State of Nebraska - Genealogy Trails




 In Memoriam

John B. Barnes


At the session of the Supreme Court of the State of Nebraska, June 6, 1921, there being present:



Chief Justice


Honorable Andrew M. Morrissey


Associate Justices


Honorable Charles B. Letton,

Honorable William B. Rose,

Honorable James R. Dean,

Honorable Chester H. Aldrich,

Honorable George A. Day, and

Honorable Leonard A. Flansburg



the following proceedings were had:




May it please the court:


Your committee appointed to present appropriate resolutions commemorative of the life and services of the late John B. Barnes. Beg to report as follows:


John B. Barnes was born on a farm in Ashtabula county, Ohio in 1846. At the age of 18 years he enlisted as a private in Battery E, First Ohio Light Artillery, and there after until the close of the Civil War, and until mustered out in July, 1865, engaged in active service with his company. Judge Barnes came west in 1870, settling first at Fredericksburg, Iowa, and in June 1871, located near Ponca, Nebraska, on a homestead. He married Miss Ida Hannant of Butler county, Iowa. After coming to Nebraska he taught school for a time and studied law, was admitted to the bar, and immediately entered on the practice of his profession. He was elected district attorney of the Third district in 1876, and served until he was appointed judge of that district in 1877, in which capacity he served for six years. In 1888 he located in Norfolk, Nebraska, where he remained in the practice of his profession Until January 1, 1902, when he was appointed supreme court commissioner, in which capacity he served until elected one of the judges in 1905. He served two full terms as a judge of this court. Later he was assisted in the office of attorney general. Judge Barnes died in Lincoln, January 14, 1921, survived by a wife and two sons.


Intensely patriotic as a citizen, industrious and painstaking in every vocation he entered, frank, open, kindly, and courageous at all times, generous to a fault, devoid of malice and ready to forgive, he passed through the pioneer days of Nebraska, and came to this high court at the zenith of his splendid physical and mental powers. On this bench, as on the district bench, his varied experience in life, his studious and industrious habits, his logical turn of mind, his sympathy, coupled with inflexible integrity, and a genius for the disposition of work that came to his hands, made him a just and learned judge, helpful to his associates, and a valuable servant of the commonwealth. In private life his counsel was ever sought, first by his neighbors and later by his clients, and his desire was ever that he should assist those neighbors and clients, rather than that out of their misfortunes he should amass a fortune. His life was a blessing, and his memory shall ever be an unfailing joy to his family, comrades, associates, and to the people of this great state. The sudden removal of such a man from the commonwealth in which he for many years held high and responsible positions leaves a vacancy and casts a shadow, which is deeply felt by all, and his death will prove a grievous loss to the state.


Therefore, Be It resolved, that in the death of John B. Barnes, the bar of this state has lost and active, able, and upright member, and the commonwealth a loyal, devoted and useful judge and citizen.


Be It Further Resolved, that these resolutions be spread upon the records of the court, and that a copy be transmitted by the clerk, under the seal of the court, to the widow and family of our departed brother.

Respectfully submitted,


M. D. Tyler

Jacob Fawcett

Clarence A. Davis

Jesse L. Root

William V. Allen



Judge William V. Allen:


May It Please The Court:


John Beaumont Barnes was born in East Trumbull, Ohio, August 26, 1846. He was educated in the common schools and at Grand River Institute in that state, and was a private in Battery E, First Ohio Light Artillery in the Civil War. He was admitted to the bar in 1872, and was married to Ida Frances Hannant at Ponca, Nebraska, in 1874. He was district attorney of the sixth judicial district from 1875 to 1879, and judge of the sixth judicial district from 1879 to 1883. He was a commissioner of this court from 1902 to 1904, and a justice from January 1, 1904, to his reelection in 1909. For a time he was en officio chief justice, and he died January 14, 1921.


I first met him at Fredericksburg, an interior Iowa village, in the winter of 1867. We were young men fresh from the Civil War. It was after he came to the bar of the county of my residence in 1888 that I became better acquainted with him. I found him to be an intelligent gentleman of pleasing address, easily approached, and companionable. It was then that I first met him in a professional way, and, until I was elevated to the bench in 1892, we were opposing counsel in many cases, and, while there was sharp rivalry, our relations were pleasant. He practiced before me in 1892 and until I was sent to the United States senate, and again in 1899 until I was returned to the senate, and our friendship was never marred nor broken.


