Barkwills in St. Marys

Submitted by Thelma Wells West.


The following is a letter to the Editor written by B. L. Herrington of St. Marys and appeared in a local newspaper. It is not dated but on the back is a grocery ad and bread was 8 loaves for $1.00 and pork chops were $.69 a pound. I think it was 1969 because article says Earl will be 80 in Dec. 1900 Census said he was 10.

Dear Editor:
Perhaps most residents of St. Marys could direct a stranger to Barkwill Street, but how many know how the street got its name? How many are still living who remember "Uncle Sam" Barkwill, at one time perhaps the best known and most colorful member of the community.

The story of the Barkwills is partly written history, partly family tradition. May I ask your help and that of your readers, in gathering as much information about the family as possible. Some one may have old letters, records in family Bibles, or half forgotten memories which should be recorded and preserved. If so, I would like to hear from them. We know that Sam Barkwill once owned much of the land where the city is now located. Robert Pemberton, former editor of the St. Marys Oracle wrote in his History of Pleasants County (1929) that the First National Bank was built on the site of Sam Barkwill's farm house. The house itself was moved to the rear and (in 1929) was occupied by the Pleasants County Leader. From the same source, we learn that the school grounds between Washington Street and the Ellenboro Pike, and the grounds now occupied by the Baptist Church were once part of the Barkwill farm.

Earl Barkwill, who will be 80 next December, wrote of Sam Barkwill: "He was quite a character, quite tall and patriotic. He secured an "Uncle Sam" suit and wore it on the slightest provocation such as picnics and other celebrations. He was quite a "cut-up". It is of interest that Sam Barkwill was the first person to be granted U.S. Citizenship in Pleasants County after its formation in 1851.

More information is recorded in his obituary written by "A Friend". From it we learn that Samuel Barkwill was born in the County of Cornwall in England in 1821. He was selected to be one of Queen Victoria's life guards but he declined the honor preferring to accompany his parents who were emigrting to America. They settled near Grape Island. Sam became a river boat pilot. He knew the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and the lower tributaries of the Mississippi River so well that he never made a mistake or sank a boat. He was a resident of St. Marys from 1843 until his death in 1907.

So much is recorded, but who were Sam's parents? Did he have brothers or sisters? Family legend gives a little more information. Earl Barkwill, who thinks that Sam was his father's uncle, tells this story. "Three Barkwill brothers came together from England. The names of the three were Sam, John and William, and the emigration came about in this way. The brothers had a sister of marriageable age and the priest of the community, who seemed to be the absolute ruler, decreed that she must marry a certain Catholic man who was very desirous of making the union. The family was strictly against it, and to defeat the plan, the four of them took ship for America. I believe the girl's name was Nan and she married an Ohio man named Echols. This is family legend. Earl was not born until 68 years later.

In his application for U.S. citizenship, Sam declared that he came to this country in 1841. If John and William came with him, who was the Barkwill who worked for Thomas Brouse at Grape Island in 1840? (See p. 42 of Pemberton's History of Pleasants County.)

We know the story of Sam Barkwill who resided in St. Marys for many years, but what became of John and William? Which one, John or William, was grandfather of Earl Barkwill, and of O. C. Barkwill who became sheriff of Pleasants County and the Postmaster of St. Marys? Earl does not know. Who were Sam's parents who settled near Grape Island? They were not mentioned in Earl's story of the emigration, and neither Nan, John nor William were mentioned in Sam's obituary.

Dr. Bernard Barkwill of LaMesa, California, has an old Bible which raises more questions. The fly leaf is inscribed: "Francis Barkwill, Independence Township, Washington County, Ohio, 1845". Under the heading Births, he made these entries:
John Barkwill Aug. 1811
William Barkwill May 7, 1816
Benjamin Barkwill Dec. 20, 1818
Sam Barkwill Mar. 14, 1821
Francis Barkwill May 29, 1826

Under marriages, he recorded:
William and Edith Barkwills, married Dec 5, 1844
Benjamin and Clarissa Barkwills, married Sept. 5, 1847
Samuel and Rachel Barkwills, married Nov. 24, 1847
Francis Barkwill and Lonia Harvey, married Aug. 22, 1845

We can recognize the names of John, William and Sam, but who was Benjamin and who was Francis. It seems probable that they were brothers but the record does not say so, and there is no mention of Nan.

Who can supply more information about these early settlers, about their parents, their wives and descendants? Where did they live, what was their occupation, whom did they marry, when did they dies, where are they buried?

If you can provide a clue, will you please write to B. L. Harrington. Sincerely, B. L. Herrington

(Note: Spelling of his last name is spelled both ways: Harrington/Herrington)