Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961

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Born in Wilmington, N.C., 11/26/1870, son of Major Robert Peabody Barry and Julia Kean Neilson; served as an Episcopal minister in Spokane, Wash., New York City, Washington, D.C., and Baker, Or., from 1895-1913; probation officer with the police court in Spokane, Wash., 1913-1922; moved to Portland, Or., in 1922 and did historical research and writing; died 2/26/1961.

From the description of Captain Clark's 1806 map of the Willamette River : made from Indian charcoal and sand maps and Clark's reconnaissance of the lower river : the historical note, annotations and modern place locations, 1952-1955. (Eugene Public Library). WorldCat record id: 44674609

J. Neilson (John Neilson) Barry was a researcher and prolific writer of Pacific Northwest history. Barry was born in 1870 and received his education at various private institutions in Virginia. He was a trained Episcopal priest, but he retired in 1922 and dedicated himself to historical research. In the mid-1930s, Barry became fascinated with John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. In addition to the varied topics in northwest history Barry pursued, John Colter's route on the 1814 Lewis and Clark map became a particular interest. Until his death in 1961, Barry studied early maps of Western states, annotated photocopies of early maps and engaged in voluminous correspondence with numerous researchers, sometimes including copies of these maps to bolster his theories.

From the guide to the J. Neilson Barry Papers, 1944-1962, (Montana State University-Bozeman Library, Merrill G Burlingame Special Collections)

Historian and Episcopal clergyman and missionary, chiefly in the Pacific Northwest.

From the description of Papers, 1932-1957. (Idaho State Historical Society Library & Archives). WorldCat record id: 42925933

Minister, Palouse, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

From the description of Papers, 1940-1960. (Washington State University). WorldCat record id: 29853185

J. Neilson Barry came to the Pacific Northwest about 1900. Educated and ordained an Episcopalian priest, Barry first served a small parish in Palouse, WA. After other church assignments in the East and West, he settled in Spokane in 1913 and worked for the city of Spokane as a probation officer. Barry wrote extensively on Pacific Northwest history, especially on the periods of exploration, fur trade, and Indian wars.

From the guide to the J. Neilson Barry Papers, 1916-1956, (Eastern Washington State Historical Society/Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture Joel E. Ferris Research Library and Archives)

John Neilson Barry was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on November 26, 1870, one of seven children born to Major Robert Peabody Barry and Julia Kean Neilson Barry. Barry spent most of his childhood in Norfolk and Warrenton, Virginia. He attended the Virginia Theological Seminary and the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in New York in 1895.

After his ordination, he became a clergyman in Palouse, Washington. In addition to his pastoral duties he began compiling information on the missionary history of the Pacific Northwest. This interest broadened to interest in Northwestern history in general. Over the years he served in many churches around the country, but maintained his interest in the northwest. On retirement, Barry moved to Portland, Oregon, where he named his home Barrycrest.

J. Neilson Barry married Mildred Eldridge Pegram in New York City in 1899. They had one adopted son, Eldridge Dighton Barry. He died in Portland on February 26, 1961, at the age of ninety. [Abridged from Biographical note for J. Neilson Barry collection at Boise State University's Albertsons Library.]

From the description of J. Neilson Barry research collection, 1940. (Montana Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 636126556

J. Neilson Barry was a researcher and prolific early writer of Pacific Northwest History. Barry was born in 1870, but little is known about his early life. Barry was a trained Episcopal priest, but he retired early to dedicate himself to historical research. Through the twenties and forties, he wrote more than fifty articles and research briefs for Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming historical quarterlies. He is thought to have contributed more articles to the Oregon Historical Quarterly than any other writer.

Sometime in the mid-thirties, Barry became fascinated with John Colter, a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. He pursued, in particular, John Colter's Route on the 1814 Lewis and Clark map. Until his death in 1961, Barry studied early maps of Western states and engaged in a correspondence of hundreds of letters with researchers who shared his interest in Colter history. Barry was also a member of an organization called The Trailseekers Council Incorporated. In 1957, Barry donated his collection of historic material to the Boise Junior College. He died in 1961.

