Biography of James Barnett
Cuyahoga County, OH Biographies

JAMES BARNETT, banker merchant and gallant soldier and officer in the Civil war, was long an honored and influential citizen of Cleveland, and at the time of his death was a director of the First National Bank; president of the George Worthington Company, one of the most important hardware concerns of Ohio; vice president of the Society for Savings; president of the Garfield National Memorial Association; besides having been identified with many other important financial and business corporations. He was for a term of years president of the First National Bank, was formerly a director of the Cleveland Iron Mining Company, and was for a number of years a director of the Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati & Indianapolis Railroad. He was consistently termed "the grand old man of Cleveland," and this title betokened alike his distinction and his high place in popular esteem.

Gen. James Barnett was born at Cherry Valley, New York, June 20, 1821, and in 1825 his parents established their home in Cleveland, where his father, Melancthon Barnett, who here became a prominent business man, served as a member of the city council and held the office of treasurer of Cuyahoga County, the maiden name of his wife having been Mary Clark. General Barnett was reared and educated in Cleveland, and as a youth he found employment in the hardware establishment of George Worthington. He was eventually admitted to partnership in the business and upon its incorporation, under the title of George Worthington Company, he became president of the company.

As a young man General Barnett was a member in turn of the Cleveland Grays and the Cleveland Light Artillery, of which latter he was commissioned colonel in 1859. With this command he entered the Union service at the inception of the Civil war, and by the regiment were fired the first artillery shots of the Union forces in the war. He was commissioned by Governor Dennison to raise a regiment of light artillery, and of this he was commissioned colonel September 3, 1861. The command became a part of the army of the Ohio, and took part in the battle of Shiloh, the siege of Corinth. General Barnett won consecutive advancement and was finally made chief of artillery in the Army of the Cumberland, besides serving as chief of ordnance. He took part in the battles of Stone's River and Murfreesboro, the engagements of the Chattanooga campaign, and received special commendation, from General Rosecrans, for gallantry and efficiency. He later was assigned to command of the reserve artillery, Army of the Cumberland, and was thus engaged until mustered out, October 20, 1864. He then became a volunteer aide-de-camp to Gen. George H. Thomas, and participated in the battle of Nashville, March 13, 1865, he was brevetted brigadier general.

General Barnett served as police commissioner, as a director and trustee of the Soldiers & Sailors Orphans Home at Xenia, as a director of the Cleveland Asylum for the Insane and as a member of the city council. He as a delegate to the republican national convention of 1880 and also that of 1900. In 1881 he was made a member of the board of managers of the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, and he served until April, 1884. He was affiliated with the Grand Army of the Republic and the Loyal Legion. For many years he was president of the Cleveland Associated Charities and also the Cleveland Humane Society, besides which he was one of the original trustees of the Case Library, a member of the Western Reserve Historical Society, a member of the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, to which a portrait of him was presented in 1907, with reference to him as the "first citizen of Cleveland."

In 1845 General Barnett married Miss Maria H. Underhill, and they became the parents of five daughters, three of whom survived him.

A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924

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