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Edith Elizabeth Kirby collection

Identifier: MSS-389

Content Description

This donation includes photographs, deeds, correspondence, scrapbooks, and other items pertinent to Edith Kirby Barnes and her family in Muncie, Indiana and Colorado, ranging from the 1870s to the 1940s. Edith Kirby Barnes was a descendant of the Kirby family of Muncie, whom owned Kirby Lumber Company and the Kirby Hotel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The collection documents EdithKirby Barnes's life and family, as well as her travels throughout the United States.


  • c.1870s-1940s

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Biographical Note

Edith Elizabeth Kirby

Edith Elizabeth Kirby was a member of the prominent Kirby family of Muncie, Indiana, who established themselves in East Central Indiana in the early 19th century. She lived the entirety of her life in Muncie and over the course of her lifetime witnessed the community’s societal, political, and economic transformation from the last quarter of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century.

Edith Elizabeth Kirby was born January 21, 1875 in Muncie, Indiana, to Thomas Hickman and Anna Cassady Kirby. She was raised in a semi-detached Italianate-style townhouse located at 408 East Jackson Street that her parents built in 1872. After completing her education, she met and married Robert Denver Barnes Sr., of Colorado Springs, Colorado. They were wed at Grace Episcopal Church with Rector Herbert M. Denslow officiating in a ceremony held on June 21, 1900 followed by a large wedding breakfast for their guests at her parent’s home. The wedding party was also feted at Minnetrista, the home of Frank Clayton Ball and his wife Elizabeth Wolfe Brady Ball. Following their marriage, the newlyweds returned to Colorado Springs where Robert continued to be engaged in the Barnes family’s hardware business.

Edith Kirby, like many women of her generation, was principally a homemaker and managed her family’s household. After the death of their infant daughter Ann Cassady Barnes, Edith and Robert returned in 1906 to live permanently in Muncie. In May of 1908, Edith and Robert had a son named Robert Denver Barnes, Jr., who was baptized at Grace Episcopal Church by the Rt. Rev. Charles Edward Woodcock, the Episcopal Bishop of Kentucky. They lived and raised him in a Craftsman-style Bungalow located at 410 East Jackson Street that was designed by architect Cuno Kibele. Their residence directly abutted the Italianate-style residence where Edith was raised and where her parents still resided.

Edith was also active in local organizations, including the Indiana Paul Revere Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) and in the volunteer guild of Grace Episcopal Church. She was a history and travel enthusiast, having traveled to Europe during her youth with her Kirby-family cousins, the Heinsohns. She was also an amateur genealogist, engaged in further research of the Kirby and Barnes families. In 1935, Edith was widowed but remained active, continuing to travel with her young grandchildren, conducting research at genealogical societies in New England and visiting relatives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Edith Elizabeth Kirby Barnes died on August 1, 1943. The cause of death was suicide according to her granddaughter Jane Barnes O’Day Greene. Edith was 68 years old at the time of her death.

Robert Denver Barnes, Sr.

Edith Kirby’s husband, Robert D. Barnes Sr. was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, on April 15, 1872, to James Pierce Barnes and Julia Hart Barnes. The Barnes family was also a long-established and socially prominent family from New York State before arriving in Colorado in the mid-19th century. Robert Denver Barnes, Sr., was a direct descendent of Thomas Dudley, the Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, and also the great-great grandson of Lieutenant Stephen Pierce, who fought in the Rhode Island militia during the American Revolutionary War. His grandfather was the Honorable Gerrit Smith Barnes, the mayor of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in the 1880s. Like the Kirby family, the Barnes family was also involved in the dry goods and hardware sector, whose business was eponymously branded as G. S. Barnes & Company. Upon their return to Muncie, Indiana Robert served as Secretary and Treasurer in the Kirby family’s lumber business.

Upon the death of Thomas Hickman Kirby in 1911, Robert assumed the role president of the Kirby-Wood Lumber Company and remained in that position until his death on March 10, 1935. Throughout his professional career, Robert D. Barnes, Sr., was active in civic and community affairs, serving on Muncie’s city council, acting as “Generalissimo” of the Knights Templar, as well as being involved in the York Rite, Scottish Rite, and achieving a 32nd Degree in the Masonic Lodge. Along with other civic leaders, he was instrumental in the planning and building of the Masonic Temple, a massive Tudoresque edifice designed by architect Cuno Kibele in 1926. He also ran in Muncie’s 1929 mayoral race but lost to the reformist politician George Reynolds Dale despite having the backing of the influential Ball family.

Robert Denver Barnes, Jr.

Robert Denver Barnes, Jr., was educated at Washington Elementary School and graduated from Muncie Central High School, after which he joined his father in the family’s lumber business. He married Louise Faye Howard on August 5, 1929 and they subsequently had three children: Jane Louise (b.1930); James Pierce (1933-2001); and Michael George (b.1949). After the death of Robert D. Barnes, Sr., the young Robert “Bob” became president of the lumberyard and remained in that position until his retirement in 1976. During his tenure, the company expanded as the Post-Depression and Post-War economies grew, which provided an opportunity to augment the lumber business with several retail hardware outlets. His three children succeeded him in managing the business until it ceased operations in 1983 due to a severe economic turndown and a catastrophic fire set by an arsonist that destroyed the lumberyard and its inventory. He died on October 26, 1983 and his widow Louise H. Barnes survived him until her death in 1999.

