The reference is a book entitled, "New Bern 50 Years Ago", by Stephen Miller, circa 1870. In the book, Miller is giving a short narrative of influential men around the town. And, at the very end of the list is James Barney's name. The exact words Miller used are as follows: "Near the county wharf, kept a house of entertainment for seafaring people, whose boisterous merriment, and good natured singular phrases afforded amusement to passers-by, except when these sons of Neptune quaffed too freely the fumes of Bacchus. On such occasion they often had to be quieted by the Police. Mr Barney was a droll wit himself, and knew how to manage his noisy guests?.
A droll wit is defined as a joker or jester, and Bacchus was the greek god of drink and revelry. I like the way the guy Miller writes, which was probably pretty typical at the time.