Chapter 2

The Naishes


In 1851 shortly after the time Robert Barwick had entered the world John Austin Naish was born somewhere in England. While they didn't know each other as children, their paths would cross one day and they would share circumstances which would effect their futures and their families. Not only would Robert Barwick's son marry John Naish's daughter but eventually John Naish himself would marry Robert's daughter.

John was born to Joseph and Johanna Naish somewhere in Ireland(1). Unfortunately only his death was documented and his childhood remains a mystery, so for our purposes his life begins when he met his first wife Sarah. Unfortunately she has no recorded past and is only known as Mrs. Sarah Naish. Only her death certificate remains to show that she lived and was born in 1853. As a young girl she met John they married and made their home in Neath Wales on London Road (2). Their first child Bessie Jane was born on October 4 1871. Following her were Amy on September 13, 1873, May on May 5, 1878, John Austin on August 19, 1880, Eva on December 12 1882 and Agnes on June 3 1885 (3). During this time John worked as a manager for the Neath and District Tramways Company (4).

John Naish (center) 1889
close up

When their oldest daughter Bessie was not quite sixteen years old her mother Sarah died at the age of 33 on September 19 1886 (5). She was buried in the Catholic church cemetery in Port Talbot Wales (6).

Sometime after her Mother's death Bessie met and married William Barwick. William's younger sister Florence was also influenced by their meeting for she eventually married Bessie's father John. They were married in Neath on July 23 1887(7). At the time Florence was 20 years old and John was 34. In 1890 shortly after their marriage John Florence and several of his children traveled to the United States. They made their home like many immigrant families of the time in New York city and Florence soon had three children of her own. Only Bessie and perhaps Amy stayed in Wales (8).

According to family letters in December of 1890 they lived at 235 E. 73rd Street in New York city (9) where John worked as a gas inspector for the Equitable Gas Company(10). Florence also worked for a short time at Macy's department store.

Religion also played a part in the upbringing of her children Florence made sure of that. She proved to be a good example as well for she attended St. Patrick's Catholic Church in New York. It was in this church that she was confirmed (11).

In 1895 John became ill with a heart condition that he had suffered with for two years. In 1897 his condition worsened. Anticipating death he made arrangements for his family to return to Wales. A second attempt by the Barwick-Naish family to immigrate to the United States had failed and they returned to their homeland Wales. Their last known address was 418 First Avenue in New York city (12).

On the day of their departure Florence arranged to meet her step son John Austin Jr. at the port. He was not yet seventeen and "had been tempted by the big city and its fast ways" (13). Apparently he had a girlfriend and used her as an excuse to remain in the United States. As the sailing time approached John Jr. was nowhere to be seen. Undoubtedly low on money Florence and the rest of the children could not give up their passage home to stay and search for John so they sailed. Her hope was that John would return to his dying father but he was not heard of again for seven years.

He was twenty-one when his sister Bessie received a letter from John dated April 22 1904. He wrote to her begging for the family's forgiveness. He had grown tired of the city and wanted to return home to his family in Wales. He said that he would understand if they didn't write back to him but he prayed they would. His return address was c/o the Jersey City Post Office. The response was immediate. All of his sisters were overjoyed to discover that he was still alive and well. They told him that they had managed to come up with the fare for his voyage home and had found him a job. They didn't hear from him again until the late fall when he wrote to tell them that he had been ill and in the hospital. The sisters were still quite anxious to see him and again made arrangements for his return. They wrote him about their plans but the letters returned unopened as did several following letters.

He was never heard from again. After searching the Jersey city area by mail through the local police and hospitals not a trace of him was found. (14) The only possible trace left of John is a story passed down through the family. It is more of a hope than a reality:

  In California as the new young movie industry began to grow a young man with the unusual name of John Naish emerged as a very early star of the silent screen. The Naish-Barwick family still clings to the hope that he may have been their lost relative. The first seed was planted but would it be reaped? From this young man would the Naishes have their first born American Naish?

During the time that John Jr. was beginning his new life alone in America his father's life was coming to an end. On September 16 1897 John Austin Naish entered St. Luke's Hospital in New York City because his heart condition had worsened. On September 20 1897 at 11:30 AM he died. He was buried on Long Island in either St. Michaen or St. Michael's cemetery (15).

Florence returned to Wales. At the time she was still young and had three children and three step children to care for. Luckily Bessie, John's oldest daughter and Florence's own family, lived Wales and could have helped to care for her young children. She was definitely not alone for large Welsh families are known for their closeness. Sometime later she married again and became Mrs. Ben Williams (16)


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