John Colter was born in Virginia in 1774. He was an accomplished outdoorsman, as well as an expert hunter, and this led him to be recruited for the Lewis and Clark expedition. When the expedition came to an end he received permission to stay in the Rocky Mountains with some fur trappers who had joined the expedition. He was the first non-native to discover natural hot springs, however very few people actually believed his discovery was legitimate. John Colter died of jaundice sometime in November of 1813

From the guide to the J. Nielson Barry Papers, 1932-1937, (Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections)

J. Neilson Barry was an Episcopal clergyman, born in Virginia about 1870. In the mid 1890's he made his first trip west, and eventually settled in Portland, Oregon.

In October of 1947 he began corresponding with University of Idaho officials, including President J.E. Buchanan and librarians M. Belle Sweet and Lee Zimmerman, on the subject of Idaho history and geography and trying hard to sell the library HIS maps--presumably the only correct maps in existence.

His letters give strong suggestions for student projects, all of them utilizing his maps, and they deplore the lack of Idaho related documents in the library. Many of his letters are illustrated with small maps, and some have larger maps attached. To emphasize a particular sentence he would either draw over the typing with a colored pencil or draw a pointing finger at the sentence. Many of the letters are very repetitive, the same anecdotes told and complaints made in letter after letter. Some of the letters do, however, contain interesting information on early place-names and interesting bits of early Idaho history.

In 1953 he began corresponding with two members of the Board of Regents, Marguerite Campbell of New Meadows, and J.L. McCarthy of Orofino. McCarthy apparently became alarmed at the "your library isn't any good" tone of the letters and wrote to President Buchanan who, as he did with most of the Barry letters, sent the letter to Mr. Zimmerman for a reply. Zimmerman's letter to McCarthy, on October 9, 1953, says in part:

"For your information, Mr. Barry has been writing similar letters over the years to the president ... myself and to other institutions. At present he is currently interested in having us revise our curriculum by setting up courses in cartography and teaching students the "know how by the doing."

"He is an elderly man in years, 82 or 83 I believe, and probably carries on this type of correspondence for want of something else to do...."

"Members of both the history and geography department are skeptical of his scholarship. He makes statements based only on his own authority and does not indicate from where he obtains his facts."

"...In the meantime, we acknowledge his letters and try to make him feel that we are interested which is, of course the case."

The correspondence with Barry seems to have terminated in October 1958 when he gave the library some maps and the carbon copy of his unpublished book on Idaho Source Material .

From the guide to the Papers, 1932-1958, (University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives)

John Neilson Barry was born in Wilmington, North Carolina, on November 26, 1870. He was one of seven children born to Major Robert Peabody Barry, a Union veteran of the Civil War, and Julia Kean Neilson Barry. The family left Wilmington when he was 3 years old, and Barry spent most of his childhood in Norfolk and Warrenton, Virginia. His early education included twelve years in private schools and academies in Virginia. Barry then worked for two years as a clerk in the cotton business in Norfolk before attending the Virginia Theological Seminary and the General Theological Seminary in New York City. He was ordained an Episcopal priest in New York in 1895.

Although he became a clergyman, his days in the cotton business were to prove important to him. He credited them with giving him the "training and experience (that) qualified me for a Registrar in the Church." For fifteen years, in addition to his regular duties as an Episcopal priest, Barry worked as a registrar for the missionary districts of Spokane, Washington, and Eastern Oregon, compiling both current and historical church records. His historical interests expanded to include the Pacific Northwest as a whole, and upon his retirement from the church Barry began devoting his full attention to the pursuit of accurate historical detail.

J. Neilson Barry did not believe in taking the easy route through life. Upon being ordained an Episcopal priest he asked "where was the weakest part of our Church, and got permission...to go there." "There" was Holy Trinity in Palouse, Washington, and for many years Barry divided his time between regular parochial work on the East coast and missions in the West. He built one church, two rectories, and three parish houses during the course of his ministerial career. In addition to serving in Palouse from 1895 to 1899, Barry served at St. Agnes Chapel of Trinity Parish in New York City (1899), Trinity Church in Spokane, Washington (1899-1904), Trinity Parish in Charles County, Maryland (1905-1906), St. Columba in Washington, D.C. (1906-1907), St. Stephen's Parish in Baker, Oregon (1907-1912), and St. Thomas Church in Washington, D.C. (1912-1913).

