James M. Barton, soldier, farmer, and merchant, was born in Pickens District, South Carolina, to Benjamin Barton, who was killed in the Regulator-Moderator War in Harrison County. Barton's mother's maiden name was Baker. Soon after his father's death, he moved to the Rusk County community of Millville, where he was elected sheriff and served for eight or ten years. With the outbreak of the Mexican War Barton was elected second lieutenant of Capt. Ferguson Ashton's Company G of Col. George T. Wood's Second Regiment, Texas Mounted Volunteers. This company was recruited primarily in the vicinity of Sand Hill, Texas, and was in federal service from June 25 through October 2, 1846. Under Gen. Zachary Taylor it saw action in the Monterrey campaign in September 1846. During the Civil War Barton was elected lieutenant colonel of the Tenth Texas Cavalry. This regiment served in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas during the first months of the war, before being transferred to Ector's Brigade of the Army of Tennessee, where it was consolidated with the Fourteenth Texas Cavalry. Due to ill health, Barton resigned his commission before the close of the war.
Afterward, he was a successful merchant, first at Bellview, later at Hallville, and finally at Longview. When his Longview store burned, however, he retired to his Bellview farm. He was serving as sergeant at arms of the Texas Senate at the time of his death in September 1879, one year after the death of his wife, Emily (Miller). Barton was the father of five children and the father-in-law of James Harvey (Cyclone) Davis.