On April 5, 1842, John Henry Barker was born in Wandsworth, Surrey, England to John Humphrey and Anna Maria Delap Barker. His father was a lawyer's clerk and his mother often worked as a seamstress. During his childhood, the family moved often, living in several cities in England. As a young boy, he held several jobs, working in a linen button factory and later as a waiter.
In 1848, his family became associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, sometime after this, his father was sent to a "debtor's prison" due to financial difficulties, and the family was broken up, leaving only John and his mother in London.
In 1859, Barker was baptized into the Mormon church and over the next few years held many leadership positions within his local branch. He met his future wife, Susan Dermott, through this work, and in 1868 they came to America on the Manchester. They were married before starting across the plains later that year.
Arriving in Utah, the couple settled first in Salt Lake City, and then moved to Cache Valley, living in Paradise, Providence, and Newton respectively. Throughout the years he worked as a school teacher, a businessman, a miner, and a farmer. He also held many positions of leadership in both the Church and the Newton community.
Family was extremely important in Barker's life. He and Susan raised nine children in their home in Newton. In 1879, Barker entered into polygamy when he married Christena M. Benson. Together they had eight children. Later that same year, Barker married his third wife, Johanna Jensen. Their marriage produced two more children. In addition to his wives and children, Barker felt a strong connection to the family he had left behind in England. He maintained contact with his three living sisters, especially his youngest sister Jane, or Jenny as she was called.
Always an active member of the LDS church, Barker was called to serve a mission to England in 1909. The trip was too hard on him, however, because of his age and the stress of travel, and after only a few months there he was sent home. Once home, he was stricken with gangrene and had to have a leg amputated. During the recovery, he caught pneumonia, and on February 27th, 1910, he passed away at his home in Newton.
The largest part of the John Henry Barker collection consists of 45 letters, 44 written by Barker to his sister Jenny over the period of 1871 to 1890. The other letter was written to Jenny by George Teasdale, her future husband. Twenty-two of these letters were published by the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers in their Historical Pamphlet for October 1960 as "Letters of John H. Barker" (F 826. D32). This publication also includes three other letters not included in this collection: those of January 20 and January 22, 1881; and June 17, 1888 – the last being Mr. Barker's admission to his sister that he was practicing plural marriage.
The Barker collection contains a vast amount of information about the life of an early settler in Utah. Barker writes with great detail about his jobs, his family and home life, and his community. He comments on everything from politics to religion to the weather. His letters urging his sister to come to Utah and join him are full of details about what she can expect from the trip and what the trip was like when he made it. It is interesting to note that even small details, such as the price of goods and the amount of his wages are given.
The letters are organized chronologically from November 16, 1871 to the last letter written in 1890. In addition to the letters, this collection also includes several interesting documents and artifacts. Envelopes and stamps from some of the letters have been preserved. The collection also contains tickets for the passage from England to America for both Barker and Susan Dermott, their marriage certificate, LDS family group record sheets, and several photos. The last item is a diary kept by Barker from May 9 1859 to March 1863. All of these items are organized and preserved in folders following those containing the letters.
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Permission to publish material from the John Henry Humphrey Barker papers must be obtained from the Special Collections Manuscript Curator and/or the Special Collections Department Head.Preferred Citation :
John Henry Humphrey Barker papers, 1862-1890. (COLL MSS 025) Utah State University. Special Collections and Archives Department.
Correspondence arranged chronologically.
Detailed Description of the Collection
>£ 3/16. On verso is tipped marriage certificate, J. H. Barker and Susan Dermott, June 28, 1862, Florence, Nebraska. Note by Mrs. Mary Light giving permission for daughter Susan Dermott to marry J. H. Barker.
£ 3/16. Also two photos J. H. Barker:1862, 1907.
John Henry Barker and wives; 1) Susan Dermott, 2) Christene Martena Benson, 3) Johanna Jensen.
Also contains financial, tithing, and journal memoranda 1856 - 1874, including mission statistics, 1859 -1860.