Barry's desire to serve where he felt he was most needed led him to retire from parochial work in 1913 in order to do volunteer work among prisoners in the city jail at Spokane, Washington, and to serve as a special probation officer for that city. One Spokane newspaper called him "a friend to every down-and-outer who has had the misfortune to land in the city jail." During World War I he took time out to serve in France with the YMCA. He officially retired from the Episcopal Church in 1922.

After leaving the ministry Barry settled in Portland, Oregon, where he built a home on Greenleaf Drive he named "Barrycrest." Historical research became the primary focus of his retirement years in Portland. "What...caused my interest in early history is the variation, and often contradiction between the valid, authentic primary sources and the secondary literature," he wrote in 1960. His goal was to "ferret out valid, authentic, verifiable primary sources" and bring them to light. By 1933, he claimed to have studied 106 journals and memoirs of the early travelers in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to documentary research, he was able to talk or correspond with many of the pioneers of the region. "When I came to this country from New York for the first time...I dined with Mr. Henry Spalding, son of the pioneer, and boarded with one of the survivors of the Whitman massacre," he wrote to the president of Whitman College. Barry was a life-long student, and in addition to taking advanced courses at Columbia University and the University of Oregon, he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History at age sixty from Albany College in Oregon. He taught American History for one year at Hill Military Academy in Portland and was the author of about three hundred historical articles for newspapers and journals. He co-authored one book of historical tales for children, entitled Redskin and Pioneer (1932), and wrote an unpublished book on the trails of Idaho. He was a longtime member of the Spokane Historical Society, Oregon and Washington historical societies, Sons of the American Revolution, and, in the 1920s, was the secretary and guiding force behind the Trail Seekers, Inc., an organization that encouraged historical research and writing by young people.

J. Neilson Barry married Mildred Eldridge Pegram in New York City in 1899. They had one adopted son, Eldridge Dighton Barry. Mrs. Barry died in 1955, and after her death J. Neilson Barry moved to the Park Heathman Hotel in Portland. He died in Portland on February 26, 1961, at the age of ninety.

An article on J. Neilson Barry and three other historians of the Columbia River, entitled "Creating the Columbia: Historians and the Great River of the West, 1890-1935," was published in the Oregon Historical Quarterly, Fall 1992. His work on Champoeg was cited extensively in J.A. Hussey's Champoeg: Place of Transition (Oregon Historical Society, 1967).

Sources:

Biographical sketch in The Centennial History of Oregon (Chicago: S.J. Clarke, 1912)

Obituary, Sunday Oregonian (Portland) February 26, 1961

Autobiographical notes in the collection (Box 1, Folder 1)

Letter to Eloise Ebert, 13 January 1960 (Folder 1016)

Letter to Charles Laurenson, 15 October 1933 (Folder 572)

Letter to Stephen B.L. Penrose, 8 November 1933 (Folder 1233)

