John Barry (1824-1900)

The Barry Family’s Journey from County Cork to Pittsburgh

James Barry, USA

In the late 1840s, two young people from County Cork, John and Anne Barry, left their home in Carrigcluhir, Barryroe parish, and journeyed to America. They settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, founding a family that endured for four more generations. This is the story of John and Anne, their ancestors and their descendents.

John and Anne Barry were the children of Edward Barry and Margaret Regan. Edward’s father was Stephen, a small farmer, who had married Eliza Hornibrook, daughter of a merchant from the nearby town of Bandon. Edward and Margaret’s first son, born two years before John, was named Stephen after Edward’s father. Margaret Regan was born to John Regan and Honora Brickley, also of Barryroe parish, in 1806. Edward Barry and Margaret married about 1821. Edward probably died in the late 1850s, since his son Stephen married at that time and is listed in land records as leasing the family farm by 1863.

Carrigcluhir was a very small village; Griffiths’ valuation, made in the 1850s, lists only nine individuals, all named Barry who held leases there. The residents were either farmers or fishermen and had no formal education.

The Barry families collectively occupied more than 125 acres, about a quarter of the area of the townland of Ballymacredmond where Carrigcluhir was located. At one time, these were probably held by one or two families, and cultivated in commercial crops. Because of the inheritance laws and customs of the time, however, the Barry family’s lands were broken up in each succeeding generation so that by the mid-19th century they were a patchwork of small fields, ranging from two to 20 acres. The nine fields leased by Edward, John and Anne’s father, totaled about 10 acres. They were surrounded by stone walls and separated from one another. As was the case throughout Ireland, as the land was subdivided into smaller and smaller fields, commercial cultivation was no longer possible, and most plots were devoted to one crop, the potato.

The situation that Edward Barry, like many small farmers in 19th century Ireland, faced was that if his lands were to be divided among his sons, their holdings would not have been viable. In addition, changes to land laws and lease provisions in the 1830s and later prohibited subdivision of lands, although these rules were unevenly enforced. In any event, Edward’s lease passed in its entirety to his eldest son, Stephen. So he younger children had no access to family land, and this, coupled with years of dismal harvests, would have been a factor in John Barry’s decision to immigrate to America along with his sister.

West Cork, including Barryroe parish, was deeply affected by the famine of the 1840s. According to James Coombes, in his History of Timoleague and Barryroe, reports from the area indicated that it was one of the worst off in the country. Although it was near the sea, and many residents (including members of the Barry family) were fishermen, the very severe winter of 1846-47 made fishing nearly impossible and exacerbated the impact of the potato blight. Ballymacredmond, the Barry’s townland, saw its population shrink by 27 percent between 1841 and 1851. The nearby village of Lehenagh lost 40 percent of its population and other neighboring communities lost as much as 60 percent. These were among the worst losses in all of Ireland.

It was in the time of the famine that John and Anne Barry left for America. We have no details of their voyage, but can infer some things about their experience from histories of the Irish immigration. Like most Irish immigrants they probably left either from Cobh, the harbor of Cork, or from Liverpool in England after a voyage from their home. As far as can be determined from the records, John and Anne left their parents and siblings and made the challenging journey on their own.

Leaving their home on foot or by cart, they would have made their way to the harbor. Whether they left from Cork or Liverpool, they probably would have had to stay at least several days before departing; sailing dates for emigrant ships were notoriously unreliable. The conditions during their stay at the port would have been crowded, filthy and dangerous. In Liverpool, unscrupulous landlords crammed Irish families into small rooms in squalid tenements. Gangs roamed the streets and emigrants were advised to travel light since theft of baggage was rampant.

