Select Barker Miscellany

Here are some Barker stories and accounts over the years:

Barker and Tanner

According to the Victorian surname writer Henry Guppy, Barker was the old name for a tanner.  It was confined to the northern half of England and to the eastern counties north of the Thames.  It was very frequent in Yorkshire and was also well represented in the counties of Derby, Lincoln, and Norfolk. Tanner, its substitute in the south of England, had its home in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, and Hampshire.

In the old ballad of The King and the Tanner in Percy's Reliques, the latter called himself a barker:

"What craftsman art thou, said the king,
I pray thee tell me trowe?
I am a barker, sir, by my trade,
Now tell me, what art thou?"

The Barkers of Shropshire

The Visitations of Shropshire in 1584 traced the Barkers of Shropshire back to a common ancestor, William Barker alias Coverall, who married Margaret Goulston in the early 1400’s.  The early name probably had been Coverall, dating back a further hundred years.  The Barker name was later adopted.  Family tradition has it that they were bercers, later barkers, who were the appointed chief herdsmen of the area.

Barker descendants in Shropshire were first found in Aston.  Arthur Barker covered this line in his 1932 book
The Barkers of Aston.  They extended to
Wolverton, Haughmont, and Hopton Castle in Shropshire and to Colehurst in Warwickshire.   Randulph Barker who had fled Shropshire for killing a man was the ancestor of the Barkers of Little Over and Vale Royal in Cheshire.  One line from Aston led to some prosperous merchants in Birmingham.

The family connections to Sir Rowland Hill, a Shropshire man who became Lord Mayor of London, enabled the Barker family to acquire Haughmond Abbey in 1543 at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries.  Haughmond Abbey was close to Shrewsbury and the Barker family became influential in that town.

The Barkers of Pembroke, Massachusetts

According to family tradition, three Barker brothers crossed the Atlantic to Plymouth, Massachusetts sometime in the 1630’s.  One of these brothers was said to have settled in Rhode Island.   The other two, Robert and John, set out on an expedition northward.

Sailing from Plymouth, they coasted until they reached the North river.  They then proceeded up the river until they found a suitable site for a trading post.  Here they founded the township of Pembroke (now part of Duxbury).

The people of Pembroke claim to possess the oldest existing dwelling house in the United States.  It was built by the Barkers and still stands in its primitive state.  It was built of stone, laid in clay mortar.  Its only apartment was fifteen feet square.  Its purpose was as much for that of defence as of trade.  Loopholes were ranged at equal intervals on the walls.

John Barker worked as a ferryman over the Jones river.  However, he fell into the river at Little Bridge and was drowned in 1652.  Robert Barker lived onto 1691.  It is thought that his son Francis built with his brothers the first iron foundry in America in 1702.  The material for the iron business was fished up from the various bogs that lay in the immediate vicinity.

The Barkers on Swan's Island

One of the most prominent residents of Swan’s Island at the mouth of the Kennebec river in Maine was Robert Barker.  He brought to Swan’s Island his bride Sarah Folger, a member of the wealthy Nantucket family.  In 1773 he built himself a spacious frame house on the southern end of the island.  

When he was lost at sea seven years later, his wife and children moved back to Nantucket.  But later their son John, who became a successful merchant, placed family relatives on Swan’s Island, so that the Barker heirs lived in the old house for several generations. John himself had been born on the island; as was Jacob who was later to become a prominent financier.

David Barker the Loyalist and His Family

David Barker had owned a fine farm in upstate New York which was confiscated during the Revolutionary War because he had sold cattle to the British.  When peace was declared, he joined Major VanAlstine’s party in New York and came to Canada, arriving at Adolphustown, New Brunswick in 1784. 

David settled in Barker’s Point where he died in 1821, aged eighty eight.  His wife had died seventeen years earlier. They had a family of twelve children, only eight of whom, however, settled in Canada. 

David was not a Quaker, although he always attended Quaker meetings.  He and his family wore the plain dress and adopted Quaker customs.  But he held strongly to the creed of the Church of England.  It was because of his influence that the members of the family of Abraham, his son, were baptized as soon as an Anglican clergyman could come to Hallowell. 

Abraham and his brother James erected a grist mill at nearby Wellington where they began grinding wheat in 1815.  Abraham always kept in touch with his American cousins.  Almost every other year he took with him his eldest daughter to introduce her to the American branches of his family. 

James who joined Abraham at Wellington named the village of Bloomfield where he settled and made his home until his death in 1847.

The Kirkby Malzeard Matricide

The following was reported in The Morpeth Herald of north Yorkshire on June 13, 1874. 

“The young man, John William Barker, aged 23, who has been charged with the murder of his mother Anne Barker, aged 52, at Kirkby Malzeard by cutting off her head with a hedging bill, was on Monday brought up on remand at Ripon, for examination prior to commitment.

The courthouse was crowded, much curiosity being exhibited to obtain sight of the prisoner.  He is now considered insane and certainly looks so.   Mr. Marsden, the West Riding solicitor, prosecuted, instructing the Chief Constable.

Mr. Batson of Harrogate appeared for the prisoner and elicited in the examination of his father William Barker and a younger brother Alfred, who were the principal witnesses called, that he had for two or three months back, since an attack of quinsey, been exceedingly singular in his habits, moping in the house or lying in bed all day.  It was stated that he had been very fond of his mother and it was denied that he had struck her except once, a few days ago.  The father said that a short time since he had gone to see the assistant overseer about the prisoner being admitted into an asylum and, it was added, that his grandmother was at one time confirmed a lunatic.

The police officer who apprehended the accused found him in the armchair, while the deceased lay in pool of blood in the cellar.  The prisoner, after the usual caution and much hesitancy, said he had nothing to say and was then committed to Wakefield for trial at the Leeds assizes.”

The verdict from Leeds Assizes in August 1874 was that John William Barker was acquitted through insanity and will be detained in jail during her Majesty’s pleasure

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