William Bickett Barr.

History of the Barr family, beginning with great-grandfather Robert Barr, and Mary Wills : their descendants down to the latest child online

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Online LibraryWilliam Bickett BarrHistory of the Barr family, beginning with great-grandfather Robert Barr, and Mary Wills : their descendants down to the latest child → online text (page 1 of 14)
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3 1833 01200 4427





Rev. W. B. Barr.












Pastor of First United Presbyterian Church
1901 .



WHY write a Family History? What is the necessity for it?
If it is deemed necessary to write up the pedigree
of certain animals (beasts that perish), and register them,
is not the record of a worthy family much more important?

God has set the solitary in families, and hence it is a divine

If it is important that the church and the state should keep
a careful record of their historical incidents and facts, it is
equally so that the family, the most important of the three,
should do so, because it lies at the foundation of the others It
ib a well recognized fact that the prosperity of the state and
the success of the church are dependent upon the virtue, good
order and sanctity of the home. It is a pity that the power of
the home for good or evil is so little recognized. Break down
the safeguards of this, the first institution in the plan of God,
and social order is destroyed and national greatness imperiled.

Again, '*Blood is thicker than water." Hence those of
the same family should be nearer and dearer to us than others,
and we should be more interested in their >^uccess and welfare.
The msn who talks against his native place is unworthy to be
known as one of its sons. And it has been well said, "They
who care not to know their ancestors, are wanting in natural
affection, and regardless of filial duty."

It certainly is a matter of vital importance to the members
of a large family such as ours, as the country gets older, and the
connection increases, and the name becomes more familiar in
all the professions and trades, to be able easily to trace the
family back to the early history of the country, when neighbors
were few and far apart and the country was a trackless wilder-
ness. Also, it is a great satisfaction and comfort for anybody


who has any interest in his family connection to be able readily
to place the name of any person or family, and to know who his
ancestors were and to what branch of the great family he
belong-^, and how he stands related to every other member of
the family. Many have given little attention to such matters,
and hence are quite ignorant of their ancestors, or even their
nearest relatives. To such persons a family history where such
information can be had at a glance, would be a source of great

In preparing such a history we have spared no pains to
have it as complete and perfect as possible. Few have any
conception of the labor, patience, perseverance, and sacrifice of
time and money, necessary to gather up the history of a family
scattered from Plymouth Rock to Golden Gate, and from Alaska
to South -America, over so great a country. Some have not
been able to see the importance of such a work, and hence were
not careful to answer our correspondence, or to tell us what they
knew. (We are happy to say these were few in number.)
Others have been most accommodating and kind, giving valu-
able help and much encouragement in the work. We have no
word of censure for any, but specially wish to return thanks to
thf'se who took pleasure in assisting us.

The writer became much interested in the matter of a family
history some ten years ago. and realizing its importance to the
generations that should follow, and knowing also the difficulty,
if not impossibility, of gathering the history of our ancestors
after a few of the older members now living should p.issaway,
decided to complete the work at whatever cost. We feel
rcfjaid for the effort in the new acquaintances we have formed,
and the information we have gathered about the connection,
which is a great satisfaction to us; and we trust it will be as
juuch so to those who shall avail themselves of a copy.


We are only sorry that we cannot give a more complete
history of this branch of the great Barr family, for doubtless
there will be found many omissions and not a few mistakes, not-
withstanding our effort to have it complete. But the best has
been done that could be under the circumstances.

We send it forth, feeling that the best of motives have
prompted us in compiling it, at a time when our life was so
busy with the Master's work, and praying that it may be a
blessing and comfort, as well as of information and inspiration
to our numerous relatives and friends.

We might add that regrets have been sent by representa-
tives of other branches of the Barr family, that we were not
writing up the whole family. But the undertaking would be a
vast one, requiring several volumes, which the writer had
neither the time nor the disposition to undertake. The Barr's
were among the very early settlers of the country. Old Fort
Duquesne was located in a housi owned by a Mr. Barr in
1742. Two of them were officers under General Washington
in the struggle of the Colonial War. It would be a very interest-
ing history. We hope some one will be inspired to undertake it.


IT is interesting to know the origin and morale of a family;
the religious convictions, the genius, the thrift, the habits,

and the crowning motives that actuated them; what they
lived for and what they accomplished.

