Miller, Gordon W. Collection on Gabriel Thomas Barbee, 1787-2005

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Descriptive Summary


Repository: Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University

Title: Gordon W. Miller Collection on Gabriel Thomas Barbee, 1787-2005

Collection No.: SC 0193
Creator: Miller, Gordon Wayne, 1938-

Extent: 2 boxes; .66 cubic feet

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. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

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 (

Preferred Citation: [identification of item], [box #, folder #], Gordon W. Miller Collection on Gabriel Thomas Barbee, 1787-2005, SC 0193, Special Collections, Carrier Library, James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA

Acquisition Information: Donated by Gordon W. Miller in January 2005.
Processing Information: In order to streamline the process of applying collection numbers, Special Collections staff completed a large-scale renumbering campaign in 2017-2018. This collection was previously cataloged as SC 5014.

Bio/Historical Note:

Gabriel Thomas Barbee was born in Rappahannock County, Virginia, in 1814. In 1834 he moved to Petersburg in Hardy County (then Virginia, now West Virginia), 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, Virginia, 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 Virginia. 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, West Virginia, and was buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Bridgewater, Virginia.

Scope and Content:

These materials were gathered by Gordon W. Miller, 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.


The collection is arranged in three series:
Series 1: Biological and Genealogical Data on G.T. Barbee
Series 2: Farmer's Alliance, 1889-1894
Series 3: Research Trail, 1990-1993

Separated Material:

A copy of Miller's Gabriel Thomas Barbee of Bridgewater, Virginia and the Virginia Farmers' Alliance (2005) was removed from the collection and cataloged individually as part of the Special Collections rare books holdings.


Series 1: Biological/Genealogical Data on G.T. Barbee, undated

Series 1, Biographical and Genealogical Data on G.T.Barbee, contains documentation used to inform Gordon W. Miller's book 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 Smals Diary Entries folder includes pages from the Henry Smals Diaries of Bridgewater, Virginia that mention Barbee.

Folder Title
Box : Folder
General, undated
Deeds, undated
Census Records, 1787-1900
Business Dealings, undated
Smals Diary Entries, undated
Genealogical Materials, undated
Newspaper Articles, undated
Newspaper Articles, undated

Series 2: Farmers' Alliance, 1889-1894

Series 2, 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, Virginia, 1891; Farmers Alliance Co-operative Mfg. Co., Iron Gate, Virginia, 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).

Folder Title
Box : Folder
Virginia Alliance State Documents, undated
Virginia State Alliance, undated
National Alliance, undated
National Alliance-Books, undated
National Economist, undated
National Economist issues, June 1890-1893

Series 3: Research Trail, 1990-1993

Series 3, 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.

Folder Title
Box : Folder
Correspondence, undated

Compiled by: Chris Bolgiano, April 2005; Alicia Henneberry, October 2013