She was born in Ulverston, Lancashire, England as Amelia Edith Huddleston to Reverend William Huddleston. In 1850 she married William Barr, and four years later they migrated to the United States and settled in Galveston, Texas where her husband and three of their six children died of yellow fever in 1867.
In 1869, she moved to New York City where she began to write for religious periodicals and to publish a series of semi-historical tales and novels.
By 1891, when she achieved greater success, she and her daughters moved up the Hudson River to Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York, where they renovated a house on the slopes of Storm King Mountain and named it Cherry Croft. The name has been applied to that period of her career, the most productive and successful.