H.B. Barnhart Gets the Credit

 

Austin native Henry B. Barnhart, was a successful attorney in 1885.  He was appointed Travis County Attorney in 1886.  An 1887 description of Barnhart’s career included the following passage:

H. B. Barnhart

With uncompromising firmness, he has made successful war upon evil and wrong-doing wherever and whenever found, and by vigilance and courage brought evil-doers and lawbreakers to justice…Not more than sixteen months ago, Austin had a national reputation for midnight murder, with criminals undiscovered and unwhipped by justice.  Crimes, the most nefarious and diabolical, were committed with impunity.  Then every citizen locked and barred his doors and windows, and slept with arms near at hand to defend his wife and children from the deadly ax of the midnight assassin.  Mr. Barnhart has been county attorney for fifteen or sixteen months.  Every citizen now feels secure; the law is enforced; the officers are vigilant, and Austin has become an unhealthy place for criminals, and they avoid its neighborhood. (1)

This is perhaps the only instance I have come across of someone being personally credited for Austin’s return to law and order after the crime spree of 1885.  This dubious honor was bestowed upon him by Lewis E. Daniell, a writer and publisher in Austin who in the late 19th century produced several “Successful Men” biographical compilations; these volumes featured prominent or would-be prominent Texans who had paid for their inclusion in the volumes and received flattering, if not fawning, biographical sketches.  Daniell immodestly described Barnhart as:

Great in all of his achievements, and as good as he is great, with a pure, noble and exalted character, he stands before us to-day as one who commands the affection and perfect confidence of the people; for, unwilling to pause on the first round of the ladder of fame in his profession, he has shaken off all trammels, and now stands a glittering star among the brilliant galaxy of Austin’s talented young lawyers. (2)

Barnhart had a successful law practice for the rest of his life. He died in Austin in 1901.

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(1) Daniell, L.E.  Personnel of the State Government with Sketches of Distinguished Texans. Austin: Press of the City Printing Company, 1887.
(2) Ibid.