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Biography of Capt. Isaac Barker

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Capt. Isaac Barker, came from New Bedford, Massachusetts, to the northwestern territory in the autumn of 1788. For several years he lived in the Belpre settlement on the Ohio river, about fifteen miles from Marietta, and his name is preserved as one of the heads of families who, in the year 1792, took refuge in the block house called “Farmers’ Castle,” where he and his family remained till the violence of the Indian war was spent. In 1798 he removed with his family of five sons and three daughters to Athens township, and settled near the village of Athens, where he passed the remainder of his life. Capt. Barker was a sea-faring man in early life, being supercargo and captain of an East India vessel, and, during the revolutionary war, took an active part in the privateering service. His sons were Michael, Isaac, Joseph, William, and Timothy.

Michael Barker, son of Capt. Isaac Barker, born in 1776 at New Bedford, Massachusetts, came with his father’s family to Marietta in the autumn of 1788. During the Indian war, from 1792 to 1795 while they lived in Farmers’ Castle at Belpre, Michael served as a scout or spy against the Indians in a company raised under the authority of the Ohio Company. He came to Athens county and settled near the town of Athens in April, 1798, where he spent the rest of his life. He married a daughter of William Harper, who was county treasurer from 1809 to 1811. Mr. Barker was for many years a constable in Athens township, and held other local-offices. He was a man of scrupulous exactness in his dealings, and of much firmness and decision of character. He died June 10th, 1857.

Isaac Barker, jr. (son of Capt. Isaac Barker), long known in Athens county as Judge Barker, was born in Massachusetts, February 17th, 1779. He remembers his father setting out with his family for the northwestern territory, from New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1788. They had one wagon drawn by two oxen and a horse, and were accompanied on the journey by Capt. Dana and his family, also emigrating to the west. Their journey was not marked by any special incidents. At one stage Capt. Barker’s oxen having become footsore, he exchanged them with a Dutch tavern keeper where they stopped for a fresh yoke. The next morning the boys started on early with the team, the father remaining behind a little while. They had not gone far before they came to a very bad place in the road, over which the oxen refused to go. After working with them for some time the boys suddenly thought it was because the Dutch oxen could not understand English that they were so stubborn; one of them accordingly went back for the Dutchman, who soon arrived, and, by dint of considerable hard swearing at the oxen, in good Dutch, got the team over. The emigrants traveled by land to Sumrill’s ferry on the Youghiogheny, where they procured keel boats and continued their journey by water to Marietta. Captain Barker’s family spent several months in the family of Paul Fearing, at Marietta, and removed thence early in 1790 to Belpre, where he settled on a one-hundred-acre donation lot. They had hard work to get along here, especially for the first year or two. Mr. Barker says corn was four dollars a bushel and none to be had at that. They lived for one year almost solely on corn bread and wild meat. “One quart of cracked corn,” he says, “was the daily allowance for our family of eleven. The children used to stand by looking wistfully while their mother baked the daily loaf, and, having received their share, would hoard it carefully, nibbling it like mice during the day.” They lived in a block house, or garrison, some four or five years, during the Indian war. At this time, says Mr. Barker, “I was a pretty smart boy and able to handle a gun, and while father and my older brother worked in the field I stood guard with the rifle. Every evening we barred up the door before sundown. In the morning we would open it an hour or so after sunrise, look carefully about, and, if no signs of Indians appeared, brother Michael would go out (the door being instantly barred behind him), and scout around a little.” Several men and one or two whole families were killed in that neighborhood by the Indians during these years. Mr. Barker recollects the massacre of the Armstrong family just across the river from where they lived, the killing of Benoni Hurlbut, the chase of Waldo Putnam and a man by the name of Bradford, by the Indians, and the killing of Jonas Davis. This Mr. Davis was engaged to be married to one of Mr. Barker’s sisters. One cold day during the war, seeing an old skiff lodged on the ice some distance up the river, he ventured out to get some nails out of her-they being very scarce. He never returned. Being missed, after several hours, and search made, he was found dead, stripped, and scalped on the ice. Though a mere boy during the war, Judge Barker received at its close one hundred acres of land as a bounty from the Ohio Company-Gen. Putnam saying that he had done a man’s work and was entitled to a man’s pay. He used frequently to stand guard at the garrison. Capt. Barker’s family came to Athens in 1798, poling their goods up the Hockhocking in a light flat boat. These boats were built with a “running board” along each side; a man on each side, furnished with a long pole with a pointed iron socket at the end, would plant it firmly in the bottom at the bow, and then with the upper end against his shoulder would run to the other end of the boat, propelling her by that means. After coming to Athens they lived a year at the point close by Harper’s Ferry. Judge Barker tended this ferry for a while, and married Christiana, a daughter of Mr. Harper. At this time they got their milling from Capt. Devol’s floating mill, some five miles up the Muskingum. It took four days to go and come, and Mr. Barker has himself more than once made this long trip to mill, going down the Hocking and up the Ohio in a pirogue and back by the same means, camping out over night.

