Early Evansville Portraits And Biographies
From History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana
by Brant & Fuller
1889

Samuel Barker

Previous Home Next

barker

SAMUEL BARKER, ex-commissioner of Vanderburgh county, and one among its most prominent and substantial citizens, was born in Charleston, S. C., July 22, 1820, the son of William Rogers and Ann Maria (Johnson) Barker. His father was born in Newburyport about the year 1790, and was the son of Samuel and Betsy (Rogers) Barker, who settled in Massachusetts about twenty years previous, and served through the revolutionary war. Miss Betsy Rogers was the daughter of Capt. Rogers, of the continental army, in whose company Samuel Barker served, and at the close of the war the young soldier won the hand of his captain's daughter. While in the service, he was one of the sentinels who guarded Major Andre, the British spy. Samuel Barker was a farmer by occupation, and spent nearly his entire life in the state of Massachusetts. He died in that state in about the year 1828.

William R. Barker, the father of our subject, spent his boyhood and youth on a farm in the vicinity of Newburyport, Mass. At the age of twenty-one he left home and went to Boston, where for several years he inspected mackerel. From Boston he went to Charleston, S. C., where for some ten or twelve years he was successfully engaged in the grocery business.

In Charleston he formed the acquaintance of Miss Ann Maria Johnson, to whom he was married in about 1816 She was born in Georgia, and was about four years younger than her husband. Her paternal ancestry was Scotch. In the meantime, before going to Charleston, Mr. Barker had served his country as a soldier in the war of 1812. In Charleston he was doing a successful business, but after a residence of a few years, there arose an insurrection which partly determined him to remove from the place. The slaves had formed a conspiracy to murder all the whites, and a night was set for their bloody deed. Fortunately the plot was discovered before the night arrived. Twenty-two of the ringleaders were convicted, and all were hanged on the same gallows. William R. Barker was a member of the military company that was detailed to guard the convicted Negroes, and he was a witness to their execution. He then entertained a belief which he frequently expressed, that the slavery question would bring about a civil war, and he preferred to have his family without its domain.

Accordingly, in the year 1826, in a two-horse carriage, he removed his wife and six children across the mountains to Cincinnati. One of these children, a brother of Samuel, afterward became the well-known Dr. William S. Barker, of Boonville, for forty years a practitioner there, and during the war surgeon of the One Hundred and Twentieth Indiana. For four years after his arrival, William R. Barker was engaged in the dry goods business. In 1830, he removed to Lawrenceburg, Ind., where Samuel Barker was a school-mate of ex-Gov. Albert G. Porter. In November, 1832, he removed to this county, and settled in Union township, where both he and his wife spent the rest of their lives. Shortly after his locating in this county, he was appointed one of the county commissioners. He died in July, 1837, and his wife survived him until about 1852.

Samuel Barker spent but a few years at his native city of Charleston, but while there, at the age of five, he saw General Lafayette at the reception tendered him by that city in 1825. He was twelve years of age when his parents came to this county. The first settlement was made on the farm he now occupies and it has been his residence for fifty-six years.

In early manhood he chose the vocation of a farmer, and aside from public service this pursuit has been his sole occupation. His life has been one of industry, and he now has a rank among the most wealthy farmers of Vanderburgh county, and is one of her most extensive free-holders. While his long citizenship would naturally have given him a wide acquaintance, it has been in the capacity of a public man that he has become so familiar to the people of Vanderburgh county.

In 1860 he was elected treasurer of his township, and served one year. In 1868 he was elected to the office of township trustee, which he resigned in 1869 to accept an appointment as a member of the board of county commissioners. He served out the unexpired term, and also served during the two terms which followed, being elected to the office in 1870, and reelected in 1872. In 1880 he was again re-elected and served one term. During his incumbency, which covered a period of nine years, some of the most important events in the history of the county occurred. He helped to build the first gravel road in the county, and besides wielding an influence which led to the construction and improvement of many other roads of this class, he was the originator of the project which led to the removal of the Evansville and Henderson gravel road from the river bank to its present location.

While he was county commissioner, by the authority of the entire board, Mr. Barker purchased the present orphan asylum, and it was while he was a member of the board that the site of the old infirmary building was sold and the present new building constructed. Among the bridges built were the one at the salt well, one over Pigeon creek, and the iron bridge on the First avenue road. But perhaps by far the most important of all his official acts was the one which led to the construction of the new state hospital for the insane, that is now the pride of every citizen of Vanderburgh county. While president of the board, Mr. Barker drafted, introduced, and secured the adoption of a set of resolutions in which he eloquently set forth the great need of an institution for the incurably insane of the state, and setting forth reasons why Evansville should be selected as the site of such institution. While much credit is due to the county's representatives in the state legislature for their diligent efforts in behalf of the measure and to the citizens generally for the gallant manner in which they strengthened the movement, the credit of originating it belongs entirely to Mr. Barker.

On the 2nd day of July, 1847, Mr. Barker was married to Mary A. King, daughter of James and Susan King. Her parents were natives of Virginia, in which state she was born November 25, 1824. She came with her parents to Union township in the year 1831. Their marriage has resulted in the birth of three children, William R., Francis A., and Ann Maria, of whom the eldest and youngest are deceased. Francis A. Barker was born December 2, 1850, and is the only child living. The daughter, Anna Maria Barker, was married to Dr. Henry S. Bell, at eighteen years of age, and some four or five years later she and her husband settled at Paris, Ill. Mrs. Bell died September 20, 1887, at Pasadena, Cal., whither she had gone for her health. Her father, mother and brother Francis, were with her when she died, and, her husband, who arrived a few hours later, brought her remains to this county, and interred them in Oak Hill Cemetery. She left two children, Samuel B. and Robert N. Mrs. Barker joined the Methodist Episcopal church at eighteen years of age, and has been a member ever since. Mr. Barker has been a devoted member of the same church since the twenty-seventh year of his age.

He was formerly a whig in politics, but since 1856 he has ardently supported the principles of the republican party. During the war of the rebellion he was a member of the company of home guards that was commanded by Capt. B. F. Williamson. Mr. Barker's record for honesty, integrity and uprightness is one which posterity can well emulate and admire.