Elise Barney née Rivers (1810 – 1883) was born in Lisbon, Portugal. She was appointed as the first full-time female postmistress at Brisbane in 1855, following the death of her husband Lieut John Edward Barney. Elise Barney continued in the position until April 1864 when she was transferred to a different post. She retired in December 1864 and died nearly twenty years later, on 5 July 1883, in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley.
Elise Rivers was born in Portugal on 21 October 1810 to Capt James Rivers and Mary (née Martin). Six years after marrying John Edward Barney, an officer in the British Army, in Ireland in 1833, they were posted to the island of St Helena (where Barney’s regiment guarded the remains of Napoleon Bonaparte) and then South Africa.
John and Elise Barney sailed to Sydney in 1847 at the behest of Barney’s brother, Lieut-Col George Barney, who had offered John an appointment in Port Curtis (now Gladstone). The appointment fell through but the Barneys moved north anyway. In October 1849 John Barney was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands; in 1850 he became a magistrate; and by 1852 he was employed as the full-time postmaster in Brisbane.
After Barney died in November 1855, Elise took over as postmaster, a position she held April 1864 when she was transferred to the money order branch. At a time when most employed women were from the lower or working-class and earning very low wages, Elise’s salary was the considerable sum of £350 per annum. After an investigation into missing funds, which cleared Elise Barney, she retired with a gratuity of £2000. She died at her home in Gipps Street, Fortitude Valley on 5 July 1883 of diptheria.
The Barneys had two children: a son named (Edward) Whiston Rivers Barney and a daughter whose name is unknown. Whiston Barney worked as a clerk under his mother in the post office and later in the immigration department. He died in the Brisbane Hospital in 1892.
Lee Butterworth and Jan Richardson, ‘Elise Barney (née Rivers) (1810 – 1883)’, Harry Gentle Resource Centre, Griffith University, 2020 (updated 2023), https://harrygentle.griffith.edu.au/life-stories/elise-barney/.
Elise Barney, daughter of James Rivers, died 5 Jul 1883.
Whiston Rivers Barney, son John Edward Barney and Elsie [sic] Rivers, died 8 Jul 1892.
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