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''Ihe Burns of Maine'' 



By y 

John Francis Spra^ue 

]\eprint from Spra^u^'s Journal of Maine llistor^,-, \'ol. Hi, No. 4. 

(Limited edition of 50 copies) 



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David Baiiver ''The Burns of Maine'' 

and the Barker Family of Exeter 

and Bangor, Maine 

The following sketch of iho I'.arker family of }:-xeter and Bangor, 
Maine, is taken from Tlio Bangor Historical Magazine,' and was 
written b\- its t.-ditor, tlie late Honorable Joseph W. Porter. 

Nathaniel B.arker was the son of Haniel i-'>arker, born in Exeter, 
N. H. The family mo\'ed to Limerick, 2vle., in 1776 and from thence 
to what i^ now Exeter, Maine, 1803-8. Xatlianiel B>arker married 
Sally, daughter of Joseph Pea^e,' i8c/). March 18, 1823, Mr. Barker 
came to I.kangor with an ox team and load of wood and at a point 
near Currier's tannery on the Levant road he got caught and fell 
under the slud and was iristaiitly killed. 

The story of the struggle^ of the \vido\v to bring up her family 
of nine children has been familiar wherever the Barker family are 
known, and their reputation is wid.esjjread. Mrs. Barker died at the 
old liomestead, January 6, 1880, aged 91. Their children were: 

i. NOAH. b. Xov. 14. 1807; Represtr/ntative, Senator, Land Agent, County 

Coumris.^^ioner ; in. Temperance B., daughter of V.'i'.iiam and Rachel 

(Knapni F.ddy, of Eddington. Dec. 29. 1839. She vv-a? born Feb. 

9, 1S15,. He d. iSS.'^. Four children. 
ii. :N[FLIXn.\ H., b. July, 1809: vi. Thomas T. Hill of Exeter; s]:e "i. 

188 — ; ci--;ht cliddren. 
iii. Jl.'LL\ B.. b. }vlar. 12, 181 1; m. Khjah Crane, of Exeter. He d. 1870: 

she d. i8^^2; ?everal childf'n, al'. d. without issue. 
iv. S.SRAH B., b. Sept. 30, iSi2; in. Rev. Eldrifige d. Carpenter abor.t 

1836. Slie 'bed iri XewcaNtie ; no children. He m. again; d. -it 

Houlton, April 3, 1867, aged 55. 

Me., 178 — , and from thence to Exeter, ^[e., 1808. 
V. XATH.-\>HEL, b. Xov. 27, 18:4, of Exeter; m. Elvira C. Grinneil 

of Exeter; six children. 
vi. DAVID, b. Sept. 1816, of Exeter- m. Susan Chase of; repre- 

sentativf', 1873; iasvyer and poet; d. 1874. Two children, 
vii. LEWLS, b. Feb. 18, iSiS; , Pangor. 

(1) The Bangor Hi.^torical Magazine. \"oL 6, p. 77. 

(2) Joseph Pea^e was born in Xev," Mr.rket, X. H.. moved to I'arsonsfiold, 


\iii. DAXIf'.L, b. i8?ii. in;:rri'.'d Lydia, of Josluia ClTaii!l)crlai-i, of ExcU-T. 

Resides in I'an.qor. 'J'liree cliiMren. 
ix. MARK, h. Sept., i82j; married Julia .\. McCobb of O: ri!V£;'toii. she 

cb'ed iSS-?. He now res-'des [i\ H 'ul'K.m. Several cliildre!i all dead. 
X. JldlX, 


Born I'"eb, i8, iSi8. Educated in the schools of Exeter, and. FoxcroJt 
Academy. School master, studied law wiilt Albert G. Jewetl, and Kent oc 
Cutting. Admitted to the Bar. 1S41, and settled in Stetson. Removed 'o 
Bangor in 1871. Eventually ins firm became Barker, \'osf & Barker, llo-i. 
T. W. \ ose, and his son Lewis A. Barker comprising the firm. He wa- a 
Rcrrtjscntative, 1S64 and 1867. Speaker, 1867; Senator, 1865-1S00; Executive 
Councilor, 1S80. and for se\eral years after. He was a member of the 
State Board of Health, and of the commission to enlarge the State House. 
He vs-as Past Mastt-r of Pacific Lodge of F. A. M., of Exeter, and a men\- 
ber of Royal Arch Chapter, and St. John's Conmiandery of Knights Te;M- 
plar. He married Eiizabeth, daughter of CijI. Francis and Eli,Ta'.ieth (,\\"a=- 
^o^) Kill of Exeter, Aug. 2, 1S46, by Rev. Elbridge G. Carpenter. Mr^ 
Barker v.ow resides in Ban.gor. Mr. Barker, died Oct. 9, 1890, his death 
having been caused by a runaway horse, near his own house. Mr. Ba:kcr 
was a character v.el! known in this State arid in many places out of tlae 
State. His fame as an advocate and a political speaker, reacht;d far beyo".'; 
the State where lie lived. Tlieir children v/ere ; 
i. E\'\1E, b. May 11. 1S4S. She was a v.-otnan of great natural abilitr 

