Pierre A. Barker
Born: April 17, 1790 in La Grange, New York
Died: January 3, 1870 in Natchez, Mississippi
Buffalo Mayor: 1837-1838
Political Affiliation: Democratic-Republican (before 1828)
Pierre Augustus Barker was born in LaGrange, NY on April 17, 1790 to Samuel Augustus Barker of Connecticut and Mary Louise Delevan of LaGrange, New York.1 Samuel Barker was a Revolutionary War veteran who served with General Lafayette.2
In 1824, Pierre A. Barker, then living in Seneca Falls, was a member of the Electoral College. He was the only elector in the state of New York to vote for Andrew Jackson in the 1824 election. After Andrew Jackson was elected President of the United States four years later, one of his first appointments was that of Pierre A. Barker replacing Captain Myndert M. Dox as Collector of Customs for the Port of Buffalo. Due to this appointment, Pierre A. Barker moved with his family to Buffalo in 1829. Barker held the position from 1830 until 1838, when George W. Clinton replaced him as the Collector of Customs for the Port of Buffalo.
In 1812, Pierre A. Barker married twenty-two year old Annache Gilbert Livingston of Dutchess County, New York.3 In 1834, Pierre A. Barker hired Benjamin Rathbun “to construct a mansion in the country”4:
[T]he site chosen was 290 Hudson St. between Plymouth Ave. and West Avenue. The Barker estate included most of block 75 bounded by Hudson St., Plymouth Ave., Pennsylvania St. and West Ave. Within the block, the estate included all the land to approximately 100 feet south of Pennsylvania St., and all of the land along West Ave. from Hudson St. to Pennsylvania St. The only land on the block that did not belong to Barker’s estate was the frontage on Pennsylvania St. and about 316 feet of Plymouth Ave. near Pennsylvania St.
Benjamin Rathbun built Barker a massive brick home that was thought to be originally designed in the Greek Revival style but the modifications made in later years might be described as Italianate…
Today it is difficult to fathom the house that Rathbun built for Barker on Hudson Street being in pastoral surroundings, but at the time it was noted that “anyone who went into the country to live as did Pierre A. Barker had horses and carriages, buggies, wagons and sleighs in abundance, and plenty of employees in the house and grounds”…About 1836 Barker moved into his new Benjamin Rathbun-built mansion with his wife Annache G. Livingtson and their eight children. The next year he became Buffalo’s sixth mayor and presided over the city from 1837-1838.5
Professional and Political Life
Pierre A. Barker was already a wealthy man when he came to Buffalo.6 In 1831, he was one of the founding members of the Bank of Buffalo, and “president of the Commercial Bank in 1835 or 1836. And in 1838 or 1840 he was president of the United States Bank at Buffalo.”7 Barker helped draft the Buffalo city charter in 1832.8
In 1835, Pierre A. Barker established a $15,000 endowment to help fund the University of Western New York, which was “Incorporated by special act April 8, 1836…to be located in the city of Buffalo.”9 The college was supposed to be built “in present day Allentown (‘College Street’ was meant to mark the western boundary of the proposed campus. The eastern edge was between Delaware and Franklin streets while the northern and the southern boundaries were North and Allen streets respectively).”10 However, after the 1836-1837 financial collapse brought about by Benjamin Rathbun’s forgeries, plans for the university were abandoned.11
When Benjamin Rathbun was arrested in 1836, Pierre A. Barker was one of the men who helped secure Rathbun’s bail.
In 1837, Pierre A. Barker was serving as alderman for the 5th ward when he was appointed Buffalo mayor pro tem after the elected mayor, Dr. Josiah Trowbridge, took an extended leave of absence.12 The city was tense at this time due to the brewing Patriot War in Canada. Unable to calm the growing civil unrest in Buffalo, Dr. Trowbridge resigned from office on December 21, 1837, and Barker was selected as acting mayor.13 On December 30, 1837, Barker issued a proclamation to restore law and order in the city:
On January 5, 1838, the Common Council chose Pierre A. Barker to complete Dr. Trowbridge’s mayoral term.14 Peace returned to Buffalo by January 15, and Buffalo society celebrated with “a big ball at the Eagle Street Theater on Washington’s birthday.”15
Soon after his term as mayor ended, Pierre A. Barker moved with his family to Mississippi, “first settling in boomtown Holly Springs. When that city was under siege during the Civil War, Barker moved to Natchez, Mississippi.”16 Barker died on January 317 or 418, 1870 and is buried in Oakland Cemetery in Warsaw, Illinois.
Pierre A. Barker’s legacy in Buffalo “is so obscure today that no image of him is known to exist”19:
He is one of the few mayors without an official portrait displayed in the city of Buffalo’s mayoral portrait collection. Some of his children remained in Buffalo including his daughter, Eugenia Marie, who married Philander Hodge, one of Buffalo’s most prominent citizens. Although Barker’s stay at the Hudson Street mansion was brief, it was memorable enough to be recognized by Buffalo socialite Martha Fitch Poole when she recalled the city’s finest mansions of the 1830s. Poole said that Barker “entertained munificently” and that the “grounds, which extended far back from Hudson street, were superb, with the many fine trees which surrounded the entire place.”
After Barker left 290 Hudson Street, Jonathan Sidway and his family moved there in 1843 or 1844 and purchased the property from Barker in 1845. The Sidway family lived in the house for many years and it was thereafter known as the “Sidway Mansion.”20