John Barton, Esq., one of the oldest lawyers of the Allegheny county bar, is lying at the point of death. Mr. Barton has been in poor health for the past two years, having suffered a stroke of paralysis early in 1886, but up to a few days ago he remained steadily at his post, attending to as much business as he was able, although his strength was rapidly failing him.
A week ago another attack of the dreaded disease compelled him to take to bed. He rapidly grew worse, and during last night Dr. Le Moyne and other physicians, who were in attendance, expected that he would not live through the night. His condition to-day is not improved, and it is feared that he may die at any moment.
John Barton's career has been an eventful one and his biography would be more or less a history of the Allegheny county bar. Probably no lawyer at the bar has tried as many important cases and the Pennsylvania reports bear witness to his ability as a lawyer and the unusually large practice he enjoyed. He comes of an old Pittsburg family, his father having come to this city about 1800. He was born in 1823 on Second avenue. After a fair education, received at the public and private schools in this vicinity he was apprenticed and learned the trade of a machinist. Realizing the opportunities that a legal career afforded, he spent his evenings after a hard day's work at his trade in the study of law. In 1847 he applied for admission to the bar of Clarion county, and shortly afterward was admitted to the bar of this county on motion of D. D. Bruce, Esq. For several years after his admission he was associated with Hon. Thos. Mellon, his preceptor, when a student, and Maj. Wm. B. Negley. In 1851 he located in his present office, corner of Fifth avenue and Grant street, and for 37 years he has been in almost daily attendance there, looking after the interests of his clients.
Mr. Barton allowed few outside attractions to draw his attention away from his profession, as he desired no greater honor than to be considered an able and successful lawyer. With the exception of two terms in councils as a representative from the Twentieth ward, Mr. Barton never engaged in politics. While there, however, he worked actively for the city. He was the author of the Barton ordinance whereby the surplus money of the city was loaned out to the banks on interest. He was pre-eminently a citizen's representative and the politicians finally succeeded in defeating him for re-election. The citizens of the ward showed their appreciation, however, by presenting him with a handsome silver set.
Mr. Barton's domestic life has been an unusually happy one. In 1847 he married Miss Rebecca M. Lightner, a daughter of Joel Lightner, formerly alderman of the Ninth ward. He was blessed with eight children, all of whom are still living. They are E. L. Barton, president of the Citizens' Gas company, of Beaver county; L. C. Barton, one of the members of the law firm of Barton & Son; Mrs. A. E. Smith, of Wheeling; Miss Ada B. Stevenson, wife of A. K. Stevenson, Esq.; Mrs. Hettie M. Garfield, wife of Jas. M. Garfield, of Garfield, Fertig & Co., of Allegheny, and Mrs. Olive R. Stewart, wife of Howell Stewart, of Washington, D. C. Mrs. Bartin [sic] is still living and in constant attendance at his bed side.
A prominent attorney in discussing Mr. Barton as a lawyer this morning said: "He was engaged in many important cases, probably more than any other lawyer now living. But he was not a man to refuse small cases. His services were as easily procured by the poor as by the rich, and he was never known to turn a client away because of the lack of money. He was a close student of law, but not a mere theorist or book worm, as his lucrative practice would indicate. His strong point was his untiring perseverance. He never got discouraged, but would fight a case to the end, and on many occasions has he been successful before the supreme court after sustaining a defeat in the lower court. This quality of the man was shown at the time of his admission. The bar at that time was a great deal different from what it is at present. A poor and unknown young man was frequently grubbed and had a hard row to hoe; but he continued to practice law, unmindful of cuts or sneers, until he gradually rose to the top round in the legal profession."
Mr. Barton is a Presbyterian and was for many years a member of the Shady Side Presbyterian church.