Thomas Hickman Kirby

Edith Kirby’s father Lieutenant Thomas Hickman Kirby was born on October 8, 1834 in Muncie, Indiana, and was the eldest son of Thomas and Sarah Hickman Tomlinson Kirby. At the age of twenty-seven, he enlisted in the Union Army in the American Civil War, serving in the 8th Regiment Indiana Infantry in 1861 and the 36th Indiana Infantry in 1862. His youthful travels include working aboard a fishing schooner and whaler out of Boston, Massachusetts. After mustering out of the army as a lieutenant, he sailed to San Francisco, California, where he became engaged in gold mining until returning to Muncie in 1867. Upon his return to Muncie, he established himself as a grocer and married Anna Sayle Cassady on December 2, 1869. They had four children, Edith Elizabeth Kirby (1875-1943), Edward Cassady Kirby (1881—1970, married Clara Glenn Kirby who died in 1973), and twins who died in infancy. Edith Kirby graduated from the Muncie High School (later known as Muncie Central High School) and attended the Girls’ Classical School in Indianapolis, as a boarding student, whose headmistress was the respected educator May Wright Sewall. Edward Kirby graduated from the Muncie High School and subsequently graduated from Rose Polytechnic Institute with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1903.

By the end of the 19th century, Thomas Hickman Kirby and his brothers John Marvin Kirby and George Kirby had become involved in the lumber and hardware trade. In 1899, they acquired a lumber yard from Thad and Lon Neely and established the Kirby Lumber Company. In 1902, Julius C. Wood joined as a partner in the firm and the business was rebranded as the Kirby-Wood Lumber Company. Julius C. Wood served as the company’s president and Thomas Hickman Kirby served as its vice-president until the latter’s death from pneumonia in 1911. The Wood family retained an interest in the lumberyard after the death of Julius in 1917 but eventually sold their stock in the company, granting the Kirby family sole ownership of the business.

Thomas Kirby

Edith Kirby’s grandfather was Thomas Kirby. He was one of the first European-Americans to settle in Delaware County in the 1830s and was a respected civic and business leader. She was also a direct descendant of John Kirby, who arrived in North American in 1635, and whose successors became known as the Kirbys of New England. Her ancestor John Kirby (1623-1677) hailed from Warwickshire, England, and ultimately settled in Cromwell, Connecticut. He established a farmstead along the Mattabesett River whose locus was commonly known as Kirby Bridge, so named for the bridge that crossed a narrow bend in the river. He was also the village pound keeper, responsible for impounding the local farmers’ stray livestock and collecting a fine for this public nuisance.

Edith Kirby’s grandfather Thomas Kirby was born on December 25, 1804 to Zebulon (1758-1821) and Louisa Gibson Kirby (1772-1853). His maternal grandfather was Private John Gibson, Jr., who fought in the American Revolutionary War with the Connecticut militia. Thomas Kirby spent his childhood and adolescence on the family farm in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, before migrating westward to Ohio and Richmond, Indiana, as a young adult in 1827. During that period, he was a fur trader, and a peddler selling medicinal ginseng root. In the 1830s, he established a general store on West Washington Street where he sold dried goods and hardware. Eventually, he became a landowner and farmer and later became the founder and proprietor of the Kirby House Hotel, a purpose-built hotel in the downtown, before retiring from business in 1870. Thomas Kirby married Sarah Hickman Tomlinson in Delaware County on July, 15,1832. She was the daughter of Judge John Tomlinson and Elizabeth Tomlinson of neighboring Wayne County. Thomas and Sarah Kirby had six children: Thomas Hickman Kirby, Martha Ann Kirby Hamilton, John Marvin Kirby, Elizabeth Kirby Heinsohn, Sarah Jane Kirby, and George Kirby. In 1838, the Kirbys bought 80 acres of farmland for $1,100 at auction from the widow of John Murphy. They built a large Greek-Revival style house of brick and clapboard modelled after the prevailing architectural trends of the period.

Historically known as the Thomas and Sarah Kirby Homestead, it is purported to be the oldest, extant residence in Delaware County. It is sited at 1353 East Jackson Street in a neighborhood traditionally known as the East End and is set within the boundaries of the eponymous Kirby Historic District. Thomas Kirby died on August 14, 1879 at the age of 74 and was eulogized by the Reverend Marion Crosley, a prominent Universalist-Unitarian minister and father of Bertha Crosley Ball. Kirby was buried in Muncie’s Beech Grove Cemetery. Over time, the extensive Kirby farmlands were subdivided and sold by the Kirbys and their heirs, eventually being subsumed by the growing city of Muncie. The platted lands are commonly known as the “Kirby” additions in the city’s assessor’s records. Thomas and Sarah Kirby were also known for their civic and cultural contributions. Thomas was a proponent of the community’s early public schools and served as a trustee of Center Township. Together, they donated the land for the construction of the local Presbyterian Church in 1843 and the First Unitarian Church in 1861.


3.2 Cubic Feet (6 boxes, 1 oversize box)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

This collection was received as a gift from Jane Barnes O’Day Greene & the O’Day Family: James R. O’Day, John H. O’Day, and Dian O’Day Priest


Continued additions are expected.

Related Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie IN:

MSS.023: Cassady and Nelson family papers and photographs

Separated Materials

Separated materials include:

Dwight, Melatiah E. The Kirbys of New England. New York: The Trow, 1898.


Some materials document family members' involvement with the National Rifle Association in the 1940s. The Barnes-Kirby family does not endorse nor support the current National Rifle Association.

Processing Information

Collection processed 2019/12/19 by Lindsey Vesperry and Brian Faust. EAD finding aid edited and created by Lindsey Vesperry.

Edith Elizabeth Kirby collection
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Repository Details

Part of the Stoeckel Archives of Local History Repository

Alexander M. Bracken Library
2000 W. University Avenue
Muncie Indiana 47306 USA