JOHN BARKER, MD

On that misty New England morning in the Spring of 1775 on the Town Green in Lexington, MA, a small explosion occurred starting a chain reaction, which spread throughout the American colonies and enveloped nations on other continents as well. After years of pressure produced by the denial of basic human rights, fueled by the oratory of the statesmen and community leaders of the era, the vessel had burst. In Massachusetts citizens called Minutemen had waited for months for the call to arms. Similar patriots in Connecticut, members of the Lexington Alarm, had prepared also for that day when the American colonies would begin their fight for Independence.

In New Haven, John Barker of Lebanon, CT, was on that momentous day a student at Yale University. Like other young men of his time, he too was fired with enthusiasm and zeal for the cause of American Independence.

John Barker was born in New London Co., CT, 18 August 1754 to Joshua and Mary (Throop) Barker. He descended from a long line of strong determined and dedicated men and women who had peopled this country from the early days of its European settlement. His father, Joshua Barker, born 26 September 1715 in Marshfield, Plymouth, MA, was the great grandson of another John Barker, who with his brother Robert had arrived in Plymouth around 1628. John Barker, the immigrant ancestor owned a ferry and was a member of the Marshfield Military Co. under Lt. Nathaniel Thomas. He married Anna (Hannah) Williams in 1632 in Plymouth. Anna and her parents John and Ann Williams had come from Barnstable, England on the ship Charles, arriving in Scituate, Plymouth Colony in 1632. Joshua’s grandfather, also named John Barker, son of John the immigrant, had been a justice of the peace, deputy to the Court and as a sergeant in King Phillip’s War had been severely wounded. Joshua, himself was a lieutenant in Capt. John Winslow’s Co. in 1740 and during the French and Indian War (1775-1762) was the captain of the 11th Co., of the Second Regiment.

John Barker’s mother, Mary Throop, born 17 Jul 1726 in Lebanon, CT, the wife of Joshua, was the 3rd great granddaughter of Richard Warren, a Mayflower passenger in 1620. Richard was instrumental in the establishment of Plymouth Colony. Mary’s 2nd great grandfather, Richard Church, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Warren, was a volunteer in the Pequot War in 1637.

With this heritage and the total immersion of the New England colonies in the fight for Independence, it is understandable why in June of 1777, John Barker requested that his Yale professors allow him to leave college and enlist in the Continental Army. With their permission and the assurance that he could graduate with his class in September, he was commissioned a Lieutenant in Col. Henry Jackson’s Regiment in the Connecticut Line on 1 July 1777. He spent the winter with his regiment at Valley Forge and in June 1778 was involved in the Battle of Monmouth. Later in an engagement with the British at Newport, RI, under Generals Sullivan, Green and La Fayette, he was seriously wounded. While leading his Battalion, with his right arm raised, he was hit by a bullet in his shoulder which proceeded up his arm and lodged just above the elbow. John was taken to a hospital in Providence where the bullet was removed.

However his right arm was damaged beyond repair and became useless for the remainder of his life. For awhile, during his convalescence, he remained in the army, and then finally resigned in March, 1779. With his military career over, he began medical studies under the tutelage of his cousin, also named John Barker, of Franklin, CT. His cousin was the son of his father Joshua’s half brother, and was one of the most respected physicians of the time in that area.

Upon completion of his medical studies and to improve his health, John Barker moved to New Bern, NC and established his medical practice. However his father, Capt. Joshua Barker, died on 23 February 1784 in Norwich, New London, CT, having named John as administrator of his estate. After returning to Connecticut for a short period he married on 18 May 1784 Huldah White, youngest daughter of Rev. Stephen (Yale 1736) and Mary (Dyer) White in Windham, CT . After their marriage, John and Huldah went back to New Bern, NC where John resumed his medical practice. Their daughter Julia was born 25 November 1786 followed by a sister on 2 July 1788. After 4 years in North Carolina, the Barker family decided to return to Connecticut, but tragedy struck as they began their journey by sea. During a storm off Ocracoke Island, their vessel wrecked, and their youngest daughter was swept from her mother’s arms and perished. Many of the family’s possessions and personal papers were lost as well.

John Barker and his family lived in Windham for several years then moved to New Haven, CT in 1794. In October 1802, he purchased his home on the the south side of George St., near the corner of Temple, from Thomas Finch . He and Huldah continued to live in New Haven for the rest of their lives. Four sons and 1 daughter were born in Connecticut: John, Jr., born 17 March 1791; Charlotte, 13 May 1795; Charles, 4 July 1799; William, 8 June 1802; and George W., 5 February 1805.

The character and accomplishments of Dr. John Barker as detailed in an article in The Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Vol. 2 by Dr. Henry Bronson, indicate that he was an influential and respected member of the Connecticut State Medical Society by 1793, holding many offices including, clerk, fellow, committeeman, secretary and finally in 1812 vice president. That same year he received the honorary degree of MD from the Society. He supported the establishment of a Medical Institution at Yale College and was chairman of the committee to select and publish the 1810 edition of the Medical Society of Connecticut Journal. He was active in organizing the New Haven Medical Association in 1803 and served as its clerk until his death, working to give it respectability and to perpetuate its existence.

