- He was only ten years old when his father died and fifteen when he went to sea as a midshipman with the merchant fleet of the East India Company. He sailed in February, 1825 on the "Kellie Castle" to Bombay and China, returning in March 1826. In January, 1827 he sailed as 6th Officer on the "Bridgewater" reaching Bombay in May and China in August, and returning to England in March, 1828. His third and final voyage was as fourth Officer aboard the "Lowther Castle", which sailed in April, 1829 and reached China in September after weathering fierce storms. The ship started for England in March, 1830 and did not reach the Thames until September. Robert left the service on 2nd October, 1830 having served for just five years 8 months and 25 days. He was 21 and eligible to receive the £2,500 his father had left him in his will.
His sister, Susanna, married in November that year and his two oldest brothers, who had inherited their father's two properties in Ireland, were married by February, 1832. The rest of the family seems to have moved about this time to Bonn, Germany, where the sons may have attended the University. Robert is said to have used his closed coach to help some German friends there spirit away one of their number who was in danger because of some political crisis - or at least this was the story that explained the teacups and saucers, painted with the coats of arms of noble families which passed down to Robert's eldest son.
In September, 1839, his own capital apparently boosted with a parting gift of about £3,000 from his mother, Robert sailed for Sydney hoping to make his fortune as a woolgrower. Within a fortnight of landing in January, 1840 he had bought, with two partners, fellow passengers on the "Alfred", Joseph Docker and Frederick Darvall, the stock and licence area (some 66,000 acres) of "Boree Nyrang", near Molong. After a few months up there Robert came to Sydney and, while Frederick Darvall managed the stations, wooed and wed Emily Mary Darvall, eldest and probably the most accomplished of the three Darvall sisters. Before the wedding Robert and Major Darvall bought out Docker's third interest in Boree (and later Emily's inheritance was used to buy up her father's share: how long it was before Fred sold out remains unclear). Mr. and Mrs. Barton spent the spring and summer settling into their bark hut at "Boree" before Emily went to Sydney to attend her dying mother and have her first child, Emily Susanna.
Emily's sister, Eliza and her husband, Henry Herman Kater, came to live nearby at Caleula after Kater was ruined by the depression (1842). Later their younger sister Rose and her husband, John Arthur Templer moved from "Nanima", Wellington to "Narambla", near Orange (1847). A further addition to the family colony came after Charlotte Shapland - whose sister was the wife of John Bayley Darvall, Emily's barrister brother - married Thomas Hood and lived for a time as a neighbour on their property at "Boree Cabonne".
The collapse of the wool market and the generally depressed economy in the 1840s meant that the stock was worth in 1842 about 1 /10th of what the Boree partners had paid in 1840 and hopes of returning to England with a handsome fortune vanished. Robert had firm expectations of a bequest of £10,000 from has maternal uncle, Robert Nathaniel Johnston, a Bordeaux wine merchant, who was probably his godfather, but these hopes were dashed when he learnt (1842) that his uncle had left his vast fortune to the church for a Bordeaux hospital. Susanna Barton and her sister contested the will, appealing to King Louis Philippe to intervene; Susanna received some £8,000 and at once sent £2,000 to Robert (1844). A few years later further financial disaster loomed when his neighbour, John Smith, brought a civil action for wrongful arrest in the famous "iron pot case" but the threat of heavy damages fortunately faded (1847-48).
After Fred Darvall's marriage (1841), Emily's younger brother Horace came to Boree for a time and looked after it when Robert was in Sydney. Later (1848) Edwin Naylor, the son of the Anglican clergyman at Carcoar, joined the staff when his father fell ill and returned to England where he died. Before this Robert had been crippled for life when he broke his leg in a fall from a gig (1846) - one of several dangerous accidents of this kind that the family suffered on rough bush tracks and the mountain road. He was lame and apparently increasingly irritable thereafter.
But economic conditions improved markedly after the discovery nearby of gold in 1851 and in the late 1850s Robert began to consolidate his holding by taking up the freehold to four relatively small areas near the homestead between 1854 and 1859 - a total of 713 acres. The broad acres of licence area were evidently disposed of about this time and when the eldest son, Robert, left school in 1858 he took over the management and disposal of the remaining stock.
Emily had been kept busy with a growing family: ten children in 15 years, of whom just one died (1845, at 10 months), the delicate twin sister to Rose Isabella. The youngest child, Arthur Sterling, was seven years old when the eldest daughter was married at Boree in December, 1860 to John Paterson. She had her first child there in October, 1862 and six months later Rose was also married at Boree to Andrew Paterson.
Early in October, 1863 on a visit to Sydney where he stayed at the Australian Club, Robert caught pneumonia and died, aged only 54. He was buried at St. Anne's, Ryde. His estate, left to his widow, was valued at £16,000.
Robert Johnston Barton, a retired East India Company captain, came to Australia in 1839. He met on the ship, and subsequently married, Emily Mary Darvall. Robert Barton brought funds with him and with the Darvall family as partners occupied "Boree Nyrang" near Molong. Mrs Barton was a well educated young woman fluent in several languages and in the isolated circumstances of their property virtually educated her own eight children. She wrote much of her early experiences in the pioneering bush.