By Muriel Bristol (Transcriber) | September 22, 2019
Here we encounter the story of Rev. Mrs. Elizabeth S. “Lizzie” (Morton) Barker, and her lifelong path to the Methodist Church pulpit of Peterborough, NH.
One of the stations through which she passed was superintendent of the stitching room of a Milton shoe factory (in the late 1880s and much of the 1890s). She said that it was in Milton that “the Lord called her a second time.”
Elizabeth Storer “Lizzie” Morton was born in New Vineyard, ME, April 4, 1842, daughter of George W. and Catherine (Storer) Morton.
George W. Morton, a farmer, aged thirty-seven years (b. ME), headed a New Vineyard, ME, household at the time of the Seventh (1850) Federal Census. Hs household included Catherine Morton, aged thirty-six years (b. ME), Betsy S. Morton, aged eight years (b. ME), Norris Morton, aged six years (b. ME), and Mary Norton, aged four years (b. ME). George W. Morton had real estate valued at $600.
Woman Struggles 80 Years from Shoe Factory to Pulpit. At 80 years of age, a New England woman has just become the proud possessor of a license to preach in the Methodist church.
For many years she longed for an opportunity to obey “the call” that insistently rang in her ears. But to do the work she longed to do meant great hardship and sacrifice – meant that she must first support and raise her family, for her husband had died and left her penniless.
She worked for years in a shoe factory, and when her children were grown, she gave them both to the Lord, and now at last she is free to occupy a pulpit and live in a parsonage.
Like a mother hen among her chicks the white-spired Methodist Church of Peterboro broods over the little white houses nestling all around.
Close beside it is the parsonage, old as the church itself – a century old; the two of them a refuge for the heavy laden of four generations and a shelter for many a minister till the missionary urge sent him on to conquer other souls in this world or the next.
They are part of the history of Peterboro’s earliest days; summer visitors and winter sport lovers, year after year, pause on Concord street to admire their simplicity of line and their fresh defiance, equally picturesque, peering through the green or wrapped in snow as white as the hair of the aged.
Yet church and parsonage were very young when Mrs. Elizabeth Barker, their present incumbent, was born.
Perhaps that is why she fits so well there. Hardy and straight as a New England pine, ruddy with an unquenchable youth, fearless of being called “radical,” Mrs. Barker sends forth from her pulpit the clarion call of the gospel in all its pristine simplicity.
It was not in her pulpit that I found her, however. When I knocked for admittance in the latticed porch of the parsonage, a faithful follower with snowy hair led me at once into the study.
There was nothing of the modern “den” about this study. “Waste not. want not,” spoke sternly from plain furniture. The two small lamps stared with unshaded eyes into the naughty world.
There was a sort of unfettered power in the unbending back of the woman who sat writing at an old-fashioned desk, and in the deliberate manner in which she turned to face a stranger. The sum total of long and hard life experience tempered with an unshaken faith and love had put an almost martial strength in every feature up to the soft gray hair. She was like a female George Washington.
She wore – what you would have expected her to wear – a plain black dress with a bit of old lace at the neck fastened with a cameo brooch.
“I’m sure I don’t know why a newspaper should want to tell about me.” You might have guessed she would say that.
“Because New England people would like very much to hear about you,” I came back. She chuckled. Her voice was as vigorous. clear, and deep-toned as a mountain brook’s song. “I have never done anything sensational. The Lord called me, and I obeyed – that’s all.”
Wanted to Be Missionary. That’s all – and that is why in Peterboro they all call her “Mother Barker,” known her helping hand and unselfish devotion.
George W. Morton, a farmer, aged forty-seven years (b. ME), headed a New Vineyard, ME, household at the time of the Eighth (1860) Federal Census. His household included Catherine Morton, aged forty-six years (b. ME), Elizabeth Morton, aged eighteen years (b. ME), Norris Morton, aged seventeen years (b. ME), Edith E. [Mary C.] Morton, aged fifteen years (b. ME), and Mary C. [Edith E.] Morton, aged seven years (b. ME). George W. Morton had real estate valued at $600 and personal estate valued at $500.