An esteemed member of the Episcopal Church, he served as its clerk for most of the years that he was a member. In 1798 and 1801 he was a delegate to the diocesean convention. In civic affairs, he was a Justice of the Peace from 1807 to 1813.

Quoting Dr. Henry Bronson : “Dr. Barker’s business…was a general practice…Popular opinon gave him an honorable position as a man of professional and scientific attainments…He was not only an esteemed physician but a good citizen and neighbor, plain, unassuming, peaceable, mild in his manners, exemplary and trustworthy—a person whom all respected…He was more distinguished for usefullness than brilliancy— for practical rather than spectacular talents or genius. He was above the ordinary size, impulsive, hypochondriacal at times and thriftless in money matters.”

In 1795, Dr. John Barker wrote for the New Haven Medical Journal, an essay on the yellow fever epidemic which had swept New Haven the previous year. He indicated that the yellow fever originated on a boat used to transport victims of the disease in the West Indies which was docked in New Haven near the homes of the first victims. He expounded that the disease was carried in the air due to the putrification of decaying animal carcasses and rotting plants and vegetables. (Later, scientists would discover that mosquitos which breed and feed upon these things are the carriers of this dreaded disease).

John Barker, MD died on 24 February 1813, performing his duties as a physician. After attending a patient, Capt. Abel Denison, with the “southern fever”, Dr. Barker also contracted and succumbed to the disease.

His survivors included his wife Huldah, who died 19 September 1848, age 88; daughter, Julia who died unmarried in New Haven 22 June 1855; sons: John, died at sea 26 August 1820; Charles, died 4 September 1822 in New York City, unmarried; William, died 25 October 1833 in North Carolina, widowed with one son; George W., died 22 November 1843, in Waverly, IL, married with 5 children. His daughter Charlotte, pre-deceased him on 34 June 1803.

Dr. John Barker is buried in Grove St. Cemetery—Cypress Ave. W.—New Haven as stated in the Charles R. Hale Collection of Headstone Inscriptions copied on 13 November 1934. A copy of this record can be found in the New Haven Historical Society Library. No legible monument currently marks his grave in the plot where other members of his family and his wife Huldah’s family now lay. For years the resting place of this patriot, who carried a wound, the lifetime badge of his sacrifice for American Independence, was unacknowledged. This omission was rectified however, in a public ceremony on 4 July 2001, when a patriot’s marker was placed on the grave site of Dr. John Barker, MD, acknowledging and honoring his service in the founding of this country.

Submitted by: Jerome J. Hale,
3rd great grandson of Dr. John Barker

Sources:
Records of Births, Deaths, Marriages, Lebanon, New London, Co., CT, Vol. 1, LDS film No. 1312154, p. 31.

Bowman, George Ernest, editor, The Vital Records of Marshfield, MA, various volumes.

Rolls of Connecticut Men in French and Indian War, Vol. II, 1758-1762, (Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 1905)

Huldah Barker, Widow’s Pension File No. W25125, 9/4/1838, (Washington: National Archives) –deposition by Simeon Baldwin, retired superior court judge, native of Norwich and cousin and friend since childhood of John Barker. Simeon Baldwin was the son of Bethiah Barker, sister of John’s father, Joshua Barker. He married two of the daughters of Roger Sherman, CT patriot.

Dexter, Franklin Bowditch, Litt.D, Biographical Sketches of the Graduates of Yale College with Annals of the College History, Vol. III, May, 1763—July, 1778, (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1903) 655

Records of the Congregational Church, Franklin, CT 1718-1869, (Hartford: 1938) 70

Joshua Barker will (12/13/1783, proved 3/6/1784) New London Co., CT Probate Records, Vol. 7: 295.

Huldah Barker, Widow’s Pension File No. W25125.

Index to Births, Deaths, Marriages 1692—1850, Windham, CT, LDS film No. 1376452.

Barker, Elizabeth Frye, Barker Genealogy (New York: Frye Pub. Co., 1927) 239

Huldah Barker, Pension File No. W25125, deposition by Simeon Baldwin.

Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Vol. 2, “Medical History and Biography by Henry Bronson, MD”, (New Haven: by The Society, 1877) 362

Catalogue of The Officers and Graduates of Yale University in New Haven Connecticut 1701-1924, (New Haven: Yale University, 1924) 130.

Papers of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, Vol. 2. 363-371.
Barker, Elizabeth Frye, 239.

Charles R. Hale Collection—Headstone Inscriptions—Grove Street Cemetery, New Haven, CT, copied by Donald MacAuley, 13 Nov 1934, p. 285. “Barker, John, Doctor, died February 21, 1813, age 55 years.”