Lafayette’s Farewell Tour: Timothy Barnard, A Soldier’s Story

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Siege of Yorktown (1781), by Auguste Couder (1789–1873) Rochambeau (center L), Washington (center R), Marquis de La Fayette (behind Washington, L), Marquis de Saint Simon (behind Washington, R), Duke of Lauzun (L, mounted) and Comte de Ménonville (R of Washington). Source: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

“Another Revolutionary Patriot Gone.” That was the lead, buried at the very bottom of the third of seven dense columns on page two in the Tuesday, April 13, 1847, edition of the Geneva Courier. Three perfunctory sentences followed.

“Hon. TIMOTHY BARNARD, father of Hon. DANIEL D. BARNARD, the distinguished ex-member of Congress of the Albany district, died at Mendon on the 29th inst. Judge Barnard took an active part in the revolutionary struggle, and for his services he drew a pension until his death. For many years judge Barnard was associate judge of the old county of Ontario, and after Monroe county was set off; he held the same office in the latter county.”1

That was it. That was the sum total of nearly 91 years of life.

But there was more to Timothy Barnard. He represented all that made America great; that first generation of rebels turned heroes turned pioneers turned nation-builders. In a way, he was like the Forrest Gump of America’s founding. He was in all the right places at all the right times.

And, for him, ultimately the right place was a home in a small rural town called Mendon in Monroe County.

Actually, at first it was neither Mendon nor Monroe County. It was Bloomfield and Ontario County. The home, however, remained firmly planted in the same location, roughly the corner of what is now West Bloomfield and Canfield roads just south of the Thruway.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Timothy’s father, Ebenezer Barnard, was born on January 9, 1725, in Hartford, Connecticut Colony. Ebenezer’s mother Sarah Williamson, originally from Barnstable, Massachusetts Colony, died the next day, likely because of complications of childbirth.2 Not much is known about Ebenezer’s father, Samuel Barnard, although it’s felt that he came to Hartford from England sometime after 1700 and before marrying Sarah in 1714.3

What is clear is that, when the time came to decide between the Tory and the Patriot, Ebenezer Barnard knew where he stood. And so did his son, Timothy.

When 1776 called, Ebenezer Barnard answered. He served as Captain in a militia regiment led by Major Roger Newberry of Windsor, Connecticut. His son Timothy, then only 20 years old, served beside him as Drum Major.4

Much of what we know about Timothy Barnard’s military record comes from depositions taken six decades later when he applied for his veteran’s pension. These records were compiled and summarized by Anah Babcock Yates in a 1920 article published by the Honeoye Falls Times.

According to the GenWeb Monroe County, NY website, “Yates was one of the founders of the Rochester Historical Society and an active member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. She also was state genealogist of the New York Historical Society for many years. She died in August 1932. Mrs. Yates was a good genealogist but she didn’t include many references. You should check for primary sources to verify this information.”5

Yates’ account of Timothy Barnard appears to be based on source material obtained through military records. She doesn’t cite the exact source but given that the basic story is consistent with other accounts, including those of family members, it is reasonable to assume her article contains factual information.

In a nutshell, Timothy Barnard, born June 19, 1756, began his Revolutionary War service in July 1776 at the age of twenty. He was with Washington’s troops at Valentine Hill when they retreated from New York City. He recalled “the Americans lost many in their retreat in crossing a marsh and creek near some mill.”6

Later, Washington tasked him with carrying the soldiers’ payroll in saddle bags from New York to Valley Forge. In a 1915 letter to Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, Mrs. Fran H. Barnard, wife of Timothy’s grandson, stated, “Washington thought that there was less danger of the money being stolen if it was carried in a casual manner; and Judge Timothy Barnard was never known to have had any lost while under his care.”7

Speaking of “Judge,” we’ll get to that in a moment. Speaking of Valley Forge, some historians state Barnard was George Washington’s “bodyguard” at Valley Forge, but there is no reliable source for that claim.

Continuing with his Revolutionary War record, it appears he worked with the French army during its time in America. He was at Yorktown when the British surrendered. Afterwards, Barnard was assigned to Jeremiah Wadsworth’s Commissary Department. As a “principal conductor,” he was given command of the third division of that group with the rank and pay of Major. Wadsworth left extensive accounting books and Barnard’s name appears in them frequently.8

Barnard must have not been aware of these books because, when applying for his pension, he said he had no physical evidence or documentation of his service. He did rely on testimonials of fellow soldiers, though.

After the War, Barnard remained in Hartford until moving to the Genesee Country. In 1809, he came to Ontario County.9 He built a house in Township 11, R. 5 on a portion of the “Eleven Thousand Acre Tract” owned by his father and Jeremiah Wadsworth.10

At the time, that was part of the Town of Bloomfield in Ontario County. Barnard became a judge in Ontario County, as his obituary says. In that capacity, he took an active role in creating the Town of Mendon. On Tuesday, April 6, 1813, he presided over Mendon’s first town meeting.11

He was very active in the Ontario County Agricultural Society. He was named one of the first town managers for the newly formed group in 1819.12 On October 3, 1820, at the Society’s second annual fair, he won ten dollars as a farm owner cited for “best cultivation.”13

He was involved in at least one meeting addressing the creation of Monroe County.14 He became one of the first judges when that new county was created from Ontario County. By the time Lafayette came to visit in 1825, Timothy Barnard and his family were well placed in the broader community.

Ironically, a little more than a decade later in 1837 when he was applying for his pension and feeling he was short on “proof” of his service, Barnard would have benefited from recalling what Judge Ashley Sampson remembered about Lafayette’s visit.

Sampson recalled, in a long piece published by the Greece Press in 1855, how Lafayette had met Revolutionary War veterans at Hoard’s Tavern in the village of Rochester. The French general seemed to remember many of them, but Sampson felt, “that sometimes his memory was a little aided by his kindness of heart and his determination to recognize them.”15

But one man stood out. Lafayette couldn’t take his eyes off of him. He stared intensely for several moments before saying, “Sir it seems to me I have seen you before.”16

It was Timothy Barnard. Sampson recalled the Judge’s reply, “Yes, General, you have seen me more than once. During the war I was engaged in the commissary department, and was often at headquarters, where I saw General Washington and yourself. By special permission from- Washington, I was present as a spectator at the Battle of Yorktown. I saw General Hamilton, under your command, sword in hand, with his brave followers storm one of the enemy’s redoubts and with the bayonet, compel a surrender, ‘without firing a gun. I saw the whole army, under the command of Washington, immediately afterwards pouring into the enemy’s fort one broadside after another of cannon and grape shot, until I began to feel quite sure that the enemy must surrender. Very soon I saw a white flag arise and move towards the American quarters. Almost instantly the roar of cannon ceased. All was still for perhaps half an hour. Then I saw the whole of Lord Cornwallis’ army march out and ground arms! Then I felt sure that the long struggle was over. Very soon afterwards I started North for my residence in Hartford, on horseback. On my route, I was often asked, are you from the South? Upon my answering in the affirmative, the next inquiry was, ‘What news?’ My reply was, ‘Glorious news! The whole army of Lord Cornwallis has surrendered!’ Upon this announcement often would gray headed old men swing their hats in the air and exclaim, “Glorious news! Now we shall have peace.’ And so it turned out. And how much, General, we owe you.”17

The sincerity of the emotion on Lafayette’s face could not help but have affected all those in the room.

Next Week: Dispelling Mendon Myths

1 “Another Revolutionary Patriot Gone,” Geneva Courier, Tuesday, April 13, 1847, p. 2
2 [Retrieved June 22, 2024]
3 Barbour, Lucius Barnes, Families of Early Hartford, Connecticut, Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., Baltimore, 1977, p. 31-32
4 Yates, Anah B., “The Pioneers of Mendon,” The Honeoye Falls Times, Thursday, November 4, 1920, p.1
5 “Biographies of Monroe County People,” GenWeb Monroe County, NY website, p. 42, [Retrieved June 23, 2024]
6 Yates, p. 1
7 Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine, July – December 1915, p.263-264
8 Yates, p. 1, 6
9 Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine
10 Turner, Orsamus, Pioneer History of the Phelps and Gorham’s Purchase and Morris Reserve (supplement of Monroe County), William Alling, Rochester, 1851, p. 530
11 Morrison, William, History of Monroe County, Everts, Ensign & Everts, Philadelphia, 1877, p. 264
12 “Ontario Agricultural Society,” Ontario Repository, Tuesday, February 23, 1819, p. 3
13 History of Ontario County, New York With Illustrations, Everts, Ensign & Everts, Philadelphia, 1878, p.49
14 Ibid., p.37
15 1855 Greece Daily Union, reprinted in “From The Arm Chair,” The Greece Press, Friday, December 28, 1934, p.2
16 Ibid.
17 Ibid.

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