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story.lead_photo.caption Howard Barnes, a former slave who once ran for Jefferson City mayor and helped establish Lincoln University, finally received a grave marker this year, 114 years after his death. Photo by Emily Cole / News Tribune.

In a back corner of Longview Cemetery, there's a collection of gravestones near the fence line.

Clustered together, names and dates faded by the erosion of their marble surfaces, the stones represent a group of black Jefferson City residents whose remains were moved to Longview after Hedge Grove Cemetery was closed in the mid-1930s.

In the middle of the dilapidated stones shines a brand new plaque — clean gray granite standing out among the marble. The name Howard Barnes is clearly visible, engraved in its surface.

The next plot over, a large marble stone stands, so weathered the engraving can no longer be read. It belongs to Barnes' wife, Sallie, who died in 1901.

Barnes — a former slave turned Lincoln University advocate and mayoral candidate — and his wife were among those moved from Hedge Grove to Longview. Despite making a name for himself in the late 1800s, Barnes was included in a number of burials in that corner of the cemetery not marked by a stone — until now.

 

From slave to success

Barnes was born in Howard County, Missouri, in 1816. He was a slave, owned by Thomas Jefferson Boggs, the brother of Missouri's sixth governor, Lilburn Boggs, until he bought his freedom in 1851 for $2,200.

In 1849, he cooked for a wagon train headed west during the California Gold Rush. With the money he earned, he bought his freedom. Then he returned home to free his family, who had relocated to Jefferson City before the Civil War.

Freedom opened a life of opportunities for Barnes, from opening well-loved restaurants to joining the Lincoln University Board of Trustees. By 1880, Barnes had amassed a fortune of about $50,000.

Barnes was a founding member of the Capital City Lodge No. 9 for black Masons in 1866 and was a deacon at Second Baptist Church. At one point, he owned a hotel with another black entrepreneur, John Lane.

In 1874, he was proposed as a mayoral candidate, and in spring 1880, he became the first black man to be listed on a state ticket, as the Republican nominee for railroad commissioner. Barnes lost to George Pratt 149,854-208,721, according to election results from 1880.

Barnes' work for Lincoln University may be his longest lasting legacy even if his name isn't well-known, said Michelle Brooks, who has been researching Jefferson City history for more than a decade.

In September 1871, Barnes purchased and conveyed land to the budding institution, according to documents provided by the Missouri State Archives. That land turned into LU's hilltop campus.

"The concept of buying land and building their first building, that was both a huge task and essential for the institution to survive," Brooks said. "Had there not been a Howard Barnes in town, I don't think Lincoln would exist. I really think he's a key hidden figure of Lincoln's story."

At one point, a building stood on campus named after Barnes. Barnes-Krekel Hall, also named after Judge Arnold Krekel, was demolished in the 1960s.

A few years later, Barnes helped LU again when the university was struggling financially, by pushing a local lawyer, J.E. Belch, to run for the state Legislature and put a bill through to help LU out of its financial troubles.

Although there were still racial lines, Barnes was respected by the community, particularly when he operated his restaurants in the city, Brooks said. He was known as "Uncle Howard" to many in the community.

"Movers and shakers were coming through his restaurant all the time," Brooks said. "He had enough of a name and reputation, he would've had some influence."

 

An unmarked grave

In 1905, Barnes died at age 88 in St. Louis. Death certificates weren't required in Missouri until 1910, and before that, many black people who died didn't receive newspaper obituaries, either, making it hard to know where they were buried.

However, St. Louis was giving out death certificates before the requirement, and Barnes received one. It said he would be returned to Jefferson City for burial, said Nancy Thompson, former chair of the Jefferson City Cemetery Resources Board.

"At that time, there were very few cemeteries that were available to him, and it would be most logical that he would've been buried at the Hedge Grove Cemetery next to his wife and his mother," Thompson said.

Hedge Grove Cemetery was established at the corner of Benton and High streets in the 1880s as a new burial ground for black residents, after the first was so full they were burying people two to a plot. Barnes and his sons were part of the effort to establish the private cemetery.

In the 1930s, the cemetery was sold for road repairs.

"The cemetery sold, and then the black community was given the responsibility of moving the burials," Thompson said. "They moved about half of them and just ran out of money, so they came to the city and the city paid to move the other half."

Despite the city's involvement, records of who was moved to Longview are hard to find. Thompson only learned of the interments when she was at Longview and realized some of the death dates predated the cemetery.

"I was researching the Hedge Grove cemetery at the time, and I started recognizing the names, and I said, 'Well, that's the people from Hedge Grove Cemetery,'" Thompson recalled. "Somehow, the city had no record of it."

Through research, she was able to connect death certificates listing Hedge Grove as the place of burial to more than a dozen markers at Longview. However, Thompson said there likely are even more buried in that back corner of Longview than they know of.

"These burial spots are short, and the city just had no idea," Thompson said. "So it's possible some more of them may be buried in here, they just don't know."

One of those unknown, unmarked burials was Barnes.

In 2017, when Thompson was doing her research, she and Brooks, who was then a reporter for the News Tribune, came upon the story of Howard Barnes. But he had no tombstone.

"We didn't understand why he didn't have a tombstone," Thompson said. "But we started looking into it a little bit more and came to the conclusion that his family had all pre-deceased him, so there wasn't anyone to see to obtaining a tombstone."

His wife, mother and children had been moved to Longview in the 1930s. They knew he had to have been there, too — part of the group without stones.

"He didn't have a tombstone, and we absolutely know he had to have been buried at Hedge Grove," Thompson said.

After learning the story of the former slave who grew to be respected by not only the black community but the city as a whole, Thompson, Brooks and Darrell Strope, who works with Thompson to restore the cemeteries, knew he needed a marker.

"He was such an extraordinary man," Thompson said. "He had such an extraordinary background, and we thought it odd he was buried without a tombstone."

So they bought one.

The flat granite stone marking Barnes' grave in Longview Cemetery was purchased by the group and placed next to his wife's a few weeks ago.

So 114 years after his death, Howard Barnes has a tombstone.

"I believe anybody should have a marker, but the fact that he didn't have one is just a shame," Brooks said. "We need to remember the people of our past because we stand upon their shoulders."

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