Biography of Stephen Conlee Barlow of Dawson

Stephen Conlee Barlow, born January 15, 1842, in Shelby County, Indiana, is a distinguished Civil War veteran and pioneer of Richardson County, Nebraska. He played a significant role in founding the village of Dawson and contributed to its development through various business ventures, including running a wagon shop and general store. After moving to Nebraska in 1866, Barlow became a prominent community leader, serving on the school board for over 30 years and managing the Dawson-Nemaha Telephone Company. He was married twice, fathering 14 children, and remains an active member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

Stephen Conlee Barlow, an honored veteran of the Civil War, one of the real “old timers” of Richardson county, one of the founders of the village of Dawson and for years actively identified with the affairs of that village, one of the leading merchants of the place and in other ways interested in the business life of the community, now living comfortably retired in that village, is a native Hoosier, a fact of which he has never ceased to be proud, but has been a resident of this county since the days of the close of the Civil War and has therefore seen this region grow from its original wilderness state to its present flourishing condition as one of the richest agricultural communities in the great state of Nebraska. He was born on a farm in Shelby county, not far southeast of Indianapolis, the capital of the state of Indiana, January 15, 1842, son of Lewis and Ruth (Bishop) Barlow, both natives of Kentucky, but pioneers of Indiana, both having moved up into the Hoosier state with their respective parents in the days of their youth, the Barlows and the Bishops both settling in Shelby county in pioneer days. There Lewis Barlow and Ruth Bishop grew up and were married, establishing their home on a farm in that county and there continuing to make their residence until 1846, when they came West and settled in Polk county, Iowa, at a point six miles east of the present center of the city of Des Moines, back in territorial days. There Lewis Barlow built a log house and started farming, presently building a log addition to that house and in that addition starting a country store. As others presently settled in that neighborhood, the store being the center of the social life of the settlement, he laid out on his place, with the store as the center, the townsite of Rising Sun, now a flourishing suburb of the city of Des Moines. He had to haul his merchandise up the river trail from Keokuk, then being the nearest extensive trading point. He gave to his new town of Rising Sun a plot for cemetery purposes and after his death in 1858 his body was laid away in that burying ground. He and his wife were members of the Christian church and their children were reared in that faith.

Stephen C. Barlow was four years of age when his parents moved from Indiana to Iowa and he was sixteen when his father died. He remained there assisting in the affairs of the store and of the farm until the Civil War broke out and on July 4, 1861, enlisted for service as a member of Company E., Fourth Regiment, Iowa Volunteer Infantry, and at the end of that term of enlistment, three years re-enlisted, at Woodville, Alabama, and served until his final discharge, at Davenport, Iowa, August 23, 1863, having served for four years and six weeks. The Fourth Iowa was raised at Council Bluffs and went to the front under Gen. Granville M. Dodge, coming down the river. It was on this trip that Mr. Barlow got his first view of the beautiful valley of the Nemeha. When the boat carrying the soldiers reached Brownville the people of that vicinity turned out en masse and gave them a rousing reception. Mr. Barlow’s first test under fire was at the battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, and his last battle was that fought at Bentonville, North Carolina, this latter battle having been fought after Lee’s surrender. He participated in the siege and capture of Vicksburg and in the battles at Arkansas Post, Chickasaw Bayou, Jackson, Champion’s Hill, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge, and then on with Sherman’s army in the Atlantic campaign, the battles at Resaca and Dallas, and at the fall of Atlanta was in the seventh and final charge and hand-to-hand fight which effected the capture of DeGrasse’s great battery. When General McPherson was killed he was within two hundred yards of the spot. He then went on with the army on the march to the sea and thence north after the taking of Savannah; witnessed the burning of Columbia and fought Johnston’s army all the way through the Carolinas, the struggle culminating in the final battle at Bentonville. Mr. Barlow then went on with his command to Washington, where his regiment was accorded the honor of leading the Grand Review down Pennsylvania avenue. From Washington the regiment was sent to Louisville and while at the latter place Mr. Barlow secured a thirty-days furlough which he spent in visiting his wife and her folks out here in Richardson county, he having married after he joined the army. Rejoining his regiment at Louisville he presently returned with that command to Iowa and was finally mustered out at Davenport.