She was twice married, and died Nov. t.. 1872, leaving a daughter. 
ii. LEWIS AM.XSA, b. Aug-, i.-', 1854. He attended Union College cl 
Schenectady, X .Y., .and the Albany Law School. lie commenced 
the j.ractice of the law with his father, and later o.' tlie tirrn ui 
Barker, \'o^e & Barker. He a young man. of fine abilities and 
good legal mind. He was a representative, 1887-S9. He v^-as a lead- 
ing man in the order of Knights of Pythias, and held its hich.est 
ofhce in this State. He d. in Boston, wlntiier he had gone i'-.r 
medical treatment, Jan. 16, iS(;,o. He m. Margaret, daughter of iht 
late Mo>es L. Applet.:,n. Oct. 14, 1875. They had two children, a 
son Lewis A., and a daughter. 

Some of the descendants of Xatlianiel Lkiiker were among- tlte 
most prominent men of Maine. Among them his seventbi son, 
Honorable Lewis Barker, mentioned in tlie foregoing article, wcs 
a lawyer of note and attained much reputation as an elociiiciit stun^}.» 
■Speaker in the ranks of the Republican party. He posses.-ed a mag- 
netic personality and had an original and somewhat jnctures'rac 
.stvle of oratory which attracted the masses. 

In the early days of that party he was often called to speak nut 
only in every part of Maine but in many other states of the Union. 

Le-.vis A. iJarker, jr., s;,u of Lewis A. Barker, mentioned in the 
same article, is also a lawyer who was born in Languor aiv! is now 

residing in ]>oS;'jn, ■Vir'iS.icb.u>cUs. lie attained a state wide re[)u- 
lation a few years ago wlien he wa? asscieiatcd as counsel with the 
late iIonc)rable Josiah Crr.sbv, in ol<laining the pardon of Stain and 
Cromw -11. who were s.'ntene:(l to h'fe i'liprisonnient for the murder 
of Johai Wilson Ilarron, treasiu'er of tlie T'exKr Savings Iku-l-;. and 
\vho were pardoned by Goverr.or Llewellyn IVowers. 

His sixthi son, David Barker, was born in Exeter, Maine, Sortc ru- 
ber 9. 1816. and died Sejjtcniber 14. 1N74. He entered the pro- 
fession of law and during nearly all of his profes-ional life i>rae;icLd 
law in a little old fashioned law office at Exeter Corner, wdiieh still 
exists and a picture of \vhich accon.i[ianies this sketch. In the days 
of the old stage coaches and "tote" teams this village was a >tage 
center and a trading place of importance. Samuel Conv, afterwards 
Governor of ]\Iaine. practice'.! law there for some }-ears and David 
was for a time a student in his ofhce. 

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The home of David Barker at Kxeter Corner, Maine, tpken in 1915. 

David ] barker is, however, best knov.n to the world as a poet, 
and for many years while living, erijoyed the honor of being desig- 
nated in the pres-:^ and among the people of his state both as the 
"Bard of Exeter" and "The Burns of ^^laine." And his poetical 
fame brought to him the degree of A. M. from liowdoin College. 

