Samuel Barclay, Scotsman – Patriot – Colonial Philadelphian   4 comments


Samuel Barclay was born in Scotland, most likely on November 5, 1758.  It is reported that he was born in a town called Naillien, Scotland, as stated on a DAR paper. It is uncertain where this town might be.  It is uncertain when Samuel came to the colonies or to which port, though it is likely he came directly to Phildaelphia.  He clearly arrives prior to January 1776.  It is not likely that he came alone to the Pennsylvania, in that he would be younger than 18.

Samuel Barclay enlisted as an infantry man on January 30, 1776 at the age of 17.  I am thinking that he might be the son of George Barclay, a grocer who lives nearby him in Philadelphia.  He doesn’t name any children after George, though.   He was a private in the City Militia, Battalion B.  at Mt. Independence on November 26, 1776, in Company No. I  (Samuel Hay, Captain) of Col. William Irwin’s Pennsylvania Regiment. Mt. Independence was a battlefield in the Battle at Fort Ticonderoga.  He is excused on appeal from service after this, likely to get married.

At the age of 18, he marries Grace Knowles at the Old Swedes Church.  The marriage is recorded to have taken place on February 27, 1777.  He is a resident of the South Ward of Philadelphia in 1779.  Samuel does not appear on the 1790 Census.  He does appear on 1791 Directory. After 1798, Samuel lives at 323 South Second Street until he dies in 1823.  This house, like many other in the area, is gone.  This house and some buildings on Cox’s Alley are all gone.

Samuel and Grace have nine children.  Four of them die young.

Samuel Barclay, Jr., also known as Captain Samuel Barclay was a sea captain, busily sailing from Philadelphia to the Caribbean, Nova Scotia and to India.  Samuel was born in 1781 in Philadelphia.  This Samuel marries on May 16, 1801, Elizabeth Dyer in Boston, Massachusetts.  John Snelling Popkin, minister of the Long Lane Presbyterian Church, later Federal Street Church, and by then, a Congregationalist church.  Elizabeth is the daughter of John and Elizabeth Dyer of Boston.  Not certain how Samuel met Elizabeth, other than that he stayed there during one of his voyages.

John Barclay, second child of Samuel and Grace, was born in 1782 in Philadelphia.  Little is known about him other than that he was one of the victims of the recurrent Yellow Fever epidemics that befell the residents of Philadelphia in the 1790s.  He died in 1798.

Nancy (Ann) Barclay was born in Philadelphia in 1784.  She was baptized by the famous minister of the 3rd Presbyterian Church, George Duffield.  Duffield was the fiery and eloquent minister of this church from 1772 until his death in 1790.  He served as the third chaplain of the Continental Congress.  John Admas attended this church while in Philadelphia.  Duffield was a patriot and an “New Light” Presbyterian.  Ann was married at the Pine Street Presbyterian Church to Joseph Barker on May 29, 1802 by the famous New Light Presbyterian minister, Philip Milledoler.  She dies in Philadelphia in 1822.  It appears that Joseph pre-deceases her.

Rebecca Barclay was born February 23, 1787 in Philadelphia, also baptized at the 3rd Presbyterian Church by George Duffield.  She marries Robert Morris on December 15, 1803.  She is also married by Philip Milledoler.

Mary Barclay was born on February 3, 1789 in Philadelphia, also baptized at 3rd Presbyterian by George Duffield.  Mary married a man with the surname of Rolph.  Little is known about her.

Joseph Barclay was born in 1792 in Philadelphia.  He is a seaman.

Sarah Barclay is born in Philadelphia on July 7, 1796 in Philadelphia.  She married Gara J. Bishop, the famous minister and physician who moved from Philadelphia out west to Brookville, Pennsylvania where the couple lived and ministered to the citizens of Brookville until they both died, Sarah in 1852 and Gara in 1856.

Two of Samuel’s daughters were married at Old Pine Street Church by the famous minister, Phillip Milledoler.  During the time that Milledoler was the minister at the church, there was a continual state of revival.  Seems like Samuel and family were active in this church.  Need records of this church.

The last of Samuel and Grace’s children, John Ross Barclay was born in Philadelphia on October 18, 1798.  John lived in Philadelphia until moving to Trenton around the year 1841.  He lives in Trenton until he returns to Philadelphia in the 1870s, after several personal losses.  John married Jane Miles sometime before 1820.

Samuel is a Master Hatter, living in a fairly upscale business area of Philadelphia.  Southwark was an unincorporated part of Philadelphia and an area directly tied to light manufacturing, trades and business.  His sons, Samuel and Joseph are busy seafaring people reaching out to the world and bringing it to the citizens of Philadelphia.  It is likely that Samuel’s success might be tied to the travels of his sons.  It is important to remember that during the early 1800s, the fledgling United States of America was once again fighting to maintain its independence from Great Britain.  Ships leaving the USA were under constant attack from England.  Samuel and his sons are mentioned on Seaman’s Certificates, a way to protect the seamen from attacks by the British and Barbary pirates.

