The Diary of John Barry
BY Edited by Marimar McNaughton Transcribed by Hunter Houtzer
It was the best of times and the worst of times for the family of John Edmund Barry between the years 1915 and 1932 when Barry set out to chronicle daily household life.
His handwritten notes on the pages of a ledger are colored by the familys highs and lows set against the backdrop of tragic personal and catastrophic global events including the onset of US involvement in World War I in 1917 and the Great Pandemic in 1918.
Barry born in Charleston South Carolina was employed in Wilmington as a clerk who worked for the shipyard and later the railroad. He and his wife would have seven children between 1916 and 1930 the final two twins.
In 1918 they moved their family to Wrightsville Beach where they enjoyed a brief but happy time before tragedy struck.
The ledger accompanied by hundreds of photographs taken by Roy Dyer only recently fell into the hands of Barrys grandson and namesake John Edmund Barry III. Barrys entries in italics reflect period vernacular and spelling.
Barrys journal begins with his marriage to Isabelle Hurst of Wilmington North Carolina:
John Edmund Barry and Isabelle Hurst were married on March 23 1915 in Charleston South Carolina by Pastor Muller of the Lutheran Church.
It resumes with a census of his households members and their vital statistics that he was born in Charleston on February 24 1888 and was 27 years old when he wed the 23-year-old Isabelle Hurst who was born March 22 1892. When their first-born child John Edmund Barry Jr. was born at four minutes before midnight on February 1 1916 the family lived in Summerville South Carolina. A year later on February 18 1917 the Barrys welcomed baby Budd William Hurst Barry to the household.
John Edmund Barry Jr. weighed at birth 10 and 1/4 lbs.
William Hurst Barry weighed at birth 12 lbs.
Salary at time employed $84.20 Investigating claims.
Eight months later in October 1917 the Barrys moved to Wilmington where John was employed by W.R. Taylor as a chief clerk to A.H. Sheppard F.C.A. of Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. This entry documents a railroad workers strike and suggests that the United States is about to enter World War I:
November 1st 1917
Strike declared by A.C.L. [Atlantic Coast Line] Clerks over entire system for recognition of B. of R.C. [Bank of Royal Canada] on strike one month and one day went hard with me being that I was in Wilmington only one month.
Public opinion strictly against striking clerks account of international trouble war with Germany.
Following an influenza epidemic part of the Great Pandemic that caused 13 600 deaths in North Carolina alone Barry moved his family to Wrightsville Beach on May 1 1918 to care for his wife Belle now pregnant with a third child and the health of his sons:
Epidemic of Influenza raging in Wilmington N.C. … 1918 my family and self down at one time with the grace of God we pulled through OK. Budd and John very sick boys.
During this time he would have had to commute from the beach back to town by way of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad. They lived in a fishing shack.
After many ups and downs in getting a suitable or any place at all to live [on] account of Carolina Shipyard and Liberty Shipyard locating in Wilmington moved from Wrightsville Beach to 409 So. 2nd St. November 1st 1918.
Days later the Barrys are joined by boarders Walter Raymond McDonald a traveling salesman for Fisheries Products Co. based in Wilmington McDonalds wife Edith formerly of Richmond Virginia and their 3-year-old son at the Second Street address:
Walter Raymond McDonald originally of Old �ire Dublin Ireland a prince among good fellows with a heart of pure gold wife and 3-month old Boy blew in on us November 6th 1918.
From November 18 through November 28 1918 Barry fulfills his ambition to write daily entries in his ledger.
November 18th 1918
Days work from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. to home after completing day at office called on The Doctor for a talk relating to pain in Belles side he declared it nothing but child pressing on wifes side on returning home found Belle busy sewing infants clothes for our 3rd child which is looked for between the above date and December 18th.
In the month leading up to the arrival of their third child Barrys comments about the demeanor of his two young sons the challenges of parenting his endearment to his wife and the arrival of family to attend the birth paint the picture of a heady time in family life:
John for past few days is running wild the buck cannot�control no doubt the feeling of strength and wildness which comes only to strong healthy boys which he is one.
