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Name:    Barry, James G.
Profession:  Mayor
Category:  Politics and Government    (Number 12)
Term as Mayor:    1849-1850
Born/Started:    1800
Died/Ended:     May. 09, 1880
Description:    James G. Barry was the 12th mayor of St. Louis from 1849 to 1850. His one-year term was highlighted by two of the greatest disasters in the City’s history: the Great Fire of 1849 and the cholera epidemic later that year. The newspapers of that period praised his handling of both calamities.

Barry was born in Ireland in 1800. He began his career in St. Louis as a prosperous real estate agent. He was a member of the Board of Aldermen in 1840, 1842, 1845 and 1846. During Mayor Krung’s administration, he served as City Auditor. In April of 1849, he was elected mayor for a one-year term.

On May 17, 1849, one month after his inauguration, fire broke out among the steamboats at the St. Louis levee. Twenty-three boats and much of the business district were destroyed, with damage estimated at $5,000,000. Mayor Barry approved several pieces of legislation as the result of the fire, including $6,000 for immediate relief for sufferers and for protection of property. In addition, new ordinances prohibited the sale or storage of firewood at the wharf and required all wood to be inspected by the Lumber Master before being unloaded. Boats containing over 300 pounds of gunpowder were denied landing rights within the city limits.

While still attempting to recover from the fire, the City faced an even more serious calamity: cholera. In 1849, St. Louis had a population of about 64,000, a number that was growing every day due to the waves of immigrants from Europe. Many of these immigrants were ill when they left Europe; those who did not die on the boats brought the disease with them to St. Louis. As a result, during the early days at the cholera epidemic, deaths reached 639 per week. Mayor Barry formed a Citizens Committee to fight the plague. The City Council appropriated $50,000 for the emergency, and transferred its authority to the Citizens Committee. Quarantine regulations were established and passengers were carefully examined before they could debark the boats.

Mayor Barry also pushed through legislation that provided for all city ordinances to be published in the German language in a German newspaper, in recognition of the rapidly increasing German population of the City. During his later years, he was a valued member of the Missouri Historical Society. He lived in St. Louis until his death on May 9, 1880. Burial was at Calvary Cemetery. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had one child, Frances Angela.

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