Notes on the Barkers of Volta Place

Notes on the Barker family of Volta Place., who, unlike Murray Barker, were Catholic. It is possible that originally all early black Barkers of Georgetown were Catholic, and that a few converted to Methodism, perhaps on their way to freedom.

I have not found conclusive evidence that the two lines of Barkers –– the Catholic Barkers and the Methodist Barkers –– were related, but it is possible, and one or two clues point to a union by marriage, probably with someone having to change denomination.

This segment includes some information about Rebecca Lee Barker and Henrietta Steptoe. There is some ambiguity –– in my mind, at any rate –– about the race of Rebecca Barker and her mother Harriet Steptoe.  Harriet Steptoe lived as “free colored”, but Rebecca Lee, the woman described as her daughter, is recorded as having been born in England, of English parents.

 

 

The Catholic Barkers, a Free Colored Family of Georgetown, DC

 

Andrew Barker

 

Free colored man, (Dorothy S. Provine, District of Columbia Free Negro Registers, 1821-1861, Nos. 2453 and 2454)

1834 directory: plasterer , north side of 4th street, near Frederick street.  (Volta Place, near 34th Street NW)

Always listed as a plasterer by profession, which seems to have meant, in the understatement characteristic of the time, that he could probably build a small house.

Sometime before 1818 –– because he is in a directory of that year –– Andrew built the house at on lots 10 or 11, Beatty and Hawkins’ Addition to Georgetown Amended,

 

Old address: 72 4th St.

New address: 3415 Volta Place

 

The neighboring house, 74 4th St. (3411 Volta Place) was built around 1847, perhaps by the next generation of Barkers.

Henrietta Steptoe sold land on 4th Street near Market Street, abutting the house of “Andrew Barker, late the husband of Rebecca”. (DC Liber 116 (1845) f.447/436)

(Both houses probably were given an added floor where basement used to be when the street was lowered in the 1870s.)

 

Barkers lived in these houses for close to a century:

William Woody bought 3411 in 1892

Pearl Edwards bought 3415 from Fanny Barker in 1935

 

(3415 has gone into history as the last place Alger Hiss met with Whittaker Chambers, in 1938.

Senator Prescott Bush also lived there, 1957-1963.)

 

When the houses were built, the neighborhood was not the most desirable, by reason of a tannery in the vicinity:

For sale or rent, tan yard, on 4th Street, Georgetown, opposite the monastery.––Adam Robb, John N. Robb

(Intelligencer, February 15, 1823)

 

Andrew Barker bought a grave for his father in Old College Ground (Catholic) in 1819.

Barker, Andrew’s father buried, July 23, 1819, stained coffin. (William King Mortality Journal)

 

Washington County, D.C., insolvent debtors: Andrew Barker applied to be discharged from imprisonment.––William Brent, clerk.

(Intelligencer, November 25, 1823)

 

Trustees sale, case of William M. Stewart v. Andrew Barker; John Marbury will sell at auction lots 10 and 11 in Beatty & Hawkins Amended Addition. (The Potomac Advocate & Georgetown Intelligencer, Georgetown, D.C., May 27, 1839)

 

 

Rebecca Lee

Andrew Barker married Rebecca Lee in DC, July 16, 1814. (Historical Court Records of Washington, DC, compiled by Homer Walker)

 

Henrietta Steptoe sold land on 4th Street near Market Street, abutting the house of “Andrew Barker, late the husband of Rebecca”. (DC Liber 116 (1845) f.447/436)

 

“Died in Georgetown, D.C., Henrietta Steptoe. Funeral at residence of her daughter Mrs. Barker.”

(Intelligencer, June 5, 1850)

 

Rebecca Barker’s son, William H. Barker, carried freedom papers that stated that his mother was white.

(Dorothy S. Provine, District of Columbia Free Negro Registers, 1821-1861, No. 2454, 20 April 20, 1857)

 

She was a widow by time of 1865 tax assessments, where she is listed as owning a 2 story brick house on the eastern part of lot 11.

 

1880 census––more precise in these matters than earlier censuses––lists Rebecca Barker as having been born, about 1791, in England, of English parents.  (1880 US census, Georgetown, E.D. 9, pp.36-7) Her will is dated 1883.

 

Will of Rebecca Barker, written May 11, 1877, filed April 14, 1883  (DC Archives, box 81):

Proceeds of the sale of her house to be divided equally by her five sons: Andrew, James, George, Edwin, and William;  personal items to her granddaughters: Rebecca Barker, Henrietta Barker, Kate Barker;  sole Executor: son Edwin Barker.

