Barkers of Lowville

Hall Barker was born in 1805 in Castleton, Yorkshire, England. In or possibly earlier than 1831, Hall and his wife Mary came to Canada.

According to the 1851 Canadian census, the Barkers had two children living at home, William, age 20 and Ann who was 15. On that census, Hall identified that he was a farmer. William was a labourer.

Hall had a younger brother, John, who came to Canada with his wife and family to join brother Hall. John had been a travelling tailor back home in Castleton and he continued his trade in Canada. About 1852, John and his family left Nelson Township for Oxford Township where John’s twin brother William lived.

Land records show that Hall lived on Lot 6, Concession 4 NS (New Survey) in what is now the village of Lowville. This would have been kitty corner to the current Lowville United Church. Those land records show that Abraham Wallace was the first person to acquire Lot 6 through lease. Abraham paid for the lease but did not take out the lease. Thomas Pickett petitioned for 100 acres of the north half of the Lot and the date it was registered, according to the land records, was 1851. The south half was in the possession of several people until 1845.

It was in 1845 that Hall Barker petitioned for the land. He had procured written assignment of that land from Abraham Wallace, the first lessee rather than from those whose hands that land had passed through.
It is believed that one of those people who had lived there was Peter McNiven (McNevin) who was the son-in-law of Daniel Pickett, one the earliest settlers in the area. It is believed that Daniel received land from the Clergy Reserves, possibly of Lot 5, although no documentation has been found. There is no record of Peter McNiven on that land other than family stories.

In the petition Hall Barker filed in 1845, he said that he had been residing and occupying those lands for many years. The improvements made to the land were described as 65 acres of cleared land, a frame house and a log dwelling valued at £200. In that document Hall agreed to pay Abraham Wallace 15 shillings per acre. The petition describes the lot as rolling and rather broken. It was watered by a stream of ‘living water’. Part of the land was hard clay and was timbered with pine. Other parts were loam and sandy with the latter being timbered with maple, beech, and elm.

An interesting fact in the 1845 affidavit filed by Abraham Wallace is that he described Hall’s profession as a shoemaker.

In the 1851 Canadian Census, Hall, his wife Mary, son William and daughter Ann are listed as neighbours of his brother John, his wife and their six children. John, it appears, continued in his trade as a tailor as did his son William.

Early folklore talks about the ‘Barker Schoolhouse.’ It has been said that not only was it a schoolhouse, but it was also used for early church services before the building of the Colling Church in the 1830s. Unfortunately, there has been no confirming documentation found to date although there is a reference to an article called “A schoolhouse built on Barker” written by Eleanor Coulter in 1972.

On October 27, 1853, Hall passed away and is buried in the Nelson United Church cemetery. While you might expect that he would be buried in Lowville, the Lowville United Church cemetery was not established until 1864.

Earlier research for a website called Building Stories describes the house as being a gra-maur abode although the meaning of that term is unclear. It is currently a brick structure built in a vernacular style and was built in between 1845 and 1850. It may incorporate the settlement house built in the first years by Barker before he received the Crown Patent. It is a high one and a half story end gabled structure.

In 1874, the Barker land was sold to William Cust.

Editor’s Note:

If you have any information on the Peter McNiven, the Barker/Cust/Readhead home or if you have a copy of Eleanor Coulter’s 1972 article, please do not hesitate to contact us at

Contributing Author: Helen Callaway