This much may be said: that so far as our research goes,
we have not found or known of a member of the immediate
connection that was ever in jail ; tint was wanting in industrious
habits; or that was engaged in any dishonorable or disreputable

Our people are of Scotch- Irish descent ; good Psalm-singing
Presbyterian stock down through several generations, and it is
a rare exception to find any of them in any other than a
Presbyterian fold to-day. They are a religious family by natural
generation, and we trust by spiritual regeneration. Our paternal
ancestors were refugees in North Ireland from Scotland, under
the Queen Ann persecution. They were Huguenots from
France to Scotland, and were originally of Gallic or Celtic origin,
as the name Bat re (as originally spelled) implies.

A.-> to the meaning of the name, the Arab word ^fz/v means
" wheiU;" the Persian means "fruit;"' the Irish word Bat means
"excellence," which is Gilbair ( bar ), Anglicized Barr or Barre ;
the Hebrew word Baar means " was famous;" so the name
in almost any language has a good meaning, and the people
who bear it we trust are worthy of so good a name.

Our ancestors came to this country in moderate circum-
st.mces. They were for the most part tillers of the soil. They
settled in the great forests of Pennsylvania; put up their own
log cabins and hewed out their own farms. They gathered
about their table many " olive plants," and on their table many
comforts. They raised the flax, the wool and the leather, and


made their own clothes and shoes. Railroads were not thought
of, and farm machinery triey had none, making it dn'iicnlt to
market what they had raised by the dint of hard toil.

They were not given to push themselves much into public
notice. In political matters they preferred others abo-.e them-
selves, and h.ence fc.v sought official position, although several
have become ministers, doctors, lawyers, judges and legislators.
Nevertheless, they were patriotic and loyal to their country and
to their church. Several gave their lives on the side of the
Union during our Civil War. I'his sounds like rat!/Lr much
self-praise, but v>-e simpiy state facts uhich will be verifi-jd as we
proceed witli the history.

U'e have no reason to be asliamed o( our crowd or our
creed. The greatest legacy a parent can leave to a cliiKJ is not
farnis, corner lots, bank stock, silver or gold, but a 1-. ..-jcy of
prayer and piety, a godly example and a true life. This richest
inheritance has been transmitted as a family heirloom from
father to son through many generations. Our ancestors were
careful to lay the foundation of a religious life deep and broad
in their children by wliolesome Christian instruction, attendance
upon the public ordinances of God's house, and the private
means of grace. They were very careful in their observance of
the Sabbath, temperate in their lives, and generally honest and
upright in their dealings.

It is much to be v,-ell born, and it remains for us and our
children to ever kce[) untarnished, and so j^reserve in\ioial)!e
the cliaracter and good name of our glorious ancei-tors, and
transmit it to coming generations.

NoTK. — The little rij;i;re to the- ric^ht of a rian-.e indicatf-s the (;tnpr»-
tioii to which tlie person bcionj^s, bcL'.ini.ine '-vith Koh'rt I'.^i: as uie
first. This is necessary, owm^- to iljc rcijetition of i.ri;;i' s lu the
conticcli on.


Our Great-grandfather Barr's name was Robert.^ Of him
we do not know as much as we wish we did, and are sorry that
it did not occur to ourselves, or some other member of the con-
nection, to write such a history twenty-five or thirty years ago
when some of those now dead could have given us much inter-
esting information about him.

He was born and lived in Donegal County, Ireland, near
Coleraine. 1 he place which he sold when he came to America,
and where he lived and raised his family, and which was known
as the "old Barr homestead," had been (as grandfather states
in his memoirs) in the connection a great many years.

We have no account of his father's name or that of any of
his brothers or sisters. We judge that he was born about 1725
or 1726 from all that we are able to gather. He married Miss
Mary Wills about 1747. She was a sister of Samuel Wills,
who resided in Mifflin C'ounty, Pennsylvania, at the time they
came to this country.

He was a devout worshiper of the true God, and brought
up his family so that they "walked m tlie way of their father
and in the way of their mother all the days of their lives."

His family consisted of —

Robert Barr.^ (Family I.) '"1

David Barr. 2 (Family II.) ^s'..';

William Barr. 2 (Family III ) .l'^

Samuel Barr. 2 (Family IV.) V

Gabriel Barr. 2 (Family V.) |.r^ y

Margaret BARR2(or Peggy, as she was called) (Family VI.) ^'''5

\\'e are fortunate in getting possession of the memoirs o( my'
grandfather, written in 1789, before they left Ireland, as well


as on their journey across the ocean and after landing in this
cooniry. This book is ledger shape, bound by himself in deer-
skin, and written in a very legible hand. As few of the con-
nection even know of this book, let alone any of its contents, we
Will take the liberty of quoting extensively from it for the mfor-
m.ition it contains, which will be interesting to those who never
saw It. It is a great relic and much prized in tfie connection.