 

Henrietta Steptoe

Henrietta Steptoe’s grave is in Holy Rood Cemetery (section 19, lot 172). Her epitaph––transcribed in 1999––is all but illegible:

HENRIETTA STEPTOE

Died June 2, 1850, Age 71

Peace to thy soul eternal be thine,

And light celestial now upon thee shine

And if thy prayer now be heard above

Who blessed thy children with a mother’s love.

 

Henrietta Steptoe, born about 1769, was in Georgetown by 1805: “Henrietta Steptoe’s child” (William King’s Mortality Book, December 20, 1805).

Henrietta Steptoe’s daughter Rebecca Lee, marries Andrew Barker, July 16, 1814. (Historical Court Records of Washington, DC, compiled by Homer Walker)

“Steptoe, Henrietta, midwife, First street, opposite Catholic church.” (Directory of Georgetown, 1830; corresponds to 3522 N Street?)

Henrietta Steptoe, taxed for “part of lot 60 in Peter, Beatty, Threlkeld & Deakins Addition to Georgetown, 56’ 66” on First Street, small brick house, assessed in 1828 at $550, tax $2.75.” (Intelligencer, June 13, 1829)

Henrietta Steptoe sold land on 4th Street near Market Street, abutting the house of “Andrew Barker, late the husband of Rebecca”. (DC Liber 116 (1845) f.447/436)

“Died in Georgetown, D.C., Henrietta Steptoe. Funeral at residence of her daughter Mrs. Barker.” (Intelligencer, June 5, 1850)

 

The Riddle of Race

The 1830 and 1840 censuses list Henrietta Steptoe as “Free Colored”. In 1814 Steptoe’s daughter, Rebecca Lee, married Andrew Barker, a free black citizen of Georgetown. But, Rebecca Barker’s son, William H. Barker, carried freedom papers that stated that his mother was white; and the 1880 census––more precise in these matters than earlier censuses––lists Rebecca Barker as having been born, about 1791, in England, of English parents. And if Rebecca Barker was white, and born in England, then, in all probability, her mother, Harriet Steptoe, was white, and born in England, too. Is it possible that Steptoe “became” colored because of her daughter’s marriage?

(Dorothy S. Provine, District of Columbia Free Negro Registers, 1821-1861, No. 2454, 20 April 20, 1857; 1880 US census, Georgetown, E.D. 9, pp.36-7).

Or perhaps Steptoe’s status changed because the unknown father of her own child was colored; the 1805 death listing cited earlier––“Henrietta Steptoe’s child”––is noteworthy in that it does not name the father (who customarily paid for the burial). When Steptoe gave birth again, three years later, there was again no mention of a father: the Free Negro Register of the District of Columbia records that Henrietta Steptoe, “light colored, known by all in Georgetown to be free”, acknowledged a natural daughter––also light colored––named Mary Ann Tritt, born about 1808.

(William King’s Mortality Book, December 20, 1805; Dorothy S. Provine, District of Columbia Free Negro Registers, 1821-1861, No. 1722, 1839)

 

That Steptoe is even in the Free Negro Register would seem to settle the matter; but the question that remains is, how did she get there?

 

http://gloverparkhistory.com/

 

 

 

1874 Georgetown Directory, transcribed by Susan Salus:

http://genealogytrails.com/washdc/directories/1874georgetowndirectory.html

 

Barker Andrew T, plasterer, Valley nr. Stoddard

Barker Andrew, supt, 72 4th

Barker Chas. W, High bet Bridge and Potomac

Barker Daniel, Oak Hill Cem

Barker Edwin, plasterer, 72 4th

Barker Francis F, (J. S. Barker & Co) Bridge nr High

Barker James, plasterer, 74 4th

Barker James S, (J. S. Barker & Co) Bridge nr High

Barker J. S. & Co., (James S. and Francis F. Barker) ice, 105 Water

Barker Rebecca, wid. Andrew, 72 4th

Barker Wm. H, plasterer, Market nr 4th

 

 

Second generation, Barkers of Volta Place

Andrew and Rebecca’s sons:

Andrew Jr.

James

George

Edwin

William

Andrew and Rebecca’s daughters:

Rebecca

Henrietta

Kate

 

Andrew Barker, Jr.

born DC 1819.