Upon the completion of his military service Mr. Barlow returned to his home in Iowa and there remained a year, or until the fall of 1866, when he came to Nebraska, his wife’s father, Ira Draper, and family being among the pioneers of Richardson county, W. F. Draper, his brother-in-law, having entered the tract of land now covered by the village of Dawson. Mr. Barlow drove through, crossing the river at Brownsville, and settled on the Stratton farm on the site of the old county seat of Geneva, where he remained for a year, at the end of which time he took a homestead one mile north and a mile east of the present village of Dawson and there established his home and proceeded to develop his place. He helped his brother-in-law, W. F. Draper, lay off the townsite of Dawson and there started a wagon shop, which he operated in addition to his farming work, and after the death of his wife in 1877 moved his family to the village. He built a new shop at the point now occupied by Coopers store and operated the same for four years, at the end of which time he sold it and then started a restaurant. Meantime he had married again and after operating the restaurant for a year he sold it and bought Chittenden’s store, built an addition to the store building, enlarged the stock and continued in business there until the spring of 1883, when he sold to Allen Brothers and then erected a brick store building and started a hardware store, which four years later he traded for property in Humboldt. He then opened a general store and continued operating the same until his retirement fourteen years later. Not content to live retired, he presently started another store, but two years later sold that place and retired from business permanently, being now, to use his own expressive phrase. “the president of the ‘Never Sweat Club’.

Mr. Barlow is an ardent schoolman and was one of the first members of the school board in the Dawson district, a position which he occupied continuously, with the exception of one year, for thirty-three years. The first school in Dawson was started in a hall where the Stiles drug store is now located, and the school board presently erected a frame school building and after that structure was destroyed by fire, a brick building, Mr. Barlow having charge of the construction of the same. Mr. Barlow was present at the first Old Settler’s meeting held in Richardson county and for twenty-five years thereafter held the post of director of ceremonies, of those meetings, having charge of the platform and program of the two days meetings which have been so memorable a feature of the social life of the “old timers” of this county all these years. When the local cemetery association was organized in 1890 he was elected president of the same and has ever since held that position. For seven years he was manager of the Dawson-Nemaha Telephone Company and in numerous other ways has done well his part in the development of the village which he helped to lay out back in the days of the beginning of things in that part of the county. For many years Mr. Barlow was an ardent Republican, but of late years has been inclined to be somewhat independent in his political affiliations. He was one of the organizers of the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic at Dawson, whose roster came to carry the names of forty-seven veterans of the Civil War, of whom but four now remain, those besides Mr. Barlow being E. W. Buser, R. B. Allen and E. T. Levy. When Mr. Barlow came to this county Indians still were numerous hereabout and wild game, including deer, was plentiful. He has seen these primitive conditions changed to the present well-ordered and highly-developed state of things that mark this region and there are few, if any, of the old timers of this section who have a more vivid recollection or more distinct impressions of the early days than he.

Stephen C. Barlow has been twice married. On March 4, 1864, he was united in marriage to Ruth Draper, whose brother, W. F. Draper, as noted above, was the original owner of the townsite of Dawson, and to that union four children were born, namely: Eugene William, who was killed while herding ponies; Louis Henry, a successful ranchman at Gillette, Wyoming; Elvon Eldred, of San Diego, California, and Ada Celia, wife of the Rev. C. F. Heim, of Eddyville, this state. The mother of these children died in 1877 at Hays City, Kansas, while on her way to the mountains with her husband, seeking a change of climate for the benefit of her health, she then being thirty-one years of age, and on June 1, 1878, Mr. Barlow married Frances Marrium Ingram, who was born in Ross county, Ohio, January 9, 1862, daughter of Jeremiah and Mary Jane (Wilson) Ingram, also natives of Ohio, who came to Nebraska in 1869 and settled near Dawson, where the latter died in 1872. Jeremiah Ingram remained in this county for years afterward and then went to Oklahoma, where he died in 1913. To this second union ten children have been born, as follows: Thomas Coulee Barlow, a noted musician, now living in the state of Washington, who served as a soldier during the Spanish-American War, serving for three years in the regular army, went to the Philippines as a Red Cross nurse and has traveled all over the world; Mary Ethel, who married William Heim, a railroad telegraph operator, now living at Phoenix, Arizona; Charles Arthur, a traveling salesman of Seattle, Washington; Stephen Francis, a railroad train dispatcher, of Vancouver, Washington; Florence May, wife of Ora Barnwell, a telegraph operator in Arizona; Mrs. Leona Ruth Price, who lives of a farm near Hastings, this state; Elma, wife of Prof. Abraham Lawrence, Jr., principal of the high school at Brownville, this state; Mrs. Evangeline Ord, of Sheridan, Wyoming; Ralph McKinley Barlow, in the United States naval service, and Esther Loverne, who is still in school. The Barlows are members of the Evangelical Lutheran church and have ever been active in local good works, Mr. and Mrs. Barlow for many years having been helpful in promoting all agencies having to do with the advancement of the common welfare in their home town and in the community at large. Mr. Barlow has been a member of the local lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows since the year 1877 and has ever taken a warm interest in the affairs of that organization.


Edwards, Lewis C., History of Richardson County, Nebraska : Its People, Industries and Institutions, Indianapolis : B.F. Bowen, 1917.

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