Tuesday, October 09, 2012


My 3x great grandfather Nathaniel Barker had a lot to live up to and something
to live down. His father, Jonathan Barker the 3rd was one of a large family
that had helped settle the area around the Sunday River in Western Maine.
There’s even a Barker Mountain in Newry, Maine. Jonathan himself was
a bit of a legend. Historian William B. Lapham tells two stories about him
in his History of Bethel:

“It may give you some idea of the toils and the strength of the men of those
days when you are told that Jonathan Barker came from Fryeburg on the
snow in the spring of 1780, up Sunday river, hauling on a hand-sled a
five-pail iron kettle, a three-pail iron pot, and a grindstone, while he
probably had on his shoulders, his provisions, his gnu and axe. He had
his camp plundered by the Indians. (p307)

A party of Indians encamped near Alder river, who offered to wrestle
with Jonathan Barker, one of the first settlers in Newry. They selected
the weakest first, whom Barker easily laid on his back. The others came
in turn with the same result, till he reached the strongest. Barker found
him exceedingly strong in his arms, but he succeeded in tripping his legs
and laying him solid on his back. The Indian rose aud exclaimed, "you
all mattahondon," which in plain English meant, '"you all devil.” (p298)

William  B Lapham, History of Bethel: formerly Sudbury, Canada,
Oxford County, Maine, 1768-1890; with a brief sketch of Hanover and
family statistics 
Press of the Maine Farmer, Portland, Me. 1891

Despite his strength and physical prowess, Jonathan Barker didn’t enjoy
the same success of his brothers and became an alcoholic. My Barker
cousin Howard Kaepplein told me in email that Jonathan burned down
his own house in an alcoholic stupor. He died in 1824 and is buried in
an unmarked grave at the Newry Cemetery.

By that time Nathaniel was thirty years old, married to Huldah Hastings,
and three of their six children had been born. He seems to have moved
around a bit from 1820 to 1840 according to the census images I’ve found:
1820 in Ketcham, Oxford, Me near his brother in law Josiah Bartlett, 1830
in Holmes, Me. near his brothers Amos and Caleb, and then in 1840 at
Albany, Me.  He was still living at Albany when applied for his first
veteran’s land grant.

To be continued…

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