Barber Family Notes


The tract of land that is now the home of the United States Naval Observatory, and of the residence of the Vice President of the United States, are located on a farm called Pretty Prospects, where the Barber family lived in a house called North View. 



Cornelius Barber


Margaret Barber



Cornelius Barber (1803-1853)



Luke White Barber (1744-1842)and Susannah Rowles, of Chaptico River, St. Mary’s County, Maryland



CORNELIUS had two older brothers




Cornelius Barber married Margaret C. Adlum, at Christ Church, Georgetown, D.C., in 1833.



John Adlum Barber, born 1838

Caroline R. Yates Barber?

Susan Rowles Barber, born 1842, died 1849.

Mary Virginia Barber, born 1843, died 1849.

Margaret Adlum Barber, born 1846, died 1849

Luke White Barber, born 1849, died 1849


General John Adlum died 1836, age 77, his son-in-law Cornelius is one of the executors.


DC Census 1840, Washington County, Country Part, page 155.


Cornelius Barber owes $1.53 in tax on lot 258, along High Street,

2 acres, 12 poles, assessed at $300.

(Georgetown Advocate, January 7, 1841)


Died on July 9 at North View near Georgetown, Luke White, infant, aged 5 weeks on July 10, Mary Virginia in her 5th year, children of Cornelius and Margaret Barber.

(National Intelligencer & Washington Advertiser Newspaper Abstracts, 1849)



Census of 1850: Cornelius Barber, Farmer, worth $5000 (same wealth as William Homiller, Butcher &Farmer)

In 1851 bought lots 132 and 133 in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Circa 1852, builds new house, possibly designed by Calvert Vaux.

Cornelius Barber made his will August 3, and died September 2, 1853. Lorenzo Thomas and Sophia Barnard were witnesses. His lands were in Maryland and Pennsylvania. He left $2000 to St. John’s Church, Georgetown.


Death. At North View, Georgetown Heights on the 2nd instant, Cornelius Barber in the 51st year of his age. By his decease the community has lost a valuable citizen and the church a consistent communicant. A communicant in the church of St. John’s Georgetown.

(Intelligencer, September 14, 1853)


Buried at Oak Hill Cemetery.



The relationship of the 1852 villa, and of an earlier brick house, and the arrangement of outbuildings, including smoke house, stable, hay shed, and Negro House, and areas of cultivation.   (Annual Report of the U.S. Naval Observatory, 1882, U.S.N.O. Archives)


Margaret C. Barber (1810-1892)


Margaret Catherine Adlum was born May 29, 1810, Havre De Grace, Harford, Maryland. She was the daughter of John Adlum and Margaret C. Adlum.

John Adlum, served as corporal during the Revolutionary War, and was appointed a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania Militia  sometime in the 1790’s. Appointed a major in the new federal army by President John Adams, he served largely in Pennsylvania, and resigned after about a year in order to manage his estates. Adlum had made his fortune in land while working as a surveyor. He was usually addressed as Major Adlum.

Her mother, Margaret C. Adlum, was Major Adlum’s first cousin and came from a prosperous Maryland farming family. Both her parents had substantial land holdings and each owned a considerable number of slaves. Her marriage to Cornelius Barber resulted in additional land and slaves brought into the family. The couple resided for many years near where the U.S. Naval Observatory and Vice President’s house is today. In 1849, four of Margaret’s children died from an outbreak of dysentery. The Washington DC Mortality Census for 1850 noted that “the dysentery prevailed to some considerable extent in the county”.

(Gene Kerr Sharp, family historian)


Margaret Barber’s mother made her will in 1849, and died in 1852. Half of her estate went to her friends, Robert Barnard and Joshua Peirce, to act as trustees for her daughter, Margaret Barber, and John Adlum Barber, her grandson, inherited $5000.

One of Margaret Adlum’s other heirs was her niece Eliza Kolp, daughter of Henry Kolp, of Frederick, Maryland, and Catherine (Adlum) Kolp, Mrs. Adlum’s sister. (Eliza Kolp, born Maryland, circa 1780; Margaret Barber’s cousin, who was at North View in 1850 and 1860 census.)


1855 assessments, Washington County:

Mrs. Barber, 70 acres, 28 slaves, 3 horses, 3 cows, 2 carriages


After becoming a widow, part of Margaret Barber’s income was buying promissory notes, mortgages, etc. (DC Libers JAS101 (1855) f.1/1; JAS140 (1857) f. 263/228; NCT2 (1863) f.107/89; NCT35 (1864) f. 298/255)



1860 Census:

(Margarett Barbour: 1860 Census, Ward 4, Washington, District of Columbia, p. 16)

Margaret Barber, and son John, a farmer

$75,000 land, $25,000 personal

Also in household:

Dora Hartsch 33, b. Prussia, no profession listed;

Rebecca Mead, 69, b. Md., white [a relative?]

Eliza Kolp, 69, born Maryland, white, a cousin who was also in Margaret Barber’s house in 1850 census.

(Eliza Kolp freed a slave named Ned Selby in 1862.)


In 1861 Mrs. Barber’s close friends are Ann Green (Rosedale) and Mary Ann Clark. (Ann Green’s Journal, DAR Library)


1870 Census:

(Mary E. Barber, 1870 Census, West Part, Washington, District of Columbia; p. 785A)


Margaret E. Barber, 58, born Maryland, keeping house.

