4 March 2017

Henry Clay Barnsback

1834 — 1918

Biographical Sketch

Henry C. Barnsback, a descendant of one of the pioneer families of Madison County, Ill., is the owner of a fine estate containing 320 acres of valuable land located on section 29, North Okaw Township.  He was born July 17, 1838, in Edwardsville, Madison Co., Ill., and is the son of Julius L. and Mary M. (Gonterman) Barnsback.  His grandfather, Ludwig Heinrich Julius Barnsback, was born at Salzliebenhalle.  He passed his childhood at home with his parents, and was confirmed in the Lutheran Church at Grossenheere.  While a boy he was sent to his uncle, Mr. Seidensticker, at Lautenthal, Hannover, for the purpose of learning the mining and smelting business there.  His uncle was very faithful and judicious in his training, requiring him to work for a time as a common laborer in all the different departments of the works, in order that he might acquire a practical, as well as theoretical knowledge of that difficult occupation.  After several years of diligent application, he was promoted to the place of Huetten, master of the silver mines at Lautenthal.  Soon afterward he married the daughter of Mayor Brauns, of Zellerfeld, and was appointed over-factor and agent of the saltpeter works there.  His death occurred in 1806, from the effects of nervous fever.  His family consisted of four children: Julius Louis Hans, born Aug. 6, 1800, Augusta Minna, born June 6, 1803, now deceased, and two sons who died in infancy.

Julius L. Barnsback was born in Lautenthal, in the Kingdom of Hanover, and was six years of age at the time of his father's death.  His mother's death soon followed, and he was educated by his aunt, Hannah Bomtrager.  At the age of nineteen he began his business career in the mining districts of the Hartz Mountains.  But his health was not sufficiently robust to enable him to continue long at that very laborious occupation, and in company with William Ernst, he emigrated to the United States in 1820.  On his arrival he came directly to Illinois, where his Uncle George was then residing.  He purchased land here and was engaged in farming until 1836. But this occupation also proving unfavorable on account of his delicate physique, he then made a voyage to Germany for his health, returning in the autumn of 1837.  Unable to resume the active duties of farm life, and having the command of some capital, he entered upon the mercantile business at Edwardsville, making his home there.  Mr. Barnsback lived an active, stirring life, during his residence in America.  In 1832 he was Captain of a company of mounted riflemen, and served four months in the campaign against Black Hawk.  He also embarked in many different enterprises, having been engaged in mining, surveying, and various agencies.  Although a foreigner, he was interested in the public affairs of the county, and was elected Justice of the Peace in Edwardsville, four times.

The marriage of Mr. Barnsback, Sr., to Miss Mary M. Gonterman, took place in March, 1827. Mrs. Barnsback was born March 29, 1807, in Christian County, Ky., and is the daughter of Jacob and Hannah (Ball) Gonterman.  Her father's family are of German descent. She became the mother of seven children, as follows:  Elizabeth M., born Jan. 28, 1828, was married Nov. 4, 1847, to John A. Prickett, a resident of Madison County, Ill.; Louis J., born Jan. 7, 1830, died Sept. 7, 1831; George M., born July 21, 1832, died Feb. 4, 1847; Minna C., born Nov. 12, 1834, was married Oct. 8, 1855, and is the widow of David Gillespie; she resides in Edwardsville; Henry C., the subject of this sketch; Julius G., born April 26, 1841, married Miss Mary O. Smith, June 22, 1865, and resides in Edwardsville; Mary E., deceased, born Oct. 20, 1845, was married June 30, 1864, to John Armstrong; her death occurred Nov. 4, 1886.

During their residence in this country, the orthography of the family name has been slightly altered, owing to the difficulty which Americans found in giving it the correct pronunciation. The original name is Berensbach, and the history of their family was compiled by Maj. August Berensbach in Hoyershausen, in 1818, and was translated into English in 1842.  When George Frederick Julius Berensbach came to the United States he found it was very difficult for the people to pronounce the last syllable of his name properly, and rather than attempt it, the neighbors frequently called him Barns. Not wishing to lose his name entirely, he found himself compelled to alter the final letter of his name to "k," and the name finally became Barnsback, and he has since used that form of orthography, entering his land and executing his papers with that signature.

Henry C. Barnsback was reared and educated in the early pioneer days of Illinois.  His parents were anxious to give him all the advantages possible, and he attended the subscription school during nine months of the year. He made the best use of his opportunities there, and in 1857 continued his studies one term at McKendree College, Lebanon, St. Clair Co., Ill. On his return he entered a printing-office and resided at home until the spring of 1861.  He then entered the service of his country, and enlisted in Co. I, 9th Ill. Vol. Inf., under the command of Capt. Joseph G. Robinson.  This company was the first one organized in Edwardsville, and was composed principally of the old Madison Guards.  He enlisted for three months, and was sworn in April 23, 1861, and mustered out at Cairo, July 27 of the same year.  On his return home he entered the field of journalism, and, associated with James R. Brown, established the Edwardsville Intelligencer, the publication of which is still continued.

In 1862 Mr. Barnsback, who is active and enterprising in business, sold out his interest in the paper and joined a company on the overland journey to California, attracted by the mining interests of that State.  He remained there, however, but one year, and on his return home purchased the interest of J. A. Prickett, who was associated with his brother, Julius G., in a general mercantile business at Edwardsville, which was then carried on under the firm of Barnsback & Bros.  After remaining in this business twelve years they closed out, and Mr. Barnsback passed one year of leisure in order to recruit his health.  In the spring of 1876 they resumed business under the same firm, and continued the partnership until 1880, when Henry Barnsback sold out his interest to his brother, and in the autumn of the same year moved to North Okaw Township.  He owns 320 acres of improved land, and built a pleasant frame residence and other substantial farm buildings.  There is a good tenant house on his place, and Mr. Barnsback is chiefly engaged in supervising the work, having retired from active labor.

Mr. Barnsback's marriage to Miss Mary M. Montgomery took place Jan. 17, 1877.  Mrs. Barnsback was born Aug. 2, 1844, in Madison County, Ill., and is the daughter of Nelson and Eleanor (Kinder) Montgomery.  Her parents were likewise natives of this State.  Mr. Barnsback is essentially a self-made man, and has acquired his property through industry and close application to business.  He has always been a member of the Democratic party and cast his first presidential vote for Stephen A. Douglas.  He belongs to the Masonic fraternity, and in 1867 became a member of Edwardsville Lodge No. 99, of which he has been Secretary for five years.

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Coles County, Ill., Containing Full Page Portraits and Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens of the County,.... (Chicago, Illinois: Chapman Brothers, 1887) pages 206, 209-210.

Brief Genealogy

Henry Clay Barnsback's family

Mary M. Montgomery's family

Very little is known of Mary's family apart from the fact that she was the daughter of Nelson and Eleanor (Kinder) Montgomery.

Barnsback - Montgomery family

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