Robert Bark^ left Ireland for America with Iiis wile and
family— except two sons, Robert and David, who preceded the
f.miily some years before — July 26, 1790, and gf)t his first
glimpse of America, Sabbath, October 3, 1790. They dropped
.inchor at New Castle, below Philadelphia, between three and
lujr o'clock in the morning, and were exceeding glad not only
to see land again, but to set foot on the country of their future
home. .\Iy grandfather remarks: "That Sabbath day when
til'.: pilot came on board was a day of glad tidings. .My heart
uV.L'd so ful I could not speak a word. How joyful is every
■Tit.-, but how few are praising God for his goodness. The first
-■.rjn 1 have got of America is two little bunches of trees very
\:« i g">< ' g ! :;>;.A,^^^^^



On Saturday, February 6, 1790, my grandfather writes:
" My father is at last come to a full resolution to go to America.
In the morning he came to brother Gabriel and me in the
barn, and said to me: ' You must go and draw the papers to
advertise the auction of our farming utensils and some other
things; we must now put off.' Said he, 'It looks as if there
was a special hand of Providence in this; for all our endeavors
to take land have still been abortive.' He is very dispirited
and melancholy; scarcely able to eat; breaks out with heavy
sighs, and groans. They would have a very hard heart who
could not pity him, for he is in great trouble.

"Tuesday, February 16, 1790. This is the day set for the
sale. A large number of people came from all parts of the
country. Andrew Johnston is cant master. We have sold
by auction a good part of our goods, which makes but little money
— about eight pounds, eighteen shillings."

They immediately prepared for the journey, but were often
disappointed because the vessel did not start where and when
appointed. Even at'ter they had gotten on the vessel and
had started, there were frequent delays, and on account of a
great storm they were driven back after a whole day's sail almost
^v;thin sight of land. Such were the difficulties of traveling in
tho:,e days. Who can say when we read of their trials that "the
former days were better than these?"

Great-grandfather Barr bought a farm a few years after in
"•:>nc Valley, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, one half mile
■ -^'.'ih of .McAlevy's Fort. In 1796 he put up a two-story log-
I'^ise, large and well built, which is still standing. It has
^- ■■■' housed five generations of the Barr family. It has been
^tathcr-boarded by Joseph Barr, a great grandson of Robert
b.irr, who still occupies the homestead with his mother, Martha
I-irr, widow of Uncle Daniel Barr, youngest son of Grand-
father Samuel Barr,"'^ who fell heir to the homestead. xMy


faiher, James Harr, was deeded some forty acres of the home-
stead ' farm lyiiig on the west. Gabriel Barr, my father's
brother, was deeded the tan-house and saw-miU.

The will of Great-grandfather Barr (the old, original will)
is m possession of Joseph Barr, and is as follows:


September 7, 1802.
In ihc yiame of God the Father, Son and Holy
Ghost. Amen.

/. Robert Barr, fanner, of East baree i own-
ship, in Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, being oj
souKd jiidgment, but weak oJ body, and calli7ig to
vLuiii the mortality of mankind, and that shortly I
mu.si put of this clay tabernacle in the firm faith of
a ,; I or ions rcsinrection of the body unto life ever-
lasting through our Lord fesiis, my only Saviour, in
uhom I trust, believing that through his blessed
vients I shall be saved jrom all my sins, that aie
gr^.it and many, and be admitted into the Javor of
which God 0/ his goodness hath bestowed upon
•'f/' :// nuDiner following, toivit:

. If'trr tJie expense of a decent burial, I bcqncafh
/.» M.xry. my beloved wife, and to my son Samuel, alt
rr, tK.':\iUe property, goods and chattels, ordering
f>:\ Si'K Sjfiiutl to give his mother a free maintenance
during her natural life. I bequeath to my son


Robert one dollar, and to his son Samnel te7i dollars.
I bequeath to my son David one dollar. I bequeath
to my son William, one dollar, and to his son Robert
fen dollars. ^ I beqzieath to Mary Barr, widow of my
son Gabriel, late deceased, and his children, one dol-
lar. And I order my son Sa7nnel, and Mary my
luife. to pay all my lawful debts arid to be my exec-
i(to>s ; and I do hereby disanrmll all other for ?ner
testaments, wills and legacies, a7id executors by me
in any way before named, unlled arid bequeathed,
ratifying this and no other to be iny last and only
J Fill and Testament.

