The Barker Family of South Wellfleet — Isaiah Barker Jr. and the Lizzie D. Barker

Isaiah Barker, Jr., born in December 1841, followed the path of many other South Wellfleet young people, and became a mariner.  On December 15, 1863, he married Elizabeth (Lizzie) Doane Atwood, daughter of Daniel Atwood and Mehitable Holbrook of Wellfleet. They did not have any children.

In the 1870 Federal census, they are listed as a separate household, including Elizabeth’s father, Daniel Atwood.

In 1871, Isaiah Barker became the master of the schooner Lizzie D. Barker. She was built in Boston, 84 feet, 75.93 tons, breadth* 23 feet, depth 7.8 feet. She had one deck, two masts, square stern, billet head. She was registered in Wellfleet October 8, 1873. The owners of the Lizzie D. Barker were:

In Wellfleet:

  • Isaiah Barker Jr. 4/32,
  • Richard R. Freemen  4/32
  • Asa H. Rivers 4/32
  • David G. Pierce 2/32
  • Solomon A. Rich 2/32
  • William T. Snow 1/32
  • Nowell R. Rich 1/32
  • Benjamin H.L. Pierce 1/32
  • Isaiah Crowell 1/32.

In Boston:

  • Richard R. Higgins Co. 4/32
  • J.Y. and Simeon Baker, Co-partners 4/32
  • E.L. and T.D. Atwood, Co-partners 2/32.

In Dover, New Hampshire:

  • Henry D. Freeman 2/32.

The Barnstable Patriot printed an article in May 1871, about seven new vessels arriving in Wellfleet, and the need for new trained fishermen in the town. The writer called this “a handsome re-enforcement of the grand Armada which sails from here to capture the finny tribe of the deep.”

The life of a ship can be followed. On March 21, 1875, Lizzie D. Barker was mentioned in a “shipping news” column of The New York Herald, arriving in Boston. Then she sailed to Vineyard Haven the next day. Another shipping news item noted her arrival in Danvers from Baltimore. Lizzie D. Barker appears to have been both fishing and working the coastal trade.

In the 1880 Federal census, Isaiah and Elizabeth are living in Lot Hall’s “home” with other boarders – in other census documents, Mr. Hall always seems to have boarders – school teachers, seamen, etc. We do not know if Isaiah and Elizabeth’s move to become “boarders” is a sign of diminished resources. By 1880, we do know that the fishing for the Wellfleet seamen was not as lucrative as it once had been.

On February 7, 1882, the Barnstable Patriot reported a “probable fatal” accident on board the schooner Lizzie D. Barker, under a Captain Eaton, of Wellfleet.  A tugboat was about to tow the schooner through Hell Gate (in New York City) when a line snapped, striking a man in the head and “crushing it in a fearful manner.” The seaman was taken to the Marine Hospital on Hart Island.

Perhaps Isaiah Barker, Jr. left his position as master of the Lizzie D. Barker because in February 1884, a report from Norfolk, Virginia, told of a sinking of a schooner, the Eddie Atwood. The crew was taken in by E. Kemp, Isaiah Barker, and Isaac Paine, who were in Norfolk and who showed them “kindnesses and favors received” and they were put on a ship to Boston.

In 1900 Isaiah and Elizabeth were listed as residents of Norfolk, living on Bousch Street. His occupation was “oyster picker.”  We know that many seamen of Wellfleet, particularly when the mackerel fishing diminished, worked in various roles in the shellfish business, including the shipping of seed from the Chesapeake to Wellfleet. In the 1890s and in 1900 and 1901, the Barnstable Patriot reported that Captain and Mrs. Isaiah Barker visited Wellfleet from time to time, staying with Mary Newcomb (one of the Areys and his step-sister) and the Atwoods.

In June 1885, the Lizzie D. Barker was in the news again .She and another schooner, the Leila Linwood of Chatham, dragged their anchors and both went ashore on Block Island. The captain was listed as Captain Rogers. The New York Times reported that the schooner was a total loss, and that there was no insurance. The Barnstable Patriot reported that the Lizzie D. Barker “bilged” but was taken to Providence for repairs.

In April 1890, a news story told of a collision between the steamer City of Norwich and the schooner Lizzie D. Barker at Sands Point. Captain Hawes of the Lizzie D. Barker said there was a misunderstanding of signals when he attempted to pass. The Lizzie D. Barker was reported at a pier in Hoboken “pretty well damaged”.

A final story about the Lizzie D. Barker appeared on May 12, 1891,when the schooner was reported capsized near Virginia, between Hog and Smith Islands. The crew was rescued, but the cook died of exposure. The crew was taken by the schooner Horatio and carried to Norfolk. This article stated that the Lizzie D. Barker was owned by Richard R. Freeman of Boston. The Captain, still Hawes (no first name given), was “unfortunate to have been shipwrecked four or five times before.”  This article appears to be the final ending of the Lizzie D. Barker.

According to an October 8, 1907, obituary in the Boston Herald, Captain Isaiah Barker, Jr. died “suddenly” at age 66 in Norfolk, Virginia. A few days later, the newspaper announced his burial in Wellfleet “after the arrival of the morning train.”   However, when I searched for Captain Isaiah in Wellfleet, to see which cemetery he was taken to I did not find him. Instead, he is buried in North Weymouth. Elizabeth Atwood Barker died in 1927, in Quincy, Mass., at age 84 years.  In the 1920 Federal census, she was living in nearby Weymouth with her sister, Sarah Atwood, and Sarah’s daughter and son-in-law. Her funeral service was at their home. The gravestone for both Isaiah and Lizzie is in the North Weymouth Cemetery.

Isaiah Barker Jr. and Lizzie Barker’s grave

This Barker son, trained to be a mariner, stayed with the sea, adjusting through the economic change to become part of the shellfishing industry. Obviously, he gained enough income to buy a ship, with other investors, but did not keep it. The story of the Lizzie D. Barker  illustrates the life of a schooner, and the complexities of sea transportation in and around the East Coast.

*”Beam” is the nautically correct term as my finicky brother points out


Alphabetical List of Ship Registers, District of Barnstable, Massachusetts 1814-1913. Compiled from the original documents stored in the New Bedford Customs House. Prepared by The National Archives Project, Division of Women’s and Professional Projects, Works Progress Administration, The National Archives, Sponsor, Boston, Mass 1938.

Federal Censuses online at

Barnstable Patriot (various) online archive:

The New York Times archive

Newspaper account on line at


Family history researcher living in New York City.
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