George Eames Barstow, capitalist and irrigation pioneer, was born on November 19, 1849, in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Amos Chafee and Emeline (Mumford) Eames. He was educated at the public school and at Mowry and Goff's English and Classical School in Providence. The son of a manufacturer and banker, Barstow himself began a business career at the age of seventeen. He eventually founded, financed, or organized five worsted and paper industries in Rhode Island. He became a member of the Providence school board at the age of twenty-one and served for fourteen years. He also served four years on the Providence common council and three terms in the Rhode Island House of Representatives. He married Clara Drew Symonds on October 19, 1871, and they had nine children.
For a number of years Barstow was involved in irrigation projects and in the draining of swamp lands. His attention turned to the Pecos valley in Texas after the state legislature passed an act in March 1889 to encourage the development of irrigation in West Texas. The Pioneer Canal Company, with Barstow as treasurer, was chartered on July 6, 1889. On September 30, 1889, Pioneer took over the Ward County Irrigation Company. Barstow served as president of at least one of the Pioneer Canal Company's later incarnations, the Pecos Valley Land and Irrigation Company. An ad for the latter company, with a picture of Barstow as president, appeared in a 1909 issue of Cosmopolitan.
In 1891 Barstow joined other land developers in a project to promote a town on the Texas and Pacific Railway in western Ward County. The townsite, laid out in 1891, was deeded by Mr. and Mrs. B. K. Brant and O. F. Brant to the Barstow Improvement Company in 1892. Disagreement surfaced early over a name for the town, but by 1895 the community had taken the name of Barstow. Barstow himself moved to Barstow in 1904 from New York City. He also reportedly participated in organizing other irrigation and drainage systems throughout the West. He was president of the National Drainage Congress in 1907–08 and of the Eleventh International Irrigation Congress in 1908–09. He also served as vice president of the Texas Conservation Commission and president of the West Texas Reclamation Association. He was a member of the Conference of Governors in 1908, a delegate to the World Court Congress in Cleveland in 1915, a life director of Euphrates College (Turkey), a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London), a member and fellow of the Society of Applied Psychology (San Francisco), a member of the committee on conferences of the American Agricultural Association, and a member of the advisory committee of the University Forum (New York). He was also a member of the American Society of International Law, the National Institute of Social Sciences, the Southern Sociological Congress, the National Child Labor Committee, the National Civic Federation, the American Institute of Civics, the Academy of Political Science, the American Society of Judicial Settlement of International Disputes, the International Peace Forum, the League to Enforce Peace, the International World Conscience Society (Rome), the Navy League, the Rhode Island Historical Society, the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the New York Museum of Natural History. He was also a councilor of the World's Purity Congress. In addition, Barstow wrote pamphlets on such varied subjects as immigration, cooperatives, Sino-Japanese relations, and Americanism. He was a Republican and attended the Congregational church in Providence and the Methodist church in Barstow. He died in Barstow on April 30, 1924, and was buried in the Barstow Cemetery.