|The Barker House, c.1988|
The Barkers' history in Mill Creek Hundred may begin as early as the 1670's, in the early days of the English migration into the area. The patriarch of this branch of the family (there were several other closely related branches that sprang up in other areas) was Samuel Barker (1648-1720). Samuel hailed from Shropshire, England, in the west midlands near Wales. Exactly when he sailed for the New World seems to be in doubt, but one account has him making a petition for a parcel land before the court in New Castle in 1677. Scharf notes that he bought in 1680 and sold in 1682 land near Stanton. What seems to be more certain is that in March 1685, Samuel Barker was granted 200 acres of land in Christiana Hundred by the newly-arrived William Penn. This was before Mill Creek Hundred was created out of Christiana Hundred, so the parcel along Red Clay Creek was actually mostly in what would later be MCH.
Samuel Barker's 200 acre grant from Penn, which may or may not have been a confirmation of the earlier petition from eight years prior, was located along Red Clay Creek in the areas that would later be known as Wooddale and Mt. Cuba. It was primarily north of what's now Lancaster Pike, but did extend south of it a bit into what was until recently the Hercules golf course. An earlier road did run along here, continuing north along what's now Old Wilmington Road. At some point (maybe when the turnpike was constructed in the 1810's) a bridge was built spanning Red Clay Creek. The area came to be known as Barker's Bridge.
|General area of settlement of the Barker family (not exact boundaries)|
Samuel Barker had four children, the youngest of whom were daughters Mary and Anna. As usual though (sorry ladies), the more important children for our purposes were his sons, Joseph and Daniel. It seems that after Samuel Barker's death in 1720, eldest son Joseph inherited the family farm along the Red Clay. Younger son Daniel (1704-1750) probably stayed to work on the farm until about age thirty, at which time he purchased his own property. In 1734 he bought 270 acres just north of his father's (now his brother's) land. Daniel's tract included 100 acres on the west side of the Red Clay, and another 170 acres on the east side. Much of this land is now in the possession of the Mt. Cuba Society.
Daniel Barker married Elizabeth Nicholas at Old Swedes Church sometime in the early 1730's, and the couple would go on to have six children. Most of their children would also be wed at Old Swedes. Sadly, Daniel died in about 1748, which would have made him only about 44 years old. The children would all have been fairly young, and I have a feeling that Elizabeth may have remarried. Daniel's two tracts were both sold away, one around 1747 (which may or may not indicate that he was sick) and the second in 1752. The eastern section was sold to William Dixson in 1752, while the 100 acre western portion was sold to an Irishman named Con Hollahan. There will be much more about Hollahan and his land (which was located around and north of the current development of Ramsey Ridge) in an upcoming post.
While Daniel Barker's farm stayed in the family for only a few decades, the property acquired by his father Samuel stuck around a good while longer. As noted earlier, after Samuel's death in 1720 his property was inherited by his eldest son, Joseph. On September 27, 1716, again at Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, Joseph married Johanna Clayton. They would have four children -- Maria, Samuel, Rebecca, and Susanna. As the only son, Samuel Barker (1721-1803) inherited the farm when his father passed away in early 1755.
Just a few years before that, Samuel had married Rachel Ball, daughter of Jeremiah Ball (of the Milltown Balls). Samuel and Rachel would raise nine children at Barker's Bridge, three girls and six boys. Eldest daughter Mary married Moses McKnight, while the other two (Esther and Rachel) both married brothers of the noted inventor Oliver Evans. Rachel wed Joseph Evans, Esther married Theophilus. If the name Theophilus Evans sounds familiar, it's because he and Esther had a daughter named Mary, who most people know better as Polly Drummond.
Of the six sons of Samuel and Rachel Barker, four ended up moving out of the area (first to Pittsburgh, then to other places near and far), but not until the 1790's. We will be interested primarily in the two who stayed, but the other four boys deserve mentioning, if for no other reason than that they demonstrate the status and industriousness of the family. Eldest son Joseph (1754-1825) served with distinction in the Revolution, according to Runk as "captain of the ship General Montgomery (marines), 14 guns, 120 men, in 1776, and of the Artillery in 1777." He married three times, first to the daughter of Thomas Collins, Brigadier General of the Delaware Militia during the war and later President (Governor) of Delaware. His third wife was the daughter of a judge from Sussex County. Joseph eventually settled in Kent County along the St. Jones River, at a place called Barkers Landing. (It's basically just past the Route 1 bridge over the marshy area right after the Dover Air Force Base.)
|See? There's even still a Barker's Landing Road|
Abner Barker (1760-1829) stayed in Pittsburgh after moving there, and lived there the rest of his life. His wife was the niece of Revolutionary War General Richard Butler, and one of their daughters married the grandson of the Patriot Samuel Adams. Jeremiah Barker (1764-1842) married in Virginia and died in Kentucky, after apparently living for a time in Ohio. Youngest son Jesse Barker (1772-1852) even outdid that. After moving to Pittsburgh with his brothers, Jesse then emigrated to Paris, where he amassed a large fortune as a banker. He returned to the U.S. in 1842, settling in New York to live out his remaining years, never marrying.
That leaves us with Samuel Barker and his two remaining sons, William and Abraham. In the next post we'll take a closer look at them, the house that at least one of them lived in (hint: it's at the top of the page), and the small business that provided at least some of their income. I'll also introduce a bit of a family mystery (at least it's a mystery to me), with the hope that maybe someone can clear it up for us.
Additional Facts and Related Thoughts:
- Later Barker family stories try to tie Samuel closely to Penn, stating that the two were friends, that Samuel was a Friend (Quaker), and that they sailed into New Castle together in 1682. I find this account dubious for several reasons. First, as already mentioned, there's reason to believe that Samuel was in Delaware at least five years before Penn arrived. Secondly, I've found no other indication that the Barkers were Quakers. Samuel himself and several close family members are all buried at Old Swedes Church in Wilmington, which by then was Trinity Episcopal Church -- the American branch of the Church of England. At least one of his sons was married there and many of his grandchildren were baptized at Old Swedes. Runk has a pretty detailed history of the Barkers prior to and after Samuel, and there is no mention of any Quaker Barkers. This doesn't necessarily mean that Barker didn't know Penn personally, but I have a feeling their relationship was exaggerated a bit by later family members.
- The whole Barkers Landing thing has me a little confused, but since it's a bit off-track I haven't pursued it. Scharf has a piece on it mentioning Joseph Barker and Thomas Collins (no, not the drink inventor), but he also states that it was originally owned by a Thomas Barker. I don't know who Thomas Barker is, or if he's closely related to these Barkers. Heck of a coincidence if he's not. Also, Runk and Scharf say that Joseph was buried at Barker's Landing, but he's now clearly interred in Smyrna. Collins was actually from Smyrna, so I imagine that his body was moved at some point, as I think was Collins'.