Eliza Starbuck Barney, Abolitionist, Genealogist and Suffragette
Daughter of Joseph and Sally Starbuck, Eliza Starbuck Barney (1802-1889) purchased a dwelling house on Main Street in 1872 from Alice Swain, the widow of Elihu Swain Eliza and her son, Joseph S. Barney, immediately removed the house and constructed a new, most un-Quaker house. Built in an Italianate style with an elaborate cupola and balustrade, the house included details such as carved front door by James Walter Folger.
Eliza Starbuck Barney is probably best known in Nantucket for recording the genealogy of the island’s first families. Barney documented the complicated family relationships for future generations to easily understand, most likely conducting her research in her library on the west side of the front hall. Her interest in history and knowledge spread past genealogy to natural history as well, as she was a self-taught botanist and entomologist. Barney also was involved with anti-slavery societies in Nantucket and attended Massachusetts’ first women’s suffrage convention in 1851.
Barney left the house to her children, and it remained in the family until her son’s death in 1905. In 1965, Walter and Ann Beinecke purchased the house with their daughter Julie and carefully restored the building using historic photographs, rebuilding the cupola and fence that had been removed years earlier.