Freeman Barrows Collection

Freeman Barrows
Image courtesy of Bushwhacker Museum and Jail

Freeman Barrows was born in Middleboro, Massachusetts and with his brother moved to New Bedford to establish a wholesale grocery business. With poor business Freeman decided to head West and arrived in Harmony Mission, Missouri in 1838.1 When Bates County was formed 1841, Freeman was elected County Clerk and Recorder and later became probate judge. Freeman was also a member of the AF&AM Masonic Osage Lodge No. 29 and was listed as a Junior Warder in 1853. After only knowing each other for a year, Freeman married Asenath Vaill on August 25, 1842. The Barrows lived in a log cabin two miles east of Papinville and had nine children.

Barrows enjoyed living on the frontier and tried on numerous occasions to convince his brother to move to Missouri. However, as Missouri continued to grow, the tension between Missourians and Kansans intensified. The violence in the area arose from Kansas’ admission to the union as a free or slave state. Missourians crossed the border and casted fraudulent votes to usher Kansas in as a slave state. Furthermore, both sides raided, threatened and killed opposing settlers to scare off their political competition from Kansas. The escalated violence earned the time period the name “Bleeding Kansas,” and in the late 1850s, a northern politician dubbed the Missouri raiders crossing into Kansas “Border Ruffians.”2 Barrow’s resented the label “Border Ruffians” stating,

I am aware that my Eastern friends are disposed to Brand our State with the Opprobious name of Border Ruffianism, but we are not such Ruffins after all. we have a peculiar way of defending our rights when invaded by outsiders, and like evry other community we have some indiscreet men within our borders, whom we do not acknowledge as good members of society. so have you, and such Genii will be found in all the States of the union, but a Pure Son of Missouri or one of Missouri adoption will be found as gentlemenly and as much of a law abiding man as can be found in any clime or country.
Freeman Barrows Letter to John Barrows May 7, 1857

Although Freeman Barrows was not heavily engaged in politics he was never shy about expressing his concerns and opinions regarding the state of the Union. In 1850 after the death of President Zachary Taylor, Barrows was optimistic that the growing tensions between the North and the South would soon subside.

our Noble President is dead. we have been peculiarly unfortunate in our Whig Presidents, but I think Mr. Filmore [Millard Fillmore], will administrator the government faithfully, upon the plan of our early chief Magestrates, and that he will be enabled to do much towards the Settlement of the conflicting questions, now agitating the country. I am extremely sorry that Mr [Henry] Clay and others, of a conservative character in the Senate of the United States, have thus far been unable to settle these questions, and heal these difficulties. when will the Ultras of the North and South cease to distract the union with these abstract questions….
Freeman Barrows to John Barrows, August 31, 1850

Even though Freeman Barrows was a native of Massachusetts, he did not support the actions of the Northern legislatures trying to abolish slavery. He firmly believed that states’ rights were to be protected as guaranteed in the Constitution. “there is much to complain of from the acts of the New England people, and of New England’s Legislature. The principle of non interference with the rights of the States is the only, Just, fair, honorable, and prudent, course for all the States. those alone that reside on the Southern and South Western States can Judge of the extent of this interference with the property of the South.”3

By 1858 Barrows’s health was declining and he had to quit working. He died of tuberculosis on April 26, 1861, leaving his wife and nine children to run the family farm. Anseth expressed her concern of being the head of family to her brother-in-law John, “It only remains to be seen whether we can carry out his plans by keeping our stock together, and raising enough for ourselves and some to spare. And now that these perilous times are upon us, when the din of strife, and misrule is heard abroad in the land trouble and fear is added to grief.”4

The Civil War was very trying on the Barrows family. Jayhawkers stole their livestock, equipment, and everything movable.5 The Barrows left their family home in August 1863 after General Thomas Ewing issued Order No. 11; forcing all citizens of Bates County to leave their homes within 15 days. Asenath and the children went to Osceola and stayed with her sister, Elizabeth Waldo until the war ended.6 The family was able to survive through the conflict and rebuilt the farm but had incurred large sums of debt. Freeman Barrow’s sons John and William died when they were in their early teens, leaving his next eldest son, John to run the farm. John Barrows married Lizzie Badger, the daughter of Albert Badger, who was a prominent citizen of Vernon County Missouri. Badger fought in 7th Missouri Cavalry, 8th Division, Missouri State Guard and later worked in a Union shipyard towards the end of the War. After the war, Albert Badger requested reimbursement from the United States Government for property and livestock taken during the conflict.7

The reemergence of violence in the post war years caused many refugees to question the safety of Missouri and the Ozarks. Once civilians returned home they faced the new challenge of rebuilding their lives and the Barrows were no exception. Bad weather and the Panic of 1892 ruined the family and the bank foreclosed on the farm. The family then moved to Rich Hill where they lived the remainder of their lives. While many were able to reconstruct their homes and farms, their lives and the Ozarks were never the same.

This collection contains letter from relatives of both the Barrows and Badger family, and highlights the difficulties families in Southwestern Missouri faced trying to survive the war and the years that followed.

Contributed by the Bushwhacker Museum and Jail and Missouri State University Special Collections and Archives

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  1. Robert Barrows, Sr, Descendants of Asenath Colt Vaill and Freeman Barrows (Rochester, NY, 1996), pg 15.
  2. Don Coldsmith, “Jayhawkers and Border Ruffians” The Emporia Gazette, Monday, March 16, 2009,
  3. Freeman Barrows, Letter to John N. Barrows, 2 Aug. 1855, M31, Special Collections, Missouri State University, Springfield.
  4. Asenath Barrows,  Letter to John Barrows, 1 May 1861, M31, Special Collections, Missouri State University, Springfield.
  5. Robert Barrows, Sr, Descendants of Asenath Colt Vaill and Freeman Barrows, (Rochester, NY, 1996), pg 15.
  6. Robert Barrows, Sr, Descendants of Asenath Colt Vaill and Freeman Barrows, (Rochester, NY, 1996), pg 20.
  7. Albert Badger, Letter to the Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army, 12 Jul. 1874, M31, Special Collections, Missouri State University, Springfield.