Federal Way Barker Cabin

Federal Way Barker Cabin


Once called the "Ivied Cottage" because it was draped with ivy, the Barker Cabin is the oldest original structure in the Federal Way area. The Historical Society of Federal Way (HSFW) has restored the historic Barker Cabin for public display at the entrance to West Hylebos Wetlands Park on South 348th Street and Fourth Avenue South in Federal Way, Washington. This monograph is intended to give a description of John Barker and his family, to describe the building of a cabin for use by him and his family on his homestead claim, to discuss why the cabin was moved to its present location and to describe the restoration work.

This version of the Barker Cabin is a completely revised and expanded version of the June 10, 2003 version previously available.

There is a great deal of inconsistency concerning dates of various events given in available source material. I have tried to provide all the information available and then present my explanation and opinion concerning correctness.

Download The Barker Cabin Full Information PDF

John Barker Family Background

John Marshall Barker was born on April 29, 1841, at New Haven, New York.2 John married 21-year-old Addie Calkins, also from New York State, on February 20, 1867. Myrtis L. Barker was born in November 1873 in New York State.4 (Myrtis is spelled Myrtice in some records.) Claude S. Barker was born in 1878 in New York State.5 Based on 1900 United States Census records, May S. Barker was born in May 1883 in Washington State.6 (Based on the usage in various sources it appears that May S. was her given name and Laura May was the more informal name used by the family.) It is not known if Laura May was born in Buenna7 on the homestead land or in Tacoma. On her grave marker she is referred to as Laura May with the birth date given as May 27, 1883.8 A fourth child, Eva Marion Barker, was born on October 24, 1869, in New Haven, New York and died on December 29, 1875.

Travel to the Northwest

The HSFW has in its files a four-page typed transcript of an oral history of John Barker and his family.10 This appears to be by John Barker's son, Claude, and is dated May 30, 1958.

Claude indicated the family left Nebraska on January 1, 1883 on a train, bound for San Francisco.11 Another source says that John and his wife came to Tacoma, Washington from Chillicothe, Missouri in 1880.12 Still another source indicates the family left from Chillicothe, Ohio in 1880.13 Both Chillicothe, Ohio and Chillicothe, Missouri existed as small towns in the 1880s.14 Possibly the information about coming from Chillicothe is correct with the next stage being a stop in Nebraska to live for a short time and/or to catch the train. At the time of the 1880 United States Federal Census the Barker family (John, Addie, Myrtis and Claude) lived in New Haven, New York.15 I am not sure what time of year the 1880 census was taken. If the date of the census could be determined it might help determine if living in New Haven early in the year and Chillicothe later in the year was a possibility for the Barkers in1880.

Chillicothe, Missouri is the correct Chillicothe. This is concluded from the fact that in 1955 Myrtis Barker Wells was living in Chillicothe Missouri when she died. Claude Barker went to her funeral.16 It is interesting that the Barker family was in Chillicothe, Missouri in 1880, then came to the northwest and that the sister Myrtis went back to Chillicothe, Missouri for the last years of her life. I do not know the family connection between New Haven, New York and Chillicothe, Missouri.

Ilene Marckx, a local Federal Way resident, indicates that in addition to John and his wife, three children (Claude, Myrtis and Laura May) also came west.17 Marckx's comment about three children coming west was probably just a generalization, since based on location references in birth records, it was only Myrtis and Claude who came west with their parents, and Laura May was born in Washington after they arrived here.

According to Claude Barker, the family arrived in San Francisco by train on January 7, 1883. They then took a boat, the George Elder, an old sailboat converted to steam power, to Tacoma.18

What with the stormy weather, we were 7 days getting to Tacoma. On arriving there, we stayed at the Villard House (where the Tacoma Hotel is now located) and next morning our family stood gazing at Mt. Rainier which in the clear air looked close enough to reach out and touch. My mother remarked that she was going to take us kids for a walk up to the mountain, when someone told her it was 40 miles to that Mountain she says [sic] "We won't go!"19

Based on the Claude Barker quote, the family arrived in Tacoma on January 14, 1883 or slightly later depending upon the time between the arrival by train in San Francisco and leaving by boat. Claude Barker's words would seem to imply a short time elapsed.

Claude Barker goes on to state that his "people" bought property in Tacoma at the corner of J and 12th. He states they built a home and lived there a short time (see below as to how this information might complicate knowing the date of when the Barker Cabin was built). Later they came by rowboat to what was then the community of Buenna [now part of Des Moines and Federal Way, and an area far beyond the boundaries of the Plat of Buenna] that he describes as "one great wilderness."20

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