JOHN LESTER BARSTOW was born in Shelburne, Vermont. After teaching in local schools, he lived in Detroit for six years, returning to Vermont to take charge of his father’s farm. Rising to the rank of Major in the 8th Vermont Volunteers, he was cited for gallantry in the field during the Civil War. Although he was discharged from the military after contracting malaria, a special mission that he conducted to Canada led to his appointment as Brigadier-General in command of a militia brigade and to his service as commander of the northwestern frontier of Vermont. He began his public life as assistant clerk in the Vermont House of Representatives in 1861, and he went on after his war service to represent the city of Shelburne and the County of Chittenden in the State House and State Senate, respectively. From 1870 to 1878 he served as U.S. Pension Agent in Burlington by the appointment of President Ulysses Grant. He was then elected Lieutenant Governor, serving from 1880 until 1882, when he campaigned successfully for governor. As governor, Barstow urged the formation of an efficient railroad commission and sought justice for miners seeking equitable pay. After leaving office, he was appointed by President Benjamin Harrison to act as a commissioner in treaty negotiations with the Navajo Indians. At the request of Vermont Governor Levi Fuller, he went on to serve with the Executive Committee of the National Anti-Trust Society. And in 1910 he appeared before the state legislature to urge ratification of the constitutional amendment that authorized imposition of a federal income tax.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.
The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 8. New York: James T. White & Company.