There have been a few of Maine's writers of note who have 
beautifudly and accurately described the quaint maiiners and cu?- 


iorns, I'ac iarigi;r/^c and >ay!ng.s arcl the rugged life of our- sturdy 
ancestors, who were the pioneers of the Pine Tree State. Among 
such were Scba Smith, wb.o wrote under tlie noui dc plume of 
"Major J;.ek Downing" and aequ-ired niuch reputation and p^jpii- 
larity in criticiziiig i 'resident Jackson's adniini-tration ; Ih^Iriian 
Day, Maine's most famous author; and dleorge Ideveland's reeent 
delightful book "jNIaine in \'erse and Story" mav proiierly liTid a 
place in this class of Maine literature. Jku none I'lave ever surpassed 
David Barker in his delineation of the yankec character as known in 
Maine's early days. His poetr\' t^ov^■ed from a heart full of love for 
all humanity especially the oppresserj in exery clime or condition in 
life. Plenee in the anti helium days we thid his voice mingling with 
tlie voices of Whitticr, Lowell, Holmes. Longfellow and other 
Ameiicciu poel? of that dc,\- in a protest again^t American slavery. 

One of his earliest poems referred to the celebrated fugitive slave 
case in Massachusetts entitled "A Few Words from Maine to ]\Ia-sa- 
chusetts about the Burns Case" which commenced with these stir- 
ring lines : 

'Alassachusftis, Gcd forgive lier, 

She's kneeling 'niong tiit rest, 
She that oiiglu. to have clur.g forever 

In her grand old eagle-ne>t." 

Is water running in ycjiir veiiis? 

Have ye no [duck al all; 
Wliat, stand and see a gyve put on 

In sight oi Faneuil HalL 

For many a long and tedious year 

\\"e'vc lieard your people tell 
About a little ri^e of lan.d. 

Where Joseph Warren fell. 

Oh, brag no more about that spot, 

Let every tongue be stdl. 
But scratch the name of BL'XKER oui. 

And call it "Buncombe" liill. 

And then "To John Fjrown In Prison" the first lines or which 
were : 

Stand firm, John Brown, till your fate is o'er, 

For the world, with an anxious eye. 
Looks on as it seldom looked before. 

While t',e hour of your doom drav/s nigh — 

Stand fu'in 

Jotin Brown, 

Staiifl fu-m! 

Bin his poetical Cc.reor rc:Jly beiiiir. when about tlic )car 185.] lie 
sent to the New York Evening Post the following stanza^ which 
were i^iihlislied. 


One night, as old Saint }\-icr slept. 

He left the door of Hcawn ajar, 
When throi'.gli, a little angel crept, 

And came do\sn with a fjiUing star. 

Oiic >unimcr, as the blessed beams 

Of morn approached, m\- blushing bride 

Awakened from some pleasing dreams, 
And fotmd that angel by her side. 

God grant but tin's — 1 ask no more — 

That when lie leaves this world of sin, 

He'll wing his way for tliat blest shore, 
And find the door of Heaven again. 

ThiC Hncs immediately attracted attciition and were copied exten- 
sively into the newspaper press throughout the country. Governor 
Andrew of Massachusetts, was so impressed by them that he carried 
them with him, affirming that thev were "the sweetest line-; he ever 

Among others of Barker's productions which attracted a wide 
circle of admirers were "The Old Ship of State;" "The Under Dog 
in the Fight ;"' "The Covered Bridge ;" The Empty Sleeve ;" etc. 
His longest poem v.-as "Ah- First Courtship" and his biographer 
expresses the belief that this "will be the most enduring." This is 
undoubtedly true for in it appears some of his most charming 
descrij.tions of the fjlk lore of oklei' times in Maine, and all through 
it a droh humor hajtpily mingles with pathos. 

"Old W'illey." one of his jiatriotic and most virile songs was the 
story of a common laborer at Exeter Corner who worked at odd 
jous to earn a living for his little family. 

He laid the wall, and he sawed the wood 
For me and otliers in the neigliborhood. 

One day to my village two men rode down — • 

Yes. they came over from Stetson town. 
One was named Hilk and the otlier Plai-ted.* The_\- were enli-ting 
officers and had come there to procure volunteers for the L'nion 
army. When they rode into town 


Tins Wi'.Ioy and I were stariding o'er 

(lie ?a\v!nL;- we^od ) near iiiy office door. 
The fiaq- of the Union was wav:ni: to the breeze an 1 a crowd were 
listcniiijj^ to the eloquence of the ei'h-ting officers when 

A neighbor of mine vras ?landiiie nigh. — 
W'itli his traitor lii.s to tr.e suirtled a'r 
He his.-ed the flag was floating there. 



"This W'illey and 1 were standing o'er 
(He sawing wood) near my ofiice door" 

Tl-,e old Barker jnice at Exeter Corner, Maine, as it appears todav. 

