features local history
Esther Barnett Goffinet has recently published a history book containing a lot of local area history. It is a biography of her father, Eugene Barnett.
Born in North Carolina in 1891, he was sent to work in the coal mines a few months before turning eight years old. As many of you know, it was the custom in those days to put the older children to work to help support the family. Gene came west in 1910 and homesteaded on Joseph Plains and Doumeq, his entire family joined him shortly after. He married a Cottonwood girl, Effie Downer. His siblings attended Canfield School and also married into local families. Many local names are mentioned. Together with his father, John Barnett, he helped to build the original White Bird Grade. John moved to Lewiston in 1917 and then helped to build the original Lewiston Spiral Highway.
In response to President Wilson's 1918 decree that "All Miners Return to the Mines," Gene moved to Centralia, Washington back to the coal mines, also taking a second job in the lumber camps. There he became a member of the much hated union. When the American Legion attacked the union hall in Centralia, Washington on November 19,1919, it was the first time in history the union men fought back, leaving four soldiers dead. Innocent and unarmed, union man Eugene Barnett stood in the window of the hotel next door, a witness who could not be allowed to talk. "We know you had nothing to do with this," the prosecutor said, "but unless you keep your mouth shut, we're gonna send you up."
Barnett was accused of being the actual shooter, framed, and along with seven other innocent union men, sent to prison for 25 to 40 years. This is a well known incident and trial in Washington state history. His wife and family became quite well known in the Lewiston and Cottonwood area due to their many efforts to obtain his release.
After prison Gene moved back to Grangeville where he owned the Living Diamonds Silver Fox Farm at the top of White Bird Grade and his son, Clifford Barnett, graduated from Grangeville High School. (Cliff married Senator Evert Johnston's daughter, Rose). After the war Clifford became a pharmacist and owned the drug store in Nezperce for many years. The book is written in story form which makes history come alive, is 468 pages long, 96 photos, third person narrative until the first person epilog. It includes footnotes so sources can be checked, bibliography, and index. Because Barnett was involved with unions all of his life it also includes, wages, prices, working conditions, and family living. It is factual, regional, and although it is a history book it is also timely in view of the present day struggles over civil rights, freedom of speech, unions, and the economy.
The book is available at "And Books Too" in Clarkston, or from Esther at www.EstherBarnettGoffinet.org or from the publisher at www.lulu.com .