January 15, 1839 – John A. Barry was born in Norkoping, Sweden. We don’t know anything about his early life, but John and his brother Richard immigrated to the United States around 1859, first settling in Odell, Illinois where they worked on a farm.
By 1869, John had made his way to Mendocino, where he worked as a cook for the Mendocino Lumber Company, first at the Point and later at the Mill. On February 8, 1870, John married Amelia Laurell, who was also from Sweden. John and Amelia had five children between 1870 and 1882: Ernest Richard, Chester Lewis, Sophia, Eva Amelia, and Alice Mabel.
During the 1870s, John opened a barbershop on Main Street which he operated for many years. In November 1883, the Beacon reported that John was very ill, and “grave fears are entertained that he may not recover.” John’s barbershop was closed for months, but in March of 1884, John hired a young barber from San Francisco to reopen his shop.
John died on August 21, 1884 in Mendocino at the age of 45. “He was a good citizen, honest, quiet, and industrious. He was a faithful member of the Odd Fellows, and of the United Workmen, and during his sickness he was cared for and aid will be rendered to his family by these Orders.”
The Ancient Order of United Workmen (AOUW) was the first of the “fraternal benefit societies,” organizations that offered sickness, accident, death, and burial insurance to their members. In October 1884, Amelia received a benefit check for $2,000 (about $55,000 in 2022) from the AOUW.
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