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Tuolumne County









            Great changes have occurred since Earl S. Barney arrived in California, for he was one of the “49ers” who, attracted by the discovery of gold, sought a home on the Pacific slope.  The little mining camps in which there was always found a lawless element as well as a better grade of settlers have long since been replaced with thriving towns in which the advantages of civilization are equal to those afforded in the older east.  The work of transformation, however, has been one of arduous labor, carried forward by men of resolute will, energy and enterprise.  To this class belongs Mr. Barney.

            He was born in Montgomery County, New York, on the 3rd of December, 1826, and is of English lineage, his ancestors having removed to Vermont at an early period in its history.  Several generations were born in New England, including Mr. Barney’s father, Dr. Ezadick Barney, who was born in Vermont and married Elizabeth Swane, a native of Nantucket and a representative of an old American Quaker family, and they became the parents of five children, three of whom are living:  H. S. Holland, a prominent merchant of Schenectady, New York; Mrs. Mary A. Phillip, also of Schenectady; and Earl S.  The father attained the ripe old age of eighty years and the mother was seventy-five years at the time of her demise.

            Earl S. Barney, the youngest of the family, was educated in his native town of Schenectady, New York, and entered upon his business career as a clerk in a store, but, attacked by the gold fever, he severed his commercial relations in the east to connect himself with a party of seventy-five who were making plans to go west in search of the golden treasure.  They purchased the bar Nautilus, commanded by a captain and a crew of twelve seamen.  They secured a year’s provisions for the company and sailed around Cape Horn for the golden west.  The cost of the ship and outfit, including provisions, was four hundred dollars to each one of the party.  They were seven months and ten days on the voyage, arriving at San Francisco on the 10th of October, 1849.

            Mr. Barney at once secured a share of the food supplies and then started on a boat for Sacramento, in company with two partners, Spencer Sweet and Dudley Jones, the latter a resident of Little Rock, Arkansas.  After accomplishing part of the journey on a whaling boat, they continued the trip on a sailing vessel to Sacramento, which city was then in its infancy.  Mr. Barney and his partner continued on to the placer mines of El Dorado County, California, and engaged in digging for the precious metal on South Bar, and continued in that vicinity for eight months, during which time they each took out about one and a half ounces of gold per day.  On one occasion Mr. Barney secured gold dust to the value of one hundred dollars.  Returning to Sacramento he obtained a clerkship in the employ of Gideon Woodruff, with whom he remained for a year receiving five hundred dollars per month for his services.  He next went to the American River, and with his partner Spencer Sweet, engaged in conducting a miner’s supply store until the fall of 1854, when he went to Red Bluff, opening a store there which he conducted for a short time.  He then sold out and removed to Shasta County, where he engaged in silver mining on Squaw Creek; but that venture proved unprofitable and in 1866 he removed from that locality to San Francisco, whence he went to Austin, Nevada.  He engaged in merchandising at White Pine and invested his money in erecting a number of buildings, but the town ceased to grow and he lost nearly all the money which he had put in the property there.

            Removing to Calaveras County, he operated the reduction works at the Gwin mine from 1871 until 1873, after which he carried on business in the same way at Sutter Creek until his removal to Drytown.  In January, 1877 he built the reduction works at that place, in partnership with C. J. Garland, their business relationship being maintained for three years, at the end of which time Mr. Voorhees bought out Mr. Garland’s interest.  They also purchased the works at Sutter Creek and operated both plants until 1877, when their interests were divided.  Mr. Barney taking the property at Drytown; and Mr. Voorhees taking that at Sutter Creek.  The business was carried on after the following manner:  the sulphates are purchased from the mine operators, reduced in the reduction works and then the gold is sent to San Francisco.  Mining and its collateral branches formed one of the most important industries and such enterprises contributed in no small degree to the prosperity and well-being of many communities in the commonwealth.  In the conduct of his enterprises Mr. Barney has not only contributed to his own success but has also promoted the welfare of the community.  He has given close attention to business and as a result of his upright methods and careful management he has become one of the wealthy men of the county.

            A man of resourceful business ability his efforts have not been confined to one line.  He is today the owner of a ranch of fourteen hundred acres near Drytown, on which he has a comfortable residence, presided over by a competent housekeeper.  Four men are employed there in raising grain and stock, making a specialty of high-grade Percheron horses and high-grade cattle.  Mr. Barney boards at the hotel in Drytown and has commodious room and offices at his reduction works.

            His political support has ever been given to the Republican Party and he does all in his power to promote its growth and secure its success.  Of the seventy-four men who came with him to California on the bark Nautilus he knows of but two who are still living.  Thus the ranks of the brave pioneers are rapidly being decimated, but their memory will long be cherished for their important contribution to the work of civilization in opening up this vast region of wealth and beauty and making it one of the most valuable as well as favored sections of our great nation.  Mr. Barney’s life has been one of activity and close connection with affairs of great usefulness.  He is uniformly honored and esteemed and his record is one in many respects worthy of emulation, while it has been characterized by fidelity to duty in all life’s relations.



Transcribed by Gerald Iaquinta.

Source: “A Volume of Memoirs and Genealogy of Representative Citizens of Northern California”, Pages 211-213. Chicago Standard Genealogical  Publishing Co. 1901.

© 2010  Gerald Iaquinta.




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