Page 175-177 - Willard Barnhart was a young man when he became a resident of Michigan, and through his own ability he here rose to a position of prominence and influence as a citizen and as a business man of large and varied interests. He was one of the venerable and honored citizens of Grand Rapids at the time of his death, November 7, 1919, and in fitting recognition of his noble character and large and worthy achievement is entered in this history a tribute to his memory. Mr. Barnhart was born on a farm in Chautauqua County, New York, September 16, 1844, and was a son of Henry Waterbury Barnhart and Mary (Leet) Barnhart. He was a great-grandson of Peter Barnhart, who came from the Palitinate of Germany to American in 1771, who landed in Philadelphia and who became the founder of the American branch of the family. Mrs. Mary (Leet) Barnhart was a direct descendant of Governor Leet, the first colonial governor, under appointment by King George, of Connecticut. Henry W. Barnhart, a farmer, tanner, and citizen of influence in the state of New York, came to Michigan on a prospecting tour in the year 1858, and in 1865 he removed with his family to this state, where he purchased and established his residence upon a large tract of land east of Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo county, he having previously been identified with operations in the oil fields of Pennsylvania. He long continued a leader in the industrial and civic affairs of his home community in Kalamazoo county, and he and his wife passed the remainder of their lives in that county. Willard Barnhart gained his earlier education by attending the common schools of his native county, and supplemented this by a course of study in Westfield Academy at Westfield, New York. After the removal of the family to Michigan he became identified with business enterprise at Schoolcraft, and later he became a prominent and successful representative of the great lumber industry of Michigan. He was allied with various lumber concerns, operating at Pierson, Casnovia, Fife Lake, Cedar Springs and other points in western Michigan, and he became one of the prominent lumber producers of this section of the state. It was in connection with his lumbering interests that Mr. Barnhart established his home in Grand Rapids, which continued the central state of his activities during the remainder of his long and earnest life. Here he was one of the organizers of the wholesale grocery firm of Cody, Olney & Company, in which his associates were D.D. Cody and C.E. Olney. The firm name later became Cody, Ball & Company, subsequently the name was changed to Ball, Barnhart & Putman. This was consolidated with the Olney-Judson Company, and is now conducted under the title of Judson Grocery Company. In the early seventies Mr. Barnhart became a director of the First National Bank of Grand Rapids (now the Old National Bank), he having served as its vice-president many years and having then been elected its president, an office which he retained until his impaired health led him to retire therefrom, he having thereafter served as chairman of the board of directors of this important institution. He was president also of the Nelson-Matter Furniture Company and of the Antrim Iron Company. He was one of the organizers and first directors of the Michigan Trust Company, and was first vice-president of this corporation at the time of his death. Worthy of reproduction in this memoir is the following estimate that was published in a Grand Rapids newspaper at the time of Mr. Barnhart's death: "In the days of his business activities he had many interests in the city's commercial and industrial enterprises and in real estate. All his life Mr. Barnhart was a large employer of labor, and his activities did much for the development of western Michigan and for the upbuilding of Grand Rapids. In all his business relations he was a living example of the highest principles of integrity and honor. He not only believed in square dealing but also practiced it. He was successful, and his success was always that on a man who builds up. He was a liberal and loyal supporter of the city's philanthropies, and in his giving he avoided publicity." At Schoolcraft, December 24, 1868, Mr. Barnhart was united in marriage to Miss Eliza Vickery, whose death occurred in 1893, at the home in Grand Rapids. The three children of this union all continued to reside in Grand Rapids, namely: Roy S., Louise, now Mrs. James M Crosby, and Helen, now Mrs. James C. Everett. On the first of January, 1902, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Barnhart to Miss Helen Putman, who survives him and who still remains in the fine homestead in Grand Rapids.
Transcriber: Terry Start
Created: 6 January 2003