In witness luhereof I have hereimto set my hand
and seal this seventh day of September, one thonsarid
eight Jinndred and tiuo.



Signed, sealed, published, pronounced and
d-'cl.ired by said Robert Barr as his last Will
ind Testament in the presence of us. zvho iri his
presence and in the presence of each other have here-
I'nto subscribed our narnes.
Witnesses present:

U'illiam McAlavy,
ll'illiam McAlavy, fr,,
IVilliam Nickle.

i Huntingdon County, ss.

On the twelfth day of April, 1808, before me,
tne subscriber, f^egister for the I^robate of ivills arid
g*' anting letters of administration in arid for the
county of Huntingdo7i, persorially came Willia)7i


McAlavy\Jr.. 7vJio being duly sworn, deposetJi and
saifh. tJiat he was present and did see and Jiear the
witJiin nained Robert Barr sign, seal, publish a7ui
declare the withi)i i}isfrnnient of writing as and for
his last U'^ill and Testament, and that at the tivic of
signing he "uas of sane and disposing mind; and that
he subscribed his name thereto as a witness in the
testator's presence, ar.d at his request a}Ld in the pi-es-
cnce of William McAlavy and William Mickle,
li'ho also subsc?-ibed their names as 7^'itnesses.
Sz^'orn and subscribed April 12, rSoS.

, J J.J William McAlavy, Jr.

AndrciJ Uouierson.

Greatgrandfather made his home with my grand fatlier,
Samuel Darr, until his death,, which was in iSoS. I'he vil!
was drawn up in 1S02 and executed in 1808. So tiiat he must
have been about ci^'hiy two years of ac^e at his death. Hi- body
rests in tlie old burial i^ro'.nid en the old homestead, not over
ri;;hty rods from the buildings. There being few if any church.es
at that time, the burial places were not always in connection
with tlie meeting house. This is the oldest cemetery in tr.e
valley. Persons killed by the Indians are buried there. It is
on the top of the high.est hill on the place, overlooking the
entire farm and building's, and the country on all sides for mil;s
distant. It is situated in a grove of beautiful pines, and vas
surrounded by an iron fence, which has since been replaced by
a wooden fence.

Mipy of the olde.st settlers in the valley are re-ting there.
Great-g:;'.ii(l!'ather I'.arr and his wife, and Grandfather Samuel
Barr and liis wife are buried on the ea>t side of the cemetery, look-
ing east toward the old home bmldinizs and east toward .Mount
Zion below, typi.:,d of Mount Zion above. There the angels
guard their preciou-; dust. Re^t in peace till Jesus come.-, again.




The eldest son of Great-grandfaiher Barr was Kobert
Rarr,2 who preceded the family to this country several years
and settled in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, not far from
Reedsville, in Kishacoquillas Valley. The place was afterwards
bought by his son William, and is now owned by Rhoda Taylor.
It is a beautiful and very rich farming valley.

He was born August i. 1748, and hence was forty-iwo
years old when the rest of the family arrived. Not much is
known of him, as no records of the family could be found. He
died December 23, 1834, in his eighty-sixth year. He married
■Miss Christi.vn Reed. There is no record of her birth or
death. His family consisted of five sons and two daughters.
I David Barr.^
n William Barr.^
HI John Barr.^
IV James Barr.^
V Robert Barr.^
VI Elizabeth Barr.^
VII Mary Barr.^

(See David Barr,^ Family H, page 55.)


1 David Barr^ was born May 6, 1782, in Mifflin County,
'■'••nnsylvania. He lived with his father until he married. Me

-n moved to a farm which he bought, about one mile v,'e';t of
■ ' Alcvy s Fort, Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania, adjoining

> I ••'.h'.r's (arm on the west. He was our nearest neighbor,
^it^fc all his family were born.


Me married Miss Marv Brown in 1806. She was the
granddaughter of Alex Brown and the great-granddaughter
of Colonel James Alexander of revolutionary fame, who
served with distinction under Washington at Valley Foree.
She was born in December, 1785, and died September 16, 1865,
aged seventy-nine years. They sold the farm to Mr. Gsborn,
and moved to Alliance, OImo, in 1845, where they both diod.

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Online LibraryWilliam Bickett BarrHistory of the Barr family, beginning with great-grandfather Robert Barr, and Mary Wills : their descendants down to the latest child → online text (page 1 of 14)