From the guide to the J. Neilson Barry Papers, 1897-1961, (Boise State University Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Oregon history library index material. Oregon State Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Papers concerning Champoeg, Oregon, 1901-1959 (bulk 1937-1959). Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Localities connected with the struggle for Astoria / [compiled by J. Neilson Barry.] Oregon State Library
referencedIn Harrington, J. A., 1873-1966. Letter : to J. Neilson Barry, 1935. Idaho State Archives, Idaho State Historical Society
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Papers, 1932-1958. University of Idaho Library
creatorOf J. Neilson Barry papers New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Map of 1814 superimposed upon modern map, the distance in mountainous country was over-estimated / [by] J. Neilson Barry. Montana Historical Society Library
referencedIn Papers, 1932-1958 University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Indian mosaic map : map of 1814 / J. Neilson Barry. University of Wyoming, William R. Coe Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Map of 1814 superimposed on modern map / [by] J. Neilson Barry. Montana Historical Society Library
creatorOf Smith, E. Willard, 1814-. E. Willard Smith diary [manuscript], 1839-1840. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Unsolved problem : Broughton and Edward Bell : typescript and manuscript maps, 1949. Princeton University Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Primary sources of early history of the vicinity of Seaside, Oregon / compiled by J. Neilson, Barry. Oregon State Library
referencedIn Chittenden, Hiram Martin, 1858-1917. Papers, [185-]-1962. Washington State Historical Society
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Research papers, 1935, 1953-1958. Wisconsin Historical Society, Newspaper Project
referencedIn Wendell Holmes Stephenson Papers, 1820-1968 David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. The early travelers / J. Neilson Barry. Oregon State Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. John Neilson Barry papers, 1927-1961. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn William J. Ghent Papers, 1876-1942, (bulk 1902-1942) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Veasey, James Alexander. General Historical Manuscripts, Documents, and Photographs 1500-1980. The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library
referencedIn Stewart Hall Holbrook Papers, 1928-1962 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
referencedIn Charles Henry Carey Papers, 1896-1940 Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf J. Neilson Barry Papers, 1916-1956 Eastern Washington State Historical Society/Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Joel E. Ferris Research Library and Archives
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Modern map of Snake River / J. Neilson Barry. University of Wyoming, William R. Coe Library
creatorOf J. Neilson Barry Papers, 1944-1962 MSU-Bozeman Library, Merrill G Burlingame Special Collections
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Forts, etc., prior to the establishment of Astoria / [compiled by J. Neilson Barry.] Oregon State Library
referencedIn Carey, Charles Henry. Charles Henry Carey papers, 1896-1940. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Broughton's naming of Mount Hood : account by Geo. Vancouver. Oregon State Library
creatorOf J. Nielson Barry Papers, 1932-1937 Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library Archives and Special Collections
referencedIn Holbrook, Stewart Hall, 1893-1964. Stewart Hall Holbrook papers, 1928-1962. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Papers, 1932-1957. Idaho State Archives, Idaho State Historical Society
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson. Papers, 1940-1960. Washington State University, Holland and Terrell Libraries
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. [Correspondence]. Oregon State Library
referencedIn Veasey, James Alexander. General Historical Manuscripts, Documents, and Photographs 1500-1980. The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Letters and maps 1949-51. Denver Public Library, Central Library
creatorOf J. Neilson Barry Papers, 1897-1961 Boise State University Library, Special Collections and Archives
creatorOf Center, Ellen, d. 1959. Tillamook Indians / Ellen Center correspondence file, 1930-1955 Boise State University, Albertsons Library
creatorOf Bell, Edward, 18th century. Journal of exploration of the Columbia River, 1792 : typescript, [1949?] Princeton University Library
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. Captain Clark's 1806 map of the Willamette River : made from Indian charcoal and sand maps and Clark's reconnaissance of the lower river : the historical note, annotations and modern place locations, 1952-1955. Oregon State University Libraries
