What became of the Barbers?

In a previous post, we told the story of the Barber children – Walker, William, Ellen, Elizabeth and Francis, all of whom were made wards of the state upon the death of their mother in 1865.

On the 3rd of October 1865 a hearing was held at the Yackandandah Court House and all five Barber children were found guilty of being neglected children, with each being sentenced to a seven year term in the industrial school system.

Walker and William Barber did not survive long in the industrial school system – known for frequent outbreak of diseases such as measles and rubella both succumb to illness in 1865 and 1866 respectively. They were both only four years old at the time of their deaths.

We’ve have endeavoured to uncover the story of Ellen, Elizabeth and Francis Barber once they served their sentences. In contrast to the detailed records relating to their wardship – We have only been able to piece together a few pieces of information. We have also, in vain, searched for details relating to their father, William Barber.

When we last left Ellen Barber, she was 16 years old and was licensed out to Joseph James, a gardener from Ballarat East. We have been unable to find trace of Ellen upon her leaving the ward system in 1874 and her marriage to Duncan McDonald in 1886 at North Ballarat.

Ellen and Duncan had a number of, most of which were born in the Brunswick area. Ellen passed away in 1938 at Williamstown. Ellen was the oldest, aged six when the Barber’s were convicted, and it appears that she knew her origins – her death records indicating she was born at Yackandandah.

Elizabeth has proven difficult – with no trace of her after 1875. But, on closer inspection of her ‘licensing out’ history – it appears her and her sister were both under the care of separate James families living on Barkly Street, Ballarat East. Ellen licensed out to Joseph James, Elizabeth to George James. Although we’re unable to confirm any details – we can only hope that Ellen and Elizabeth kept in touch and that at least a fragment of the Barber family remained together.

One correction from the previous article – we’d had reported the last entry in Francis’ wardship record as him working for a farmer in Strathfieldsaye  when in fact the last entry shows him employed with Mr Smith, a wood-turner and carpenter who resided on Tanner Street, Richmond. And it is this link to Richmond where we believe we’ve determined what happened to Francis.

Newspapers classifieds from the late 1880s and early 1890s mention a Frank Barber, of Tanner Street, on various occasions. He was offering yard cleaning services in August of 1889 and appears to have lost his goat (black and white in colour with a leather collar) in December of 1893.

In the early 1900s – The Age mentioned a number of events held to raise funds for a Frank Barber in Richmond. He was afflicted with blindness and was ‘indigent circumstances’. Returning to his wardship record – we see that Francis was described as being blind in his left eye in 1864, and upon being recommitted in 1872 ‘slight opacity of cornea in right eye’ is noted.

If this is indeed the same Francis Barber committed in Yackandandah in 1864 – perhaps his work in the industrial schools and tutelage under a wood-turner and carpenter was his reason for supporting the Labour movement. He was mentioned in the papers in relation to Labour activities – once listed as the Honourable Secretary of the Trenwith Election Committee (William Arthur Trenwith was a union man at the time and later served as a Labour politician) in 1886.  In 1902 when Frank Barber had completely succumb to blindness an appeal was made on his behalf by Alfred Billson, Member for Bogong (originally from Wooragee, do you wonder if Frank knew he was from Yackandandah?) who said there “was no stauncher adherent of the Labour cause” than Frank Barber.

No further mention of Frank Barber can be found between 1902 and June 1913 when he is included in a list of intestates reported in The Age. The article stated that Frank died sometime between the 8th and 13th of May that year.