James R. Barton

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James R. Barton
Born 1810
Howard County, Missouri
Died January 23, 1857
Los Angeles, California
Occupation Carpenter, sheriff

James R. Barton (1810?–1857) was the second sheriff of Los Angeles County, California, and the first to die in office, in the line of duty.


Early life[edit]

James R. Barton was born in 1810 in Howard County, Missouri. He emigrated to Mexico in 1841 and moved to Los Angeles, California in 1843. He served in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848.


A carpenter, he was the first treasurer of Masonic Lodge 42 in Los Angeles.[1]

He was elected to four one-year terms as the Sheriff of Los Angeles County from September 1851 to October 1855.[1] He was elected again in 1856.


Barton and three of his deputies were killed near present-day Irvine, California in a shootout with bandits led by Juan Flores and Pancho Daniel on January 23, 1857. The site of the shooting is marked by California State Historical Landmark No. 218, Barton Mound, with this inscription:

Juan Flores, who had escaped from San Quentin, was being sought by James Barton with a posse of five men. Near this mound, Flores surprised Barton and three of his men; all four were killed. When Los Angeles learned of the slaughter, posses were formed, and Flores and his men were captured.[2]

While the Flores Daniel Gang was being pursued, the bodies of the Sheriff and his posse were recovered by a special party sent out on horseback, escorting several wagons filled with coffins for the purpose and the bodies returned to the city. Harris Newmark described the reception of the bodies and the funeral:

... when the remains were received in Los Angeles on Sunday about noon, the city at once went into mourning. All business was suspended, and the impressive burial ceremonies, conducted on Monday, were attended by the citizens en masse. Oddly enough, there was not a Protestant clergyman in town at the time; but the Masonic Order took the matter in hand and performed their rites over those who were Masons, and even paid their respects, with a portion of the ritual, to the non-Masonic dead. [3]

For Further Reading[edit]

See Gold Dust and Gunsmoke: Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes (1999) by John Boessenecker.


  1. ^ a b Larry Goldberg, "James R. Barton Frontier Sheriff of Los Angeles County," Suite101.com, April 18, 2010.
  2. ^ Gustavo Arellano, "The Assassination of Sheriff James Barton by the Mexican Juan Flores," OC Weekly, January 8, 2009
  3. ^ Harris Newmark, Sixty years in Southern California, 1853-1913, containing the reminiscences of Harris Newmark. pp. 207-208.

See also[edit]