In 1920, Barnfield died in Upper Lake at eighty-eight. In 1861 Tom Barnfield heard President Lincoln’s call and served through all four years of the War. Tom was part of Company K of the Fifth Illinois Cavalry. He had a meteoric rise in status during those bloody years. Tom Barnfield entered as a private and rose to be a Second Lieutenant. It was no political appointment; he earned his bars the hard way; on the field of battle.
The roster of men, who fought and died in the Civil War from Lake County, goes on for fifteen pages in the loose-leaf binder listing Lake County’s Civil War veterans in the Lakeport Library. There was no way to include all of the obituaries and their stories here, but the reader should have some idea of who they were and what they did. Not only were Lake County’s Civil War veterans a cut above the average, but their backgrounds and histories also reflect how unusual and famous many of them were; in life and in death.
The Napa Register set up shop in Lake County twelve years after Abraham Lincoln’s ‘Slavery Speech.’ The newspaper began its birth by printing a non-biased forum that took no part in politics. Then, after the Democratic party, led by Steven Douglas, split over the slavery question, the newspaper changed from night to day.
“Nearly eighty years ago, we declared that all men are created equal. From that beginning, we have run down to the other declaration, the declaration that it is a sacred right of self-government for some men to enslave others. These two principals cannot stand together. They are as opposite as God and Mammon. Whoever holds to one must despise the other. Judge Douglas believes that democracy means that the majority rights must always prevail. I tell you with all the force and conviction I possess that I believe that our democratic government is only… a…means…of…doing…what…is…RIGHT.”
“What shall we do next?” Lincoln asked his peers quietly, searching their faces with studied seriousness and concern. “Shall we free the slaves and make them socially and politically our equals?”
The day had become warmer still as each of the representatives spoke through the afternoon session in the Maryland Capitol House. From time to time, as Douglas and the others had their say, the Illinois politician looked up at some telling comment. Other times, all six feet four inches of his long body slumped in his chair, further wrinkling his newly pressed rumpled black frock suit.
“Life was different in the ’60s here,” Russ begins. Clearlake Highlands was a going concern. In the summertime, it was busy on Lakeshore Drive, with people walking up and down. Austin’s Beach was full of people. Back then, cruising Lakeshore was a big deal. Have you ever seen ‘American Graffiti?’ he asks. “The Highlands was like that back then.”
…Our children never heard a musical instrument until last Sunday. Our neighbor took down his fiddle and played a tune or two. When Beulah came home, she said,’ I did not know a violin could talk. It did, mama, for it sung a hymn.’
I was not prepared to hear of brother Charles’ death. I thought he had no settled disease but was only feeble. He is gone and I cannot cherish the hope of seeing his face on earth again. I trust we shall meet in heaven. The time is not distant when we shall all be gathered home, but when I glance at my little ones I thank the Lord that he spares me to them.’
I thought I would not write until I received the box you sent. The man has gone to Napa for it and I am almost childish in my eager anticipation of his return. Whatever you send will be acceptable. We do not have much money for clothing and cannot buy nice materials as you do. Our little girls are growing so fast, faster than they can wear out their clothing. My entire wardrobe consists of one dark calico, my green silk I brought to California, and one green muslin. The light silk, you gave me when I married, I sold in Sacramento for twenty dollars a year ago.’
Emory started a school for three months last summer (Letter written before Susan arrived from Nevada). Mrs. Boyd took him in. They agreed to pay him (for teaching the school) fifty dollars a month. When it came to making out the bills, he found one man who wanted to pay in potatoes, another in pork, and one, who proposed to pay in corn meal. Emory will get his pay but only forty dollars in cash.’
Over a period of eight years, from 1859 until 1867, Susan Tibbets wrote twenty-six letters. Susan was one of our earliest pioneers. She braved dangers that few people of the present generation would ever have to face. In spite of the dangers and hardships, her letters were homey and personal. She spoke from her heart of her hopes and fears. Her letters reflected life in Lake County, the hard times, the Civil War, death and tragedy, and a thousand other small and large obstacles the pioneers had to overcome. Susan and her life come alive in her words.