Moses Hewitt and his family lived a short distance up Margaret’s creek. In the year 1800 some thirty or forty Indians came in on Factory run, and three of them came over to Mr. Hewitt’s house. They were somewhat in liquor, and Mrs. Hewitt in alarm sent hastily for her husband, who was a short distance from the house. When Mr. Hewitt came he ordered them in their own language (he had been a captive among them several years before), to ” go away.” They refused and were insulting, whereupon, Mr. Hewitt flew at the drunken ones and knocked one into the fireplace and another headlong out of the door. Mr. Barker was in the house and saw all this. A large athletic Indian, who seemed entirely sober, then grappled with Mr. Hewitt, and, after a violent struggle, threw him on the floor. Mrs. Hewitt and Mr. Barker, excited and alarmed, were about to pull the Indian off, when Hewitt, who was a noted fighter, told them to stand off and let him alone. The fight continued, and Hewitt very soon managed to get his thumb into the Indian’s eye, and the Indian’s thumb into his mouth, when the latter screamed lustily and begged till Mr. Hewitt released him. The moment he was on his feet, the Indian ran to the door, and, putting his hand to his mouth, gave a regular war whoop, loud and long continued, and then ran away. Mr. Hewitt himself was now alarmed, thinking that the Indians would come over in the night and kill his family. Accordingly he requested Garner Bobo, a man named Cutter, and Mr. Barker, to stay in the house over night while he took his wife and the children some distance across the river. Mr. Barker says, “We had but one gun among us- Bobo had that. I was armed with a heavy clothespounder, and Cutter had a conchshell which he was to blow for help in case of great danger. Thus accoutered we barred the door and prepared to pass the night. We took turns sleeping and watching, and the night passed without any alarm. About daylight I, being on watch, saw some three or four figures gliding about the house and thought the redskins were after us now, sure enough. I woke Bobo who had his gun ready in a minute, and we were preparing for a fight or a siege when we heard a loud laugh outside, and looking out saw Hewitt and two or three others coming up to the house. They had come over to scare us. We saw nothing more of the Indians, and I think this was the last considerable party of them seen in this part of the country.

About this time Mr. Barker and Martin Mansfield, both vigorous and athletic young men, boated a man by the name of King, with his family, from the mouth of the Hockhocking river to the falls near Logan, and then dragging their boat around the falls, continued to within eight miles of Lancaster, the place of destination.

The town plat of Athens was very heavily timbered at that time, and the few cabins that stood here were widely separated. Mr. Barker, though not a great hunter, killed great numbers of deer and turkeys hereabouts. He remembers the following incident

Chris. Stevens, who lived back of the college green, and a German named Heck, were hunting one day and treed a bear in a large poplar not far from Stevens’ house. The bear climbed nearly to the top of the tree, which was very tall. They had but one gun between them and Stevens was to shoot. He had leveled his gun, taken aim, and sighted a long time; Heck stood a little off waiting for him to fire, when, his patience exhausted, he asked, ” Why don’t you shoot? ” Stevens, who was a kind-hearted man, deliberately lowered his gun and said, ” I can’t bear to see the poor thing fall so far!”

“Gott im himmels,” cried the German, “gif me de gun den-I shoots him if he falls mit de ground till a a tousand feet,” and bruin soon came tumbling down.

Old Capt. Barker’s first cabin stood about where Joseph Herrold’s house now stands. He afterward built a log house near the river, south of John White’s present residence. Judge Barker’s first cabin was about one hundred yards west of his father’s first house, and he afterward built a two story hewed log house on the river bank just at the turn of the road, which was standing a few years since and occupied by the Beveridge family. In i 8 i 5 Judge Barker moved to the town plat and took the “Dunbaugh House,” which stood where the ” Brown House” now stands, and which had been kept for a few years by one Jacob Dunbaugh. Mr. Barker kept tavern here till 1818, when he bought the lot where he now resides. There was a hewed log house on this lot, and he kept tavern in this while his brick house was building, and till it was finished in 1823, and then in his present dwelling till about 1830.

During his residence here, Mr. Barker has held the offices of county sheriff, county treasurer, collector of rents for the university, and was judge of the court of common pleas for about ten years. He has lived for nearly three score years and ten in the town of Athens, where he is passing the evening of his days in quiet serenity. Though now eighty-nine years old, he devoted a part of every day during this season (1868), to working in his garden-his favorite employment-and is in possession of all his faculties.


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