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Anna Mabry Barr
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Birth: Nov. 7, 1875
Death: Sep. 26, 1969

The legend of "Stockade Annie"
American ran military post like a landlord
July 1, 2012 ~

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - "Stockade Annie" had two great loves in her lifetime: a minister named Dr. John Christie Barr and a military installation called Fort Campbell.

As fate would have it, her first love passed away in early 1942 on property that would become part of Fort Campbell, just as the post was being born.

On the heels of Dr. Barr's passing, Annie had to leave her home in accordance with the eviction notices that were clearing the way for construction.

If ever there was a double-whammy that could produce a reaction of understandable bitterness, losing your husband and your land simultaneously would be it. However, though her spirit was broken for a while, Annie rebounded and fought back in an entirely unpredictable fashion.

In the words of her nephew, William "Bill" Mabry, "She decided to be the best friend Camp Campbell ever had," and in her own unique way she proved to be just that until the day she died at the post hospital in 1969.

This was the same woman who reportedly brandished a shotgun at a couple of brothers who came to survey her land for the post, while yelling at them that the government would never take her property.

Of course, the federal government took it anyway.

Evicting Annie was easy.

Getting rid of her wasn't.


A capital 'S'

Among Fort Campbell's leaders during her tenure as a post icon, she was alternately loved, endured, feared and revered. To soldiers, she was "Aunt Anna," "Momma" and "Grandmother," among a host of other terms of endearment. She was small and slight, but with a will of iron that steamrolled opposition, matched by a tenderness that melted tough guys into little boys.

That she was allowed to spend her last days in an Army hospital was unheard-of for a civilian with no legal military connection. It was also unheard-of for a civilian, especially a woman, to walk in and out of the post stockade to visit prisoners, any time, day or night, or to treat post headquarters and the commanding general's office as if it were a customer service department.

To call her "complex" is an understatement. "Inexplicable" is nearer the mark. But her never-explained change of heart after being evicted from her land might have an explanation in the attitude she took toward the post, which was anything but that of a person who had been evicted. Instead, she carried herself like a landlord.

To a division commander who challenged her right, she proclaimed, "I am a capital 'S' - a Sovereign citizen and a full-fledged taxpayer. If this isn't my camp and my Army, whose is it?" The Army's answer was to give her a permanent pass.

She may have lost the farm, but she ended up owning Fort Campbell.


'Sweet little Annie'

Anna Mabry Barr was born a child of relative privilege in November 1875 at Poplar Hill, a farm on what is now Fort Campbell, in a house just off Mabry Road. The eldest child of Thomas Lawson Mabry and Elizabeth Dabney Mabry, she would be joined over the next 24 years by 11 siblings. Her father died when the youngest was one year old.

While the letters of her youth reveal her to be the "sweet little Annie" she was described as in her childhood, in later years she and her siblings - all of whom adored their mother - would become deeply divided, to the point that they wouldn't even ride together in a car to each other's funerals. In a paper he presented to the Clarksville/Montgomery County Historical Society in 2000, Bill Mabry wrote that he thought the competition for their mother's attention had something to do with it. He also thought the resulting division spurred Annie's need in later years to substitute countless soldiers for family.

Educated first at home and then at prestigious female academies in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and Clarksville, she had a reputation as an extremely intelligent woman. Her husband, Dr. Barr, was founder and president of Presbyterian Hospital in New Orleans as well as a pastor for 32 years.

They were married on the Mabry property in 1907 when she was 31, an advanced age for a bride in those days. They became a respected couple in New Orleans, and while they weren't wealthy, they weren't poor either. It was reputed that at one time the Barrs owned an entire city block of New Orleans.

However, the Great Depression turned a lot of fortunes, and though it is unclear why Annie and Dr. Barr returned to Montgomery County in 1931, it is clear that it was a not only a step back, but a step down. By that time, Annie had changed, and the fortunes of the Mabry family back home had changed as well.



Aunt Annie

The Mabry family had long used the farm as a summer place after moving to town to concentrate on their tobacco business, but hard times had caused them to sell the land.

Annie seems to have tried to rebuild her former prestige. She managed to buy back a parcel of Mabry land, gave it the name, "Barr Hill," and she and her husband, who had become nearly blind, moved into a former tenant house that was a far cry from Poplar Hill, which was now owned by another family.

The years had hardened Annie, and little remained of the sweet child of bygone days. By the time she lost her husband and her farm in 1942, her eccentricities were in full bloom.

She took some of the money the government had paid out for Barr Hill and bought a small farm out on Trenton Road, where she built a rustic log cabin with a dogtrot between two rooms.

For a time, she lived a "camping out" existence that baffled her family, priding herself on her ability to cook on a flagstone hearth and bragging that she could make her coffee with one Saturday Evening Post for fuel.

