Dorchester Illustration 2347 James Barnie

2347 James Barnie

Dorchester Illustration no. 2347   James Barnie

At the Dorchester Historical Society, we are in the process of a year-long project to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of World War I. Using a collection of photographs we have of World War I Dorchester residents, we will be featuring soldiers in a number of short biographies throughout the year. At the culmination of the project, we hope to produce an online exhibit which highlights these men and their service to our country.

Our next biography features: James M. Barnie

The Barnie family recently donated a wonderful collection of family papers to the Dorchester Historical Society and the collection documents, among other things, the life of James Barnie. James was another Dorchester resident who sacrificed his life in the service of his country during World War I. Using some of the personal papers in this collection, we are able to memorialize the life of another World War I serviceman in our project.

James Barnie was born in Leith, Scotland to parents Alexander and Mary (Mainland) Barnie. He immigrated to the United States as a young boy, when he was five years old, and settled in Milton, Massachusetts with his family. He had two sisters, Helen and Mary, and a younger brother, Alexander, who died as a young boy, from diphtheria.

On June 3, 1908, James married a Dorchester girl, Miss Eva Pihlkrantz, and moved with her to her family home in Dorchester. The young Barnie family lived at 15 Centre Court with Eva’s father, Lars, and her sister, Wilhemina. By 1909, they are a family of three, with the addition of a son named James. In the 1910 United States Census, James is listed as a painter and Eva as staying at home with her infant son. Their second son, Ralph Everett, was born in 1911.

James enlisted as a private in the United States Army in October 1917. He served overseas with Company A of the 6th Engineers from December 1917 until he was killed in action on October 20, 2018. While overseas, he was involved in a number of military engagements, including Chateau-Thierry, the second battle of the Marne, and at Verdun.

Although James’ story ends in 1918, his wife Eva, took part in an interesting opportunity that was offered by the United States government in order to honor veterans of World War I. In 1930, the United States War Department organized the “Pilgrimage for War Mothers and Widows,” also known as “Gold Star Pilgrimages.” These pilgrimages were government-funded and organized by the War Department in order to honor the mothers and widows of United States servicemen who lost their lives on the battlefields of Europe during World War I. Eva Barnie, James’s widow, was invited to attend one such pilgrimage and left for France on July 2, 1918 from New York. While she was in France, she visited cemeteries dedicated to American soldiers and was able to visit James’s grave at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in France. Information about her pilgrimage and other Barnie family information can be found in the Barnie family papers at the Dorchester Historical Society.

Do you have a comment or more information about James Barnie or about other Dorchester residents who served in World War I ?


American Battle Monuments Commission. “Women and World War I Commemoration: The Gold Star Mothers and Widows Pilgrimages, 1930-33.” Women and World War I Commemoration: The Gold Star Mothers and Widows Pilgrimages, 1930-33 | American Battle Monuments Commission, American Battle Monuments Commission, 23 Mar. 2015, 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2013. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2011. WWI, WWII, and Korean War Casualty Listings [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005.

Barnie family papers, Dorchester Historical Society, Boston, MA.

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