Author: Alan B. Bromberg


John S. Barbour (1820–1892)

John S. Barbour served as a United States senator, but his biggest effect on Virginia’s political history came from his organizational skills. Barbour hailed from a politically active family and joined the House of Delegates in his twenties. After four years in the General Assembly, the Orange and Alexandria Railroad (later the Virginia Midland Railway) named him its president. Barbour held the position for thirty-four years. He began his rivalry with fellow transportation leader and politician William Mahone when railroad consolidation accelerated after the American Civil War (1861–1865). He reentered politics in 1880 when the Funder wing of the Conservative Party nominated him for Congress, winning the first of three terms. Three years later he became state chairman of the party, now called the Democratic Party, and led it to convincing win in that year’s elections over Mahone’s Readjuster Party. By emphasizing white supremacy and animosity to Mahone’s political power while accepting the Readjusters’ financial reforms, Barbour engineered the start of the Democrats’ nearly century-long domination of Virginia politics.


B. Johnson Barbour (1821–1894)

B. Johnson Barbour was a planter, orator, rector of the University of Virginia (1866–1872), and member of the House of Delegates (1879–1880). Born at his family’s large Orange County estate, Barbour was the son of a governor and nephew of a U.S. Supreme Court justice. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 1839 and spent the next decades farming, delivering public speeches, and serving as an Episcopal lay leader. Like his mother, Barbour supported the Whig Party and was a Unionist prior to the American Civil War (1861–1865). He took no active political or civil role during the conflict. In 1865, Barbour was elected to Congress but the body refused to seat anyone from a former Confederate state. He threw his energies, instead, into his alma mater, serving on the board of visitors and then as rector, advocating a curriculum that included applied sciences and teacher education. He served on the board of the fund that supported the school’s Department of Agriculture, and on the board of the Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College (1876–1878). As a member of the House of Delegates, Barbour led an investigation into the Blacksburg school that resulted in the appointment of a new board of visitors. Barbour died in 1894.


Joseph R. Anderson (1813–1892)

Joseph R. Anderson was an iron manufacturer and Confederate army officer during the American Civil War (1861–1865). In 1848 he purchased the Tredegar Iron Company, the largest producer of munitions, cannon, railroad iron, steam engines, and other ordnance for the Confederate government during the Civil War. One of Anderson’s most notable decisions was to introduce slaves into skilled industrial work at the ironworks, and by 1864, more than half the workers at Tredegar were bondsmen. Anderson served as a brigadier general for the Confederate army, and fought and was wounded during the Seven Days’ Battles. He resigned his commission in the Confederate Army in 1862 to resume control of the ironworks, and after the war, Anderson was a strong proponent for peace, hoping to keep the Union army from taking possession of the ironworks. He failed, but regained control of Tredegar after he was pardoned by U.S. president Andrew Johnson in 1865. By 1873 Anderson had doubled the factory’s prewar capacity, and its labor force exceeded 1,000 men, many of them black laborers and skilled workmen who received equal pay with white workers. Though Tredegar failed to make the transition from iron to steel production late in the nineteenth century, the company survived into the 1980s. Anderson was a well-known member of the Richmond community, serving multiple terms on the Richmond City Council and in the House of Delegates before and after the war.