Augustus R. Barrows (also known as A. R. Barrows) (July 30, 1838 – December 20, 1885) was an American lumberman from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin who spent one term as an independent Greenbacker member of the Wisconsin State Assembly from Chippewa County, serving as the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly even though his party held only 13 of 100 seats therein. He later moved to Montana, where he became a rancher, and ran a saloon-hotel, a general store, and a sawmill.
Barrows was born in Olean, New York on July 30, 1838; he studied at an academy (later renamed Chamberlain Institute) in Randolph, New York, where his father was a pioneering lumberman. Augustus assisted his father in his business until on one of their trips to Cincinnati on a raft, his father lost a leg in an accident. He closed out his business in New York and moved with his family to Pleasant Grove, Minnesota in 1855, and went into farming. Augustus, who had accompanied his family to their new home, "followed various pursuits" for a while. He married Alice B. Duncan in Pleasant Grove on November 16, 1862. Barrows enlisted as a private in the 11th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War and was mustered out as a lieutenant on June 30, 1865. On mustering out, he returned to Wisconsin, settling in Chippewa County.
Barrows was elected County Treasurer of Chippewa County in 1869 to fill a vacancy, and re-elected for a full term in 1870; and served one term as mayor of Chippewa Falls. In 1872, he ran for the Assembly as a Democrat, losing to incumbent Republican Albert Pound (who was also a lumberman from Chippewa Falls), with 676 votes to Pound's 1205. In 1876, he ran for the Wisconsin State Senate's Eleventh District (again as a Democrat), losing to incumbent Republican Thomas Scott with 3,700 votes to Scott's 3,925.
He became a vigorous adherent of the Greenback movement, becoming known as "one of its ablest and most logical advocates in the state". In 1877, he ran for Chippewa County's sole Assembly seat as an independent Greenback, unseating Democratic incumbent Louis Vincent, who polled only 496 votes to 886 votes for Barrows and 555 for Republican O. R. Dahl. He was chosen as speaker on January 9, 1878, because the Assembly now consisted of 45 Republicans, 41 Democrats, 13 Greenbacks and a socialist: thus, the Greenbacks and socialist had leverage as tie-breakers, since the two major parties held mere pluralities. In 1879, rather than run for re-election, he ran for Congress under a fusion ticket as a Greenback/Democrat in the Eighth District, losing with 11,421 votes to 12,795 for Republican incumbent Thaddeus C. Pound (brother and partner of Albert Pound). He was succeeded in the Assembly by Republican former Assemblyman Hector McRae.
Moving to Montana
After losing the Congressional election, Barrows (who had suffered financial reverses in the real estate which constituted most of his wealth) organized a group of colonists who arrived in Martinsdale, Montana (a train stop on the main line of the Milwaukee Road), in June 1879. He brought a herd of blooded cattle with him, and went into stockraising, which he pursued for the rest of his life. Soon after his arrival there, he and Edward P. Allis of Milwaukee partnered to build a large sawmill, and began the manufacture of lumber at Sawmill Gulch in what was then Meagher County, Montana. He homesteaded 160 acres in a place he called "Ubet", also known as "U-Bet" or "U-bet" in what was then Fergus County. He built a stage stop hotel, saloon and general store on the stagecoach route, and moved there himself in 1881, becoming (with his family) among the first permanent white settlers of the Judith Basin.
He died on December 20, 1885 in Ubet, and was buried back in Chippewa Falls in a Masonic ceremony (he was a Masonic Knight Templar). He left Alice with a family of young children, but she continued to operate the businesses with the aid of her children, eventually increasing the original homestead to an estate of 2,000 acres. The Barrows were the parents of four children: John R.; Mary, who died at two years of age; Olive; and Clarence H. John, who became a lawyer in San Diego, California, later wrote a memoir of his family's life there titled U-Bet: A Greenhorn in Old Montana (1934; reprinted in 1990) which was reviewed in the New York Times as "dramatic and colorful."
- Cannon, A. Peter, ed. Members of the Wisconsin Legislature: 1848–1999. State of Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau Informational Bulletin 99-1, September 1999; p. 26. Archived 2006-12-09 at the Wayback Machine.
- "Wisconsin News: A. R. Barrows". December 26, 1885. p. 8. https://www.newspapers.com/clip/4817331/augustus_barrows_18381885/. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
- Bashford, R. M., ed. The legislative manual of the state of Wisconsin: comprising the constitutions of the United States and of the state of Wisconsin, Jefferson's manual, forms and laws for the regulation of business; also, lists and tables for reference, etc. Seventeenth Annual Edition. Madison: David Atwood, Printer and Stereotyper, 1878; pp. 391, 392, 457, 465-466, 486.
- Progressive Men of Montana Chicago: A. W. Bowen & Co. [n.d.]; vol. 2, pp. 993-994
- Undated photograph of Ubet Hotel
- Photograph of a token coin issued by Barrows circa 1886
- WorldCat listing for U-Bet: A Greenhorn in Old Montana
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