Married Emeline Allison , April 19, 1849.

second marriage, with his mother Rebecca as witness

Holy Trinity Church, Oct. 29, 1851.

to Mary Henrietta

(born Germany!:

1880 census

ED 9, pp 36-7

 

June 1860, Henrietta Barker, 37, buried at Holy Rood

 

Andrew Barker

2 story frame house (3411), n. side of Volta place,

1865 assessments.

 

This needs to be checked again:

Star Nov. 25 1889:

Andrew Barker, age 75, refused to be chloroformed by a member of the family?

A daughter-in-law caused his arrest, accusing him of choking her.

 

 

James Barker

plasterer, born Feb. 1822

baptized at Holy Trinity (Catholic)

 

son of Andrew and Ann Rebecca Barker;

godmother: Matilda.

 

Married a woman named Frances (Fanny)

It was Fanny Barker who sold 3415 to Pearl Edwards in 1935.

 

James Barker’s child 3/27/1858 mahogany coffin

William King’s Mortality Books Vol. 2

 

James Barker’s child 3/8/1861 mahogany coffin

William King’s Mortality Books Vol. 2

 

“Mr. James Barker, a very much respected colored citizen, died early this morning from the effects of a stroke of paralysis. Death came at his home 3415 Q Street” (first name change for what became Volta).

(Washington Star, June 12, 1894, p 6.

Buried at Holy Rood Cemetery.

 

Fanny Barker sold 3415 to Pearl Edwards in 1935.

Fanny Barker lived to be 94, and lived reclusively, ending her days with

Frances (Blossom) Fleet, at 3238 Prospect St.

 

 

William H. Barker

married Minna Gray, Oct. 27 1847 (Minia, Martha?)

She was born about 1824 in Va.

George Barker, son of William and Minna, born about 1855.

 

Lewis Carbery certifies that he has known the late Andrew Barker, a very bright mulatto and formerly of Georgetown, and his wife, a white woman, for the last thirty-eight or forty years. William H. Barker is their youngest son. His family has always “been recognized & held as free people by that white community as I have never heard of the truth of their freedom being disputed or called into question”. Carbery also states that he knows that William’s brother had his free status “established on oath” [on August 11, 1856]. (Dorothy S. Provine, District of Columbia Free Negro Registers, 1821-1861, Vol.5, p.58, Certificate of Freedom No. 2454, recorded April 20, 1856)

 

Son Thomas b about 1855.

Thomas Barker, plasterer, 3416 M Street, 1890, and in 1897, 1418 36th St

 

William H. Barker, born about 1840, married to Martha A. Briscot (Briscoe?),

witness, Rebecca Barker

Trinity Church November 13, 1862.

Son Theodore born 1869.

 

Chief Marshall, Emancipation Day celebration

(Georgetown Courier, April 20, 1867).

 

Mentioned in the paper as an Republican

(Georgetown Courier, April 9, 1870).

 

Edward Barker, (an Edwin Barker,  was buried April 17, 1877, Harmonian Cemetery)

Julius Barker,

Thomas Barker:

plasterers, 72 4th St. 1876 Directory

(they stayed with their mother until she died)

 

A Thomas L. Barker is listed in the Holy Rood Colored Burial Register as having died August 14, 1912.

He is buried with James Barker, his father.

 

Third Generation, Barkers of Volta Place

 

Adolphus Barker

born about 1831, living with Rebecca in 1850 census

 

Andrew Barker

His mother, Mary Henrietta, born in Germany, according to one census

(1880 census, ED 9, pp 36-7).

 

Andrew T. Barker to Catherine W. Barker, Feb 4, 1869.

This could be a union: Barkers of Volta Place, and Barkers of Upper Georgetown.

 

1913, Mrs. Catherine Barker is listed in Sherman’s Colored Directory

1529 34th Street.

 

(Star, Aug 2 1898)

Taylor Barker, husband of Catherine V. Barker, well known colored resident died at Clara Barton House, Glen Echo. He was her employee, and was to accompany Barton to Cuba, but was too ill. He was in charge of house. Lived at 1723 34th St., but funeral was from a daughter’s house at 3415 Q St NW.

(first name change for what became Volta)

Isaac Barker, , son of Andrew,

born 1847 in the house of his godmother Rebecca Barker.

 

(Some other Isaac Barker m Caroline Brooks, October 11 1830, Trinity Church)

 

Isaac may have lived on Canal Road in the 1880s.

