The Franklin & Pittsylvania RR would probably never have been built had it not been for its connection with the Washington City, Virginia Midland and Great Southern Railroad (WC, VM & GSRR). It was the agreement between its president, John S. Barbour and Franklin Co. officials that made the building of the F&P possible.
John Barbour was the driving force behind the Orange & Alexandria Railroad; being elected its president in 1851 at the young age of thirty. By 1873 that road had joined forces with the Lynchburg & Danville RR that was still under construction. It was at this time the name changed to the WC, VM & GSRR and John Barbour was elected president of the entire line.
Barbour’s agreement to lease the F&P, after its construction was financed by Franklin Co., sealed the deal that made the building of the F&P possible.
John S. Barbour, Jr. was born 29 December, 1820 near Culpeper, Virginia. He later graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in law and began practice in 1841.He was elected as a member of the Virginia House of Delegates from 1847 to 1851.
In 1867, after the Civil War was over, he took control of the stock and equipment of the Manassas Gap Railroad and merged it to make the Orange, Alexandria and Manassas Gap Railroad. Under his leadership expansion continued south toward Lynchburg where the agreement to join his line with the Lynchburg & Danville Railroad was made. As a result of the merger Barbour became president of the entire line from Alexandria to Danville.
By 1876 that line was in receivership and under control of the court. They appointed Barbour as the receiver of the line. Less than a year later he made plans to extend a branch line to Pittsville that resulted in a much needed boost for the rail line. This seven mile branch joined the main line where present day Gretna is located.
Barbour seems to have taken the job as railroad president almost as a hobby although he ran it with great zeal. He took every opportunity to expand and grow and add to the business.
He was independently wealthy, as was his immediate family. In the 1860 census we find the following entry for him:
1860 federal census Culpepper Co. Va P.857 Romeland P.O.
John S. Barbour age 39 male President Orange & Alexandria RR
Real Estate $30,000 Personal $15,000
Eliza age 60 (mother) lady $26,000
Sallie age 41 (wife)
Edward age 26 male real estate $8,000 personal $6,000
Barbour ran the Virginia Midland until it was finally taken over by the Richmond and Danville Railroad in 1886. After that he served in the United States Senate from 1888 until his death in 1892.
Barbour lived during times of opportunity for men with drive and ambition and he had both. It could be argued he never reached his goal of building a railroad that prospered financially as it remained in receivership for many years. However, one must remember he took the controls of a fledgling business and built it into a transportation system that crossed the entire state of Virginia bringing with it transportation, jobs and economic opportunity for the entire area.