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 Martin V. Barnhart

Martin V. Barnhart

Indiana, USA
Death 2 Feb 1866 (aged 23)
Carson City, Carson City, Nevada, USA
Burial Carson City, Carson City, Nevada, USA
Plot 1B-16-21
Memorial ID 40320992 · View Source
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Newspaper Article, Carson Daily Appeal, February 2, 1866: Martin V. Barnhart was killed by Thomas Peasley, in the Ormsby House, Carson City, Ormsby County, in self-defense. The former attacked him with a six-shooter, and though mortally wounded, Peasley managed to kill his assailant.

February 2, 1866, Carson Daily Appeal: Thomas Peasley was killed by Martin V. Barnhart, in the Ormsby House, Carson City, Ormsby County. Mistaken identity the cause.

Facts about Martin V. Barnhart:

Martin V. Barnhart was elected to membership in Warren Engine Co. No. 1 [Carson City, Nevada Fire Department] on July 11, 1863. A George W. Barnhart was elected to the Company a month later. Their relationship is not certain. Martin was a member of the Company until his death on February 2, 1866. (Information from Kani Shannon, Trustee, Warren Engine Co. No. 1, Carson City, NV, June 12, 1987)

Tom Peasley was Fire Chief of a fire company in Virginia City, Nevada, and that may explain the rivalry and animosity that apparently existed, at least on Barnhart's part, that led to the gunfight that took both their lives.

The following excerpt is from an article written by J.L. Considine, an old-time Nevada newspaperman of the early 1900's. This excerpt tells about Barnhart's victim and how the event occurred.


Tom Peasley was a noted Comstocker of the early 1860's. You will find him in Mark Twain's "Roughing It" under the name of Buck Fanshaw. He was reared in New York and in a tough tradition—-one of the boys who ran with the machine (the fire engine) and wielded a wicked right.

Tom came to the Comstock with good intentions, somewhat impeded in their exercise by his fondness for good whiskey. He aimed at being a useful citizen, was organizer and first head of the Virginia City [Nevada] fire department, sergeant-at-arms of the state senate, and did much to hold Nevada in the Union during the Civil War.

The beginning of the end came while he was staying in Carson City as sergeant-at-arms of the state senate. He was standing at a bar one night when he overheard an insulting remark. He mistakenly thought it intended for himself. Wheeling like lightening, he struck the supposed offender on the jaw, knocking him flat.

Friends informed him of his mistake. He tendered what was for him a humble apology to the injured stranger, a young man named Martin Barnhart. But Barnhart refused to accept the apology and nursed the grudge.

They met again the following summer while on vacation at the little village of Glenbrook on the shore of Lake Tahoe. Barnhart sent Peasley a challenge to a duel with pistols.

Peasley declined it. "I told Barnhart at the time I struck him that I was sorry for it," he said. "I regret it now and I don't want to injure him further. I know how to shoot and if we fought with pistols, he would surely get hurt. Let bygones be bygones. That's the way I feel about it, and tell him I hope he will feel the same."

This plea for forgiveness and peace failed to move Barnhart. But for the time being he took no hostile step.

Another half-year rolled by. Although no longer sergeant-at-arms, Peasley visited Carson to commune with some of his friends from the year previous.

The business section of Carson followed mainly one street. It was well studded with bar rooms and in the rear of several of these were billiard tables. In company with Ned Ingham, Peasley went from one to another of those places, playing billiards. Presently they noticed they were not long in a place before Martin Barnhart and a pair of comrades would drop in, have a drink at the bar, and look around before leaving.

The night wore away and Peasley and Ingham would up at the Ormsby House, where Peasley had a room. It was well past midnight, but Peasley . . . never retired early. Two o'clock in the morning came and found him, Ingham, an old newspaperman named Lewis, and one or two others sitting around the stove in the lobby of the hotel, smoking and chatting. Peasley threw away the stub of his cigar, hesitated a moment, drew another from his vest pocket.

"One more cigar," he said, "then I'm going to bed."

