Empire builder, benefactor in hardware store

Don McAlavy: Local Columnist

Not until after John H. Barry died could the folks in a big part of New Mexico realize how a man in a hardware store could be an empire builder and benefactor. There never was a real story on Mr. Barry because he despised publicity.

We are talking about the John Barry and his hardware company in Clovis, with the slogan “The Store That Stays.”

John Barry came to Clovis in 1907 from Atchison, Kan., where he was traveling for a hardware firm. He and his brother, the late Henry Barry, opened a hardware store at 200 Main. Later, when that entire block was destroyed by fire, Barry built the Barry Hardware building at 401 Main. He purchased his bother’s interest in the business.

It was in October, 1914, that Barry took as his bride, Miss Julia Herring, who had taught at the Eugene Field School. The ceremony was performed in Santa Fe, with Mr. and Mrs. Charles Scheurich, close friends of the couple, attending.
Throughout the years, Barry proved to be one of the most successful hardware dealers in the Southwest, and accumulated large property and land holdings in Clovis and the surrounding region. A little-known fact concerning Barry was the extent of his charities. He was known as a philanthropist by a small group of his closer friends. He always insisted on making his gifts quietly and without acclaim.

Rising out of the New Mexico landscape are scores of whirring windmills he sold on credit when there was no credit anywhere else. In countless farm houses are cream separators and essentials of the home that came from Barry Hardware store in hard years without any money down.

James Bickley, superintendent, of Clovis schools, said “there was a time when the school owed $50,000. We got what we needed from Johns Barry.” Marguerite Sellers once told that he donated a brand new heating system to the Sacred Heart Church.

Through the years, after his marriage, Barry began purchasing land around Clovis, one section at a time. He owned seven or eight farms near Clovis and at the time of his death he had a ranch near Tolar consisting of more than 30,000 acres on which were some of the finest registered Herefords in the Southwest.

Barry, the merchant, was interested in rural development, believing each new farmer helped the growth of Clovis. He contributed thousands of dollars in prizes to farmers, awards for the building of silos, and financing farmers during depressions and off years.

John H. Barry was born Aug. 24, 1875, in Leavenworth, Kansas. His parents were John H. and Catherine (Curtain) Barry. They moved to Atchison, Kan., shortly after his birth. His father was a brick contractor.

The son was educated at St. Benedict’s College in Atchison. He had a burning desire to be a traveling salesman. His father discouraged him, insisting he continue school, but at age 15 his insistence on being a “drummer” was so strong, the father agreed. The son went to work at a large wholesale hardware concern. His territory consisted of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri. He got an education!

Barry had been ill for about two months, at his home at 600 Gidding, suffering from a light stroke. Taken to Dallas for treatment, he became worse, but rallied sufficiently to be brought back home. He was returned to Dallas when his condition became grave.

He died at 3 a.m., on Aug. 29, 1944. He was buried in Altadena, Calif., beside his father.

Don McAlavy is the Curry County historian. E-mail: