Table of Contents
A few miles from the corner of Barneyville Road and the Old Providence Road crossing the Palmer River at the John Myles Bridge was a section called Barneyville. Today this area is known as Historic Swansea, Massachusetts.
Barneyville, formerly known as “Bungtown” in the early 1770s, was a bustling community where young men worked from sunup to sundown sawing, filing, shaping, boring, and fastening planks and timbers together for the Barney Shipyard. Jonathan Barney, a prominent boat builder in New England established the shipyard in the 1770s. The Barney Shipyard saw its greatest success under Barney’s son, Mason, in the 18th century.
Mason Barney (1782-1868) had taken ownership of the shipyard following his father’s death in the 1800s. Under his ownership, Mason had established a large enterprise with over 200 men working to build boats at the shipyard. His estate included the shipyard, a general town store, and housing for some crew members, among other proprietary establishments. While working for his father, Mason was able to learn the shipbuilding trade and he became knowledgeable of the right people to hire and where to obtain wood and iron. His work at the shipyard helped to launch himself into the ranks of professional management as one of America’s most important and successful boat builders.
Mason Barney left many of the boats he had built unnamed until they were purchased, and his named boats included The Mason Barney, the Esther G. Barney, and The Mary R. Barney. The Esther G. Barney was operated by Acting Master, Captain Charles Smith Barney, Jr., a former United States Navy Captain discharged from the Navy on October 3, 1856.
During his career, Mason Barney built some 150 vessels from small fishing boats to a ship of 1,060 tons, the largest vessel that had been launched in this section of New England. The Barney Shipyard ceased operations in 1860 with the advent of steam-powered ships and the Civil War on the rise.
Materials in this collection consist of manuscripts pertaining to the Barney family in America with a majority of the records consisting of correspondences of former United States Navy Captain, Charles Smith Barney, Jr., Acting master of the ship, The Esther G. Barney. The materials in this collection range from 1836 through 1929, and include incoming and outgoing correspondences, legal documentation, bills and receipts, bills of landing, bills of exchange, and a bill of health, in addition to Barney family genealogical records, newspaper clippings, photographs, and other associated materials.
Captain Charles Barney and Abby E. Barney (1806-1901) were married in 1834 and had three children: Captain Charles Smith Barney, Jr., former United States Navy captain; Edwin Barney, a prominent lawyer in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Mrs. Daniel Child of Providence (Lizzie). This collection contains documents pertinent to Captain Charles Smith Barney, Jr.
The collection is mostly composed of incoming correspondences to Captain Charles S. Barney Jr. from family and friends during his voyages as Acting Master of the ship, The Esther G. Barney built by famous shipbuilder, Mason Barney. Correspondences from Abby and Lizzie include greetings, and news of daily life, and information about their health. Both Abby and Lizzie had fallen ill several times during the exchange of correspondences with Captain Barney, Jr. Lizzie holds herself responsible for writing information pertaining to the latest family news and gossip in her letters such as who is visiting and how long they plan to stay. Lizzie and Abby’s letters were written on the same pages of paper. These letters include plenty of well wishes and safe travels to Captain Barney, Jr. and express how much she misses her brother. Many letters are about how big her son, Charlie, is getting and how much he looks like Captain Charles. She also mentions word of another child on the way and later welcomes her second child to her family.
Talk of Charles taking a wife was mentioned in letters between Lizzie and Abby (mother). Not long after those letters were sent, Alice (Blow) Barney, wife of Captain Charles Barney took a presence in the collection of correspondence. She has a series of correspondences to her husband wishing him well and generally writing about her day in a collection of letters while he is away. She also expresses how much she misses him and talks about his mother and sister visiting and how she will care for his mother in his absence.
The correspondence collection also includes incoming letters from Captain Barney’s brother, Edwin, in addition to other family members and friends. These writings include correspondences that offer greetings and well wishes for safe return home and there was an exchange with receipts and correspondences from Mason Barney, and Mason Barney, Jr., Daniel R. Child (Lizzie’s husband), E.J. Carpenter, George Waite, and Henry Blow among other friends.
While a majority of the documents are incoming correspondences, there are some outgoing correspondences from Captain Barney to his mother, and sister, Lizzie. These correspondences contain word of Captain Barney’s safe arrival in port wherever he has docked at the time of writing. He always mentions how difficult the voyage was and compares its difficulty to the one before. These correspondences also contain well wishes to his sister and her family, including Daniel Child (husband) and little Charlie (son).
Captain Charles S, Barney, Jr. was discharged from the United States Navy in 1865. During his time as captain, he had led many voyages around the world including frequent docking in New York, Boston, New Orleans, Liverpool, Florida, and Queenstown. His ship, The Esther G. Barney was built by a well-known shipbuilder, Mason Barney in Barneyville known today as Swansea, Massachusetts. Documentation of his voyages includes bills of landing, bills of exchange, bill of health, bills and receipts, and a certificate from France. These documents contain evidence of the ship successfully docking after a voyage and show any fees incurred from towing, cargo, or health related charges during the time docked. These receipts include tow fees and supplies for the ship.
Upon discharge from the US Navy, Charles Barney settled in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife, Alice. Documentation includes automobile registration, stock holdings, and records of employment and termination from Crazy Water Company (Texas), Raytheon Manufacturing Company (Boston), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Conservation Division of Forestry (Boston).
Other content in the collection includes family genealogical records of the Barney family in America, unidentified photographs, and a scrapbook containing an obituary of Abby E. Barney, and newspaper clippings of articles, poems, recipes, and other obituaries.
Arrangement of Collection
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New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library Mss 156, [sub-group, series, sub-series, folder/volume as appropriate], [item]
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Mss 103: Barney Family Papers
Mss 142: Barney Family Papers
Materials in this collection were donated to the Old Dartmouth Historical Society/New Bedford Whaling Museum on April 26, 1990 by Richard and Jean Kellaway, Accession #B90-13. This collection was given in Honor of Charles Barney Jr., Gladys Kellaway Barney, and their children Betsey and David.
Processed by: Rebecca Gagne, 2017
Encoded by: Rebecca Gagne, 28 April 2017
A. Gump and Son Wholesale and Retail Dealers (Apalachicola, Florida)
Barney (Blow), Alice
Barney, Abby E., 1806-1901
Barney, Jr., Captain Charles Smith
Barney, Jr., Mason
Barney, Mason, 1782-1868
Barneyville (Swansea, Mass.)
Blow, John "Johnny" Thomas
Collins, Carr P.
Commonwealth of Massachusetts Department of Conservation Division of Forestry (Boston, Mass.)
Crazy Water Company (Mineral Wells, Texas)
Esther G. Barney (ship)
Liverpool Steam Tug Company (Liverpool, England)
New Orleans (La)
Raytheon Manufacturing Company (Boston, Mass.)
Ship's papers--18th century
Shipyard (Barneyville, Mass.)
United States. Navy
United States. Navy--Disbursing clerks
Voyages and travel.
Voyages around the world.
Esther G. Barney (Ship)
- The Local History Guild
- Performance: To Catch a Whale
- Film Screening: Mother Knows Best
- Lecture & Book Signing: White Fox and Icy Seas
- Spooky Science of the Sea
- Mountainfilm On Tour
- Great War and Azores Lecture
- New Bedford Lyceum presents W. Kamau Bell
- Annual Family Activities
- Community Programs
- Annual Events
- Past Programs
- Exhibit Enhancements
- Discovery Center
- Herman Melville
- Captain Paul Cuffe
- Joshua Slocum
- Lighting the Way: Historic Women of the SouthCoast