Who is Reuben Barbee??

Who is Reuben Barbee??

Well, first there are several men with the name Reuben Barbee.
1. Reuben Barbee, son of John Barbee and Esther Herndon.
2. William Reuben Barbee, son of Gray and Drucilla Barbee.

3. Reuben Barbee, son of Willis Monroe. (Born in Hico Texas, 29 Jan 1893 and died 9 
April 1906. The Barbee Book Section 4, page 116)

But basically there are only TWO Reubens. One is barely mentioned and the other is covered in Section 4 (The Barbee Book)

Lets start with the eldest Reuben Barbee.

Reuben Barbee, son of John and Esther (The Barbee Book)

Reuben Barbee, son of John and Esther, was born 1794 in Orange, Co., NC. He was named for Esther's brother Reuben Herndon.
Reuben Barbee married in Wake Co., NC Gilly (Abigail) Dilliard. Bond dated 7 Oct 1816, bondsman J. Holloway. Abigail was a daughter of William and Lydia Dilliard of Orange Co., NC. Wm Dilliard served two and half years in the American Revolution in the Fourth North Carolina Regiment. (NC State Records XVI - 1041)
REUBEN AND GILLY'S first three sons, JAMES GILBERT (b 1818), KING HENRY (b 1823) and WILLIS MONROE (b 1 Dec 1827) were born in North Carolina. Early in 1832 they went to Tennessee, where their fourth son JOHN GASTON BARBEE was born 9 Sep 1832. The family moved to Alabama, where they settled in 1835.

1850 census Alabama Green
26 Dec 1850
Reuben Barbee, 56, farmer, NC
Abigail, 35, NC
Caroline, 14, Alabama
John G., 18, laborer, Tennessee

1860 census Texas Leon
Leon Division, Centreville
20 Aug 1860
R. Barbee, 65, farmer, NC
Abigail, 65, NC

So Reuben Barbee, son of John and Esther was still alive in 1860 and in Texas. Not exactly what The Barbee Book said, but you can give them the benefit of the doubt. Reuben's death would have been AFTER 1860 and in TEXAS. Since John and Abigail are listed alone, all children are either married or out on their own. Reuben's descendants are covered in The Barbee Book, but could be done a little be more in depth. But for this page that is the extent of the research for this Reuben.

Reuben Barbee, son of Gray and Drucilla Barbee

In the BARBEE BOOK not much is said about this Reuben and maybe for very good reasons. His reputation was not stellar. You will find him in Section 4, page 128 in the Barbee Book. There is more about him in Footprints in the Sands of Time, that I have posted on this site.

Footprints in the Sands of Time

Nannie Mae Herndon
page 52

Judge Robert W. Winston in his book "It's a Far Cry" on pages 231 and 232 says,

"When I began to practice in Durham the most talked about and "scandalized" man  was Reuben Barbee,(grandson) son of a Freewill Baptist preacher, a jovial, queer sort of a chap, usually harmless, and a kind husband, but when loaded up, a shock and whirlwind. On one occasion Reuben shot into a crowded railroad coach, for  the devilment of the thing, and roared with laughter when the passengers started up. Several times he cleaned up Scoggins' bar with his revolver. He greatly delighted to fire between the legs of innocent pedestrians and then "Ha! Ha!" like a crazy man.

Twice our firm defended Reuben for murder, getting him acquitted and charged a fee of fifteen hundred dollars for appearing before the mayor - a big fee, no doubt, but worth every cent of its since the community frowned down on Reuben and any lawyer who defended him - no doubt."

Mrs. Lelia Godwin recalls bearing Reuben's wife say that Reuben always said he wanted to be buried by the well, "So I can get some water  -  for I know where I'm going."

While trying to find more about Reuben Barbee I used Genealogy Bank.This is a subscription site so be aware). While there I found numerous article about Reuben Barbee’s exploits. The journalists had a different style of writing from today, but the message was loud and clear. Reuben Barbee may have just gotten away with murder.  

Found on Genealogy Bank

The above article was found in the Charlotte Observer, 28 June 1896.

Charlotte Observer, 12 December 1908

Charlotte Observer, 27 July 1911

There are many more articles in local newspapers about Reuben and there is not any way to know whether truth or fiction. But it all piles up and makes Reuben Barbee a legend, in his time. There are articles about fires in buildings he owned, his arrest for carrying a concealed weapon, a breakin in his own home by relatives. More and more to make the legend grow. And it would appear he did little to change that Legend.

I could not find a date of death for him or a gravesite. If I had to guess I would say he was buried either in the Proctor Cemetery or Maplewood. His half brother Bartlett W. Barbee has a large plot and there are several spaces with no markers.

He wrote a Will in 1912 and Virginia presented it in Court in 1913.

The "Character" of Reuben when he was drinking was not good. The reputation that he created was not one to be admired. But he did live and he was a Barbee, even if we were not suppose to talk about that side of the family. He was family and should be recorded in our collective family histories. Maybe we should remember not to follow his example.