He lived and was active in the most important period of the world's history. The life of our dead friend was typical of the lives of thousands of other American boys of humble birth, who, by energy and persistence, arose from obscurity to popularity and power. It has been given to few men to participate more actively than he in the development of the state. As husband and father, soldier and citizen, jurist and judge, he performed his full duty, and he did much in shaping and molding the policies of the state. His domestic life was tranquil, and he peacefully passed away, leaving his wife and two sons to mourn his loss; one son having preceded him to eternity. He was a careful and painstaking judge and a jurist of undoubted merit. He was familiar with the legislative and judicial history of the state and was well grounded in the elementary principles of jurisprudence. I am not sufficiently informed of his habits of study to know whether he explored the field of abstract science or was devoted to Belles letters, familiar with the great epochs of history.


It is difficult to speak in befitting terms and in adequate language of one who was lately of our number. I am assured that he held to the Christian faith, - that life is but a transition state and the grave, instead of being a wall, is a door opening into a future and more delightful world. Since the introduction of the Christian era and the extinction of paganism and pagan philosophy, men have believed in a future existence and the hope of salvation has been universal. "I am the resurrection and the life: He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die," says Christ. If life is to end here and is a mere span of the hand on the dial-plate of time, and labor and sorrow are to count for nothing, if death is to end all and the grave is the final resting place, man's struggle is of no avail. But we have the Divine promise of the resurrection and the life to come, and that the natural body is to be superseded by a spiritual body, and these promises are definite and specific:


    "Behold," it is said, "I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be

    changed: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: For the trumpet

    shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For

    this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So

    when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on

    immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed

    up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"


    And when we, too, shall pass away, our homes will be among the heavens; "the problems

    that our burdened souls have studied so despairingly shall be happily solved; and we

    may even become participators in the knowledge and power of Him.


          Whose power o'er moving worlds presides,


          Whose voice created and whose wisdom guides.


To this felicity the friend we now with tenderness remember has already advanced. We would not, if we could, bring him back to earth, slowly and painfully to die again. We wait, reverently and hopefully, for the summons to us to join him in some star that is shining, from eternity to eternity, with unfading luster in God's illimitable wilderness of worlds." Requiescat in pace.





Honorable M. D. Tyler:


May It Please The Court:


I cannot permit this occasion to pass without paying a personal tribute to the memory, character, and services of Judge Barnes, by bringing, as it were, my robin's leaf to deck the hearse of him who in this life wrought so honorably and so well.


I knew Judge Barnes well, even intimately, for more than thirty years. I came to this state a stranger in 1888 and judge Barnes was the first person with whom I became acquainted after arriving here. He generously permitted me to occupy a desk in his office until the beginning of the year 1890, when we formed a partnership in the practice of law, which continued until the year 1902, when he became a supreme court commissioner. Our relations, both personal and in a business way, were always most pleasant and agreeable, and, to me at least, most helpful. His death, therefore, comes to me as a great personal loss.


Judge Barnes was in many ways a remarkable man. He had a mind of great power and clearness. He possessed, to a degree vouchsafed to but few, the faculty of taking a complicated state of facts involved in a lawsuit and arriving quickly and accurately at the real, deciding issues involved therein. This faculty was of great assistance to him, not only as a lawyer at the bar, but also as a judge on the bench. He was strongly partisan, but never contentious. I never knew him to take part in a political argument. He was jealous of his own opinions, yet always tolerant of the opinions of others. One beautiful trait of his character was exhibited in this, that he never spoke ill of any one. He seemed able always to find something good to say of every one. Although he loved and was exceedingly proud of his profession, he cared little for its emoluments. He was absolutely without acquisitiveness. Being happiest when doing good for others, he would go on foot and out of his way to help those in need.


Of Judge Barnes it can truthfully be said that he was a splendid lawyer and an upright judge, and that he was a man, taken all in all, whose like we shall not soon see again.



Chief Justice Andrew M. Morrissey


Realizing that our committee, so far as human minds are given to do, have correctly portrayed the life and character of our late associate, I am content to let the record stand as they have written it. However, I cannot let the occasion go by without a personal word to the memory of one I loved so well. It is often said of some striking character that he is typical of that; but as I live and work again, in memory, with Judge Barnes, I see in him the typical American big and active of body, keen and alert of intellect, courageous in battle, wise in council, loyal to his ideals, and devoted to his family and friends. As a judge all persons were alike to him, and in his judgments "Equality Before The Law" was a living, breathing idealism. He did what his conscience told him it was right to do and never stopped to count the cost.

As a mark of respect to his memory the resolutions presented and the addresses delivered will be spread upon the journal and printed in the reports. 


The Source: Reports of Cases in the Supreme Court of Nebraska 

January and September Terms, 1920, and January Term 1921 Volume CV


Transcribed and Contributed by:  Debbie Lee