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Brownsville Postmaster Michael R Barry

February 29, 2012

Michael Robert Barry was the third and final Postmaster at Brownsville BC, succeeding James Punch, who resigned 1898.

A pioneer of San Francisco and gold rush British Columbia,  Michael Barry was employed by Punch as bartender and manager of the Brownsville Hotel for many years.

Mike Barry was born in Ireland to Robert William Barry and Hannah Barry in 1845.

The Barry family emigrated to the United States. The 1860 Census records mother Hannah Barry heading a household comprising Michael, 15, and his sister Mary A Barry, 22, also Irish, and a second young woman, Jane Barry, also 22, born in New York.

William Prosper Barry William Prosper Barry, an elder brother  of Michael Barry,  had already left the nest for the Fraser River gold rush of 1858.
William P Barry

According to Marie Elliot in Gold and Grand Dreams,  two other brothers, Thomas Barry and James Barry, also came north in ’58, setting up a Saloon at Yale, the head of river navigation for steamboats.

The Barry brothers had a business relationship with Samuel Adler, also of  San Francisco.  Sam Adler came to British Columbia and entered into a partnership with William Prosper Barry in a Saloon, and also in building the bridge over the South Fork of the Quesnel River on the road to the Cariboo gold mines,  which opened in 1862.

Samuel Adler Irish Catholic Mary Augustine Barry, sister to the Barry brothers,  would marry German Jewish Samuel Adler at San Francisco.
The San Francisco directory for 1864 lists Hannah Barry (widow) also living at the same address as the Adlers.
Samuel Adler

When the Cassiar mining boom in northwest British Columbia occurred Sam Adler was there, running the Saloon of “Barry & Adler” at Dease Creek in 1875 and in subsequent years, commuting between Fort Wrangel and Victoria.

Mike Barry was also reported to have spent some time in the Cassiar.

William P Barry remained at Quesnel Forks, where he was Postmaster, from July 1873 until his death in July 1877.

 “The death of Mr. William P. Barry, suddenly, at Quesnelforks, was announced yesterday. Mr. Barry was a ’58 pioneer and a public spirited and energetic man. He leaves a mother in this city.” 

  – British Colonist, Victoria BC

Hannah Barry had moved north from San Francisco and lived in Victoria.

Michael R Barry was appointed the Administrator of the Estate of his brother William Prosper Barry, and in this capacity sued Kwong Li and E Tie for non-payment of tolls when transporting goods over the bridge on the North Fork of the Quesnel River, and portions of the trails leading to the South Fork bridge, all of which were maintained by WP Barry in return for payment of tolls on the South Fork Bridge.  In February 1878 Judge Begbie ruled in favour of Barry, stating that using the north bridge and trails, and ferrying goods across the South Fork was a manoeuvre executed purely to evade paying the tolls due to Mr Barry.

Matriarch of the Barry clan, Hannah Barry, passed away at Victoria in August 1880. As reported by the Colonist:

“In this city, on the 12th inst., Mrs Hannah Barry, widow of Robert Wm. Barry, aged 74, a native of Ireland.
The funeral will take place from the residence of S. Adler, Birdcage walk, TO-DAY at 8:30 a.m., and from the Catholic Cathedral at 9 o’clock. Friends are invited.”

At the time of her death Mrs Barry had been living at the home of her son-in-law Sam Adler and her daughter.

Still residing at Bird Cage Walk in 1881 were Samuel Adler, Miner, his wife Mary Augustine Adler, and their two San Francisco-born children Katie Vincent Adler, 15,  and Robert Julius Adler, 14.

When the Similkameen mining district opened up in 1885, Sam Adler was there at Granite Creek, operating a two-storey Hotel, “The Cariboo.”

There were some other Barrys also living in Victoria in the early 1880’s but it is not easy to say if they are related.

An  “M. Barry,”  bar tender, residing at James Bay, may have  been Michael Barry.

Somewhere  between San Francisco,  Quesnel Forks, Victoria  and Brownsville, where he lived and worked at least since 1890, Michael Barry was married and widowed and may have had family.

A traveller passing through Brownsville in July 1890 reported that with James Punch now Member of the Provincial Parliament and often needing to be away, Mr Barry was left in charge of the Hotel, playing host in the bar and entertaining guests with good stories of the glory days of mining in British Columbia.

When the citizens of Brownsville joined together to select a site for a school in May 1891, Michael Barry was Secretary of the meeting chaired by JW Stein that chose the site up hill on the Yale Road [at 128 St.]

On May 24, 1892 Michael Robert Barry, widower, and now 47 years of age, was united in marriage to Hannah Holland, age 32, spinster.

Miss Holland, with the same first name at Mike Barry’s mother, was a native of England, daughter of Caroline Holland.

Not long after her daughter was married to Mike Barry, Caroline Holland was remarried to Shropshire native Joseph Rush Edwards. Edwards had homesteaded at Mud Bay with John Douglas and afterward both Douglas and Edwards relocated to Brownsville hill and were pioneers here since 1884. Edwards had the property on Old Yale Road which has passed into future generations as Holland Park.

Mike Barry became a fixture at Brownsville.  The Brownsville Hotel which had been known as Johnson’s Hotel and then Punch’s Hotel, was now popularly referred to as Barry’s Hotel.

In January of 1894 it was reported that Barry, who had been “laid up with rheumatism at South Westminster from more than a year, was able to be around on New Year’s, looking quite spry, and just as jovial as in olden days.”

When James Punch left for the mines of Granby and Greenwood,  about 1897,  Mike Barry was left to run the Brownsville Hotel.

Punch resigned from the Post Office in 1898, and Michael Barry was appointed Brownsville Postmaster in March 1899.   It is likely he had been performing this function for some years before.

Michael Barry died in December 1903.

His obituary in the British Columbian reads:

Brownsville P. M. Dead

“Death has removed another familiar figure in the person of Michael R Barry, who for the past eight years has been postmaster at Brownsville. The deceased was born in Cook [Cork?], Ireland, about fifty-eight years ago but has spent most of his life on this coast and is an old Cassiar man.
Since Mr Punch left Brownsville, ‘Mike’ has been a fixture at Brownsville where, as Postmaster, he became well-known. Lately he had not been enjoying his usual good health but there was not special cause for anxiety, and it was a shock to his friends to learn that he expired quite suddenly at 11 a.m. Saturday as he sat down in an armchair. Dr. Drew, who was summoned, pronounced heart failure the cause of death.”

It was Joseph Rush Edwards who informed Dr Drew of the circumstances of Barry.

Mike Barry was one of the lucky generation who experienced early San Francisco and the gold rush years of British Columbia, as well as Brownsville in its heyday.

After the death of M R Barry the Post Office ceased to exist at Brownsville.

Barry’s widow Hannah (Holland) Barry, would remarry in 1908 to George Troughton, another pioneer at the top of Brownsville Hill on the Yale Road  —  a neighbour of her mother and of John Douglas and Joseph Rush Edwards in Section 27, Block 5 North, Range 2 West. This is now the Surrey City Centre.

Brownsville Section 27 location map
Location map of Section 27 Brownsville, residence of Michael Barry’s mother-in-law, Caroline (Holland) Edwards, and Michael Barry’s widow, Hannah (Holland) Troughton, at Surrey City Centre.

Brownsville Post Office, 1891 – 1903

Postmaster Date of Appointment Date of Vacancy
John Beaton 1891-02-01 1891-10-06
James Punch 1891-11-01 1898-09-09
Michael R Barry 1899-03-01 1903-12-31
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