Joshua David “Dave” Barnwell, Part Two by Bruce Whitaker

Dave Barnwell survived the Civil War in much better shape than most people in the area. His real estate was valued at $4000.00 and his personal property was listed at $400.00, according to the 1870 census. After the war ended Dave and his wife Sarah‘s life returned to normal. They farmed and raised their children and prospered. By the mid-1870’s, however, Dave and Sarah’s marriage began to crumble. David Barnwell had separation papers drawn up stating that he and Sarah could no longer live together. Dave and Sarah agreed that she would have custody of the children, and he gave his wife a 220-acre farm so that she could provide for herself and them. When the 1880 census was taken Dave and Sarah both told the census taker they were divorced.
David Barnwell rented his house in Asheville to his sister-in-law Amy Lanning Maxwell (1832-1916) and hired Anderson Garren, who was married to Dave’s sister Sarah Barnwell (1825-1902), to help move some of Amy’s household furniture and corn to Asheville. Anderson Garren and Dave loaded the household goods and grain on Garren’s wagon pulled by two oxen and left for Asheville. They arrived in Asheville the night of Saturday, November 24, 1877.
Barnwell and Garren ate supper that night with Amy Maxwell and N.J. Benefield. Garren wanted to unload his wagon and head home after they finished eating, but Barnwell told him they would wait until Monday to unload the wagon. He said it was late and if they did not get the wagon unloaded by midnight they would be fined for unloading a wagon on Sunday, which was illegal at that time. Anderson Garren then left and went to a house nearby whose owner had a clock. Garren asked the neighbor the time and was told it was 10 o’clock. Anderson Garren went back to Amy Maxwell’s house and told Barnwell that they had time to unload the wagon before midnight. Dave Barnwell told Garren again they would just wait to Monday. Anderson Garren refused. He said he was not going to stay in Asheville to Monday at his own expense.
Anderson Garren had been drinking whiskey since noon that day. He went outside cursing, climbed into the wagon and began throwing the contents of the wagon onto the street. Dave went outside and offered to help Garren unload the wagon. Garren cursed Barnwell, who got mad and went back into the house. After throwing all the contents of the wagon on the street, Garren got his oxen and was starting to hitch them to the wagon when Dave Barnwell came back out of the house and told Garren to “hold on.” Anderson Garren left his oxen and charged at Barnwell. Garren was bigger and more muscular than Barnwell; he knocked Barnwell down and jumped on top of him. Dave Barnwell managed to get to his knife and stabbed Garren, who died in a matter of minutes. The police were sent for and they arrested Dave Barnwell and put him in the Buncombe County Jail.
David Barnwell hired C. M. McCloud as his lawyer. Two days after the killing, David Barnwell sold his lot in Asheville to McCloud for $500, and then sold his lot in Hendersonville to his lawyer for $700. It is believed David Garren did this to help pay McCloud for his legal expenses.
David Barnwell remained in jail until his trial in May of 1878. On May 26, 1878, the jury found Dave Barnwell guilty of murder. Barnwell was sentenced to be hanged but McCloud appealed his case to the North Carolina Supreme Court, which found that the judge in the case had made an error in his instructions to the jury. Barnwell was granted a new trial in the spring of 1879. The jury deliberated five days before finding Barnwell not guilty, ruling that he acted in self-defense. Barnwell was released from Buncombe County Jail after serving 19 months.
David Barnwell returned to his Hooper’s Creek farm. He and his ex-wife Sarah had remained on friendly terms, and he sent word to her to come over to his house the next morning and cook him breakfast. He said had something he wished to tell her. The morning
of December 27, 1881, Sarah Lanning Barnwell came over to her ex-husband’s house and cooked him breakfast. He sat down to eat but then slumped over dead at the table. She never found out what her ex-husband wanted to tell her. David Barnwell was buried in Hooper’s Creek Baptist Church Cemetery.
There was a rumor in the family that David Barnwell had buried some gold on his property. Many hunted for it with no luck. After modern metal detectors came out, two men got one and searched for David Barnwell’s gold. After going over Barnwell’s land most of the day, the metal detector located a metal object. The two men dug down to a metal object covered with tree roots. It was almost dark and they knew it would take a while to cut through the roots. They decided to wait until the next morning to finish digging whatever it was out of the ground. The next morning they went out and found the tree roots had been cut and below them was the imprint of a three legged metal pot.
Sarah Lanning Barnwell died March 14, 1911 and was buried in ­. Her tombstone inscription reads “Mother’s gone to worlds above, where saints and angels meet, to realize our Saviors’ love and to worship at his feet.”
Joshua David Barnwell and his first wife Susannah Saphronia Clark Barnwell had the following children:
James Riley Barnwell was born on Hooper’s Creek on January 1, 1857. Harriet Taylor Tow (1859-1918) was his first wife and Hester Clark his second. James died on January 28, 1947. He and his first wife are buried in Hooper’s Creek Cemetery.
Mary Elizabeth Barnwell was born on Hooper’s Creek on January 28, 1859. She married David Whitfield Lyda (1856-1941). Mary died April 7, 1966 at age 107. Both are buried in the Lanning-Pittillo Cemetery.
Jefferson Davis Barnwell died in infancy in 1861.
Joshua David Barnwell and second wife Sarah Lanning Barnwell had the following children:
Purna Alvira Barnwell was born on Hooper’s Creek on October 10, 1864. She married James Lyda. Purna died November 3, 1950. She is buried in Oakdale Cemetery in Hendersonville.
Saphronia Barnwell, c.1865 – c.1883.
William G. Barnwell, c. 1866 – c. 1873.
Major Manson Jeremiah Barnwell was born on Hooper’s Creek on February 1, 1868. He married Sittles Beddingfield
(1878-1960). Major died on July 16, 1942. Both are buried in Hooper’s Creek Cemetery.
Annie Jane Adeline Barnwell was born on June 9, 1869 on Hooper’s Creek. She married John B. Pittillo (1866–1941). She died on January 23, 1948. Both are buried in the Lanning–Pittillo Cemetery.

Local historian Bruce Whitaker documents genealogy in the Fairview area.