting for the money, $270.00. It is supposed the balance was the lawyer's fee. This document is dated Jan. 22, 1866 and this leads me to believe that if I can search the Court proceedings for the term of the Probate Court between June and January 1866, I may be able to find out where my Grandmother's people lived and possibly get trace of them. This I shall endeavor to do when next I go back to West Union, Iowa.

Rebecca (Trout) Barnes was born in 1821, was married when she was 16 years old and died in June 1862. She is buried in a grave yard that is, or was, on the old Nagles place east of Steamboat Mound between the Padleford place and Volga City. (1) Solon W. Barnes was married to Rebecca Trout in Ohio in 1847 [prob. 1840], and came to Fayette Co., Iowa soon afterwards. They settled on and proved-up a claim of 160 acres in Fayette County just opposite the Lyman Lamphier place in Clayton Co. and between Wadena and Volga City. Sixty acres of this farm was later given to Jim Barnes, his oldest son by his first wife who later sold it to Tim Leahy and now comprises a part of the old Leahy farm still there. The other 100 acres was sold to the Kennedy's and is still a part of the Kennedy farm.

The place Grandfather Barnes selected for a home was just such a place as I would have supposed a man of his make-up would have chosen. (2) The land here was rough with high bluffs, large springs and heavy timber. Not at all suited to farming, but a splendid place to make an easy living with a garden patch, cows and plenty of good hunting and fishing close at hand. There was lots of much better land that could have been settled on that, at the time, is worth ten times as much for farming purposes; but Grandfather was not looking out for future generations but for himself and this secluded place away back from everyone, just suited his taste.

Deep Creek was only a few rods away and the Volga River was about a mile north and at this time these streams were full of the best kind of fish, and Grandfather knew just how to catch them. My mother tells me that once they had fresh fish when they had thrashers. He was an expert rifle shot and usually only needed one shot with the old-fashioned muzzle loading rifle to bring down the game. Shot guns were unknown at that time. {Fayette County pioneers had only single shot muzzle loading rifles until well after the civil war. Most were flintlocks. A few muzzle loading shotguns would also be around. Knives, axles, muzzle loaders were the weapons and tools of early Fayette Co. whites. bz}.

The house was built of rough unhewn logs and plastered between them with mud. {Rough cabins could be made with only a hand axe if necessary. Sometimes specially shaped axes and cross cut saws were available. The cabins out of necessity were often very small. Chinking between the logs would be silty mud from stream bottoms mixed with chopped up tough prairie grass, which would wash away and have to be replaced often. The roof would often be split oak shakes lying on top of interwoven branches sitting across the wall/eve tops. Sometimes with dried, tough tall prairie grass matting on tom of the shakes or just limb roofing. No glass was available, so no windows or just gaps in the logs which could be covered with cloth or skins. Doors were small, made of limbs joined by roping or rawhide, or sometimes made of hand split boards. Nails were scares and often not available at all. bz) At first it was of one room with a large fireplace at one end, but as the family increased in size, it had to be enlarged and this was done by building another room just like the other one with the fireplace at the other end; this made the fireplaces both in the middle of the house. These fireplaces were built of stones lain in mud and like the houses all they cost was for labor. The floors were called puncheon and were made of logs split once in two and laid flat side up. The more common floor of that day was common dirt packed hard. My Grandmother with her inherited Dutch tendency for cleanliness spent her entire life in a place like that. No wonder she died at age of 41.

It was in this rough home life that my grandmother lived and reared her twelve children. Two babies died in infancy and another George Clayton Barnes died when he was seven or eight years old.

Grandmother Barnes died as a result of blood poisoning at the time of the birth of her last child, Elizabeth Jane, and when the baby was only three days old. For two years after her death, Grandfather kept house by hiring girls for the housework, but at the end of that time he decided to break up house-keeping and go to live with Jim Barnes, his oldest son who lived in Taylorsville, Iowa, a small inland town about six miles south of his home. Grandfather gave a sale in order to dispose of his stock, and while the auctioneer was busy selling the stock and household goods he busied himself getting the neighbors who had come to the sale to take the children who still were left on his hands. He was quite successful in this and my mother was the last to be disposed of.

One by one as the farmers loaded their purchased stock or goods, she saw her own brothers and sisters that she loved and cared for from their baby days taken into the wagons and hauled away as any other chattels. Different ones of them were known at later times when homesickness overcame them, to steal away from the place they lived and come back across the field to the old home. The people who gave them homes were often very unkind to them, and until they were old enough to marry and have homes of their own, they were traded about the country from place to place.

