Disclaimer: I wrote this family history many years ago as a student. I apologize for any factual errors or grammer/spelling mistakes and I WELCOME any additions or corrections - Elizabeth Barwick Garland

Chapter 1

The Barwicks


In front of a small Anglican church high in the Welsh mountains is a small overgrown cemetery. The town is Pontrhydyfen a small mining village not far from Neath in southern Wales. Here Robert Barwick and his wife Ellen raised their family lived their lives and were buried. They didn't begin their lives here however for it was in Dunnham England that they met and married circa 1865. It is not known where they originated or how they met but in Dunnham Robert worked as a quarryman and served in the Norfolk regiment of the Royal Army. Robert's parents were Robert and Elizabeth Barwick. Anything further about them is not known.

They were married had their first child a daughter and moved to Neath in Wales. At some point Robert decided to go to America find work and later send for his wife daughter and soon to be born son. Their son William arrived on July 8 1870(1) and when he was 6 months old his father left for the United States. Sometime during the next two years while Robert was in America their daughter died from an unknown illness. Her name and age are not known.

Robert made his way to the United States where some interesting experiences lay ahead of him. Here, told in a story written by his grandson Idris, is the tale (2):


Many years ago two young Englishmen decided to leave their homes in search of adventure and they traveled across the ocean to America where they sought work.

But soon they tired of working in one place and decided to do a little prospecting. One day they came upon a small backwoods town where they found many miners and prospectors. Soon they were laughing and joking with the rough and hardy miners in the local saloon. A man suggested a game of cards and being short of money the two Englishmen took him up on his invitation. They were very lucky and won quite a bit of money. But the man they played with was a bad loser told them he thought they had cheated and started a fight. The man together with some gunmen rode the Englishmen out of town and following the threat of being shot they left.

They wandered the mountains and woodlands for many days and were really frightened when early one morning they awoke to find themselves surrounded by Indians. The Indians grabbed them and tied them up. They carried them back to their village where they were tied to upright posts and left to wonder about their fate.

After many hours during which they had suffered agony from the tight ropes and the heat of the sun they noticed a commotion among the Indians and saw a government scout. There was a harried discussion with the Indian chief and when it was finished he approached them cut the cords that bound them and told them that they had trespassed on the Indian reservation. He had promised the chief that he would punish them so he told them to let him kick them as they ran out of the camp. This he did after warning them to keep on running. Later the scout caught up with them and explained that they were lucky he happened to come along when he did for the Indians were about to punish them in their own way. He shook their hands and introduced himself as Bill Cody. Our legends know him as 'Buffalo Bill'. Without work and money the Englishmen returned to England and went their separate ways.

Robert Barwick in the USA

In 1872 Robert Barwick returned to Wales and settled with his wife and family in Pontrydyfen. He got a job working as a coal miner for the Forest Colliery and soon he and Ellen began their new Welsh born family. In 1878 Florence May was born and after her came Ella, Robert and Mary Jane. What little is known about their lives shows that they were very loving religious (Anglican) hard working working-class people. While there were some hard times the children never went without food or clothing.

Robert & ellen barwick.jpg

Robert and Ellen Barwick with two unidentified children, probably their grandchildren
Robert and Ellen Barwick on the left, along with their daughter Mary Curtis and her husband and child, names unknown
Robert and Ellen Barwick
Front to back: ?,?, Idris, Bessie, William, Ellen, Robert, William Jr.


Although the exact dates of Robert's and Ellen's deaths are not known it is a fact that Robert lived as a widower until he was eighty-five. Some time before his death on February 23 1928 he signed his will(3). His address at the time was Tynywain Cottage Cymla Road Neath Wales. Photographs and living relatives testify to the fact that they both lived happily together past the age of seventy.

Among the items in his will was a silver medal once brought to him by a stranger. "The man said that he had promised a dying soldier that he would deliver it to Robert. The soldier had taken part in the Battle of Balaclaber when the British French and Turkish had assaulted the fortress of Sebastapool where the Russians were fortified. The dying soldier was uncle to Robert and wished him to have the medal. Robert treasured it and left it to his special grandson; Idris" who then left it to his son Robert.(4)



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