Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Barth, A Piece of History

Jacob Barth - son of Solomon Barth
So much wonderful information on the Barth's and early St. Johns History.  I just had to include the transcription of this article in its entirety.  Makes me 'pine' for days gone by.....

The Barth, A Piece of History
By Linda Ritchie (White Mountain Independent)

ST. JOHNS –A little bit of history is slipping away.  Its going is unnoticed.  The last remnants of the Barth Mercantile and Hotel will soon be gone.

Before the turn of the century Solomon Barth and his wife, Refugio, opened a store in St. Johns.  It was known as a general merchandise store, the Barth Mercantile.  Through the years the store grew.  Its face changed, but never its location.  In those days general merchandise was most anything a person required.  The store carried hay, grain, staples (groceries), household items and “ladies and gents furnishings.”  The merchandise came to St. Johns by wagon and horse from points east.  The Barth family had its own freight outfit to haul in supplies.  As the time passed, other freighters entered the business.  And with them they brought a wider variety of goods.

Occasionally a drummer would call.  With team of horses, a loaded buckboard wagon, the man who “drummer up” business would stop at the Barth.  There was never any chance the traveling salesman would make the next town by nightfall, so the drummer always rested in St. Johns.

Sugar, coffee, and flour were sold in 100 pound bags.  The sugar was brown sugar which becomes rock-like in the dry weather.  For those that wished smaller than 100-pound portions, a hatchet was provided so the customer could help himself. 

Lining the walls were rows of shelves divided into a variety of cubbyholes.  There were stacked the Levis, jackets, and boots.  Hidden, not to shock the modest, were the union suits, long underwear made of cotton and wool.  And from the ceiling dangled pots, pans, and other kitchen wares.  Everything a person needed could be found or ordered at the mercantile.

“Miss Clara,” Clarita Barth, managed the store and hotel from 1902 until its closing.  She may have established a record for job tenure, over 65 years.

Through the many years members of the Barth family collected a treasure of antiquities.  Among the treasure were jade carvings from the pyramids in Mexico.  The walls of one room were at one time lined with Spanish icons dating to the sixteenth century.  Cecelia Barth’s Indian relics were coveted by many museums.

Thirty years ago, the Barth family put the antiques and collectables into a trust.  The Northern Arizona Museum became the guardian of Indian relics, paintings, rugs, and other irreplaceable items of an undisclosed value.  An inventory was prepared by the museum.  And slowly, through the last few years, the most valuable pieces of the collection have been removed.  The building has been given to the San Juan de Bautista Catholic Church of St. Johns.  The trust was established before Apache County had a museum.  This leaves a piece of St. Johns history in the hands of the Northern Arizona Museum.  To sell or keep as they see fit.

Jacob Barth, son of Solomon, said the end is nearing.  And with the end comes the last truck.  The truck which will remove the last of the antiquities and a little bit of St. Johns.

Solomon Barth was the original St. Johns pioneer.  He is recorded as the first white man to settle Arizona. 

The Barth Mercantile - St. Johns, Arizona


  1. Sadly, he felt it necessary to take from those he had promised land to live on, improve and it was yours. Many of these New Mexicans worked for him in Cebolleta as freighters moving his merchandise across the west and to California and he had recruited them. Then his conviction on fraud; other than these major items, almost a perfect Pioneer !


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