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By Bob Amick
Special to the Herald Times
MEEKER | Longtime Meeker resident Johnny Barton was honored for distinguished leadership and service at the Rio Blanco County Pioneers Association (RBCPA) 105th Old Timer’s Reunion on June 3. Barton was presented with the RBCPA “Spirit of the Pioneers” Award, and the Rio Blanco County Historical Society’s dedication to and naming of the historic garrison building in Barton’s honor. Barton came to Meeker from California nearly three decades ago and resides in rural Meeker with his wife Virginia and son Jerrick.
Barton is a longtime advocate for and contributor to the Rio Blanco County Historical Society and White River Museum and Garrison Historic Buildings. These venues are housed in the original cottonwood log cabins built by the Military Cantonment troops that occupied the area following the Sept. 29, 1879, Native American White River Ute uprising at the White River Indian Agency in Powell Park, and at the concurrent battle of Milk Creek during the conflict with the U.S. Military.
As an expert on historic preservation and restoration of authentic 19th century buildings, Barton was commissioned to design and replicate the entire interior and exterior upgrades of the Garrison cabin (donated to RBCHS by original owners Sarah and Dick Lough). The renovation included replication of 19th century wooden board flooring, walls, and a “straw-textured” ceiling that was often utilized in buildings of that period.
Working with History Colorado office of Archeology and Historic Preservation consultants who offered guidance and provided project funding, Barton authentically restored the four rooms that now house the White River Ute Tribe collection (blessed and dedicated by the White River Ute Tribe in 2002), the White River Agency and Ute uprising diorama, the Cantonment Officer’s Quarters uniform regalia and artifact display, and the 20th century military uniform and artifact displays.
More recently, he was commissioned to provide customized and authentic installation of LED cove lighting valances that comport with the 19th century appearance of the interior which he expertly designed and installed with a flame-treated wood and a reflective coating for optimal (but unobtrusive) lighting that resembles the warm white color of period kerosene lamps.
He has also provided and renovated the extraordinary collection of 19th and early 20th century early Meeker implements and machinery used for hauling coal, ranching and farming, wagons, plows, well-digging windlass, original fire hose carts, earth-moving machinery, original Meeker buried waterline, horse-drawn hay mowers and sulkey rakes, water-hauling wagons, ice cutters, plows and much more.
As a knowledgeable historian and captivating storyteller, Barton intrigues and excites museum visitors with authentic tales and anecdotes on history unique to the White River Valley. For the past 17 years, he has shared music and songs (along with his wife and son) at weekly gatherings with Meeker seniors at the Walbridge Wing and at the Chuckwagon lunches at the Fairfield Center. Barton is sometimes compared to the “energizer bunny” for the boundless energy he exhibits in his role as a servant leader for his many friends, for our community and for his contributions at the Plant Center.
The RBCHS and RBCPA extend their sincere gratitude, congratulations and great respect for the selfless and generous efforts quietly and effectively contributed by Barton to our community for many decades.