When the ship finally arrived, the waiting emigrants were herded below decks. The ships were generally overcrowded and unsanitary. While regulations provided for ten square feet of deck space per passenger, shipping agents and captains ignored the rules and crammed as many people as possible into steerage. There was no privacy and sanitary conditions were primitive. Seasickness was common and more serious medical problems often occurred. Rations were short and emigrants were sometimes shaken down by crewmembers who demanded money for basic amenities like access to cooking fires. Passengers found that their bunks collapsed in heavy weather and that the food that they brought to supplement the meager rations spoiled.

After a voyage of more than a month, John and Anne would have arrived in America tired, hungry and bewildered. But they were fortunate to have arrived at all. Their cousin Margaret Barry of Carrigcluhir was one of nearly 6000 Irish men and women who died at the quarantine station at Grosse Isle, Quebec, when an epidemic of typhus broke out aboard the emigrant ships. Many others died of disease or malnutrition on the Atlantic voyage, and a number of ships wrecked with heavy loss of life. As a result of these conditions, American authorities set up quarantine stations, and the Barrys may have had to wait there for as much as a month before their ship was cleared to dock.

. How long John and Anne might have stayed in New York (where most immigrants arrived) or in another port location is unknown, but eventually they found their way to Pittsburgh, where others from Barryroe parish had gone before. There was no direct rail connection between New York and Pittsburgh; railroad service did not come to Pittsburgh until 1852. Thus, the Barrys would have had to travel first to Philadelphia or to Buffalo and then make their way to Pittsburgh by river steamer, canal boat and coach. Tickets for such journeys were often sold at exorbitant prices. Some were worthless forgeries, leaving the immigrants stranded.

John and Anne Barry managed to overcome these difficulties. At last, perhaps as much as three months after leaving Ireland, the Barrys of Carrigcluhir arrived in their new home.

When the Barrys arrived, Pittsburgh was experiencing a period of major growth. The city had been almost entirely rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1845. The Pennsylvania Railroad inaugurated service in the early 1850s. Industry was growing, but so was unrest. There were several labor riots and strikes. A cholera epidemic in 1854 claimed the lives of hundreds of residents. While jobs were available, many were risky and safety measures were few. There are listings in the death records of the Barrys’ neighbors of deaths from industrial accidents such as being crushed by trains, falling from a bridge or being struck by a falling steel beam. Crime was also prevalent; in the late 19th century a cousin of the Barrys was murdered when he tried to rescue a young boy from an assailant.

John was ill prepared to work in America. There is no specific information about his education in Ireland, but certainly he had minimal schooling, if indeed he had any at all. The local schools were small affairs: one in nearby Lislevane accommodated 36 boys and 8 girls in a thatched cabin. Even this limited education was too costly for poor farmers. John Barry was illiterate when he emigrated. He signed his naturalization petition with an “X” and the 1880 US census indicates that he could not read or write. Like about 90 percent of people in West Cork, John probably spoke Irish as his first language, but also spoke some English. The 1901 Census of Ireland indicates that his brother Stephen spoke both languages. John probably began to work on the family farm at a very young age, perhaps tending the family cow or sheep that many farmers kept. This was not a set of skills in great demand in the industrial city of Pittsburgh. John found work as a laborer, as did more than half of the Irish immigrants in Pittsburgh, and the hard physical work may have taken its toll; a John Barry of the appropriate age appeared in the1860 census in a hospital. John remained a day laborer his entire life.

The 5th Ward was John’s home, according to his 1900 death notice in the Pittsburgh Press, for 50 years, and he adopted America as his homeland. According to naturalization records, John Barry filed a declaration of intention on 1 Nov 1854 and petitioned for citizenship on 3 Nov 1856.

