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Samuel S. Barr
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Birth: May 7, 1841
Jefferson County
Pennsylvania, USA
Death: 1910
Scott County
Iowa, USA

Samuel S. Barr, son of Robt. Patterson Barr, Sr. & his wife Mary E. Chitester/Chidester, was born 7 May 1841 in Brookville, Jefferson Co.,PA. He imigrated via riverboat down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to Cairo, IL and up the Mississippi to present day Clinton, IA. Samuel, his siblings & parents, along with extended family/friends settled east of DeWitt in Clinton Co., IA in 1856.

July 16, 1941 'The Daily Times' Davenport, Iowa. (The Times Weekly Farm Page)

In 1910, Samuel S. Barr whose address was McCausland, Ia., was buried at DeWitt. With him was buried a wealth of information that might have been worth millions of dollars to the corn breeding industry if steps had been taken to record what he had discovered.

For years scientists have been working on experiments, which apparently Samuel S. Barr performed successfully on his 40 acre plot near Walnut Grove nearly 50 years ago.

A son and daughter of the pioneer Barr still live on the homestead taken up by him in about 1870. From them, Clyde and Pearl Barr, this writer, with the help of J.C. Cunningham of the research department of Iowa State college, and George Kurtzweil of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Corn Co. of Des Moines, have been able to glean enough facts to reveal an interesting story.

A document showing the drawings of a series of corn plants was found in an old shed on the Barr farm. This document shows Barr was able to breed a plant of corn back to the grass stage and then bring it back to dent corn. It is believed that he is the only man ever to accomplish this feat.


In a copy of an Iowa newspaper printed in 1905, now treasured by Pearl Barr, a letter of praise for the work of Barr is found. It was written by Walter D. Olney, who was a close friend of Mr. Barr, and had to do with the explanation of his work.

He wrote, "I happened to drop into the office of the Iowa Seed Co., and asked Mr. Page (a member of that firm in 1905) why Sam Barr was not credited with his work and investigations in this state. I was told that members of the firm had visited Mr. Barr several times and found him to be a storehouse of knowledge on all matters pertaining to agricultural horticulture, and as a naturalist. Mr. Page said, ' I think Mr. Barr is a greater man than Burbank. Barr is the most scientific man of any in his line, and while I have never met him, I know from what has come through his hands that he has done what Burbank cannot do, and he has not received credit that justly belongs to him.'

From notes obtained and from the memory of Clyde and Pearl Barr as well as that of Kurtzweil, it appears that Barr took the seed from "suckers" in which the grain appeared in the tassel. By growing these in isolated plots he obtained stem with perfect flowers, which, according to his notes, enabled him to trace the development of the corn flower from a small grass-like blossom with the staminate and pistilate parts in the same flowers, on through various stages until finally the staminate flower appeared only in the tassel and the top of the plant where perfect flowers had been and the pistilate flowers appeared in the central portion of the stem as the present-day corn flowers.

Sometime towards the close of the last century Barr secured a half bushel of "Leaming" yellow corn. This he planted in an isolated plot adjacent to rows of another yellow corn named "Pride of the North". This resulted in a shorter, thicker and more desirable ear. In order to more carfully control such a cross he began again with the same two parents and controlled the crossing by the use of paper bags on both the silk and on the tassel. From this cross came the variety which he named "Early Iowa", which was advertised for sale at that time.


In order to prove his theory that sweet corn originated as a mutant from dent corn, Barr planted a field of Silvermine corn. The earliest maturing stalks he crossed again by using paper bags. It is understood that he also shaded the plants in the hottest part of the day. In seven years he secured a new white sweet corn with a Silvermine dent cob. He called the new variety "Silver Sweet."

George Randolph, an old friend of Barr, who now lives on Harrison Street road, near Davenport, still has samples of this variety of corn, and in an effort to reproduce a perfect specimen of Barr's discovery, has turned it over to this writer, who will work with Iowa State college authorities in an effort to bring it back to its original state.

Randolph reports that it is superior to any sweet corn that he has been able to obtain. He raised it for several years and used it for "hogging down" and as silage. The ear is larger than ordinary sweet corn and is much sweeter, Randolph declares.


Although fragments of several copies of Barr's notes have been found, most of the information contained in them has been destroyed. However, it is certain that Barr had produced hybrid corn many years prior to the time it began to appear in Iowa corn fields.

The only thing left of his magnificent work is a fond memory of his two children, who remember him as a fine old gentleman, and who now discover that their father accomplished what scientists today would consider a crowning achievement."

Samuel S. Barr first married Nervissia Blackman about 1870. She died about 1871 and he remarried to Frances Rosamond Stearns/Sterns on 8 May 1873 in Scott Co., IA. Three children were born to Samuel & Frances. Ruby Pearl b. 14 Feb 1874; Clyde Leroy b. Ayg 1876 and Myrtle Rosamond b. Sep 1878. 
Elmwood Cemetery
De Witt
Clinton County
Iowa, USA
Created by: Jeanie Brown
Record added: Dec 04, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 101702032
Samuel S. Barr
Added by: Bill Fatchett
Samuel S. Barr
Added by: Jeanie Brown
Samuel S. Barr
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Added by: Suzanne Hemmelgarn Oudejans
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