A Guide to the Gordon W. Miller Collection, 1787-2005

Collection Number SC 5014

Compiled by: Chris Bolgiano, April 2005

Revised by: Alicia Henneberry, October, 2013

Descriptive Summary


Repository: Special Collections, Carrier library, James Madison University

Title: Gordon W. Miller Collection, 1787-2005

Collections No.: 5014

Creator: Gordon W. Miller

Extent:  16 legal sized folders

Language: English

Abstract: Photocopies of materials documenting Gabriel T. Barbee's influence in the Virginia Farmers' Alliance, 1887-1894. 


Administrative Information


Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions: The copyright interests in this collection have been transferred to the James Madison University Special Collection Library. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (library-special@jmu.edu).

Preferred Citation: Gordon W. Miller Collection, 1787-2005, SC 5014, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Acquisition Information: Donated by Gordon W. Miller in January, 2005


Bio/Historical Note:  Gabriel Thomas Barbee was born in Rappahannock County, VA, in 1814.  In 1834 he moved to Petersburg in Hardy County (then VA, now WV), where he worked as a merchant and a dealer in land.  He served in the Virginia Senate from 1847-1851.  After a short and apparently unsuccessful stint in wholesale trade in Baltimore in the 1850s, Barbee returned to Hardy County and resumed his business interests there, including a small amount of farming.  In the 1860s Barbee moved to Lynchburg, VA, but also purchased land in Bridgewater, VA and moved there in the 1870s, where he and his family ran a hotel called the Barbee House.  In 1878 he was elected major of Bridgewater and from 1880-1883 served as editor of The Bridgewater Journal.  In 1887, after a trip to Texas where he came into contact with Farmers Alliance leaders, Barbee began holding meetings in Bridgewater to form a sub-alliance in VA.  For the next three years he devoted most of his time to organizing a state Farmers' Alliance, serving as president in 1889 and 1890, by which time the organization had over 30,000 members in 85 county alliances.  He also organized members in several other states, notably WV, and served on the Credentials Committee of the National Alliance. Barbee continued to be highly active on the state and national levels but the populist movement peaked by about 1894 and declined thereafter.  Barbee died in 1908 in Romney, WV, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Bridgewater, VA. 


Scope and Content: These materials were gathered by Gordon W. Miller, a widely known and respected History Reference Librarian at JMU's Carrier Library from 1977-2003, during more than a decade of research on the life of Gabriel Thomas Barbee and in particular Barbee's role as primary organizer of the Virginia Farmers' Alliance, 1887-1894.  Except for Mr. Miller's original publication on Barbee, all materials are photocopies, and represent an in-depth research effort to compile information from all possible sources. 


Series I, Biographical and Genealogical Data on G.T.Barbee, contains the book by Gordon W. Miller titled Gabriel Thomas Barbee of Bridgewater, Virginia and the Virginia Farmer’s Alliance, as well as Barbee’s will and two Civil War letters from Barbee. The Deeds folder contains photocopies of deeds involving purchase of sale of property by Barbee. The Business Dealings folder includes envelopes from businesses that dealt with Barbee, and two business letters. The Small Diary Entries folder includes pages from the Henry Smalls Diaries of Bridgewater VA that mention Barbee.

Series II, Farmer’s Alliance, includes the Constitution of the Farmer’s State Alliance of Virginia, 1889 and 1891. Prospectus of the Alliance of the Fertilizer Works of West Point, VA, 1891; Farmers Alliance Co-operative Mfg. Co., Iron Gate, VA,1890; Proceedings of the 3rd Annual  Session of the State Farmer’s Alliance, 1890; related articles from the Virginia Sun, 1893; several letters by Secretary-Treasurer, J.J. Silvey, 1892-1894, and one by Barbee, 1891; roll of delegates, 1891; excerpts from books and journals on the Farmers’ Alliance, including "National Farmers Alliance and Industrial Union Ritual," 1890; issues if the Official Organ of the Farmer’s Alliance (1889-May, 1890).

Series III, Research trail, includes letters by Mr. Miller to institutions and individuals concerning his search for traces of Barbee, with some responses and notes on research sources, 1990-1993

Arrangement: The Collection is arranged in three series:

Separated material: Folder 1, Series I was removed from the collection and placed in the Rare Books Collection as LD3141.M566I M54864 2005





Series I: Biological/Genealogical Data on G.T. Barbee


       Gabriel Thomas Barbee of Bridgewater,     Virginia and the Farmers’ Alliance, by Gordon W.     Miller, 38p.







      Census Records, 1787-1900


      Business Dealings


      Small Diary Entries


      Genealogical Materials


      Newspaper Articles


Series II: Farmers’ Alliance


      VA Alliance State Documents


      VA State Alliance


      National Alliance


      National Alliance-Books




      National Economist


      National Economist, issues June, 1890-1893


Series III: Research Trail