John married Hanora (Annie) Madden at St. Paul’s Cathedral, the Irish parish church, on 6 Dec 1865. It was a May-December marriage; Hanora was more than 20 years younger than John. John and Hanora had three children: Margaret (b. 1868), Edward L (b. 1871) and John Aloysius (b. 1875.) Edward worked as a glassblower. He married a woman named Emma Dunn; their descendants still live in Pittsburgh today. Margaret married Andrew Mellet in 1890 but died of tuberculosis six months later. John Aloysius married Maude Farnen, whose family came from County Down, and they had six children

John’s sister, Anne Barry, married James Barry, another Irish laborer, in 1864. James died in 1875 and Anne is listed in city directories as his widow, beginning in 1876. In the 1880 census she is listed as a washerwoman, widowed, children Johanna, Edward, Mary and James. She lived with her children in a small tenement until 1893, when they moved in with her brother. After John died in November 1900. Anne and the children remained in the family home until the marriage of John’s son, John Aloysius in 1906. She then relocated to another neighborhood with her own children. She died in 1909.

John and Honora’s younger son, John Aloysius Barry, was a skilled carpenter and the secretary of local 142 of the carpenter’s union at the time of his death in 1929. He died at the age of 53, leaving his widow and five of the children. (One of John and Maude’s twin sons, Francis, had died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918.) Somehow, Maude and her children were not only able to survive, but to thrive. John and Maude’s oldest son, John, worked on streetcars and saved enough money to attend Carnegie Tech (now Carnegie Mellon University). He became an army engineer, and chief safety engineer for Pittsburgh. In 1940 he was able to buy a home in the Brookline section of Pittsburgh, where he lived with his mother, his brother James and James’ new wife. He later owned a restaurant in Pittsburgh that had belonged to the family of his wife, Teresa Lorenz. When the restaurant closed, he returned to engineering work, building tunnels in Canada and the Army’s nuclear weapons test site in New Mexico. John Barry died in 1956 in a plane crash over the Grand Canyon. His son John was a navy technician who died in Hawaii in 2002.

The second son, James A Barry, worked his way through college helping to print and deliver a local newspaper. He attended Duquesne University and Georgetown University Medical School. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, in the Middle East and Pacific, and was at Tinian in the Marianas when American planes left from there to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. After the war, and perhaps deeply affected by the tragic death of his baby brother, he became a respected pediatrician. James A. Barry married Florence Gush of Clairton, Pennsylvania, daughter of steelworker John Gush whose family came from Bavaria and Mary Elizabeth Woods, who was born in Scotland to an Ulster family. James and Florence had one son James and two adopted daughters, Janice and Sheila. His son James is the author of this manuscript. James A. Barry, M. D., died in 1965 of heart trouble.

John and Maude’s third son, William, died unmarried in 1939 of meningitis and complications from an ear infection. Their only daughter, Margaret, married Robert Green, a Pittsburgh printer. They had three children and half a dozen grand children. The surviving twin, Joseph, served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific during World War II. He had two families. He and his first wife, Betty, had two sons and three daughters; Joseph and his second wife, Mildred Wallace, had two daughters. Joseph Barry died in 1976.

Today the descendents of John Barry and Hanora Madden live far and wide, in New York, Virginia, California, Hawaii, Indiana, South Carolina, Texas and Arizona.

Anne Barry’s family line ended with her children. She lived until the end of her life with Edward, James, Johanna and Mary, but none of them married and had children.

The Barry family has many men and women who showed great courage and determination, struggling to overcome oppression and adversity and build a better life for themselves and others. In the 19th century, John, a poor farm lad, undertook the dangerous journey to the new world to create a secure life for himself and his young sister. When her husband died, Anne worked at menial jobs to support her children. Suffering his own tragic losses, John took her and her children into his home and raised the young boys and girls as his own. His son John Aloysius became a builder and an activist for the rights of workers. In the next generation, John, James and Joseph fought for freedom in World War II, echoing the fight of several Barryroe cousins in Ireland’s war for independence.

The Barry family’s story of an enduring struggle and eventual triumph is a common one among the Irish Diaspora. It is the tale of Ireland itself, an ancient land long suppressed whose people fought and won their freedom after centuries of determined effort. In their own fight to overcome adversity, the Barrys of Carrigcluhir embody the family motto, “Strike Forward!”


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