Missionary and bishop; b. Ballyneale, County Waterford, Ireland, June 28, 1801; d. Savannah, Georgia Sept. 12, 1854. As the youngest son of wealthy Pierse and Anna Barron, Edward had exceptional educational advantages. He successfully read a law course at Trinity College, Dublin, to qualify for the Irish bar. In 1825 he began studying for the priesthood and in 1829 was ordained in Rome, returning to teach at St. John's College, Waterford, Ireland. Despite delicate health, he accepted Bp. Francis Kenrick's invitation to be rector of the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania seminary. Too easily imposed upon, Barron was removed from the seminary. As pastor of St. Mary's Philadelphia and vicar-general, he volunteered to go to Liberia when Rome asked Kenrick to send priests to that difficult mission. Reluctantly, Kenrick released his talented vicar-general. While enroute Barron was named prefect apostolic of Upper Guinea; before his consecration in Rome on Nov. 1, 1842, his jurisdiction was extended to Sierra Leone and the whole western coast of Africa that was not under the care of other ecclesiastical authority.
In France, the bishop procured seven priests of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart and three young laymen. Difficulties arose at Cape Palmas, where the French missionaries were suspected of being used as instruments by the French in an effort to extend the French West African empire. Barron consequently transferred all but one of his missionaries to French territories; however, the group of Frenchmen, who had been joined by two from Ireland, was ravaged by disease, and only the bishop and one priest reached Senegal alive. Barron made a fresh start at Goree, planning a seminary. Again the climate caused the death of nearly all his priests, and in 1845 the sickly bishop resigned. He returned to the United States and assisted Bp. Peter Kenrick of St. Louis, Missouri with his Indian missions. Although both Francis and Peter Kenrick wanted Barron as an auxiliary bishop, neither requests were ever honored.
Barron contracted advanced pulmonary tuberculosis and spent his final years as a missionary in Florida. In July of 1854, for health reasons, he left Florida for Philadelphia, but he hurried to Savannah when he heard of the yellow fever epidemic in Georgia. While administering to the sick, he succumbed to the fever himself.
Bibliography: m. j. bane, The Catholic Story of Liberia ; Catholic Pioneers in West Africa. r. k. macmaster, "Bishop Barron and the West African Missions, 1841–1845," Historical Records and Studies of the U. S. Catholic Historical Society of New York, 50 83–129.
[h. j. nolan]