|The founding Barker brothers|
Benjamin, Jonathan and Jesse Barker along with Ithiel Smith, co-founded Newry. This is the Barker brother's story. (Ithiel Smith's genealogy is available here.)
The first of their line in North America were Richard Barker (1615-1692/3) and his wife Joannah (?-1687) who are the first known settlers of what is now North Andover, Massachusetts. They came from Nayland, on the River Stour, Suffolk County in eastern England*. This was an area that resisted the established Church of England, feeling it was not sufficiently like the early Christian church. Like many of their Suffolk neighbors, Richard and Joannah were Puritans. Richard's name appears on the first Andover land deed and he was a town selectman. His name appears on almost all civic documents of the Andover area for its first fifty years. He and his descendents settled around Lake Cochiciwick. Barker Hill and Barker Road are still found on local Andover maps. A thriving fruit stand named Barker Farm is on Osgood Road in North Andover, and traces its founding to Richard and Joannah. (The original Andover later split into two communities; Andover and North Andover. The latter town is the original Puritan settlement.)
Despite their prominence as children of Richard and Joannah, some of the second generation of Barkers were caught up in the witchcraft hysteria of neighboring Salem in the late 1690ís. William Barker and his teenage son William Jr., confessed to being in league with the devil and named other witches when they were examined. (Doing so probably kept them alive. They were kept in custody until the hysteria eased and were eventually released.)
After the scandals ended, the offspring of Richard and Joanna resumed their place in Andover society and were well regarded as military and civic leaders. Their youngest son, Benjamin (1663-1750) was Andover town selectman and served a term in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1725.
When Andover became too crowded, Barkers moved across the Merrrimack River to help settle nearby Methuen, Mass. A street near downtown Methuen named for the family still exists. Barkers from both Andover and Methuen participated in military action against the French and Indians as loyal subjects of the English king. They took part in the siege of Louisbourg, Nova Scotia (now a Canadian national historic site) and were undoubtedly as disgusted as many other New Englanders when the fortress was returned to France after the peace treaty was signed.
The three Barker brothers who co-founded Newry were children of Richard Barker, grandson of Richard and Joanna (1728-1794) and Abigail Mitchell (1720-1806). Richard and Abigail had at least 13 children. Jonathan (1754-1824) was their third. He was a Minuteman and when the British attempted to raid the Continental arsenal at Concord joined the patriot attempt to cut off the Redcoat retreat to Boston in April of 1775. He participated in the Battle of Bunker Hill two months later. His later service saw him in New York where he may have participated in the Battle of Saratoga. His rank was captain.
The other co-founders of Newry were Jonathan's brothers. Benjamin (1755-1841) was the fourth child of Richard and Abigail. He enlisted in Methuen and served as a corporal in the Revolution. Jesse (1762-1854) was the eighth child of Richard and Abigail. He served as a private during the Revolution.
The three brothers had a third cousin, John, who was a hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill. According to Historical Sketches of Andover, Massachusetts by Sarah Loring Bailey, "...a private, John Barker, seeing his captain and friend, Benjamin Farnum lying wounded in the path of the retreat, took him upon his shoulders, and steadying him by putting his gun across under his knees, bade him hold fast, and started off on the run, calling out, "The Regulars (Redcoats) sha'n't have Ben."
The three brothers moved to Fryeburg, Maine but stayed only briefly, moving on to the Newry area where they were almost immediately forced out by Indians from Canada in the pay of Britain. It turned out to be the last raid by hostile natives in what would later become Maine. Along other settlers who retuned to Newry, the three brothers helped populate the area.
Jonathan was renowned for his physical strength, appearing in local histories wrestling and defeating a band of Indian braves. He also was known for carrying a large load of provisions across the mountains to Newry from Fryeburg in winter. However, he appears to have fallen on hard times in his old age. He said he had no family or income when he applied for a pension in 1818. He died in Newry and is believed buried in the Wight cemetery but the location of his headstone is not known.
Benjamin died in Newry and is buried at Sunday River cemetery where his grave is decorated with a Revolutionary War medallion. Jesse died in Newry and is also buried in the same cemetery.
(*There are other theories about where Richard and Joannah came from in England. "The Magazine of American Genealogy", No. 19, May 1931 says Richard was son of Sir Robert and Catherine Barker of England's County Kent. Marjorie Wardwell Otten's book Samuel Wardwell of Andover (Del Mar 1985) says Richard was born about 1618 in Holmes on Spaulding, Yorkshire and came to New England in summer 1638 from Hull on the ship John with Rev. Ezekiel Rogers.)