Who you are is part of what you are

Joseph Miller Barton moved his family from Blue Mound, Ill., to the village of Moscow, Idaho, in the 1870s and from there to Wallowa County, in the 1880’s.

He was my great-great grandfather. Joseph’s oldest child Harry Elmer Barton was my great grandfather and his son Everett Edson Barton, my grandpa. Gregory Fay Barton was my dad.

These men are increasingly familiar to me, but I wish I had paid a little more attention to the stories that I had been told over the years.

The older I get the more important it is to me to know who my ancestors were as men. I know my grandpa was born in Joseph in November 1891, my dad was born at Homestead on the Snake River in December 1920 and was raised at Imnaha and Joseph.

I’m thankful to have a long-standing family history in one place, but right now, I’m more concerned with the “who” than the “where.”

Even as I say that, I realize the place where I live and grow up is a great contributor to who I am as a person; the culture of a place is important.

Someone recently asked me why locals tend to say they are from Wallowa County rather than the town in which they live. I think it is because we feel the county defines us better than any single town. To each other, we are more specific, but generally we only want to know, “Are you from the county?”

Joseph Barton was born in Westmorland City, Penn., Feb. 3, 1838. He was 23 the year the Civil War began and served as a corporal in the cavalry; Company G 4th Illinois.

I can only imagine how that critical four years in our nation’s history affected and shaped the man who later brought his family west to Oregon. Like many pioneers looking for a fresh start, he found a home in a place far removed from everything familiar.

I would guess his former place reminded him of the great losses of that time period, and he hoped this new place would help him forget.

I wonder though, “how do you find your way to Wallowa County, from McLean County, Illinois?” I will probably never know in this life, but it is fun to think about all the possible scenarios that led to the arrival of the Barton family.

I don’t think it was accidental or purely coincidental. The Bible says “from one man He made all the nations of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.”

It goes on to say, “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:26-27)

We discover there is a great master plan that is playing itself out, and we are all hurdling to a point of discovery that is of the utmost importance. God is nearby and my life is about something it’s not random, he does care, there is hope.

Everywhere I go, everything I experience, is another step in the direction of Him who said “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Joseph Barton passed away in 1897 at 59 and I wonder, did he discover that underpinning truth? Did Joseph discover the nearness of God?

We know that he was a teacher at 22 before the war began and that a primary text book in the schools of that day was the Bible. In it, we read “all of my days were written in your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139)

This psalm ends with “Search me, oh God and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts. And see if there be any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Regardless of where I am in the journey of life, or how random my experiences seem to be, I have a certainty that I am being led to my destiny; and I know “in him I live and move and have my being.” (Acts 17:28)

Rev. Tim Barton is lead pastor of Wallowa Assembly of God Church in Wallowa.


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