Gen. Joshua Barnes House is a historic home located near Wilson, Wilson County. Built about 1844, it is a two-story, central-hall-plan, Greek Revival-style frame dwelling built around the nucleus of an earlier, Federal style dwelling dating to 1830 and was remodeled about 1870. The house features a shallow hipped roof and one-story, full-width front porch. Attached to the rear of the house is a small one-story Greek Revival frame structure connected by an enclosed breezeway. Gen. Joshua Barnes, who built the house, is considered the father of Wilson County.
The National Register of Historic Places nomination form for the house waxes enthusiastic: “The exterior appearance of the house is very simple and elegant. The house is set in a grove of mature trees at the intersection of Waterworks Road and London’s Church Road just outside the city limits of Wilson. Prime agricultural land surrounds the house. The boxy massing of the house is typical of Greek Revival architecture in general and of this type of plantation house in Wilson County in particular. The house, set on a low brick foundation, is oriented to the east and to the road. A plain continuous frieze forms a band under the boxed cornice. Applied diamond motifs ornament the rear and parts of each side elevation. Similar diamonds are found on buildings in Wilson dating from the last quarter of the nineteenth century and these diamonds may date from this period. Many plantation houses originally had a double gallery porch on the front elevation, which may account for the lack of frieze ornament on the main facade of this house. A single story porch with square posts with molded caps shelters the main facade. The broad trabeated door boasts some original etched cranberry glass in the transom and sidelights. Large six-over-six-sash windows are the dominant window type used in the house. The southern side facade has four bays on the first floor, but only three on the second floor. The rear elevation gives clues to the orientation and placement of the earlier structure as well as showing the additions which have been made to the house since 1844 including a pantry, laundry and enclosed porch.”
Of Joshua Barnes’ success: “In 1860, on the eve of the Civil War and five years after his great success in the legislature, Barnes was one of the wealthiest men in Wilson County. According to the 1860 census he was a farmer owning $27,500 worth of real property and $79,000 worth of personal property.” As usual, nowhere in the glowing description of Barnes, his house and his accomplishments is any mention of the main source of Barnes’ wealth — his slaves.
The 1860 slave schedule of Wilson County pulls back the curtain: Joshua Barnes owned 66 men, women and children, ranging in age from eight months to 94 years, housed in ten dwellings. Benjamin Ellis‘ family were among them:
Wilson Daily Times, 13 June 1922.
Joshua Barnes house, 1976. The house, recently sold, remains in excellent condition.