Honorable William D Barry, whose death occurred at his home in this city January 27, 1892, was a native of Oneida County, New York, having been born March 28, 1809 in the region made famous during the old Indian and Revolutionary wars, within a short distance of the peaceful valley of the Mohawk. His father, John Barry was a native of Connecticut and his mother, Eunice (Sweet) Barry, of Vermont, with the family originally being of Irish extraction. In 1828 young Barry, then but nineteen years of age, was employed as a stage driver on a route leading from what was then the village of Utica and later an attendant of the Auburn state prison. Of these early days he was always fond of speaking and his stories of the period when the great Erie Canal was under way were very interesting. When it is considered that this canal was in process of construction from 1817 to 1825 and that the event occurred within the lifetime of a man whom all knew so well, his loss as a prominent connecting link between the old days and the new will be more deeply felt.
In 1835, having applied himself closely and carefully to the study of medicine, Mr. Barry was licensed by the New York Medical Society and began practicing. Removing the same year to a new field at Napoleon, Henry, Ohio, he saw a chance to better his finances by taking a contract for constructing a portion of the Wabash and Erie Canal. He could not however, renounce his plans for continuing in a professional career and the practice of medicine not being entirely congenial, he gave it up and read law in the office of state senator Bates, was admitted to practice and a month later was elected state’s attorney of Henry county.
The “western fever” claimed him as a victim and in 1840 he removed to Illinois and located at St. Charles where for nearly 52 years he remained, finally closing his life amid the scenes and associations of over a half of century. He was twice married; first to Eliza Sealbrooke and second to Isabella Thom on January 18, 1845 in St. Charles, she being a native of Aberdeen, Scotland or its vicinity. Her father, John Thom, was a soldier in the British army and a lieutenant in the famous 42nd regiment of Highlanders, the “Black Watch” with which he participated in the battle of Waterloo. Two children, Eliza D. and William T., are both deceased. The death of Mrs. Barry but a few days ago undoubtedly hastened that of her husband, as by it he was left entirely alone to bear the great weight of age and sorrow. There is something beautiful in the going out of two lives so closely together after so many years of association.
Mr. Barry was an acknowledged leader in his chosen profession. He was careful not to make mistakes and thorough in all of his legal work. From him many younger members of the bar learned lessons which have been and will continue to be valuable; and those who have had the privilege of reading law in his office, may well be proud of the fact. Among those were his brother, Alonzo H. Barry, now of Elgin and Terrence E. Ryan of St. Charles, both having held important positions in the gift of their Kane county constituents.
In 1851 Mr. Barry was first elected county judge of Kane County, holding the position six years. In 1869 he was once again called to the office for a term of four years and his administration of its affairs is remembered as just and satisfactory. During the early years of his residence here he conducted many hard criminal trials, among them being the defense of Taylor Driscoll of Ogle County, for the alleged murder of one Campbell during the period when horse stealing and kindred crimes were epidemic in northern Illinois. Through his efforts Driscoll was acquitted.
Judge Barry beside being an able politician and shrewd in all the old time methods of political management was also intensely patriotic and his ringing words in behalf of the country and the flag have many times created enthusiasm among those who listened to his homely but earnest eloquence. He never claimed to be a polished orator but when it became necessary to deal in hard knocks or to cause the discomfiture of opponents, his strong voice and peculiar style came to his aide with telling effect. His shots flew straight to the mark, and the man who could come out of an encounter with him with colors flying was seldom met with. An earnest Republican, he assisted greatly in nursing that party into full strength and stood by it from the day of birth until he had laid down the work of his life to unite with his loved ones who had gone before. During the long service of General John F. Farnsworth in Congress, Judge Barry was one of his trusted advisers and led the great abolitionist’s forces in many a hard fought campaign. When Farnsworth left the Republican Party in 1872, Judge Barry refused to follow him and denounced his old chieftain on the stump in unmeasured terms. For many years the venerable Judge has been President of the Bar Association of Kane County.
Like all men who achieve success or become prominent, Judge Barry had his enemies but none could fail to recognize and respect his strong qualities even as now none can refrain from mourning the departure of a figure familiar to this region for so many years. May the rugged form, worn by disease and battered by the storms of age, rest well.
Contributor: Tom Jacobs (47386400) •
Eunice Sweet Barry