This enraged old A\'illey atid aroused the fire of patriotisni burn- 
ing in his heart, and lie swore then and there with a fearful oath 
that he would enlist in th.e army and go down to the southland and 
fight the traitors. 

And he did enhst, for the brave old soul, 
With his name on the gallant Plaisted's roll, 
For the cast of a die, for a loss or gain, 
With the gory, famed old nth of Maine. 

(') General John A. Hill who first enlisted as Captain of Company K, 
nth Maine Regiment at a public meeting in Stetson, MairiC. 

<*) General Harris M. Plaisted v.dio first enlisted as Lieutenant Colonel 
of the nih jJaiiie h' ■c''n;-.:-.t. Hj was Attorney Gesieral of Maine, 1873-5 j 
Con.gressman 1875; Governor i$Si-2. He was the father of Honorable 
Frederick W. Plaisted v/lio was also Ge)verr.or of Maine, ion-12. 


Old W'il'.ey was a brave soldier in ninny battles autl surviv;;(.l to 
return home maimed anrl feeble. 

With Ii- \<.\d^l iivm-^ lie \'u-> >o stul 

In a cold, Miup.d .-.Iceyi on the "Crowcll }Ii!i". 

I wish I knew it" lie felt tlio Ica<t 

As he icit when our Fatlier's ilai: v. as liissed; 

Fur he s'enlhe;•^ th'.rc 'neatli a beetling crag 

By tlie >i(lc of ilie one who iii-^ed the flag. 

A sound, and well defined philo^o[ihy of life runs through his 
verse, for iuslaace, in "A Solace for Dark Hours:" 

Fear not the man of wealth and birth, 

Secnre!\' re-ting in his seat. 
But sooner him, wlto, crushed to earth. 

Is ri>ing to liis feet. 

Tliac he believe.' fully in au overruling Providence atid a life 
beyond death is evidenced in his every line, but his religion \\-as 
for all huiiuanity as is especially made evident in "The Co\-ered 
] '.ridge" and other poems. 

But we all pass over on equal terms, 

For the Universal toll. 
Is the outer garb, wliicli the hand of God 

Has flung around the soul. 
Though the e\ e is dim, and the Irif'ige is dark, 

And the river it spans is wide. 
Yet faith points ih.ri.nigh to a shining mount. 

That looms on the other side. 

That his views of a life beyond were such as would today class 
hill! wi h those known as '"Spiritualist-." may be adduced from his 
writings and especially from a letter written to his brother Lewis, 
July 7. 1874, from v.'hich tlie following is taken: 

I snail do my best to live h.ere below a v/hilc longer, but the chances look 
doubtful. Should we not meet again, do v.hat you think be.-,t with the 
songs I have sung here, and I promise you one from be\ond at the earliest 
possible heur, and from a harp attuned by your angel daug'hter Evvie, if I 
can fmd her upon the same plaiie upon which I am permitted to enter, 
with the lingering earth stains wliich may be fomid upon me. 

One of the most charming features of the first edition of Barker's 
Poems is a letter in rhyme in the Scotch dialect, written and sent to 
him some years before his rleath, by Pdv.ard Wiggin, Jr., of Fort 


Fairfield. Maiae. er.titled '•Ei>iAile to Davie.'" Alihou-h when 
^^■llltca it was orily iiuendcd for the |jerusal of the author of "M}' 
Child's Origir.,"" yd it is of it<eli a sweet song and very pro[:.orly 
i.iserted in that liitk- volume. 

Mr. \\ iggin in hi^ hfetime wa- a well kr.own cliaracter in our 
Stale and for many years closely idemiheci with tl'.e jjolitieal. burine^s 
and eduoaiional intere^t of trie State of Maine, lie acquired ciuito 
a reputation as a platform lecturer; the he~t kuuwn and most popu- 
lar of his j)roduction5 was probiibly his lecture entitled "^Tince Pie 
As My ?,Iother ^,[ade It." 

.'\nd now we close this rambling sketch about a gieat !Maine poet 
with verses from his "influence and Retribution," which all writers 
of high or lov.' degree should remerjibcr and emulate: 

Ye cannot send tlie simplest line 

Abroad from oft your pen, 
But }'e must meet, in future liour, 

That very line again. 

The sligluesc v.'ord \e cannot speak 

Wiiliin a inortal ear, 
But that the echo of juch word 
Ye must forever hear. 



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