Charles E. Barnard (mayor, 1876)
Mayor Charles E. Barnard and Uticans did just that on the Fourth of July in 1876 – the country’s 100th birthday. It was Centennial Day and the city throbbed with patriotism.
A parade on Monday night, July 3rd, attracted thousands as bands led hundreds of marchers from City Hall on Genesee Street, south to Oneida Square, down State Street to Whitesboro Street, east to Bagg’s Square and back to City Hall. The Utica Observer reported that the streets were "a blaze of light."
Later, everyone gathered at Franklin Square for a dazzling display of fireworks. The main speaker was Utica’s U.S. Sen. Francis Kernan, a Democrat. New York’s other U.S. senator also was a Utican – Republican Roscoe Conkling.
The Fourth began with the ringing of church bells throughout the city and another parade. This one was from City Hall to Bagg’s Square where there was music, food and speeches by Mayor Barnard and others. At night there were more fireworks.
The Utica Observer called Centennial Day the "grandest affair ever witnessed in the city where red, white and blue met the eye everywhere. We all are indebted greatly to the untiring effort of Mayor Barnard."
Barnard, a Democrat, was elected mayor in March 1876. He defeated Republican Theodore Butterfield, 3,203 to 2,690. Butterfield had been mayor in 1872.
Politics flowed in Barnard’s veins for his father, Harvey, had been elected to Utica’s first Common Council when the village became a city in 1832.
Harvey and Phoebe Broadwell Barnard lived at 55 Genesee Street and his store was located there, too. He was a paperhanger and dealer in wallpaper. It was there that Charles was born in 1825. He was educated in local public schools and then joined his father’s business. When his father died, his son took over the business. He later became president of the New York State Wall Paper Protective Association with hundreds of members across the state.
It was during Barnard’s year as mayor that the Oneida Historical Society was formed in December 1876. Today, it is known as the Oneida County History Center.
Many county residents had been concerned that the county for years had been losing irreplaceable historical documents and artifacts. Every day, cellars and attics were being cleaned and thrown into the trash were old books, maps, pamphlets, paintings, documents and letters written by local boys while on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War and the recent Civil War. Uniforms were being thrown out, too.
Utica’s former Gov. Horatio Seymour said: "Many counties have historical societies to collect and preserve their historical papers and artifacts. Why not Oneida County?
The centennial year seemed like the perfect time to solve the problem. And so the Oneida Historical Society was born and Seymour was named its first president. Its first board of councilors included U.S. Sen. Roscoe Conkling, U.S. Francis Kernan, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ward Hunt, county historian Pomeroy Jones and Utica industrialist Theodore Faxton.
Barnard was active in many community affairs and had been a volunteer fireman for years. He was a member of the Utica Citizens Corps, Ziyara Temple, the Faxton Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons, and the Forest Hill Cemetery Association. He also was treasurer of Utica Commandery No. 3, Knights Templar.
He died on May 4, 1888, at age 63 in his home at No. 5 Rutger Park (the building still stands) where he lived with his wife and two children, Alice and Charles Jr. His funeral at his home attracted a large crowd and he was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery.
The Utica Observer wrote: "Mayor Barnard was a citizen of whom it would be difficult to say too much in the way of laudation. The people of Utica knew him as a quick, energetic man. To his friends – and they are legion – the news of his death comes as a sad and sudden event. He was the embodiment of uprightness and industry. He was one of Utica’s most respected and honored citizens."
Frank Tomaino is the Observer-Dispatch historian and he also serves on the board of the Oneida County History Center. Contact Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.