The girls all married young and who can blame them? Grandfather Barnes lived with his son at Taylorsville until his death _________, 18______. (3) He was _____ at this time. He is buried in the Taylorsville Cemetery near Arlington, Iowa in a lot occupied by his sons Brammwell and Noah and two of Noah's children.

Jan. 1942

It has been 25 years since I wrote the first pages of the Barnes history. 

In August of 1941 my wife and I visited our old home in Fayette County, Iowa and while there we looked up the location of the old Barnes homestead near Volga City on the Fayette Co.--Clayton Co. line. Although as a boy I had grown up to the age of 24 and had never seen this land, I found it in every way just as my mother had described it to me. We visited the place two different days and had a picnic dinner on the site of the old home where all the Barnes children of Solon W. & Rebecca Barnes were born.

We used water from the same big spring for our coffee and sat in the shade of two large cedar trees that our grandmother had brought from the bluff and set out on either side of the gate that led down to the crossing of the little stream near by.

We found a few gnarled fruit trees, some tame raspberry bushes and the huge sprawling elm tree where the little girls had their swing 90 years ago. We even found the rock circled little grave of the son George Clayton who died as a little boy and was buried on the sunny slope overlooking the yard and grounds. At that time there were no cemeteries and babies and small children were usually buried near the home.

The farm of 160 acres of bluffs is still over half timber. This has been cut off in places but grows right back again. 

This data which she secured for me brought out the curious fact that the records showed only one transfer besides the patent since it was proven up on by my grandfather in 1854-55 and sold in 1866. Therefore the abstract would read:

U.S. to Solon W. Barnes, patent
Solon W. Barnes to James? Leahy - deed for 61.02 acres
Solon W. Barnes to Jos (Jas?) Kennedy deed 100 acres

On the reverse side of this sheet will be found a plat of Sec. 1 -- Fairfield Township showing the old Barnes homestead and the part which Solon W. Barnes gave to his oldest son Jim Barnes.* The reason the land was divided that way was to give Jim Barnes a building place on a road which ran from Wadena to Volga City. The line on the 40 acres south follows a ridge or hog back and was heavily timbered. This is the only land I ever saw in my life divided from corner to corner.

Section 1 -- Twp. 92 (Fairfield Twp. -- Iowa) Range 7

Solon W. Barnes

Bought A (40 acres)

$0.75 per acre

Nov. 21, 1854

Bought B (41.02 acres)

$0.75 per acre

June 6, 1855

Bought C & D (80 acres)

$1.25 per acre

Nov. 23, 1855

Sold A-B-C (121.02 acres)


Oct. 25, 1856 - James W. Leahy

Bought back A-B-C


Dec. 21, 1865

Sold B & N.W. diagonal of C


Dec. 21, 1865 to Phillip & Mary

Sold A & D, & S.E. diag. C


Nov. 10, 1866

Solon W. Barnes -- acquired from the government


Certificate #27371

N.W. 1/4 of S.E. 1/4 Sec. 1, Twp. 92, Range 7 - 40 acres


Certificate #32014

-- of the N.W. frl(?) 1/4 of N.E. 1/4 of Sec. 1, Twp. 92, Range 7 - 41.02 acres

C & D

Certificate #35888

-- the S 1/2 of N.E. frl 1/4 -- 80 acres

There is very little more that I can add to this brief history. My motive in starting it was a search for a Revolutionary ancestor. This I have been unable to do -- maybe some other of the Barnes posterity may be able to do so.

Chas. L. Robbins
May 17, 1942
Sunnyside, Washington


Full Biography for Solon Barnes

Fayette County Genealogy Web Page,
has links to other Fairfield Twp. information including
The Saga of Taylorville
1865 Fairfield Twp. School Register
Charles Robbins Biography
List of Fairfield Twp. Residenct in 1878
First Land Surveys and Entries in Fayette Co.



Barnes, Frania, b. 1848, d. 1928
Noah, b. Nov. 3, 1850, d. Dec. 12, 1880 (Co. 1 6th IA CAV)
Barnes, Louis, b. 1869, d. 1939
Orian H., b. 1872, d. 1933
Barnes, Jesse E., b. 1877, d. 1956
Barnes, Maude, b. 1879, d. 1954
Barnes, Harry Eugene, b. 1912, d. 1914 (s. of L.E. & M.O.)
Barnes, B. C., no date
Barnes, O.R., no dates, age 2 years.

Barnes, Nellie Jane (Chase), b. Feb. 19, 1804, d. June 22, 1887 (wf. of Jos.)



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