James Malancthon Barnett

Page 578-580 - James Malancthon Barnett was a man who had both the intrinsic and acquired characteristics that make for strong and useful activity in the world of practical achievement, and his strength likewise was one of sterling integrity and of clear comprehension of the objective responsibilities that are imposed by individual ability and individual success. He played a large and worthy part in the industrial development and upbuilding of Grand Rapids and took an active interest in many projects pertaining to the welfare of the community. He gained especial prominence in the banking business and lumber industry, having extensive investments in the western part of the state of Michigan. The death of this honored pioneer citizen of Grand Rapids occurred in September 1908, when he was seventy-six years of age. Mr Barnett was born at Brockport, New York, in 1832, and after attending the Brockport Collegiate Institute he completed a course in the Bryant & Stratton Business College at Buffalo, New York. In 1857, when he was twenty-five years old, he came to Grand Rapids, the city which was his home during the remainder of his life. Here he associated himself with Martin L Sweet in the flour and milling business, continuing as a partner of Mr. Sweet until 1869. In 1864 he assisted Harvey J. Hollister in the founding of the First National Bank of Grand Rapids. Mr. Barnett was vice-president of this institution until its original charter expired and it was reorganized as the Old National Bank, of which he was vice-president until 1895, and from that year until his death, president. His influence thus had much to do with determining the growth of this leading bank of western Michigan. His association with Mr. Hollister in the management of this bank covered a period of fully forty-four years; their courage and sagacity having carried the bank through two severe panics. The two men were also associated in lumbering operations. Mr. Barnett became a principal member of the firm of John Murray & Company, which conducted extensive operations in Roscommon and Crawford counties, and operated a sawmill at Muskegon. He was one of the founders of the Hollister Lumber Company, which continued in the lumber industry in and near Cadillac until the timber supply became exhausted. In 1894 the company transferred its activities to Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. In 1902, when a readjustment of the business in the southern states was effected, Mr. Barnett became president of the newly organized Fosburgh Lumber Company, a concern with headquarters at Norfolk, Virginia. Mr. Barnett gave his moral and financial support to many other enterprises that had much to do with the growth of Grand Rapids. He was a director of the Grand Rapids Gas Light Company, the Michigan Barrell Company and the Antrium Iron Company, of which he was vice-president many years. One who had known Mr. Barnett nearly a half century and had been familiar with the various events of his career, has given the following estimate of his character and abilities: "In my opinion the state of Michigan has never numbered among its people a man of finer qualities than Mr Barnett. His business career was a remarkable one, and he stood out as one of the most honored leaders of the great financial institutions of this state. Endowed by nature with a genial disposition that endeared him to everyone with whom he came in contact, he rounded out a life that might be the envy of any man. During all the years I knew him and was in close personal relations with him, I am free to say that I never knew his sunny disposition to be ruffled for even a single moment, nor did I ever know him to say an unkind word to anyone or of anyone. He was one of those men whom it was always a pleasure to know, and those who were associated with him in social and fraternal relationships fully appreciated his good qualities." The following is from an article written by E.A. Stowe and published in the Michigan Tradesman of April 29, 1925: "Mr. Barnett was a conservator as well as a creator of wealth. In panic times the lines he controlled were not disturbed. Capital, most timid of all things, did not lose confidence in him. He was recognized in this financial world as one whose word was good, who was as interested in the welfare of the institution he presided over as in life itself. On this foundation of a lifetime's building he stood unshaken through the tempest. He was consistent in his belief. He wasted neither time nor money -- not his own or that of other men. He wished both to be made productive. At any time within twenty years he could have shifted the burden of his responsibilities to other shoulders, escaped the cares they brought him, and lived an easier life. To the benefit of the bank he managed, to the benefit of the community it served, he did not do this; but accepted as a proper life the one of continued work, of continued endeavor." Mr. Barnett was in politics a Democrat, and occupied a high place in the councils of that party. Though not a member, he regularly attended the Park Congregational church. In 1886 he married Lucy C. Foote, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Obed H Foote, of Grand Rapids. To this union were born four children, James F, Katherine Barnett Williamson, Lucy E. and Laura E. Barnett.

Transcriber: Terry Start
Created: 13 December 2002
URL: http://kent.migenweb.net/white1924/personal/barnettjm.html