Samuel is well known and trusted in the community.  The are no fewer than 10 wills written in Philadelphia (Southwark) on which Samuel is the witness of the will.

Samuel’s wife, Grace, dies in Philadelphia on May 30, 1816, at the age of 58.  Her gravestone, located in the 3rd (Pine Street) Presbyterian churchyard, close to the church describes the love Samuel and his children had for Grace.  The inscription reads,

“A tender mother and a friend,

She did remain until her end.

She died and left the world in pain

And only died to live again.

My flesh shall slumber in the ground,

Till the trumpet’s joyfull sound

Then burst the chains with sweet surprise

And in my Savior’s image rise.”

As I have seen so many times in my walks through graveyards, inscriptions are more about the beliefs and feeling of the remaining than they are of the departed.  This inscription says that Samuel and Grace were close.  It says that the family was tightly connected.  It tells about the faith that the family had in the power of God in this life and in the next.

Also buried in this plot is the 17 year old son, John, who died of Yellow Fever in 1798.  So taken by the death of this dear child, Samuel and Grace named their next son, born in this same year, after him.  The little child, Grace, daughter of Samuel Jr. and his wife Elizabeth, and named after her grandmother, is also buried here.  She died at the age of 1 in 1807.  Samuel and Elizabeth’s son Daniel, aged 10, who died in 1802.

So then Samuel remains to take care of the family, likely assisted by his daughters.  He remains active in the community of Southwark, just north of Headhouse Square.  He is witness, as I mentioned earlier, to many wills written at this time.  His son, John Ross Barclay lives in several houses around him after marrying sometime before 1820.  Notably, he lived in the out buildings located behind his dwellings at 323 South Second Street, known then as Cox’s Alley, which ran from Second Street to Front, to the river.  His son was a shoemaker, a job he held all of his life, and from which he gave life and promise to my family there in Philadelphia and in Trenton.

His son and namesake, Samuel, known as Captain Samuel Barclay died of pneumonia in Philadelphia in 1821.  This must have been very difficult for this aging and sick man.  Seems like the once vibrant and busy household is slowing down.  Samuel is, at this time, sick himself.  He had written and rewritten his will a few times.  Oddly, in his will, he mentions that his wife is alive and is called Elizabeth.  I can only assume that he remarries after Grace dies in 1816.

An abstract of his will reads as follows:

“Samuel Barclay of Southwark, Co. of Philadelphia, Hatter –

To my wife, Elizabeth Barclay, my children Joseph Barclay, Sarah Bishop, Grace Jordan, and John Barclay, and to the children of my son Samuel, my deceased daughter, Nancy, and my daughter, Rebecca, to executors, in trust for daughter, Mary Rolph and her children.  Executors, son-in-law Garry Bishop and John Jordan, signed November 9, 1821 and proved September 21, 1823.  This is witnessed by Joseph Klapp, who is the doctor confirming the death of Samuel’s son in the same year.  It is also witnessed by Peter Williamson and James Thompson.  There is a codicil to this will, written on April 9, 1823 makes the changes: Appoints friend, Jesse Williamson, District of Southwark, as executor, in place of Garry Bishop.  Codicil witnessed by Richard Renshaw, Peter Williamson, and John Oakford.”

Samuel’s obituary, written in Poulson’s Advertiser, offers a glimpse into the type of man and the reputation he enjoyed.  Here is the text of the obituary, appearing in the newspaper on August 29, 1823:

“ DIED, on Wednesday evening, the 27th instant, of a long illness, SAMUEL BARCLAY, aged 64 years, 9 months, and 22 days.

His friends are respectfully invited to attend his funeral from his late dwelling, in Cox’s Alley, adjoining No. 323 South Second Street, this afternoon at 3 o’clock.

Master Hatters in general are invited.

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord”

Mr. Barclay’s long residence in the neighborhood where he terminated his mortality, gives full demonstration of an untarnished life, heightened with all the honours due to his years.  During his illness, which has been long and severe, his uniform submission and patience do credit to his Christian and manly fortitude, but his death adds lustre to the whole, leaving a manifest evidence of his perfect resignation to the will of his Father in Heaven.  Without a struggle or a groan, he has fallen asleep in Jesus, and we rejoice to believe that he is one of those blessed dead who die in the Lord.”

This obituary was written by the family who surrounded Samuel at his time of death. It says to me that there was a group of people in his home and that the people there witnessed the peaceful passing of their father, grandfather, father law and friend.  I would imagine that this obituary, written in such high style, was likely written by his son-in-law, likely Gara Bishop.

