Friday, December 29, 2017

Postcards to an Irvington Family

What morsels about our lives do we leave behind? Only a few of us make it into the history books.  So, you can imagine my delight this winter upon finding a treasure trove of crumbs about an Irvington family. Sitting in boxes in a local antique shop and mixed in with hundreds of other families, sat dozens of postcards sent to the Barneys, who dwelled in Irvington for many decades. But what did these notes reveal? Stay tuned! 

In 1907, Ennis and Effie Fink Barney moved into their brand new Dutch Colonial home at 5452 Lowell Avenue (previously numbered as 5556 Lowell Avenue). The couple had been living at 49 South Irvington Avenue. Mr. Barney was the Assistant Superintendent of the Anti-Saloon League and he also worked as a salesman for the Mishawaka Rubber Company. Sometimes he served as a part-time minister and usually filled in for small churches around the Indianapolis area whenever there was an unexpected vacancy.  The couple had four children named Chester, Virginia, Marian, and John. They remained in the Lowell Avenue dwelling until 1914 when they moved into a larger home at 41 North Webster Avenue.  By 1920, the entire family relocated to 5351 University Avenue where they resided for years.

Newspaper accounts from the early twentieth century, reveal that Mr. Barney was committed to the temperance movement. Like many other Irvingtonians, he believed that alcohol was the root of many social ills in our nation. He campaigned vehemently for prohibition. His sermons were printed in newspapers throughout the state. In 1907, he spoke to a large crowd in Richmond where he quoted from the Gospel of St. Luke and noted that the destruction of saloons would be the "salvation of these boys and girls." (Richmond Palladium, November 25, 1907)  Audiences in Angola, Muncie, Brazil, Columbus, and Frankton heard similar speeches. In 1910, he appealed to Indianapolis Mayor Samuel Shank to stop the practice of allowing saloons to have electronic pianos. He referred to these businesses as "disorderly houses."  (Indianapolis Star, May 25, 1910, 8) Mr. Barney was particularly thrilled to note the number of dry counties in the southern part of the United States and in Indiana. Irvington, of course, had been founded as a dry community so he must have felt at home on Lowell, Webster, and University Avenues. We have no record of his reaction to the passage of the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol nor his likely disappointment at its repeal with the 21st Amendment. 

The only known surviving postcard from Mr. Barney was sent to his oldest child, Chester Fink Barney in the summer of 1911. Chester would have been 13 years old at the time. Mr. Barney sent the card from Blaine, Washington near the Canadian border. He mentioned nothing of the temperance cause, but he does reference the rubber company for whom he also worked. 

Ennis Barney sent this postcard to his son, Chester Barney of 5452 Lowell Avenue in the summer of 1911. 

Mr. Barney mentioned the rubber company that he worked for so perhaps he was in Blaine, Washington on business. He wrote to his son:  
Dear Son    I have boiled or fried salmon for about one meal each day. They are cheep (sic) only 20 ‘cents’ for all you can eat. These men use Ball Rund Rubber boots; That’s why the salmon are so good and catch easily also. Papa

Chester Barney was an avid scout under Francis O. Belzer, the head of the Boy Scouts in Irvington. He  later served the country during World War One. He lived with parents until he was he in his 30s and then married Mildred Avis.  The elder Barneys spent their later years living with the younger Barneys. Chester lived in all of the Barney homes on Irvington, Lowell, Webster, and University Avenues. (Photo: Indianapolis Star, October 28, 1918, 11)

Ennis and Effie Barney lived at 5452 Lowell Avenue from 1907 until 1914. Mr. Barney held a variety of jobs including as a salesman, minister, and as a leader in the Anti-Saloon League. (photo 2017)

Mrs. Barney also traveled. She had family who lived in Colorado so there are several postcards to the family from this state.  In one of her notes, she wrote of a stay in the mountains.  She addressed the card to her husband on August 12, 1911, from the Long's Peak Inn at Estes Park.

Mrs. Barney mailed this postcard from Estes Park, Colorado in the summer of 1911 to her family at 5452 Lowell Avenue

Mrs. Barney wrote:  
We are 9000 ft. above sea level, it is cold, heavy wraps, fires and winter comforts. We will go to Denver tomorrow and I will write you more of this wonderful trip.   Love from Effie

Chester Fink Barney, the oldest child of Ennis and Effie Barney sent at least two postcards back to his mother. He had beautiful cursive writing and would later become president of the Camera Club of Indianapolis. Some of his artistic photography would later be featured in the Indianapolis Star. On August 15, 1915, he sent a brief note home to his parents as he had been attending a scout's camp in upstate New York. His family had only recently moved to the large American Four Square at 41 North Webster Avenue.

Chester Barney traveled to New York in the summer of 1915 and sent this postcard back to his family now living at 41 North Webster Avenue.

Chester Barney wrote this informational blurb to his mother in 1915:  
This is the summer home of the prop. of the Waldorf Astoria hotel at N.Y. Its cost was about $2,000,000. Yours CFB 
Virginia Barney in 1922 (Indianapolis News, June 17, 1922)
Marian Barney in 1931 (Indianapolis Star, June 8, 1931)
John Barney (Indianapolis Star, October 6, 1944)
Chester Barney, a photographer, snapped this image of Culver cadets sailing in 1938. Several of his photos were featured in the Indianapolis Star including this one on September 11, 1938. 

The Barneys dwelled in lovely home at 41 North Webster Avenue from 1915 until 1920. They then moved to 5351 University Avenue.  (photographed in 2017)

Virginia Barney, the second child of Ennis and Effie, graduated from Butler University in 1922. She was later married by her father to William Schumacher at their University Avenue home in 1923. Marian followed suit and graduated form Butler in 1926. She married Theodore Randecker and was also wed in the family home by her father. John Barney, the youngest child married Helen Adams and served the country during WWII.  Ennis Barney died first in 1940. Effie lived to be 91 and passed away in 1970. 

It is unclear of how a collection of 13 postcards ended up in antique store, but there are Barney family descendants living in the United States today. If any of them happen to read this post and are interested in the collection then drop me a note at Otherwise, they will be donated to the Irvington Historical Society. 

Sources not already mentioned:

Federal Census Records; Ennis Barney's obituary, Indianapolis News, March 16, 1940, 20; Virginia Barney's marriage, Indianapolis Star, February 14, 1923; John Barney's obituary, Indianapolis News, November 13, 1997, 50; Effie Barney's obituary, Indianapolis News, June 9, 1970, 38; Ennis Barney's Prohibition articles came from the Stueben Republican, Richmond Palladium, Muncie Press, and many others;