Ashbel H. Barney

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Ashbel Holmes Barney (September 2, 1816 – December 27, 1886) was an American banker and expressman who served as president of Wells Fargo & Company in 1869-1870.

Early life[edit]

Barney was born in 1816 at Henderson, New York, the son of John and Sarah (Grow) Barney. He was a descendant of Jacob Barney of Bradenham, Buckinghamshire, England, who settled at Salem, Massachusetts, in 1630. John Barney was a farmer in Jefferson County, New York, when his sons Danford (1808) and Ashbel were born.

Educated at Belleville Academy in his native county, Ashbel Barney went to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1842 with his brother Danford and engaged in business as forwarding and commission merchants as Danford N. Barney & Company.

At Cleveland in 1846 Ashbel Barney married Susan H. Tracy, the daughter of Gardiner and Catherine (Lansing) Tracy of Utica, New York. Their children were:

  • Gardiner Tracy Barney, b. November 29, 1849, Cleveland; d. in childhood.
  • Charles Tracy Barney, b. January 27, 1851, Cleveland, d. November 14, 1907, New York City; married Lucy Collins "Lily" Whitney.
  • Helen Tracy Barney, b. May 16, 1853, Cleveland, d. February 17, 1897, New York City.

Lucy Collins Whitney was the sister of William Collins Whitney, Secretary of the Navy in 1885-1889. It was at Whitney's New York City home, 871 Fifth Avenue, that he gave a debutante ball in honor of Lucy's daughter, Helen Barney, on January 5, 1901.[1]

Wells Fargo & Company[edit]

Ashbel Barney remained in Cleveland when his brother Danford moved to Buffalo, New York, in 1849. In 1857 Ashbel moved to New York City, where Danford had located the previous year.

On November 17, 1859, Ashbel Barney was elected a director of Wells Fargo & Company in place of James McKay, who had resigned.[2] Barney was president at various times of Wells Fargo, the United States Express Company, and the Northern Pacific Railroad.[3][4] He was vice president of Wells Fargo from the beginning of 1867[5] until 1869 when he succeeded Louis McLane as president.[6] During his presidency Lloyd Tevis acquired a controlling interest in Wells Fargo. Barney stepped down as president of Wells Fargo in 1870 and was succeeded by William G. Fargo that year and by Tevis in 1872.[7]

Later life[edit]

After 1881 Barney was practically retired from business. He retired from the board of directors of Wells Fargo & Company in 1883 with Colonel Charles Frederick Crocker elected in his place.[8]

Ashbel H. Barney died at his residence, 101 East 38th Street in New York City, on December 27, 1886.[3][4] His funeral was conducted at the residence on December 30 by the Rev. Dr. Charles H. Parkhurst of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church. The pall bearers were Thomas Collier Platt, Grosvenor Lowrey, Samuel N. Hoyt, James C. Fargo (president of American Express), Hiram Barney, and George F. Crane. Also present were Barney's son and daughter with Morris K. Jesup, Theodore Wood, Salem H. Wales, Darius Ogden Mills, Benjamin Brewster, Parker Handy, Dr. T. Gaillard Thomas, Peter F. Baker, Duncan Cryden, Charles Atterbury, Hugh Murdock, Louis Murdock, James H. Thompson, Charles H. Adams, George C. Magoun, Russell Sturgis (son-in-law of Danford N. Barney), Appleton Sturgis (son of Russell Sturgis), A. Bancroft and W.P. Seymour. Interment was at Woodlawn Cemetery.[9]


  1. ^ Cleveland Amory, Who Killed Society?, pp. 502-503. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1960.
  2. ^ Noel M. Loomis, Wells Fargo, p. 145. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1968.
  3. ^ a b "Death of Ashbel H. Barney". New York Times. December 28, 1886. Retrieved 2010-11-16. Ashbel H. Barney, well known as an express and railroad manager, died at his residence, No. 101 East Thirty-eighth-street, yesterday morning. 
  4. ^ a b "Monthly Record of Current Events", Harper's New Monthly Magazine, European edition, March 1887, p. 651.
  5. ^ Loomis, p. 197.
  6. ^ Loomis, pp. 205, 212.
  7. ^ Loomis, pp. 215, 219.
  8. ^ Loomis, p. 254.
  9. ^ "Ashbel H. Barney Buried", The New York Times, December 31, 1886.