General Joshua Barnes House
THE PERFECT STORY
The General Joshua Barnes House: Joining past, present, and future
By Alan Johnson
Our new home, the General Joshua Barnes House, links a distant past with the unknown future. All homes represent a new beginning on established foundations for their occupants, but this home has a history longer than most. When we bought the property last October, one of the many pieces of paper exchanged at the table was a record of previous owners. It appears that, in its 168 year history, the General Joshua Barnes House has been lived in continuously by one family after another. That is unusual among old houses and a blessing to us, since there has been little required in the way of restoration as we begin our adventure here. Many houses this age require a lot of labor before taking on new occupants. Thanks to the loving care of the prior owners, Mr. and Mrs. E.C. Winstead, the house and property are available to our family and community as a beautiful space to be enjoyed for years to come.
The house was built in 1844 around an earlier Federal period home, and the home combines both Federal and Greek Revival architectural elements. Its antebellum roots tie the place to an institution that cannot and should not be forgotten. The 1850 and 1860 census records confirm the original owner, General Joshua Barnes, owned over 60 slaves. Mr. Barnes was a general in the local militia and did not serve as a soldier in the Civil War. He was a local leader, credited with establishing Wilson County during his tenure in the state legislature in the 1850’s. Twenty years after the house was built, slavery ended with the painful re-birth of our nation from a war that still fascinates us 150 years later. The original property was over 1,000 acres. Today the house sits on 2.5 acres. Because it backs up to open farm land, the site still evokes a rural way of life that continues to slip away with the expansion of urban centers. As our family of six settles in, we cherish the opportunity to add to the life lived within these walls. No future is certain, but it is certain that the past and present existence of this house are special and to be valued, as is consistent with the mission of our friends and neighbors at Preservation of Wilson. We look forward to adding our bit of history to the place and one day handing the same opportunity to the next generation.
The Perfect House for the Perfect Family
Alan, Jennifer and their four children, Isabelle, Elizabeth, Katherine, and Sam, moved to Wilson from Manassas, Virginia. Alan works at Purdue Pharmaceuticals. Jennifer is a talented fiber artist who enjoys spinning wool, weaving, and knitting and has home schooled all four children since they were small; the three girls are still at home while Sam is now a at Fike High School. The Johnsons have embraced life in the country at the General Joshua Barnes house – enjoying the established horticultural gems (fruit trees, blueberries, flowers), planting a vegetable garden, tending five chickens, an angora rabbit, a dog, two cats, and awaiting the arrival of a new hive of honey bees in the spring!
History and Details on the House
This pre-Civil War house was the home of Joshua Barnes, known as “the Father of Wilson County”. The house was built in 1844 as an addition to a pre-existing Federal style home. Barnes was a wealthy landowner, planter and statesman during the mid-nineteenth century. He was involved in the incorporation of the Town of Wilson, and was instrumental in the formation of the county. He served in the state legislature for many years during the mid 1850s, and was active in the development of schools in Wilson. This house is listed on the National Register due to its association with the development of Wilson County, its association with General Joshua Barnes, and its unique architectural features.
The home maintains the architectural distinctiveness and flavor of the antebellum southern plantation home. The vernacular Greek Revival plantation house is typical of those in eastern North Carolina before the Civil War. The simple three bay façade is capped with a shallow hipped roof and a plain continuous frieze set under boxed eaves. The trabeated door contains remnants of the original cranberry glass which once filled the transom and sidelights, and dates to ca. 1870 when the house was remodeled. The simple hipped roof porch with plain square columns probably also dates after the Civil War. The only documented examples of Federal woodwork in Wilson are found in two interior rooms.
There are nine rooms, six bedrooms, and two baths with a total of seven fireplaces. Included is a front porch, enclosed rear porch, attached storage room, storage building and a garage/shop area.
Wilson is a quaint Southern town with a population of about 50,000. Wilson’s location is forty minutes to Raleigh, an hour to the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, two hours to the beach, and five hours to the mountains. Wilson has a strong industrial base with manufacturing companies that include Merck Manufacturing, Purdue Pharmaceutical, Sandoz, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, LiveDo USA, and many others