Robert Guild Barr

Robert Guild or Guild R., also known as “Ban”, was born October 8, 1839, in Paris, Kent County, Michigan, eldest son of Robert M. (1813-1910) and Mary W. (Guild, d. 1909).

In 1826 Robert M. moved from New York to Ypsilanti with his parents, and as a young man of 21, he settled along the banks of the Grand River in 1834, the year after the first permanent settlement was established in what would become Grand Rapids. According to one source, Robert M. “prospered rapidly and engaged in” a variety of trades throughout his life in Grand Rapids: he worked as a musician and was reportedly much in demand at the time, he also worked as a carpenter, and eventually opening a meat business and for a time he manufactured matches. “These matches were plain, primitive sulphur and brimstone variety and were dipped carefully by hand.”

Robert M. met and married Mary Guild, the daughter of Joel Guild, one of the founders of Grand Rapids. (Joel had settled along the banks of the Grand River in 1833).

Little is known of the early life of his son Robert G., who was commonly called “Guild” Barr. By 1859-60 he was boarding on the east side of Spring Street between Island and Oakes Streets, and in 1860 was working as a marble cutter living in Grand Rapids' First Ward.

Guild stood 5’8” with brown eyes, brown hair and a dark complexion and was 21 years old and still living in Grand Rapids when he enlisted on May 28, 1861, in Company A. (He may have been a member of the Valley City Guard, the prewar Grand Rapids militia company whose members would form the nucleus of Company A, under the command of Captain Samuel Judd, who would also command Company A.)

He was shot in the right side of his abdomen, at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia on May 31, 1862, and subsequently absent sick in the hospital in July of 1862. It was said in later years that he was wounded so badly at Fair Oaks “that the surgeons supposed he would not live, and hence his wounds were not dressed until about 48 hours after” he was brought in to the hospital. “But,” wrote the Grand Rapids Eagle in 1875, “nature rallied, and after a long prostration under hospital treatment, he was discharged . . . came home and so far recovered as to be able to ride on horseback.”

In fact, however, he soon rejoined his Regiment and was wounded a second time, in his right side, at Second Bull Run on August 29, 1862, and was hospitalized until he was discharged for disability on December 12 at Detroit. According to his discharge paper he received a “wound on the right side of [the] abdomen, passing through the right ilium below the crest, three inches from the spinal column a very severe wound producing lameness and deformity. . . .”

After his discharge from the army Guild returned home to Grand Rapids and ran for constable of the First Ward in April of 1863 but was defeated by John Duris.

Soon afterward, he reentered the service as a Second Lieutenant in Company E, Tenth Michigan cavalry on July 10, 1863, at Grand Rapids for 3 years, and was commissioned July 25th. (The Tenth was formally organized in Grand Rapids between September 18 and November 18, 1863.) In mid-August he had opened a recruiting office for the Tenth cavalry in Abel’s Block on Monroe Street. The Grand Rapids Eagle described Lieutenant Barr as “a big-hearted, whole-souled young man, who will ask no services at the hands of his command that he is not ready and willing to perform at the sound of the bugle.”

On September 4 “A war meeting was held at North Brownville,” Kent County, wrote the Eagle, “for the purpose of getting recruits for the Tenth Cavalry. The meeting was quite large and very spirited. It was addressed by J. D. Edmunds and B. A. Harlan, of [Grand Rapids], resulting in the enlisting of several brave boys under Lt. Barr, with a fair prospect of getting more of the same sort.” Soon after leaving the meeting, however, “a rather amusing incident involving Barr and his brother-in-law Jim Fisk, owner of Fisk’s tavern. It seemed that while Barr and Fisk

were returning from the war meeting, held at North Brownville, last evening, the hour being late, or rather early this morning, and both parties having fallen asleep, their horse necessarily took his own course, and regardless of his sleeping load, ran against a stump a short distance beyond the Lake House, and capsized the buggy, broke a wheel to pieces, and ran away. The unconscious riders were, of course, suddenly aroused from their slumbers by being so terribly joggered and unceremoniously spilt upon the ground. Fortunately, they were not injured and had but a short distance to walk ere they reached a stopping place.

Guild was formally mustered into the Tenth cavalry on October 22 at Grand Rapids, and by the end of October of 1863 was serving with the Regiment in Tennessee. In December he was absent sick since December 12 at Frankfort, Kentucky, and absent sick at Point Burnside, Kentucky from February 26, 1864, but by April of 1864 was with his company on detached service at Knoxville, Tennessee.

