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Andrew Jackson BARKER


Posted By: Sharon R Becker (email)
Date: 2/26/2011 at 02:36:01


Andrew Jackson BARKER was born in Packwaukee, Marquette county, Wisconsin, January 20,1857. His parents were Charles Grandison BARKER and Alice DOYLE BARKER.

Charles Grandison BARKER was a son of John BARKER, of Cairo, Green county, New York, who was a soldier in the Revolutionary war, and whose father, known as Patroon BARKER, was the owner of four thousand acres of land held under a grant from Queen Anne. In the early days of Wisconsin, Charles Grandison BARKER had a farm on the borders of Fond du Lac and Dodge counties, near the present site of Waupun. Nine years before the birth of the subject of this sketch, he bought land from the government in what had been an Indian reservation, further west, at Packwaukee, and, removing thither with his family in a covered wagon, made a new home in the wilderness and helped to extend the borders of civilization. He served two years in the volunteer army of the Union, during the Civil war, his knowledge of mechanics, recognized by the officers, leading to his employment in the construction of hospitals at Chattanooga and on Lookout Mountain.

The early childhood of Andrew Jackson BARKER, passed amid rural scenes, familiarized him with the pursuits of the farm. He attended the village school at Packwaukee, and at the age of fifteen was sent to St. Louis University, then at ht corner of Ninth Street and Washington Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, where he was a student in the Commercial Department in 1872-3 and 1873-4. After leaving the university, he married Mary PRICE, daughter of L. T. and Mary A. PRICE, who also was a native of Wisconsin, born at Ceresco, now Ripon, in Fond du Lac county. Together with his bride, he went to work in the woods of Northern Wisconsin, and worked hard. The measure of success which has come to him in later years has been due in no small part to his indisposition to shirk the necessity of labor.

In June, 1876, accompanied by his sister, Mr. BARKER paid his first visit to Mason City, then a small but prosperous and promising town. He was farm-hunting, and the place which most attracted his attention was the MILLER and BROWNELL farm of 220 acres, with fine improvements, now the property of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Company. Having been brought up in a wooded country, he could not at first accustom himself to the waving, treeless prairie, which impressed him as very lonesome. He returned to Wisconsin, but made subsequent trips to Iowa in 1877 and again in 1878, and in the latter year purchased from William Newbauer a tract of 136 acres, three and one-half miles east of Mason City and two miles northwest of Portland, in the township of that name. The only building upon the place was a small shack, 16 feet by 20, used as bachelor quarters by two lads who were cultivating the land. Subsequently, he purchased from Alonzo FELT 90 acres, a portion of the well-known FELT farm.

The winter of 1878-9 was spent by Mr. BARKER, with one hired man, in hauling from Mason City quarries 140 cords of stone for buildings which he intended to erect. Curiosity was aroused by the huge stone piles that he accumulated, and the general belief was that he meant to raise buildings of the material. Eventually, however, it appeared that these were to be only the foundations of structures which were to make "Rock Rest" the show farm of Cerro Gordo county. The following spring and summer there were shipped from Milwaukee fitted timbers and lumber for the superstructure of the house, barns and sheds, which were constructed by masons and carpenters brought from Milwaukee. While the work was going on, Mr. and Mrs. BARKER boarded from fifteen to thirty-six carpenters and masons, who lived in a camp on the hill. After the buildings were completed an orchard was planted, and spruce, Norway pines, elms and other trees were set out to embellish the grounds about the house.

On this farm, which he still owns, Mr. BARKER was soon embarked in enterprises by which, by reason of the contribution they made to the raising of the grade of farm animals in this section of the state, have a place in the agricultural history of Iowa. In the spring after the buildings were finished he purchased from Governor Harrison LUDINGTON of Wisconsin, the thoroughbred Shorthorn bull, "The Governor," and the registered full-blood Clydesdale stallion, "Ben Lomond." Next year found him established in stock and dairy farming, his dairy herd including thirty-three cows. A year later he purchased a full-blooded first-prize heifer at the Wisconsin State Fair, but suffered the misfortune of losing her a week after her arrival, he death probably being due to careless feeding while she was at the fair. His next purchase was made from the Charles T. BRADLEY farm, near Milwaukee - a two-year-old Hambletonian colt, "Knickerbocker," which he renamed "Cerro Gordo Bay," the first thoroughbred road horse owned in Cerro Gordo county. This horse was numbered 6,752 in Wallace's Record. He lived to the age of twenty-two, and was in use at "Rock Rest" farm until a year before his death. Many of his get are still in existence and much prized by their owners.

Later Mr. BARKER gave his attention to improved dairy cattle and also became a raiser of Poland China hogs from breeding. From RUST Brothers of Greenfield, near Milwaukee, he bought a two-year old Holstein bull which was the head of his herd from three years, but which later, even after dehorning, proved so vicious, imperiling the lives of his keepers, that he was killed. This tragic end, however, did not come to the strenuous animal till after he had performed valuable service in introducing the Holstein strain in Cerro Gordo county, which previously had been given over almost exclusively to Shorthorns.

On one of his visits to the Wisconsin State Fair, Mr. BARKER bought from WEIGHT & Sons, of Whitewater, a pig of the Tecumseh breed which had carried off the first prize at the fair offered for the best male pig over six months old. It was the first of its breed every shipped west of the Mississippi river, but for some reason failed to please Mr. BARKER, who sold it to a neighbor. In the hands of the latter it proved very profitable, "building a barn and raising a mortgage."

While engaged in his stock improvement enterprises, Mr. BARKER attended to the daily delivery of the products of his dairy farm to a creamery at Portland. After nineteen years of assiduous labor on his farm, having no children to assist him in his work, and having by his own and his wife's economy acquired sufficient means to justify him in dispensing with the drudgery essential to successful farming, he concluded to re-arrange his mode of life.

In 1893 he had built a house and barn at the corner of Eleventh street and Adams avenue, Mason City. In 1897 he moved to Mason City, occupying the house. In 1901 he purchased the beautiful residence, 322 West Eleventh street, where he now resides.

There are people unacquainted with the life of the farmer as exemplified by progressive Americans, who suppose that those committed to it are shut out from the elegancies and amenities of existence. Many instances might be adduced to demonstrate the error of this assumption. Mr. BARKER'S home at "Rock Rest" was tastefully and artistically furnished, containing pictures and books, and in it from time to time he hospitably entertained; among his guests who heartily appreciated the practical significance of the work which he was accomplishing for the improvement of agriculture being his brother-in-law, the late William E. CRAMER of Milwaukee, the veteran editor of The Evening Wisconsin, who himself had been early impressed the importance of progressive farming while a boy at Waterford, New York.

Notwithstanding his devotion to his vocation while at "Rock Rest," Mr. BARKER found time for avocations of a public character, and served two terms as one of the trustees of Portland township. He has also served as under-sheriff of Cerro Gordo county. In politics he is a Republican. In fraternal association, he is identified with the Modern Brotherhood of America, the Modern Woodmen of America and the Court of Honor.

SOURCE: Wheeler, J. H. History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Vol. II. Pp. 392-95 Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1910

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011


Cerro Gordo Biographies maintained by Sharon R. Becker.
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