I would imagine many people showing up to his house off the square at Second Street.  I would imagine in excess of 25 Master Hatters, meeting at the house and standing outside talking about Samuel, remembering good and bad times.  I would imagine the friends coming and going, the children playing outside, still dressed in their funeral clothes.  After a quiet evening, following the funeral, Samuel’s body is taken from his long-time dwelling and carried down to Pine Street and over two blocks to Fourth Street.  He is laid to rest next to his wife, Grace, without remarks on the already full tombstone.  He is in plot 12-71.

Remaining behind are five of his children, Rebecca, Mary, Joseph, Sara, and John.

As to the parentage of Samuel Sr., I am proposing that George Barclay, listed as a grocer on the Philadelphia Directories.  George lived at 168 South Second Street from 1798 through to his death in 1819.  This address is adjacent to the City Tavern, the hub of colonial history at the time.  I do not believe that Samuel Sr. would have come from Scotland to Philadelphia at the age of 16, though it is a possibility.  Even if George is not his father, I would suppose that he could be his uncle.  There are other, few other, Barclays in Philadelphia at this time.  The businessman and banker, John Barclay lives just north of where Samuel lives.  He and his family are mentioned frequently in the newspapers.  Another Barclay living in the area of Southwark is Thomas Barclay.  This Thomas Barclay built and operated a brewery in this area.  He later became a Consul to the Barbaries, and, together with Robert Morris, became a part of the financial backing of the revolutionary movement.  This Thomas later buys Summerseat, located in Morrisville.  While a resident there, in 1776, Thomas hosted George Washington, who used the position on a high hill in Morrisville, across from Trenton, to make final plans for his invasion of Trenton not long after.  I have not been able to make specific connections to these Barclays, but image some interconnections.

I continue this story with my gg grandfather, John Ross Barclay, Samuel’s youngest son and child, born the very year their other son John died as a result of yellow fever.  By the time that John is born, Samuel is well-established in the community.  Life was likely busy and full in that area of Philadelphia.  John would have seen sailing ships coming and going from his house that had direct access to the Delaware River.  I imagine he was in and around the ships, going with his brother Samuel, 17 years older than him.  He would have attended school, but likely very early became an Apprentice Shoemaker.  By the time he is married, sometime before 1820, he was a practicing shoemaker.

John and his wife Jane move quite a bit during time that they are establishing a family.  This is a reflection of the likelihood that John had not established himself in his business.  He lives on such streets as Cox’ Alley, Little Water, Beck Court, Sutherland, and Federal.  He never leaves the area, but his movement to me indicates a struggling family who is renting houses and who is struggling financially.

4 responses to “Samuel Barclay, Scotsman – Patriot – Colonial Philadelphian

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  1. Are any readers of this biography of Samuel Barclay, Philadelphia hatter, living descendants of the man? I am a descendant of the Barclay family of southern Lancaster County, PA (William Barclay, Jr. d. 1757) buried at the Middle Octorara Presbyterian Church Cemetery near Quarryville. And a relative of an early Pittsburgh cabinet maker named Joseph Barclay – who seems to have the same address as another Joseph Barclay cabinet maker in Philadelphia – in shop behind Sam the hatter (early Philadelphia City Directories).

    I am very curious to know if any living descendant of Samuel has taken either the AncestryDNA or test, as I would like to compare notes with my Barclay family. I have a strong hunch there is some kind of family relationship. My Pittsburgh Joseph Barclay married a woman named Mary Pope – who I think was born in Philadelphia and a relative of a shipwright named Isaac Pope, who uses the same address as Samuel Barclay hatter and Joseph Barclay cabinetmaker.

    My Lancaster – Philadelphia – Bedford, PA – Greensburg, PA – Pittsburgh Barclay ancestors were the first converts to the Swedenborgian faith in America (Hester Barclay 1757-1796) – people who had a strong belief in the afterlife. In reading the inscription on Samuel Barclay’s tombstone I can only wonder if he was also a reader of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.

    Please contact me if you wish to discuss any of this.


    Arthur Humphrey
    Coral Gables, FL

    Arthur Humphrey
    • I am directly descended from Samuel. Samuel – John R. – John M. – Samuel – Carlton, Carl – Me. I have done both DNA tests and would like to compare.

  2. i am related to samuel Barclay via garry bishop and sarah barclay. i am finding this site invaluable to my research but i have one question. sam’s wife grace knowles. in my research i have her as grace George born in pennsylvania. when i look at grace george’s family she has a son with the middle name knowles. grace george has the same birth and death date as grace knowles. can someone please help me or give me some kind of clue as to what is going on here. have you run into this before? my email is jnoonan72@hotmailcom and my name is name noonan. my mother was a Bishop. thank you

    • Sorry for the delay, James. I have seen that one before. Let me look back into that. There are a few names crossing like that. My Family Tree Maker is public on Ancestry. Title is “Barclay – Matlack 6.2014” These come from the cemetery and from some papers available online. Feel free to email me at

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