B.J. Barnett immigrated from Estonia (Russia) in the 1830s or 1840s and settled in Manville (Lee County), where he operated a dry goods business until about 1881. He married Zelda Loryea (1829-1882), an immigrant from Canada, and together they had eight children. Two of B.J.’s sons opened a store in Mayesville (Sumter County) and farmed. B.J. and another son, Henry Davis Barnett (1862-1950) moved to Sumter in 1880 to open a second general merchandise store, which was incorporated in 1948 as BJ Barnett, Inc.