Amos W. Barber: An Army Surgeon as Governor

Dr. Amos W. Barber (WSA Sub Neg 1384)

Dr. Amos W. Barber
(WSA Sub Neg 1384)

Amos W. Barber was born in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, April 26, 1861.  He graduated from the literary and medical departments of the University of Pennsylvania in 1883 and served as a staff physician at the Pennsylvania Hospital after he graduated.  In the spring of 1885 Barber was recruited to run the hospital at the site of Fort Fetterman.  A civilian community had sprung up around the fort, which was abandoned by the military in 1882.  The local hospital provided medical services for subscribers contributing $1.00 per month.

Dr. Amos Barber in front of his hospital at Ft. Fetterman. (WSA Sub Neg 21184)

Dr. Amos Barber in front of his hospital at Ft. Fetterman.
(WSA Sub Neg 21184)

At some point during his first year in Wyoming, Barber was appointed acting assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army, then joined General George Crook’s campaign against the Apache Indians in Arizona, which lasted from May 1885 through March 1886.   Exactly when Barber served with Crook during that period is unclear.  Upon returning to Wyoming he was assigned to Fort D.A. Russell near Cheyenne.  After brief service there he resigned from the Army and returned to Fort Fetterman.    In 1886 he moved to the new town of Douglas and began a private practice there.  He moved his practice to Cheyenne in 1889.

After Wyoming was granted statehood in 1890, Barber was nominated by the Republican Party for the position of Secretary of State and was elected on the same ticket as Governor Francis E. Warren.  A few weeks after taking office Warren was elected to the U.S. Senate by the state legislature, making the relatively inexperienced Barber Acting Governor of Wyoming.   He served in that capacity until January 1893.

The "disturbance" Governor Barber expected thankfully did not materialize.  (WSA Governor Barber  gubernatorial records, RG 0001.12, General Correspondence File)

The “disturbance” Governor Barber expected thankfully did not materialize.
(WSA Governor Barber gubernatorial records, RG 0001.12, General Correspondence File)

One of the most infamous events in Wyoming’s history occurred during Barber’s term.  The degree of the Acting Governor’s knowledge of the plans that precipitated the Johnson County War in April 1892 is unknown.  Though not a cattleman, he was certainly well acquainted with them.   What is known is that when informed by telegram of the developing conflict between 50 armed “Invaders” and Johnson County residents, Barber sent a rather vague telegram to President Harrison about “large bodies of armed men” engaged in battle.  He requested that federal troops stationed at nearby Fort McKinney be sent to quell the trouble.  The President complied and troops intervened where a siege had developed at the TA Ranch south of Buffalo.  Federal troops were also used during the following summer to help maintain order in area.

Letter from Charles Burritt to Governor Barber following the deaths of Tisdale and Jones.  (WSA Gov Barber records, RG 0001.12, Military and Indian Affairs file)

Letter from Charles Burritt to Governor Barber following the deaths of Tisdale and Jones.
(WSA Gov Barber records, RG 0001.12, Military and Indian Affairs file)

The Johnson County War figured prominently in the election campaign of 1892, with Democrats and Populists, newcomers on the Wyoming political map, trying to benefit from the fallout.  John E. Osborne of Rawlins, also a medical doctor, emerged as the Democratic candidate for governor.   The Republicans nominated Edward Ivinson, a Laramie banker.

Osborne was elected but was delayed in taking office.  In spite of reports from the counties giving Osborne a sizable lead, official confirmation did not come from Cheyenne for several weeks.  Acting Governor and Secretary of State Barber said they were waiting on returns from Fremont and Converse Counties.  Osborne finally had enough and went to Cheyenne to claim his prize.  A notary public took his oath of office and Osborne took up residence in the governor’s office on December 2.  He apparently spent the night there, afraid he might not be able to get back in if he left.  Republican reports that he crawled on a ledge to gain access through a window may have been partisan humor.  The State Canvassing Board made Osborne’s election official on December 8 and he was sworn in on January 2, giving his oath of office a second time.  Barber continued as Secretary of State for two more years.

Barber married Amelia Kent of Cheyenne in 1892. (WSA Sub Neg 581)

Barber married Amelia Kent of Cheyenne in 1892. She was the daughter of a prominent local businessman.
(WSA Sub Neg 581)

An event of great personal import for Dr. Barber also occurred in 1892 when he married Amelia Kent of Cheyenne.  When the United State went to War against Spain six years later, Barber joined the army as assistant surgeon.  After the War he continued his medical practice in Cheyenne until his death in 1915.

— Curtis Greubel, State Imaging Center Supervisor

 

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2 Comments

Filed under WSA Collection Highlights, Wyoming at War, Wyoming Governors

2 responses to “Amos W. Barber: An Army Surgeon as Governor

  1. Kim Viner

    The Johnson County War was certainly a large factor in the 1892 election. It should also be noted that Edward Ivinson was not the ideal candidate. In an era when public speaking was very important in elections, Ivinson lagged far behind his contemporaries in that department. The Buffalo Free Lance described his speaking this way, “Ivinson, well he seems to be afflicted with an impediment in his standing up capacity. He might make a good reading clerk in a deaf and dumb barn if he could be tied up far enough away from the stalls to keep the animals from kicking him.”
    Another factor was campaign cash. Willis Van Devanter wanted Ivinson to contribute $10,000 of his own money to run. Only $2,500 was offered by the wealthy banker. And his wealth was another issue. Democratic leaning papers across the state made it an issue, some even calling him “Old Gilded Guts.”
    Finally, Ivinson was not all that enthusiastic about the race. After close voting at the Republican convention, Ivinson’s acceptance speech was short and stilted. “Ladies and Gentlemen: I thank you for the honor you have conferred upon me. If I am elected I can assure you I’ll be a governor for the whole state. I shall travel over the state among you and if there is anything to be done in developing the state you’ll find me with you.” That was all he said.
    Kim Viner author of “Rediscovering the Ivinsons.”

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