Armstead Roderick Barker - The Black pioneer



 Armstead Roderick Barker was born Oct. 1837 in North Carolina. He 
was first sold as a slave at the age of two old.
 In 1854 he was sold as a slave to Dr. W. C. Larkin's father in Mobile, Ala. 
When Dr. Larkin graduated from medical school, he started his practice 
of medicine and then married.
 When Dr. Larkin decided to move to Texas, his father gave him several 
choice slaves to come to Texas with him. Roderick Barker was one of 
the slaves and on December 1859, Dr. Larkin and all of his properties 
left Mobile for Texas. They traveled by oxen wagons and on foot. It 
took the large group four months. In April 1860, the group arrived 
and settled northwest of Athens on Caney Creek, once called the Larkin 
farm (now known as Dr. N. D. Geddies's farm.)
 Dr. Larkin's family and all of the slaves lived in covered wagons and 
tents while the land was cleared in order to build log cabins and houses 
for dwelling. The large trees on the farm were cut and sawed and rived 
in order to make boards for the dwellings.
 The slaves began clearing new ground and splitting rails for fences and 
started a crop on the new farmland immediately. The slaves worked the 
land for Dr. Larkin until the emancipation of the slaves in 1865.
 After the emancipation of the slaves in 1865, Dr. Larkin purchased an 
area of land for his free slaves to live. This area of land was near west 
Larkin Street and the T. N. O. Railroad track, known as “Lick Skillet.” 
Roderick Barker lived in the “Lick Skillet” quarters for a few months. 
The opportunties were very limited if Mr. Barker remained in this area 
so he began “share cropping” for Dr. Larkin and for Nat Coleman as he 
learned the lessons of thrift and economy acquired from hard labor. He 
wanted to accumulate property like his master, Dr. Larkin.
 He married Hester Stovall, who was one of 77 slaves freed by Nat 
Coleman. After marriage, he and Hester wanted to take their rightful 
place in society and contribute to the community. They realized that no 
family could really take roots unless they became landowners.
 On Jan 6, 1871, Roderick purchased a 160 acre tract of land in the John 
Loop survey, which is about five miles south of Athens, near the Baxter 
community. He purchased the tract of land from George Lee at the price 
of two dollars an acre.
 He built a small house for he and his wife Hester and their eight children 
on the acreage north of the T. N. O. Railroad tracks where Rev. Pete 
Hunter now resides.
 (Rev. Pete Hunter's wife is a great granddaughter of the Barkers.)
 On Nov 29, 1880, he purchased 320 acres from W. H. Carpenter. It took 
Roderick 17 years to pay for the 60 acres by selling cotton at $15 a bale, 
cow and calf for $8 and a sow and pig for $5.
  He farmed for a living, raised most of the food that the family used and 
using the wild fruit as all families did. He planted a small fruit orchard that 
consisted of 100 trees of a variety of peaches, pears, apples and figs. He 
had the first syrup mill in the Gum Creek community to be owned by a 
black farmer. He would make sorghum and ribbon cane syrup on halves. 
He would have produce to sell seasonal.
 Roderick believed in the Golden Rule. He was one of the founders of the 
Gum Creek African Methodist Episcopal Church, where the family worshiped. 
The Barker family always took an active part in the religious life of the 
community until the present day.
 The need for a community cemetery was realized, so Roderick gave four 
acres of land. October 9, 1920 during the division of the Roderick Barker 
Estate, it was found that the cemetery had not been deeded to the community 
and the cemetery was on a portion of the plot number 6 that Lazarus (Babe) 
Barker was heir. On Jan 13, 1934, the citizens of Gum Creek community 
purchased the four acres from Lazarus Barker for $50 and the deed reads
“Barker Cemetery.”
 Roderick and Hester had eight children: Nancy Franks, George, Margaret 
Dever, Roxie Dunnington, Julia Burrell, Henderson, Lazarus (Babe) and 
Marion Francis. Their descendents are still in the county and all have helped 
to make the county grow.
 Roderick Barker had the reputation of being one of the most industrious 
and most energetic black farmers of the time. As a result of his economy 
and foresight, he was very successful leaving an estate of 535.5 acres to his 
heirs known as the Barker community. The largest portion of the Roderick 
Barker estate is now owned by the third and fourth generation of the Barker 
descendents.

NOTE:
I do not know the year this first appeared in the Athens review. The story 
was re-printed Wednesday, Oct 24, 1979 in the Yesteryears section in the 
Athens Review. The story appeared on page 7A. Typed as printed in the 
Athens review.

Article Submitted by Laura Calvin

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