referencedIn J. Neilson Barry Papers, 1916-1956 Eastern Washington State Historical Society/Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture Joel E. Ferris Research Library and Archives
creatorOf Barry, J. Neilson (John Neilson), 1870-1961. J. Neilson Barry research collection, 1940. Montana Historical Society Library
referencedIn Givens, Raymond L., 1884-1972. Raymond L. Givens papers, 1933-1936. Boise State University, Albertsons Library
creatorOf Papers, 1932-1958 University of Idaho Library Special Collections and Archives
referencedIn Johansen, Dorothy O., 1904-. Dorothy Johansen papers [manuscript], 1827-1967. Oregon Historical Society Research Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Bell, Edward, 18th century. person
associatedWith Broughton, William Robert, 1762-1821. person
associatedWith Burlingame, Merrill G. (Merrill Gildea), 1901-1994 person
correspondedWith Carey, Charles Henry person
correspondedWith Carey, Charles Henry. person
associatedWith Center, Ellen, d. 1959. person
correspondedWith Chittenden, Hiram Martin, 1858-1917. person
associatedWith Clark, William, 1770-1838. person
associatedWith Colter, John, ca. 1775-1813. person
correspondedWith Donovan, James Joseph, 1909- person
correspondedWith Dougherty, Eleanor, 1884-1971 person
correspondedWith Ghent, William J. (William James), 1866-1942 person
associatedWith Givens, Raymond L., 1884-1972. person
associatedWith Harrington, J. A., 1873-1966. person
correspondedWith Holbrook, Stewart Hall, 1893-1964. person
associatedWith Idaho State Historical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Irving, Washington, 1783-1859 person
associatedWith J. Neilson Barry person
correspondedWith Johansen, Dorothy O., 1904- person
correspondedWith Koch, Elers, 1880-1954 person
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) corporateBody
associatedWith Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1804-1806 corporateBody
associatedWith McMillan, Fred Orville. person
associatedWith Melish, John, 1771-1822. person
associatedWith Oregon. Provisional Government. corporateBody
associatedWith Oregon State Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Rollins, Philip Ashton, 1869-1950, person
associatedWith Smith, E. Willard, 1814- person
correspondedWith Stephenson, Wendell Holmes, 1899-1970 person
associatedWith Stuart, Robert, 1785-1848 person
associatedWith Vancouver, George, 1757-1798. person
correspondedWith Weisel, George Ferdinand, 1915- person
associatedWith Wyer, Malcolm Glenn. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Yellowstone National Park
Willamette River (Or.)
Columbia River
Wyoming
Spokane (Wash.)
Oregon
Northwest, Pacific
Astoria (Or.)
Snake River (Wyo.-Wash.)
Idaho
Fort Clatsop (Or.)
Northwest, Pacific
Columbia River
Hood, Mount (Or.)
Columbia River
Spokane House (Wash.)
Great Divide Basin (Wyo.)
Northwest, Pacific
Oregon
Champoeg (Or.)
Oregon
Oregon National Historic Trail
Northwest, Pacific
Idaho
Snake River (Wyo.-Wash.)
Oregon
Oregon--Clatsop County
Oregon
Yellowstone National Park-Maps-History
Oregon National Historic Trail
West (U.S.)
Washington (State)
Northwest, Pacific
Astoria (Or.)
Oregon
West (U.S.)
Subject
Oregon--Churches and religious affairs--Episcopal
Probation--Washington (State)
Idaho
Northwest, Pacific--History
Columbia River
Trails--Idaho
Rivers--West (U.S.)
United States--Exploring expeditions
Indians of North America
Native Americans
Champoeg (Or.)--History
Oregon--History
Names, geographical
Explorers--West (U.S.)
Spokane (Wash.)--Churches and religious affairs--Episcopal
Trails--West (U.S.)
Washington (State)--Churches and religious affairs--Episcopal
Massachusetts--Genealogy
Explorers--Northwest, Pacific
Fur trade--History
Overland Journeys to the Northwestern United States
Spokane (Wash.)--Legal affairs--Probation
Oregon--Business, industries, and trades--Shipping
Washington
Historians--Correspondence
Expeditions and Adventure
Astoria (Or.)--History
World War, 1914-1918--War work--Young Men's Christian associations
Oregon--Military affairs--Fortifications, military installations, etc
Shipping--Oregon
Oregon
Map reading
Cartographers--Oregon--Correspondence
Military
France--History--German occupation, 1914-1918
Fortification--Northwest, Pacific
Cartographers--Correspondence
Indians of North America--Wars
Maps
Oregon--Politics and government
Overland journeys to the Pacific
Washington (State)--Legal affairs--Probation
Northwest, Pacific--Discovery and exploration
Young Men's Christian associations--France
New York (State)--Genealogy
Historians--Idaho--Correspondence
Parks and Playgrounds
Fur trade--Northwest, Pacific
Fortification--Washington (State)
Montana
Indians of North America--Northwest, Pacific
Snake River (Wyo.--Wash.)
Pacific Northwest History
West (U.S.)--Geographical features--Rivers
Local government--Oregon
Oregon National Historic Trail
Palouse (Wash.)--Churches and religious affairs--Episcopal
Northwest, Pacific--Defenses
Maryland--Churches and religious affairs--Episcopal
Fortification
Discoveries in geography
Occupation
Historians--Washington (State)
Activity

Person

Birth 1870

Death 1961

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