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This article is from the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, 6 volumes, edited by William S. Powell. Copyright ©1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Barnes, David Alexander

by Claiborne T. Smith, Jr., 1979

1819–24 June 1892

Excerpt from Barne's diary, click for larger. Courtesy of UNC Libraries. David Alexander Barnes, judge and legislator, was born in Northampton County, the son of Collin W. Barnes and Collin's second wife and cousin Louisa Barnes. Collin Barnes, a native of Nansemond County, Va., had settled in Northampton and become a successful planter; he represented the county in the North Carolina Senate in 1829 and 1830.

Following graduation from The University of North Carolina in 1840, David Barnes entered politics and represented Northampton County in the House of Commons in 1844, 1846, and 1850. A member of the Secession Convention in 1861, he was during the war a member of the military council of Governor Zebulon Vance. In 1866, Barnes was appointed provisional judge of the superior court of the First Judicial District by Governor W. W. Holden; he served until 1868. The same governor appointed him trustee of The University of North Carolina in 1868. In 1872, Barnes moved to Murfreesboro; in 1873 he was a candidate for Congress but was defeated by C. L. Cobb. In July 1873, at the instance of the state board of education, a state educational convention was held under the presidency of B. F. Moore. Barnes was one of the vice-presidents of the convention, which met to discuss the reopening of the university. While still living in Jackson, Barnes was one of the thirteen persons who organized the Church of the Saviour in 1851 and later served on the vestry. He was well-regarded by his fellow citizens for his general manners and acquirements.

In 1872, Barnes married Bettie Vaughan, the daughter of Colonel Uriah Vaughan, a well-to-do merchant in Murfreesboro. They had one son, David Collin, and three daughters.


Kemp P. Battle, History of the University of North Carolina, 2 vols. (1907–12).

D. L. Grant, Alumni History of the University of North Carolina (1924).

John H. Wheeler, Reminiscences and Memoirs of North Carolina (1883–84).

Benjamin B. Winborne, The Colonial and State Political History of Hertford County (1906).

Additional Resources:

David A. Barnes Papers, 1806-1892 (collection no. 03484). The Southern Historical Collection. Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.,David_A.html (accessed March 1, 2013).

Barnes, David Alexander 1819-1892 in WorldCat:,%20david%20alexander$1819%201892

Murfreesboro Historical Association Collection: Benjamin B. Winborne Papers, ECU Manuscript Collection:

Outhouse elevations, David A. Barnes House, Hertford County, North Carolina, NCSU Collections:

Biographic Information, UNC:,%20David%20Alexander

Excerpts from the Diary of David A. Barnes , February 10 and 15, 1840:

Image Credits:

Excerpts from the Diary of David A. Barnes , February 10 and 15, 1840. Courtesy of UNC Libraries, Documenting the American South: (Accessed March 1, 2013).