It was also at about that time she threw herself wholly and completely into a self-created ministry at the post. No one knows why she did it, since Annie wasn't in the habit of explaining herself to anybody, ever.


'Stockade Annie'

It isn't known whether Annie participated in her husband's ministry, but it was known that at some point she soured on the idea of organized religion, dismissing it all as empty "castles on the Rhine," though her belief in God remained unshaken.

At Fort Campbell, Annie took up a mission given in the New Testament to all Christians - that they should visit the sick and those in prison.

She started out at the post hospital and then obtained a pass to begin visiting prisoners at the stockade. She had been at it for some years already when an incoming commanding general decided to put an end to the foolishness of allowing a woman untrammeled access to places where she plainly had no business being. He revoked the pass.

Apparently, he thought he was in charge.

The next day, a tiny woman in black burst through the doors of headquarters demanding to see the general. A secretary said he was busy, but by that time Annie was already in his office.

A sergeant who was present said he never in his life heard anything like it. Her tirade nearly scorched the paint off the walls, and when the general followed Annie out the door at the end of his chewing-out, he told the secretary to give her back her pass. Each succeeding commander signed a new one for her until her death.

Annie had more brass than any general. When she wanted something, it was clear from the outset that it wasn't debatable, and the irresistible force of her will moved seemingly immovable obstacles .

But there was something more to her that made her effective in her mission to the soldiers she loved.

There was still something of "sweet little Annie" below the hard surface garbed in black. It was the side of her that her family no longer saw much of, perhaps because it was poured out so liberally upon the hard cases and screw-ups in the stockade.


The Lord provides

For a woman who was all but penniless by that time, Annie was a profligate spender. She ran up huge phone bills and traveled across the country - from Washington state to Washington, D.C. - on behalf of soldiers in trouble. Greyhound bus lines finally decided to give her a lifetime pass, which Annie's family assumed she had extracted through sheer persistence.

When a Clarksville bank manager asked her for collateral on a loan she wanted for the purpose of buying Bibles for her boys, she glared at him and told him, "I need no collateral. The Lord will see that you are repaid." The bank manager didn't want to stand against the Lord, and she got the money.

It didn't always work out that way, but Annie was no one-trick pony. When a Hopkinsville, Ky., store wouldn't let her have $800 worth of Bibles on the Lord's credit, she got on the phone to Washington. Washington called the general at Fort Campbell. The general called a colonel and told him, "get her d-n Bibles.

The colonel - who would go off at the mention of her name years later - paid for the Bibles out of pocket.

Beside Bibles, Annie also handed out countless tracts printed with the 23rd Psalm and her personal message of salvation.

She also handed out long-stemmed roses from a seemingly endless supply. All of it was paid for, somehow.

The Lord works in mysterious ways, but there was no real mystery to it for Annie's relatives, who wrote a lot of the checks that covered her expenses.


End of mission

Toward the end of her life, Annie lived at a hotel in Clarksville. Fort Campbell sent a military police car and driver every day to pick her up and take her to her boys.

In the late 1960s, she grew weaker and there were several occasions when the family was told she was dying at the post hospital. Each time she would be revived with a vitamin B12 shot and would go back to work as though nothing had happened.

In addition to her visits to the hospital and stockade, she had taken up a new duty - that of going to the airfield to stand on a box at plane-side and say goodbye to each of the soldiers headed toward a war in Vietnam that she totally opposed.

Annie often said that she had a direct line to God, and in 1969, she got it in her head to go see President Richard Nixon and give him a message from God that was for his ears only.

What it was about is unknown since she never divulged it to anyone else.

She rode the Greyhound bus to Washington and managed to get inside the White House where she waited in a hallway to see the president.

She was told repeatedly that Nixon was busy, but she refused to give the message to an aide or even to the White House chief of staff.

Finally, her strength gave out. She got on a Greyhound bus back to Clarksville and came home to die.

Home, of course, was Fort Campbell, where soldiers now conducted training maneuvers over the ruins of a bygone way of life that Annie had once tried to reach back to, before finding an unexpected new life and a new love.

She passed away on Sept. 26, 1969, at the age of 93, and was buried with full military honors at Greenwood Cemetery.

At the time of her death, all of her worldly possessions were contained in four cardboard boxes. Outpourings of grief, love and thanks from "her boys" constituted her otherworldly possessions.

Additional Links ~ 
Family links: 
  John Christie Barr (1872 - 1942)
Greenwood Cemetery
Montgomery County
Tennessee, USA
Created by: Jim Lester
Record added: Mar 18, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial# 86944480
Anna <i>Mabry</i> Barr
Added by: Jim Lester
Anna <i>Mabry</i> Barr
Added by: Jim Lester
Anna <i>Mabry</i> Barr
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Mert57
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