BELLE FOURCHE | A painting from the 1940s has found its place again in Belle Fourche at the Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center. The restored canvas is possibly the only one of Davey Barr’s numerous paintings to endure over the years. At one time, Barr’s paintings were displayed throughout Belle Fourche in local businesses and government offices.
At Saturday’s appearance, Wayne Gilbert presented considerable information on the infamous Barr that enhanced the experience of the crowded room at the museum. Gilbert had been Barr during the annual Questers Cemetery Walk and had a working knowledge of the former Belle Fourche resident.
“To the Chutes” demonstrates the creativity that Barr continued throughout most of his paintings. There are five things that need a closer look when viewing the painting — hidden cowboys obscured by dust, a western plant found down in the corner, a bull’s face in the clouds, dead trees hidden in the dust, and perhaps a “ghost” or two.
Several of the attendees stood and studied the painting to find the “hidden” story. Delighted voices sounded off when each item was found.
You can’t just walk by and not be intrigued by the painting, someone said. It’s worth taking the time to visit the museum, someone else echoed.
Davey Barr had come from Missouri to Belle Fourche via Sundance and Minnesela in 1886 with his wife, Juliaetta, and 8-year-old daughter, Bertha. Later two sons were born into the family, Alfred and Remington.
Barr was well known as a house painter and interior decorator during the early part of the twentieth century. He was active in local government, serving on the school board, as County Auditor, and County Treasurer. He was also a poll watcher during local elections for 20 years.
In his later years, Barr was a very popular downtown figure as he walked every day and visited with friends and strangers. He worked hard to make sure Belle Fourche had an identity.
When he died in 1954 at the age of 97, he was the oldest person in Belle Fourche who had been a citizen at the time of the town’s foundation and organization.
Gilbert portrayed Barr during the annual Questers Cemetery Walk, known as Pine Slope Personalities, held every June. The Cemetery Walk consists of performers portraying celebrated persons who are buried in Pine Slope Cemetery in Belle Fourche. The performers appear in period costumes and carry the audience into another time and place.
The Questers mission is to preserve the American heritage for future generations. They educate by research and through the study of antiques and donate funds to the preservation and restoration of artifacts, historic buildings, memorials and landmarks.
The Tri-State Museum and Visitor Center is located on the northern end of Belle Fourche at 415 Fifth Ave. Call 723-1200 or check out the website, thetristatemuseum.com, for winter hours and upcoming events.