He is listed in the Holy Rood Colored Burial Register as having died September 7, 1919.

He is buried with James Barker, his father.

 

M. J. Barker, son of James.

 

Medora Barker, school teacher,

3415 Q Street, 1897

(first name change for what became Volta)

In 1920 census Medora was still there, only it was called 3415 Volta by then.

 

Preparatory High School for Colored Youth,

org Nov 1870 (ancestor of M St and Dunbar)

1st graduating class in 1877, 11 students including:

Dora F Barker (Medora?)

 

Ursaline Barker?

 

Thomas Barker, plasterer, 3416 M Street, 1890, and in 1897, 1418 36th St,

living with George Barker, son of William and Minna, born about 1855.

 

A Thomas L. Barker is listed in the Holy Rood Colored Burial Register as having died August 14, 1912.

He is buried with James Barker.

 

In the Fourth Generation, Barkers of Volta Place

Beltran D. Barker, 1896-1978, born on Volta Place

Owned service stations throughout the Depression

champion golfer

worked to desegregate public golf courses,

Episcopal.

 

Beltran’s sister was Helen Barker Williams, 125 36th St. NE.

 

Married Elizabeth Cardozo Nicholas, 1940.

It was her second marriage

She died around Nov 28, 1981

 

 

 

 

 

Beltran’s step-son –– Elizabeth Cardozo Nicholas’s son by her prior husband:

Julian Nicholas, born Feb. 21, 1921.

 

 

THE WASHINGTON TIMES, October 26, 2007:    Julian Cardozo Nicholas, a retired Foreign Service officer, native Washingtonian and decorated World War II veteran, died Oct. 20 at his stepdaughter’s home in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 86. A fourth-generation Washingtonian, he was the great-grandson of Francis Louis Cardozo, the renowned educator for whom Cardozo High School is named.

 

 

Catholic Barker Burials

 

Barker, Andrew, Sr. b ca 1796, d. March 3, 1844, aged 50(not sure which Catholic cemetery)TC Death Register, p.93
Barker, Henrietta June 1860, age 37(not sure which Catholic cemetery)TC Death Register, p.105grand daughter Andrew Barker, Sr.
Barker, Isaac b 1847, d. Sep. 7, 1919son of Andrew Jr., on Canal Road in 1880 19 172
Barker, James b. Feb. 1822, d. June 12, 1894Holy Rood Ledger, purchased by Mr. Barker prior to 1858.son of Andrew Barker, Sr. 19 172
Barker, John Apr 1860, age 31(not sure which Catholic cemetery)TC Death Register, p.105
Barker, Otho a col’d man, who died the 16th Aug 1823Old College Ground TC Death Register, p.19 0 0
Barker, Sarah Elizabeth Oct 1863, age 1 month(not sure which Catholic cemetery)TC Death Register, p.116
Barker, Thomas Aug. 14, 1912, plasterer, 1418 36th Street in 1897Thomas Barker’s son was George Barker, Aug. 1912 19 172

 

 

Holy Rood Cemetery Plot Ledger, p.113:

Section 19, lot 172 “purchased by Mr. Barker prior to 1858”.

Burials include:

 

Henrietta Steptoe,       June 2, 1850

James Barker,             June 12, 1894

George Barker,             May 31, [ ] (1885? 1935?)

Isaac Barker,            September 7, 1919

Mary Barker                  November 3, 1927

Thomas L. Barker            August 14, 1912

Catherine V. Barker      April 5, 1915

 

 

 

Miscellaneous (Related?) Barkers

 

 

$20 reward for mulatto man, Resin Barker, plaisterer by trade:

absconded from the prison of Wash Co, DC, on Feb 26,

committed for theft.

An uncommon great drunkard & an old inhabitant of the prison.

Intelligencer Mar 8 1831

 

Thomas, 2 days old,  col’d son of Walter Silence,

and of Caroline Barker, Aug. 19, 1835

Free range for Col’d people, Holy Rood

 

Mary Barker, born circa 1824, appears in a Certificate of Freedom as born of free parents.

Andrew and Rebecca, most likely.

 

 

___________________________________________________________

 Carlton Fletcher

 The citation and acknowledgement of my research is greatly appreciated.

All rights reserved.

 

 Questions and corrections may be directed to

carlton@gloverparkhistory.com

 

The support of the Advisory Neighborhood Council (3B) is gratefully acknowledged.