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The Boat Builder From White River

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Published on: Jun. 2, 1996

Last revision: Oct. 21, 2010

ever since." However a U. S. Bureau of Fisheries publication dated 1919 shows the term "john boat" was in use long before this.

The boats were known to native Ozarkers as "jack boats" in earlier years when they burned "jack" pine knots in a metal basket for nighttime fishing or gigging, and that, too, may have been a source of the johnboat name.

Where other builders used wood supports in the interior of their johnboats, Charlie Barnes used iron. "The interior of the boat, to make supports, you had scrap iron," Bill says. "Some of it was made from old buggy wheels. Dad would go to blacksmith shops and find things to get his iron. They come up the side of the boat so far, across the bottom and up the other side to support the gunwales."

All of Charlie's boat work was done with hand tools, and Bill says his father was choosy about the lumber he would use to build boats. Charlie needed three 20-foot-long boards for the bottom of his boats and two 20-footers for the sides. One of David Barnes' clippings notes that Charlie remembered the days when he could build a johnboat with $3 worth of materials.

"Those boats were so easy to handle on the water," Bill says, "it was amazing." One old timer said of the boats, "There's nothing quite like `em." The amount of "rake," or upward curve on the front of the boats depended on what the boat would be used for. A fishing boat had more rake; a commissary boat, full of tents and equipment, less.

And even though black tar was melted and put on the tongue-and-groove seams on the bottom of the boat, the boats had to sit awhile in the water to seal. They sometimes leaked a bit, but Charlie Barnes put duckboards on the bottom of the boats so his clients feet wouldn't get wet.

Charlie bought a Model T Ford, a used one, about 1915. He later bought a new car in Kansas City and drove it back to Galena. He was so taken with the automobile that he became a Ford dealer. David Barnes has a photo of the Ford garage in Galena. Bill remembers, "That was his first garage that he rented on the west side of the square in Galena. Later we built our own building on the east side."

Bill and his brother David (young David's father) were

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