Budd is as ever very conservative in everything he does. … John is constantly running in the street long talking beating scolding etc. does not do any good we are taking the course of talking after one or two good beatings did not do any good his little mind no doubt is not developed enough to know that going in the street with such dirty clothes not speaking of the danger from passing Autos is right or wrong. Budd will follow John where-ever he goes. They both love each other so much which makes their mother so happy also their dad happy to see them make their dear mother my sweet-wife happy.
Barry was infatuated with his wife and writes poetically of his everlasting love for her:
If I could write on every line in this book about the sweetest the geniality the goodness and lovingness to my boys and myself I could not say too much about the best little wife that God could bless a man with.
More than a month before Belle gives birth to their third child a sister arrives to care for the young boys and John Barry offers this glimpse of his work schedule:
November 19th 1918
My daily work at 8:30 a.m. back to dinner at 1 p.m. return to office at 2:30 p.m. working Foreign Road Claims at 111.70 per month which I find is very hard to get along on.
The South Second Street household is filled with four adults and three children joined by three guests:
Frankie Marguerite and Sister intends leaving for Norfolk to-morrow afternoon November 20th 1918.
Budd or William as usual asleep when I arrived from work We will have to begin calling Budd by his first name. Budd is beginning to be a sticker.
In the days leading up to Thanksgiving 1918 Barry reflects on his familys good fortune: good health combined with the promise of a raise.
Everything from appearances is going along fine at the office I expect tomorrow to receive the news of a promotion to Suspense desk Sx 6- paying 121.88
John can bless himself very good will start to teach him The Lords prayer to-morrow night.
November 20th 1918
The usual hour to work returning � twice off @ 6 p.m.
Mc sent a turkey from the country arriving this date which was welcome as the flowers in May is some beaut for Thanksgiving.
Frankie Marguerite and Sister left for Norfolk to-day Dave at present working @ Newport News.
November 21st 1918
Nothing unusual to enter to-day. John and Budd behaving OK. Belle feeling good to-day pain in right-side much better all hands enjoying best of health.
November 23rd 1918
Working hour over from 8:30 to 6 p.m.
Edith and Belle to moving pictures leaving Mc and myself to mind children. Cold weather about setting in have a tin of coal on hand and a good turkey for Thanksgiving.
November 24th Sunday
John very full of life too much so have to continually keep an eye on him; will not listen to his mother or father no doubt the little fellow does not understand. Belle feeling tired no coincidence to make as to her condition.
November 24th Continued
We are looking forward to the expected every-day I do pray and hope Belle my dear wife will have no trouble or at least a very easy time. Mc came off road yesterday had a good week cleaning up 225.00 which I am glad he makes more in one week than I do in a month such is life.
We lost the Turkey to-day which we prized very much saving him for Thanksgiving.
After his first day on his new assignment Barry first mentions pressing financial burdens:
November 25th 1918
Started our Suspense work SX6 at 121.88 to-day had a very good day � like this work very much getting along fine there is lots of talk about making overtime I hope we will work overtime as I need the money worse now than ever especially so with this additional expense coming over me.
Another Turkey arrived to-day from the country Mc sent him down.
Belle has been complaining a little nothing to what I expect taking into consideration how far she is gone.
November 26th 1918
I have [been] a grouch all day to-day owing mostly from thinking of the future and my present debts. It about runs me crazy when I think of it. But! I will have to be contented and let things drag on looking to the future and hoping something will come up to clear the many debts that I owe.
November 27th 1918
Nothing of importance to relate to-day other than turkey was killed pies being made for preparing for Thanksgiving.
November 28th 1918
Thanksgiving day Mc home had a beautiful dinner Turkey and all accessories.
Mr. Hurst and Presley to dinner with us to-day all had quite enjoyable day in the house as it has been raining all day very disagreeable.
Barry agrees to care for the children for the evening while his wife Belle and Mcs wife Edith take in a show.
December 6th 1918
Belle and Edith taking in the show to-night (Im so happy) leaving yours truly to look out for the kids as usual Ediths baby wants all attention no chance of doing much writing or reading while playing muse to this young one.
Belle asked Mr. Hurst her father to-day to loan us money on Liberty Bond face value of same he stated that he was paying on one and could not afford to buy this one.
