Tuesday, October 16, 2012

George Washington Barr's Early Mormon Experience

The Civil War had not yet been over four years when the George Washington Barr family of what now is Pinnacle, Stokes County, North Carolina, became acquainted with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

My Barr ancestors in Stokes county were visited by Mormon missionaries who were then assigned to proselyte in various townships of southwestern Virginia and northwestern North Carolina. The Mormon missionaries of that place and time seldom went door-to-door preaching. The missionaries held meetings to preach the Gospel of the Restoration in areas in which they were welcome [and some unwelcome], in local school houses and churches. Usually after the meetings, those who felt inclined offered the missionaries a place to stay and eat.

Those people in these areas who became interested in the Church and were baptized very quickly emigrated to Utah--their Zion. This often left small numbers of baptized members behind who could not or would not emigrate. The missionaries usually visited a certain area about once per year, and they were often welcomed back and supported by members and friends they had previously associated with.

Henry Green Boyle

One Mormon missionary who accomplished 14 such missions for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was Henry Green Boyle who was born in the southwestern Virginia county of Tazewell. Although at the time of his mission calls Elder Boyle was living in Payson, Utah, he still had close family living in the area and much in common with the people of the South. In volume 6 of his missionary journals, he recorded his experiences in Stokes County, North Carolina. 

One such meeting in Little Yadkin, Stokes County, North Carolina I took much interest in.

Elder Boyle stated, "Came to the Dry Spring School house and held a meeting at 2 o'clock P.M. preached 2 1/2 hours to a full and attentive audience. Came to Geo Barr's & stay over night."

The school house was probably quite small usually built of logs and no windows--used to accommodate 10-45 students. A full house may not have been a very large number.

The next entry of Elder Boyle's journal continues with his visit at the Barr home. Apparently, the Barrs lived in a place they called Crooked Run.

He wrote, "Spent the day at George Barr's reading etc. and where I stay over night again."

It was during this occasion the family became better acquainted with the Church. Of interest, is that none of George Washington Barr's family joined the Church at this time. But we know the visit made an impact on them because three of the Barr children did join the Church years later. 

We know Sarah Barr shared with her posterity her feelings about the visit along with the names of the missionaries who stayed with them. Now Sarah would not have been even four years old at the time. So we could probably be sure that the family spoke of this incident many times--at least enough for her to memorize the names of the missionaries.

From Elder Boyle's journal we read that many in Stokes County were baptized during this time period and most of them emigrated to Utah. Below is another entry about a meeting held in Little Yadkin during his visit in 1869.

He said, "Dismiss them they won't go home, but hang about to hear more, there is a good opening here."

15 Years Later

Robert F. Barr Family

From the writings of the children of Josiah and Sarah Barr Tuttle we read that Sarah's brother Robert Francis Barr joined the Church several years previous to the Tuttles. A Deseret News article submitted by Elder C.C. Christensen about his mission in Aaron, Mitchell County, North Carolina tells us about the baptism of Robert his wife Susan. 

We see that Robert and his wife were baptized 1 June of 1884, but Church records indicate that they did not emigrate to Utah to settle in Nephi until 1888. This was just three years before he returned to North Carolina to help his sister Sarah and her family make the trip as well.

As was written in my previous post, Josiah and Sarah were baptized 2 April 1891 and were prepared to emigrate by rail on 6 April 1891. 

Isaac and Laura Jane Kiser Barr

Sarah and Robert's brother Isaac Barr was also very impressed with the Church. His great granddaughter, Doris Barr wrote of him, "Isaac made several trips to Utah to visit his brother Robert Francis Barr and his sister Sarah Barr Tuttle and their families. Isaac always claimed to be Mormon and may have been baptized into the faith as a young man. There was no Mormon church in the area where he lived, and he never joined his brother and sister in Utah, but he read the Book of Mormon regularly and left it to his great grandson Billy Robert Barr when he died August 2, 1938."

Early North Carolina Church records do not have Isaac Barr listed as a baptized member. But later records note he was baptized in North Carolina on 22 June 1930. Land records from Glenwood, Sevier County, Utah record he did purchase some land. 

His great granddaughter Doris Barr told me that as a child she vividly remembered her aunt driving her Grandpa Isaac to Pilot Mountain so that he could attend his church meetings.

We have been left many evidences of the important part the Gospel played in the lives of the Barr family, and they all began in 1869 when two missionaries stayed just a few days in Stokes County, North Carolina. At the time, the work of those early missionaries seemed to produce no fruit in the Barr family and yet today there are many members of the Church who descend from Robert Barr and Sarah Barr Tuttle. This is all because of the seeds which were planted in the hearts of the Barr children in their home in 1869.


  1. my great great great grandpa :)

  2. Isaac Dalton Barr is my great grandfather. I am the daughter of James Silas Barr, Jr. I live on the farm that he lived on.