Editor’s note: A previous Curious Mind column had incorrect information about the Bob Barton Highway namesake. This column contains corrected information. The Times-News regrets the error.
There were two Bob Bartons living in Wendell in the same time period, and both served in the military. Bob Barton Highway was named for the one who died in World War II.
“I was a resident of the community down there south of Wendell for 55 or 60 years. The Bob Barton Road was named after the Bartons that lived right there on the highway,” said Omer Schmidt, who now lives in Jerome. “He was drafted into the army and was killed in the Battle of the Bulge, and was buried in France in a military cemetery.”
The Bartons were an old, established family in Orchard Valley, a community located five miles south of Wendell and in Gooding County.
Pvt. Robert H. Barton was reported killed in action in Germany in a telegram from the war department to his wife, Evelyn Ward, in Los Angeles. Previously, he had been listed as missing.
“That was a close knit community down there. Neighbors got the highway district to name that road the Bob Barton Road,” Schmidt said. “His mother was a teacher there at the Orchard Valley School for years and years. It was just a one room schoolhouse, probably only had about 12 to 15 students at any one time. They lived right off the road from the schoolhouse. He was the only one from the area that was killed during the war, and that’s why they named that road the Bob Barton Road.”
According to the Times-News on Oct. 11, 1959, “Shortly after Bob Barton was reported killed in action, Mrs. Harold Estes, a family friend of the Bartons, suggested that the road be named in his honor. The idea received full area support and in the spring of 1945 a military ceremony was held and the highway was dedicated officially. The Wendell highway district bought the signs that mark the memorial highway and has continued to maintain them.”
The Bob Barton Highway was previously known as the Orchard Valley Road.
Nancy Turley, who was born and raised on Bob Barton Road and attended the dedication, shared a written account from Lillian Johns Barton, mother of the honored soldier: “Having taught at the Orchard Valley School since Sept. 1917, Lillian A. Johns married Henry J. Barton in 24 Nov. 1918. They took up residence in a home which was directly across the road from the final position of the school which stands today at 1998 Bob Barton Hwy.”
Their only son, Robert Henry Barton, was born in Wendell Jan. 5, 1920, at the home of his maternal grandparents, Rev. and Mrs. Thomas Johns, pastor of the Wendell Methodist Church. Robert is listed with his parents in the 1930 census of Gooding County as a 10-year-old.
He enlisted in the military as a private in June 1944 at Fort MacArthur, San Pedro, Calif. Barton was one of three who were listed as missing in action from Wendell, but the only one who did not return. He was married and living in California at the time of his enlistment.
He was listed as missing in action in January 1945. Later his death was confirmed as occurring on Dec. 19, 1944, from “wounds received that day in the Battle of the Bulge.” His remains were buried in a U.S. military cemetery near Strasbourg, France, according to an interview with Lillian Barton reported in the North Side News of July 6, 1973.