$50,000 estate, $30,000 personal.

Also in the household, Austin Brukenborough (Brockenbrough)

23, born Va.; and Alice Brukenborough (Brockenbrough), age 11, born Va.

The cook was Eliza Binn, 43, black, but born Virginia, so probably not a former Barber slave.


In 1880 Margaret Barber lived with her grandchildren:

Frances, Cornelius, Margaret, and Eugenia.


Margaret Barber sold North View to United States in 1881.

In 1890 she lived at 3241 N Street with her grandson, Cornelius Barber a clerk.

She died February 14, 1892

Oak Hill Cemetery




John Adlum Barber (1838-1905)


Born May 23, 1838, Maryland.


Ann Green’s journal (DAR Library): John Barber is always riding horses; on one occasion he advertised the loss of two “stylish horses”. (Evening Star, January 24, 1864)


Vestry of St. Alban’s Church, 1864-1873.

1865, Married  Frances Ravenscroft Brockenbrough.


Married in Grace Church, Baltimore, on November 21, John A. Barber of Georgetown, to Miss Fannie R. Brockenbrough, daughter of John Brockenbrough, of Westmoreland County, Virginia.

(Intelligencer, November 22, 1865)


Died: Frances R. Barber, daughter of the late John F. Brockenbrough, wife of John A. Barber.

(Georgetown Courier, November [?], 1873



Barber.––On the morning of the 11th of November, Frances R. Barber, daughter of the late John F. Brockenbrough, of Westmoreland County, Virginia and wife, of John A. Barber, of the District of Columbia.

(Baltimore Sun, November 17, 1873)




John A. Barbour who resides on the Tenallytown Road near the poorhouse reported the theft of a horse and buggy. A reward of $250 was offered. The next day the valuable horse and wagon were found in good order in a dense portion of Mr. Barber’s Woods, whither it had, no doubt, strayed of its own accord.

(Georgetown Courier, April 18 and 25, 1874)


1875, Mary Jane Nichols, who had cared for his children, sued Barber for rape.

(Nichols v. Barber, Original Bill, March 16, 1875, 1, RG 21, Law 13854, National Archives, in Jill Norgren, Belva Lockwood: The Woman who Would be President, 2007, p.98)



John Adlum Barber’s second wife was his cousin from Pennsylvania, Margaret Green Walls, who died in 1922.

John A. Barber died October 24, 1905, St. Mary’s County, Maryland.


Died. Barber. At his plantation in St. Mary’s County, Maryland on Tuesday, October 24, 1905, John Adlum Barber. Funeral Thursday, October 26 at 4PM from Oak Hill Chapel. (Baltimore papers please copy.)

(The Washington Post October 26, 1905)




John A. Barber’s Children


Eugenia Fauntleroy Barber married Cadwalader Woodville, and had a son, Cadwalader Woodville Jr.

Cornelius Barber (Jr.) married Sarah Cruze.

Margaret C. Adlum Barber married William C. Looker. Their son, William Looker Jr., married Elizabeth Geddis; their daughter, Margaret Barber Looker married Halford Hosier, whose daughter was Barbara Eugenia Hosier. William Looker Jr. and Elizabeth Geddis had another daughter, Mary Elizabeth Looker, who married Kenneth Rhodes, and had a daughter, Carol Elizabeth Rhodes.

Frances Brockenbrough Barber married John William Henry. John W. Henry died in 1940, age 74. Their daughter was Anita Ravenscroft Henry, who married Edward von Selzam. They had a son, Ruediger von Selzam, and a daughter, Lettice Lee von Selzam, who married Lt. Edward Almon Saville. (There is also a Huila Henry Von Selzam.)


Henry. On Saturday, April 19, 1924 at Garfield Hospital, Frances Brockenbrough Barber, the devoted wife of J. William Henry. Funeral (private) from the residence of her sister, Mrs. William C. Looker, 2909 Q Street, Monday, April 21 at 2:30PM. Interment at Oak Hill Cemetery.

(The Washington Post April 20, 1924)


 Mary Walls Barber (John A. Barber’s daughter by his second marriage) married Frederic Antes Godcharles of Pennsylvania in 1904, and died in 1952. There is a memorial font cover to John A. Barber at Chaptico Episcopal Church, St. Mary’s County, from his daughter, Mary Barber Godcharles. Margaret Barber’s Peale portrait of Maj. John Adlum, passed to Mary Barber Godcharles, and is now in Pennsylvania State Library.



Links and Sources


Richard P. Jackson, The Chronicles of Georgetown D.C., 1751-1878, 1878

Samuel C. Busey, Pictures of the City of Washington in the Past, 1898

Mary A. Mitchell, Divided Town: A Study of Georgetown, D.C. During the Civil War, 1968

Gail S. Cleere, The House on Observatory Hill; Home of the Vice President of the United States, 1990

Priscilla W. McNeil, “Pretty Prospects: The History of a Land Grant”, Washington History, Fall/Winter 2002


Petition of Margaret Barber under the District of Columbia Emancipation Act, submitting a claim for compensation for 33 of her slaves, May 22, 1862: by Gene Kerr Sharp, family historian:

Adlum family documents:

Portrait of Cornelius Barber:

The Abbot-Adlum-Green Families, Willis W. Eisenhart, 1957




Carlton Fletcher

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