In August, Guild, along with some 40 others from his Regiment, were captured during the battle of Flat Creek, near Knoxville. Some years later, however, the Eagle claimed that he had been taken prisoner near Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, “by Wheeler's Confederate cavalry, and actually robbed -- stripped of all but his pants and shirt -- marched 3 days barefoot, and was then paroled.” After being paroled, he took leave on September 5, and returned to his home in Grand Rapids. He informed the editor of the Eagle, that “everything going on well in Knoxville and vicinity, where he has been, and everybody in favor of Lincoln for President.”

In November Guild was back on detached service at Knoxville, and in December he was again sick in Knoxville, although by January 21, 1865, he was serving as a member of the general court martial in Knoxville, and remained as such through March. On or about March 27 Guild was ordered to proceed to Washington and be examined for possible transfer to the Veterans Reserve Corps, but the record is unclear as to whether this order was in fact obeyed.

From April through May he was at the “dismounted” camp at Knoxville, reportedly at home in Michigan during May and June and was honorably discharged on May 28, 1865, to accept promotion; he was commissioned a First Lieutenant January 6, 1865, replacing Lieutenant Dunn, and he returned home to Michigan on sick leave for 20 days from June 26, and between July 18 and 25 he attempted to extend his furlough. By September and October of 1865 he was on duty with his company. Guild was mustered out with the regiment on November 11, 1865, at Memphis.

After the war Guild returned to his home in Grand Rapids where he resumed his work as a stone and marble cutter, and in 1865-66 was living at 31 Spring Street. By 1867-68 he was residing on Paris Street and working for William Laraway & Co.

Guild married New Jersey native Caroline “Carrie” Harding (1840-1872) on May 1, 1866, and they had at least three children: Clyde (1867-1872), Hattie (1869-1873) and Clara (1869). (The two girls may in fact have been twins.)

Carrie died in childbirth on October 17, 1872 (probably giving birth to a fourth child who also died it would appear), and their five-year-old son Clyde died 11 days later; Hattie died about a year after that and Robert was left with one daughter, Clara Bell. (According to her pension application filed some years later Clara was reportedly born March 22, 1869, at the home of one Jacob Harding, probably Carrie's family, in White Lake, Oakland County, although she is not listed in the 1870 census along with the other members of her family.)

In 1870 Guild was working as a stone cutter and living with his wife and two children in Paris.

Guild was a member of the Old Third Michigan Infantry Association. In 1863 he applied for and received pension no. 12321.

He lived the remainder of his life in Grand Rapids, working as a stone-cutter.

In the early 1870s Guild was stricken with cancer. It was reported in the Grand Rapids Democrat of August 20, 1875, that he seemed to recover his strength, but his health failed for the last time and he died of cancer at his home near Reed’s Lake on October 18, 1875.

The Eagle wrote in its obituary that Robert was “A young man of fine promise, he was among the first who sprang to arms in defense of the integrity of the nation, in company A of the ‘Old Third’ Mich. Inf., which with such heroism and at such terrible sacrifices, won imperishable honors at the beginning of the war.” The paper added that he was a “Brave, generous, and as ardent soldier as ever went forth to do battle in a righteous cause, [and] was with his comrades in the front where his Regiment met its hardest fate and severest losses.” Further, that “Guild Barr was one of nature's noblemen, kind, loving, generous, genial and sociable.” The paper also noted that “a darling girl about 7 years of age, is left an orphan.”

The funeral took place at Allen Durfee’s funeral parlor on October 22, and former Old Third comrade George E. Judd acted as one of the pall-bearers. Guild was buried in Oak Hill cemetery: section 2 lot 28.

Some years after Robert’s death a pension was filed on Clara's behalf (no. 380672) but the application was rejected in 1893 on the grounds that Clara had passed the age of 16 by the time her father had died. In fact the application reported Guild's date of death as 1885, the year Clara turned 16, when in fact it was 1875. certificate was never granted. Clara was reportedly living in Pittsfield, Washtenaw County by May of 1888. Cuirously one F. C. Crittenden is listed as "guardian for a minor," presumably Clara, in 1898 when she would have been nearly 30 years old, and living in Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, Michigan. By 1904 Clara was living in Santa Barbara, California.

By 1880 Robert’s father was living with his daughter and her husband, William Laraway, in Grand Rapids Township.