Compiled by

Rachel (Scherf) Levine,


One of the Strong and Unique Characters of Early Kossuth Has Gone.

He Was for Many Years a Prominent Figure in the Business Life of Kossuth County.

Barney Devine is dead. That statement interests all the old settlers of Kossuth, for they all knew him and

remember him kindly, and they will, no doubt, be interested in a sketch of his life. The writer of these lines

was never very intimate with Mr. Devine but he knew him well enough and heard enough of him to become

interested in his career, and on a visit to the Courier office a few years ago he managed to draw him out and

obtained the information that he had long wanted. As he remembers the story that Mr. Devine told him it

runs thus.

Barney Devine (no doubt christened Bernard) was born near Belfast, Ireland, July 11, 1823. His people,

like most people of that unfortunate land, were poor and in Barney's early boyhood his parents left for

America, leaving him and his brother John, three years older, with friends until they could send for them.

The parents located at Three Rivers, Canada, and in due time sent for the boys. Barney was then about

eleven years of age, and he and John walked to Belfast and from that place sailed to America and joined

their parents. The boys worked where they could find work and after a time Barney went across the

Canadian line and worked for a farmer in northern Vermont. When through with that man he moved farther

south and west and finally reached Chicago, then a small town. He stopped at a little farmers' hotel and

asked for work to earn his dinner and also asked the landlord if he knew any farmer who wanted a hand.

The landlord was evidently pleased with the young fellow's appearance for he gave him wood to saw for

his dinner and also found a farmer who needed help. The landlord wanted Barney to have his dinner before

he sawed the wood, but Barney insisted on sawing the wood first, a fact that gives an index to his character,

and that character remained with him to the end. The farmer hired him for a year at $9 a month, and at the

end of the year hired him for another year at an increase of wages, the increase being voluntary on the part

of the farmer. This was repeated for one or two more years and by that time Barney was a pretty well

seasoned young man. And all this time he sent nearly all of his wages to his father.

By that time the news of the discovery of gold in California spread over the country and stirred the young

and ambitious, and Barney was no exception. He concluded to go to the far west and seek his fortune,

though he was handicapped by want of an education. In his time and in his country there was little or no

opportunity to obtain an education, and there was no opportunity for him. Had he the opportunity that boys

now have he would no doubt, have had a notable career. He started perhaps in 1850 or 1851 down the

Illinois river and then down the Mississippi with a not very big sum of money in his pocket. On the

Mississippi he fell in with a man who was shipping cows to New Orleans, and he hired with him to take

care of the cows. By doing so he was able to save most of his money. He reached New Orleans and from

there took shipping for Aspenwall, now Colon, at the Mediterranean side of the Isthmus of Panama. There

were many others like himself making the same journey. No one at that time had ventured across the

plains. Arrived at Aspenwall he and others engaged natives to row them up the Chagres river as far as

Cruces, the southern-most village north of the divide and down to Panama on the other side. Mr. Devine

still remembers the names of the villages in the route across the isthmus and several words and phrases in

Spanish that he had learned, and he described a furious flood in the Chagres that had come on from one

night's rain.

When he reached Panama he found the town full of Americans who were on their way to California and

there was no way to get there and many of them were broke or nearly so. Vessels seldom called at Panama

and when they did the fare to San Francisco was $250. Barney looked around to see what he could do. He

finally discovered an American cooper who had a shop there and was making barrels to hold whale oil. He

asked the cooper for a job, and the cooper replied that if he was a cooper he could give him work, but if not

he could not use him. But he told Barney of a young Spaniard or Colombian who was engaged in


Rachel (Scherf) Levine

Page ! of !