“The call came twice.” she told me. “The first time when I was converted at 17 years of age. I wanted to obey it then and be a foreign missionary; but I was only a country girl down in Maine, and apart from the unusualness of a woman of those days going off alone to a foreign land, I felt I did not have sufficient education for the work.” Her thoughts were far from the geraniums on the stand in the window upon which her eyes rested. “I am not today what you would call a well educated woman. I have never been to college. My religious training was received at Northfield and by taking Dr. Scofield’s Comprehensive Bible Course, but I found,” her voice rang with conviction, “you don’t have to be educated up to God, for ‘out of the mouths of babes and sucklings he has ordained praise.’”
Elizabeth S. Morton married in Boston, MA, July 7, 1870, Timothy B. Barker, she of Wilton, ME, and he of Boston. He was a painter, aged twenty-five years (b. Boston, son of Rensselaer and Harriet S. Barker); she was aged twenty-eight years (b. New Vineyard, ME, daughter of George W. and Catherine Morton). Rev. D.B. Cheney of Boston, MA, performed the ceremony.
Timothy B. Barker died in Stoneham, MA, March 25, 1876, aged thirty years, two months, and twenty-two days. He was a married man and a painter. Middlesex County Probate Judge George M. Brooks appointed Mrs. Lizzie S. Barker of Stoneham as administratrix of his estate, April 4, 1876.
Apart from what she then considered her lack of education, there were other much greater difficulties in the way to her coveted goal. She married a veteran of the Civil war, and shortly before her second child was born her husband died, leaving her to support herself and little family. There was nothing to do, of course, but set to work to make an immediate living. She could not wait then to study for the ministry – there were two little hungry mouths to feed, two small bodies to clothe, two infant intellects to educate, to say nothing of her own needs, but she never thinks of those.
Elizabeth S. Barker, working in shoe factory, aged thirty-eight years (b. ME), headed a Stoneham, MA, household at the time of the Tenth (1880) Federal Census. Her household included her children, Robert S. Barker, aged six years (b. MA), and Mabel E. Barker, aged three years (b. MA), her mother-in-law, Harriet S. Barker, keeping house, aged sixty-one years (b. MA), and her brother-in-law, Benjamin G. Barker, a commercial traveler, aged thirty-seven years (b. MA).
And so she spent the day working and half the night baking bread and beans for her hungry family, and washing and mending their clothes, and many a time as the bread sang in the oven Mrs. Barker would be sitting at her table studying the Sunday school lesson or reading the Bible.
Worked in Shoe Factory. It was when she was working as superintendent of the stitch room of a shoe factory in Milton, N.H., that the Lord called her a second time, as she expresses it.
Elizabeth S. Barker, widow of Timothy B. Barker, applied for a Civil War widow’s pension in New Hampshire, July 14, 1890. (She does not appear in Milton in the Veterans Schedule of 1890). Her mother, Catherine Morton, died in Milton, January 5, 1894, aged seventy-eight years, one month, and fourteen days. M.A.H. Hart, M.D., Milton, N.H., reported the death.
Her son, Robert S. Barker, married in Rochester, NH, November 29, 1897, Alice B. Thompson, both of Milton, NH. He was a shoe cutter, aged twenty-four years; she was a shoe stitcher, aged twenty-one years. His mother, Elizabeth S. Barker, an evangelist, aged fifty-five years, resided in Milton. Her parents, Frank H. Thompson, a laborer, aged forty-five years, and Kate [(Simpson)] Thompson, a housekeeper, aged forty-four years, resided in Milton.
“My children were grown up then and could take care of themselves. It was a source of rejoicing to me that both of them chose to serve the Lord. My boy became a minister and now holds the pulpit at West Rindge and my girl doing Institutional work in Boston. Would you like to see them?”
There was pride In her eye as she reached for two of the long row of photographs of young folk and grown folk hat adorned the back of her desk. To her this man and woman of mature years would always be her “boy” and “girl,” even though her grandchildren were also fully grown. It is an interesting fact that when Mrs. Barker began her church work in earnest she became the assistant to her own son in church at Haverhill and elsewhere. Her first preaching experience, began at Twin Mountain, New Hampshire.
