Joseph Barry, SV/PROG1

Is your surname Barry?

Research the Barry family

Joseph Barry, SV/PROG1's Geni Profile

Share your family tree and photos with the people you know and love

  • Build your family tree online
  • Share photos and videos
  • Smart Matching™ technology
  • Free!


About Joseph Barry, SV/PROG1


From 'A concise history of Port Beaufort & White Sands (also known as Witsand) including Family Trees White Sands & Port Beaufort' written by John McGregor

Founder of the Swellendam firm, Barry and Nephews. and page 00069 - as attached - arrived December 1817 onboard the Duke of Malborough


Barry, Joseph (*Hitchin, Hertford, Eng., 1.4.1796 - Hope Mill, The Avenue, Cape Town, 26.3.1865), merchant, business-man and Cape member of parliament, was the youngest of the sixteen children of Richard Barry, an innkeeper, and his wife, Elizabeth Stretton.

After the death of his parents he spent several years in Marseilles and in Spain, where he studied the wine trade. He was sent to Cape Town by a London wine firm to export Cape wine, as their agent, and arrived there in December 1817. Because the enterprise failed he returned to Britain after a year but, as his health was poor, he decided to settle in the warmer Cape climate, particularly as he was much attracted by the country.

The early years of his career as a merchant proved very difficult. Travelling with Dirk Gysbert van Reenen, * however, he made his first acquaintance with the Overberg region, where he was to be an important influence for the next fifty years. When the grain crop in the Overberg failed in 1822, he undertook to transport a consignment of grain to Port Beaufort, at the mouth of the Breede river, to assist the inhabitants of that region. This was the beginning of a regular shipping service, and opened a new route to the Cape marketwhich was to bring about a period of prosperity and economic revival in the Overberg. After this B. extended his activities by opening commercial houses at Port Beaufort (1823) and Swellendam (1824). For a short while his enterprise prospered, but he was declared bankrupt on 21.3.1827 after a number of setbacks; one of these occurred when his boat, Sincapore, ran aground in 1824.

He had already improved his financial position to a certain extent by 1829, for he was a farsighted, enterprising, hard-working, efficient and popular man. He founded the firm Barry and Nephews on 1.6.1834, he being the senior member and his nephews, Thomas Barry* and John Barry, his partners. The firm, which dealt in all sorts of goods, grew rapidly and extended its activities over the whole Overberg region, so that the Barry partners came to be regarded, after a single decade, as the most influential members of the community. They enjoyed what amounted to a commercial monopoly with businesses in Swellendam (the headquarters), Riversdale, Napier, Robertson, Montagu, Ladismith, Worcester, Bredasdorp, Riviersonderend, Malagas, Heidelberg, Mossel Bay and Barrydale; business premises in Cape Town; an office in London (where their goods were exported) ; and the steamship Kadie which plied between Cape Town and the Breede river.

The firm's success was due mainly to Barry's aptitude for management and the meticulous devotion to duty he demanded of his employees, all of them members of a closed family circle. As a business-man he made an important contribution to the agricultural development of the Overberg. Because he was fully aware of the value of wool, he advocated the importation of Spanish merino sheep, persuasively arguing his case to farmers and actively setting them an example. He made an effort to improve methods of wine production, and his firm gained an excellent reputation as wine merchants. B. also advocated the general improvement of agricultural methods, and tried to persuade the farmers of the Overberg to increase their productivity.

He was not only a merchant and a businessman, he also acted as an attorney, a lawyer, an agent and an auctioneer. He was the deputysheriff of the district and, when the occasion arose, also the commandant of the militia. Generally the farmers were well-disposed towards him, particularly because he could give them legal advice, and they valued his judgement.

When representative government was instituted in 1854 he was one of eight members elected to represent the Western Division in the legislative council. The representation of the Overberg in legislative bodies was to remain the virtual prerogative of the Barry family from that time onward, until the decline of their firm and their financial influence. As a member of the legislative council B. served on various select committees, and also took a great interest in municipal affairs.

When he moved to Cape Town, where he became an active and influential member of the Cape Town chamber of commerce, his departure was a great loss to Swellendam, which, through B.'s influence, had become a flourishing little town. The great Barry concern did not long survive his death in 1865 ; a depression in the Overberg and the considerable sums which had to be paid to his heirs helped to speed its decline.

On 21.3.1825 B. married Johanna Martina van Reenen, daughter of Jacob van Reenen and granddaughter of Dirk Gysbert van Reenen. They had four daughters and seven sons. Sir Jacob Dirk Barry,* Charles van Reenen Barry,* Thomas Daniel Barry* and Michael Barry· were all sons who distinguished themselves, the first as a judge, and the others as members of the Cape parliament. There is a portrait of Barry in Burrows (infra). D.l. v. Z.

Cape arch., C.T.: series Colonial Office (C.O. 166,220, 2640) and series M.O.I.C. (insolvent estates); - The Cape Monitor. 28.1.1854 and 16.5.1857; - De Overberg Courant, 12.10.1859, 14.8.1861 and 8.10.1862; - Obituaries: The South African Advertiser and Mail. 27.3. 1865; Het Volksblad. 28.3.1865; - A. P. BUIRSKI, 'The Barrys and the Overberg' (Unp. M.A. th., U.S., 1952); - E. H. BURROWS, Overberg outspan. C.T., 1952; - R. F. M. IMMELMAN, Men of Good Hope: The Cape Town chamber of commerce, 1804-1954. C.T., 1955.


A.P. Buirski, “The Barry's and the Overberg”, Thesis, Stellenbosch 1952.


view all 16

Joseph Barry, SV/PROG1's Timeline

April 1, 1796
Hertfordshire, England
July 19, 1808
Age 12
Cape Colony, South Africa
March 21, 1825
Age 28
Cape, South Africa
January 14, 1831
Age 34
Swellendam, Western Cape, South Africa
June 14, 1832
Age 36
Swellendam, South Africa
October 17, 1837
Age 41
Swellendam, Overberg DC, Western Cape, South Africa
December 3, 1839
Age 43
Age 42
October 16, 1841
Age 45
June 9, 1843
Age 47
Swellendam, Western Cape, South Africa