George Barker (1789 - 1861)

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Birthplace: Wimbish, Essex, England
Death: Died in Paarl, Cape Colony, South Africa
Occupation: Reverend, Superintendant of the Hottentot mission station, Theopolis on the Kasouga river
Managed by: Zoe Jeffery
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Immediate Family

About George Barker

George BARKER (1789-1861) son of Nathaniel BARKER of Wimbish near Saffrom Walden, Essex, was educated at Gosport Public School, became a Congregational Minister, joined the London Missionary Society and sailed for Cape Town arriving there in May, 1815. He was married in England in 1815 to Sarah WILLIAMS (1790-1836). They had a large family. Nine of the children who survived infancy were born at the Bethelsdorp and Theopolis Mission Stations.

b1. Sarah (1815-1864) m. G. MUNROE and had a daughter. b2. Elizabeth (1816-1904) conducted a school at Paarl. Her most brilliant pupil became the first Lord de VILLIERS, Chief Justice of the Cape and later South Africa. b3. Anna (1818-1886) m. James READ. Several children. b4. Edward (1821-1879) Fought in the Frontier Wars. Secretary to Colonel MACLEAN and the mayor of Grahamstown. Married and had five children. b5. John (1824-1881) Farmed at Tarkastad. Unmarried. b6. Jane (1825-1924) m. a settler's son, Daniel Thomas HOCKLEY and had six children. b7. Marianne (1827-1903) assisted he sister, Elizabeth at the Paarl school. Married Rev. Johann BUDLER and had two sons. b8. George (1830-1892) Fought in the Frontier Wars. mayor of Tarkastad. Proprietor of newspaper, "Tarka Herald". Married Hester OCHSE and had eleven children. b9. Harriet (1831-1900) assisted her sister Elizabeth at the Paarl school. Married Rev. J.H. du PLESSIS, their son, Johannes, becoming the renowned missionary, traveller, writer and Professor of Theology at Stellenbosch.

Settler George BARKER and his wife, Sarah, went by ox-wagon from Algoa Bay to the Bethelsdorp Mission Station (for Hottentots) about nine miles inland. From there they moved to Theopolis (also for Hottentots) on the Kasouga River, where BARKER built with his own hands the first primitive church, school-room, store and dwelling house.

His diary for this period (1815-28) records vast herds of the now extinct quagga and an infinite variety of other game, and constant trouble with elephant, buffalo, leopard and snakes. Depredations by Xhosa tribes from across the Fish River (then the Colonial boundary) caused much distress and anxiety.

In 1819 he was transferred back to Bethelsdorp, fortunately missing the Fifth Frontier War in which Theopolis suffered greatly. The diary records the arrival of the 1820 Settlers, many of whom he met on the beach at Algoa Bay. He also saw the completion of the Donkin pyramid on the 3rd February 1821. A few days later he returned to Theopolis where he was Superintendent for nearly twenty years.

In the devastating floods of October, 1823, most of Theopolis was literally washed away. but more durable buildings were thereafter erected, using stone and lime quarried in and timber and thatch cut from the surrounding bush, and nails fashioned by BARKER in his own smithy. As his children grew up, they were sent as boarders to the famous Salem Academy (about twenty miles distant) founded by W.H. MATTHEWS, the most eminent of the settler schoolmasters. In addition to his onerous missionary duties amongst the Hottentots (an administrator, preacher, teacher, doctor, builder and agriculturist), the Rev. George BARKER was always ready to promote religious development in the Frontier area, often coming to the assistance of the Anglican, Methodist, Baptist and Presbyterian denominations in addition to his own Congregationalists. This entailed constant and tedious journeys on horseback or on foot or by ox-wagon, in all weather and at all times, to Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Grahamstown, Bathurst, Salem, Port Kowie and rural centres where churches and chapels had been or were being established.

A good deal of the fighting and skirmishing during the Sixth Frontier War of 1834-5 took place around Theopolis, causing much distress and damage, but the station just managed to survive.

Mrs. BARKER died on the 20th December 1836, and her tombstone still stands in the now deserted mission cemetery. In 1840 BARKER was transferred to the Paarl Station. He married Hilletje SMUTS in 1844, was compelled to retire from mission work in 1856 on account of total blindness, and died on the 9th May 1861. His and his daughter Elizabeth's tombstones may be seen in the Zion Cemetery just below Paarl Rock. The Diary mentioned previously, a contemporary water-colour portrait of Mrs. BARKER and a daguerreotype of the Rev. George BARKER are now in the possession of a great-grandchild.

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George Barker's Timeline

1789
1789
Wimbish, Essex, England
1816
1816
Age 27
1825
1825
Age 36
Theopolis, Eastern Cape, South Africa
1830
1830
Age 41
Theopolis, South Africa
1844
1844
Age 55
1861
May 9, 1861
Age 72
Paarl, Cape Colony, South Africa
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Zion Church Cemetery, Paarl, Cape Colony, South Africa