But she still dreamed dreams of the foreign mission field. Having made such a good start as a preacher, she felt the Lord must open the way for her to obey his call to the fullest.
Worked Among Mountaineers. When an opportunity came to serve in the wilderness districts of South Carolina her heart responded readily. This was surely equivalent to “foreign” experience.
Ask some of the lowly mountain people in the wilds of South Carolina today what it was that endeared Mrs. Barker to their hearts and they will tell you her unfailing sympathy with them; ability to meet them on their own ground – to journey cheerfully through dangerous places to reach their cabins, and then to eat their hoe-cake with them and sleep in their plank and straw beds in one-roomed huts where whole families slept.
Robert S. Barker, a shoe factory cutter, aged thirty-six years (b. MA), headed a Stoneham, MA, household at the time of the Thirteenth (1910) Federal Census. His household included his wife (of twelve years), Alice B. Barker, a shoe factory vamper, aged thirty-four years (b. MA); his children, Robert T. Barker, aged eleven years (b. NH), Ruth M. Barker, aged nine years (b. NH), Catherine E. Barker, aged seven years (b. MA), and Franklin I. Barker, aged three years (b. MA); his mother, Lizzie S. Barker, a traveling evangelist, aged sixty-eight years (b. ME); his father-in-law, Frank H. Thompson, a laboratory caretaker, aged fifty-eight years (b. NH), and his mother-in-law, Catherine E. Thompson, aged fifty-seven years (b. MA). They resided in a rented house at 12 Pine Street.
At this time she was a licensed preacher in the Free Baptist Church to which her husband had belonged. But she had been raised a Methodist and the old call came back to her once more. So she went to work for the Methodists. But here again she came up against an obstacle hat looked insurmountable.
“There was no provision in the Methodist Church for granting a license to a woman to preach,” she explained to me. But that didn’t daunt her spirit at all. “So I went to the authorities and said, ‘Look here, I can get a license any time in the Free Baptist Church. If I can’t get a license in the Methodist Church I may have to go back to the Baptists; I’ve got to preach.’”
She got the license, due to a special ruling of the Methodist conference which lately convened at Des Moines, la., which provided for the licensing of women preachers. About a week ago Mrs. Barker received her license. So eager, however, were the people of Peterboro to have her occupy their pulpit that they called her to preach to them over a year ago (Boston Globe, February 27, 1921).
Elizabeth S. Barker, Methodist Church clergy, aged seventy-seven years (b. ME), headed a Peterborough, NH, household at the time of the Fourteenth (1920) Federal Census. Her household included her lodger, Dorothy Putnam, aged fourteen years (b. NH). Elizabeth S. Barker rented her house at 43 Concord Street.
METHODISTS ADMIT WOMAN TO SESSION. N.H. Conference Is in Session at Nashua. NASHUA, N.H., April 7 – The New Hampshire Methodist Episcopal conference today admitted as the second woman member, Rev. Mrs. Elizabeth S. Barker, who, when she was licensed to preach last Summer, was the first in the State to obtain the authority. Mrs. Baker [Barker], who is 79 years of age, was applauded as she took her seat at the conference session. A proposal that the laymen be given equal representation in the conference sessions was defeated today, and a suggestion was made that it be amended and brought up again next year. The laymen’s organization voted 38 to 24 for a redistricting of the State into halves, instead of the three-district arrangement now existing. The conference yesterday voted against such a change. C.C. Smith of Lebanon was elected president of the laymen (Boston Globe, April 8, 1921).
Mrs. Elizabeth S. Barker appeared in the Exeter, NH, directory of 1927, as boarding in the Dearborn avenue house of R.S. Barker. Robert S. Barker appeared as pastor of the Methodist Church, with a house on Dearborn avenue. His wife, Alice B. Barker, and Miss Ruth M. Barker, a NJ teacher, resided there too.
Rev. Mrs. Elizabeth S. (Morton) Barker died in Bristol, NH, February 23, 1929, aged eighty-six years, ten months, and eight days.
And did the Countenance Divine, Shine forth upon our clouded hills? And was Jerusalem builded here, Among these dark Satanic Mills? – Blake.
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