Ediths baby is raising hell I can hardly write owing to the crying and she continues to dress paying no attention to it.
From December 7th to 21st Barry writes:
Everything rolled along nicely on 21st Edith Mc and the baby left for Richmond Va where I hope to God they stay. Preparations for Xmass 1918 being held off on account of Belles condition we are looking forward every day for the new arrival. Doctor stated that it would not be later than 18th.
On Christmas Day little does the family know their new baby girl is hours away from making her appearance.
December 25 1918 and everybody healthy and happy. John and Budd was tickled to death with their toys and Xmass tree both of them received many useful things shoes clothes Etc. and toys galore. We had all the nice things that an average person would have for the day.
Mr. Hurst Belles Father called around 4 oclock in the afternoon.
Belle was feeling all-right at time and about 5-30 p.m. she began to feel pains at about 8 oclock I went to notify Doctor and get an auto to take Belle to Marion Sprunt Memorial Hospital. Mr. Hudson was kind enough to loan me his machine driving Belle over reaching hospital at 9:30 p.m. having pains 30 minutes apart they was not very hard until 12 oclock midnight when I came back with Frankie Mr. Hurst- staying at house with John and Budd baby Barry who is to be Lucille and was born on 1-05 am 26th day of December 1918 weighing 10 lbs. 6 ounces some girl believe me my dear wife and myself were as happy as two kids it was what we wanted a girl.
From Xmass day on until New Years Eve Belle doing fine no complications or draw backs whatsoever she is a very strong girl I brought her back home New Years day at home she continued to do well so much so on this time the Jan. 7th 9 p.m. she is sitting with baby Barry in her arms both of them having a head cold.
Sixteen months after the birth of Lucille in the spring of 1919 the Barrys welcomed their fourth child into the fold when Julian Roy Barry was born at 6 p.m. on April 12 1920. The journal goes quiet for several years but Barry picks up his pen when the first tragedy strikes: Little Roy only 2 1/2 years old at the time drowned in Wrightsville Beach on August 12 1922. His body was found on August 19 and he was buried on August 20 1922.
After Roys death the family returned to Wilmington where their fifth child Arthur Windell Barry was born at Marion Sprunt Memorial Hospital at 7 a.m. on September 8 1923. And then two more children twin sisters Betty Marie Barry and Mary Anne Barry were born at James Walker Memorial Hospital on July 2 1930.
By the time John Barry writes again his sweet Belle has passed away in August 1931 from puerferal septic infection. Things continue to unravel. Unable to care for his six children without a mother his three sons are sent to school in Raleigh. His daughters are placed with family members. The Depression rages.
June 10th 1932
The Depression is on in all its glory men by million in America are walking the streets I am out of work and have not one dime to my name what will become of us God only knows.
June 11 -32
Father Mauler returned said John and Budd fell in OK. Arthur wanted to come back poor kid he is only 8 and dont realize what it is all about.
Some Lonesome in house I cannot withstand it so quiet I feel Numb no ambition something will have to happen or Ill go Crazy.
Sunday June 12- 32
Wrote the boys a letter also Lucille and R who is moving to Atlanta.
Took dinner with the Brewers they are very good people as nice to me as if I was one of the family.
Spent the day at the house it is awful Lonesome quiet cannot seem to concentrate on any given thing I suppose it is my nerves. I am looking forward to going to go see mom I know I will feel better.
Advertise apartment and carriage for sale to-day do hope I will rent it.
June 20th gave away everything I owned with the exception of a few personal belongings which Mrs. Bewer is keeping for me Left apartment June 20th stayed with Bewers until July 2nd where I left Wilmington for Char. To see my Mother and Sisters and Bro.
At the age of 44 having lost his entire family and what little worldly goods he acquired John Barrys journal ends in 1932 with yet one more tragic event:
My mother died Dec. 4th 1932 very sudden. We all ate supper after she walked into the kitchen and fell 1 minute after she was dead she was ready to go any time it was Gods wish to take her. If ever man or woman was blessed with a Wife and Mother my Father Sister Bro. and myself was she was one who bore the crosses placed on her without a complaint a true sweet lovely Religious Woman Was my Mother. May God have mercy on her soul.