He bit off the end of the cigar, lit and began to puff on it. The street door opened, letting in a blast of icy air and swirling snow. In burst Martin Barnhart and his two companions. Straight up to Peasley he strode, the others right behind him. He faced Peasley with an ugly glint in his eye.

"Why didn't you fight me last summer at Glenbrook?" he barked.

Peasley looked up wearily from his chair. He brushed the ash from the end of his cigar.

"I don't know," he drawled in a tired voice. The words came slowly and hesitatingly. "Are you always on the fight?"

"Yes!" roared Barnhart, calling Peasley by a vile name. His pistol pointed straight at Peasley's breast, was in his hand.

Peasley's eyes widened in surprise. "You don't mean to murder me, do you?" he exclaimed.

The only answer was the crash of Barnhart's revolver. Peasley's body stiffened convulsively from the shock of a bullet that had pierced his heart. Another bullet entered his body.

But even against this mortal wound his giant vitality rallied. He tried to rise. Barnhart seized him by the shoulder, pressed him down again. Clubbing his gun, Barnhart's free hand rose and fell. The revolver handle came down on Peasley's skull with a crash. The skull was broken. Broken also was the revolver, so great was the force of the blow. The handle clattered to the floor, leaving the barrel in Barnhart's hand.
But even with a broken skull and bullet in his heart, Peasley's life spark still endured. He looked at the men around him.

"Don't let him murder me," he begged. "What are you all doing?" till it was not Ingham, the man who called him "friend," that intervened. It was the old editor, Lewis, that wrenched the barrel of the revolver from Barnhart's hand.

"There!" he exclaimed. "You have shot and beaten him enough."

Dreadfully wounded though he was, Peasley needed but this momentary respite to rally his forces. Though dazed and dying, he staggered to his feet. He fumbled for his gun, got it out.

The craven Barnhart faltered, turned to run. "Don't let him shoot me," he screamed. But his two pals, terrified at Peasley's miraculous show of strength, fell back with wide eyes and white faces.

Gropingly like a man blinded, Peasley stumbled forward. He seemed to be guiding himself by the sound of Barnhart's voice. His revolver was in his hand, but he did not fire. He could no see well enough to make sure.

Barnhart ran to the washroom, bolted inside and locked the door behind him.

Peasley, head cocked to one side, listened, lurched in the direction of the sound. He got to the door. Its upper half was made of frosted glass. He rested his big left hand against it. Up came the other, with great effort.

He pressed the muzzle of his gun against the glass. The roar of the revolver mingled with the crash of the shattered window. The acrid scent of powder smoke filled the air.

His fumbling left hand groped for the knob and found it. For once he was too weak to break down a door with his shoulder. He turned the knob, flung open the door.

Again he raised his revolver. He tried to press the trigger but failed. He was too weak even for that. He reeled.

"My God!" he cried, "I'm shot through and through."

He sank to the floor. His eyes closed. The watchers gazed with bated breath and wondering eyes.

"He's dead," gasped Lewis.

Peasley's eyes opened once more for the last time. They circled the group, came to rest on Ingham's face. He had not proved himself much of a friend, still Peasley knew him better than the rest. Ingham knelt and raised him a little.

"Is Barnhart dead?" whispered Peasley.

"Yes, Tom, dead as a mackerel."

Even through the paling face and glazing eyes, a grim smile dawned.

"That's good," he gasped. "Pull off my boots." He paused for a final breath. "And send for my brother, Andy."

One great sigh. His eyelids dropped. Tom Peasley was dead.

(Nevada State Journal, Reno, Nevada, Sunday, January 7, 1940, page 16)


A native of Ind.
Born Feb 16 1842
Feb 2 1866
erected by A FRIEND





  • Created by: Ed Barnhart
  • Added: 5 Aug 2009
  • Find A Grave Memorial 40320992
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Martin V. Barnhart (16 Feb 1842–2 Feb 1866), Find A Grave Memorial no. 40320992, citing Lone Mountain Cemetery, Carson City, Carson City, Nevada, USA ; Maintained by Ed Barnhart (contributor 47151681) .