Godfrey Barnsley

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Godfrey Barnsley
Godfrey Barnsley.jpg
Born (1805-08-26)August 26, 1805
Derbyshire, England
Died 1873
Nationality American
Occupation Cotton broker
Known for Woodlands plantation

Godfrey Barnsley (1805-1873) was a nineteenth-century British-American businessman and cotton broker who became one of the wealthiest people in the southeastern United States.

Early life[edit]

Barnsley was born on August 26, 1805, in Derbyshire, England. His father was George Barnsley, an English cotton mill owner and his mother was Anna (Hannah) Goodwin Barnsley. He also has an older brother named Joshua. Barnsley began working in the cotton business at his Uncle Godfrey Barnsley’s importing establishment in Liverpool, England.[1] After Barnsley came to America, he too joined the cotton business and made his fortune.[2]

In 1824, Godfrey Barnsley emigrated to America from Liverpool, England. At the age of eighteen, Barnsley moved to Savannah, Georgia. He arrived in Savannah with no money and no distinguished education.[3] However, it was in Savannah that Barnsley made his fortune as a cotton broker[2] and became one of the most affluent men in the south through the cotton trade and shipping business.[4] He also served as president of the Savannah Chamber of Commerce for several years.[1] While living in Savannah, Barnsley met Julia Henrietta Scarborough, the daughter of William Scarborough,[3] a wealthy shipbuilder and merchant. In 1828, at the age of twenty-five, Barnsley married Julia on December 24.[2] Barnsley and Julia had eight children. In 1842, Julia’s health began to decline and Barnsley decided to move his family to north Georgia, where he believed there would be a more healthful climate for Julia.[2] Barnsley traveled from Savannah to Cass County (now Bartow County) on an expedition with three friends, William Henry Stiles, Reverend Charles Wallace Howard and Francis Bartow. Stiles traveled to north Georgia because he was looking for land for future development. Howard was on a geological survey. Barnsley sought to find land where he could build a home that would be away from the heat and threat of yellow fever and malaria prevalent of the Georgia Coast where he lived.[3] He chose a piece of land in the small village of Adairsville, Georgia.

Barnsley’s Mansion[edit]

On 10,000 acres (40 km2), Barnsley began construction of his mansion for Julia.[2] He called his manor Woodlands, which later became known as Barnsley Gardens.[1] He designed the gardens of the estate in the style of Andrew Jackson Downing. Downing was considered “America’s first great landscape architect.”[3] Barnsley also brought in every known variety of roses to be planted in the garden.[3] The mansion had twenty-four rooms and was designed in the style of an Italian Villa.[2] It had mantels of black and white marble imported from Italy and also had “unheard of conveniences, such as hot and cold running water.”[3] Barnsley had his house built on an acorn-shaped hill. An old Indian, who worked with Barnsley, warned him not to build on that piece of property. He explained that the site was sacred to the Cherokee and that anyone who tried to live on it would be cursed. Barnsley ignored the Indian’s advice and started construction anyway.[2]


Barnsley’s fortune soon changed after moving into his mansion. His infant son died and in the summer of 1845, Julia died of Tuberculosis.[3] Barnsley still continued to build the mansion after Julia’s death because he felt her presence at the site.[5] He toured Europe in search of “elegant furnishings” to decorate his estate.[3] In 1850, Barnsley’s oldest daughter, Anna, got married and moved to England. Adelaide, Barnsley’s second daughter, died in the mansion in 1858.[3]

Civil War[edit]

When the American Civil War started, the cotton Barnsley brokered was no longer sellable and wound up rotting in warehouses in New Orleans.[2] During the war, Barnsley moved back and forth from Woodlands to New Orleans.[1] Barnsley’s two sons, George and Lucien, joined the Confederacy [3] and in 1862, Howard, Barnsley’s oldest son, was killed by Chinese pirates while searching in the Orient for “exotic shrubbery” to add to the mansion.[3] On May 18, 1864, Colonel Robert G. Earle, who was part of the Second Alabama Light Cavalry and a friend of Barnsley, rode to Barnsley’s house to warn him that Sherman’s troops were approaching. He instead was shot down within sight of the mansion. Earle’s body was buried at Woodlands.[2] When Union troops did arrive at the site, Federal General McPherson ordered his men not to destroy Barnsley’s estate, but his orders were ignored.[3] Italian statuary was smashed in hopes of finding hidden gold.[2] Wine and food were stolen. What could not be stolen was smashed,[2] including windows and china.[3]

Leaving Woodlands[edit]

By the end of the war, Barnsley moved to New Orleans to try to regain his lost fortune.[3] He left Woodlands to be managed by James Peter Baltzelle, a Confederate army captain, who had married his daughter Julia.[2] Baltzelle made a living by shipping timber from Woodlands, but was killed by a falling tree in 1868. Soon after, daughter Julia joined her father in New Orleans, along with her daughter, Adelaide.[3] In 1873, Barnsley died in New Orleans and was taken back to Woodlands, where he was buried.[1] The Woodlands manor house was destroyed in 1906 by a tornado, but the ruins are now open to the public and are part of Barnsley Resort .


  1. ^ a b c d e [1]
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l [2]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-02-16. Retrieved 2009-02-10. 
  4. ^ [3]
  5. ^ [4]


  1. [5] Godfrey Barnsley Papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University
  2. [6], Barnsley Gardens, by Kathleen Wallls
  3. [7] Godfrey Barnsley and Barnsley Gardens, Cartersville-Bartow County, GA Convention and Visitors Bureau,
  4. [8], History and Overview, www.barnsley resort.com
  5. [9] Barnsley Gardens

External links[edit]