Barker's Mill

The Barker's Mill Community is located in the southeast corner of Christian County. It consists primarily of land owned by Chiles T. Barker (I 816-1898) and Josiah Cameal (1810-1896) in the mid-1800's. The hub of the community was a mill beside a bridge over West Fork Creek, bought by Chiles Barker from Peter Peacher in 1860 and afterwards known as Barker's Mill. From that time almost until World War II the people of the community could meet many of their daily needs here, for in addition to the mill there was a store, Post Office, blacksmith shop, cooperage, and, nearby, two schools (colored and white), a church, and a cemetery. Later a Community House was built by Chiles Barker's son, Peter M. Barker.

For at least twenty years before 1860 a mill had operated here. James Miller was one of the early millers, and for years the place was known as Miller's Mill and the road as Miller's Mill Road. Chiles Barker gave the mill to his son, John W. Barker, who moved into the house here about 1870 and was in charge of mill operations until his death in 1926.

As shown on the 1878 map of Christian County (D.C. Beers & Co.), the mill operated as Glenburnie Mill, and its products, flour and meal, carried this name. John Barker's oldest daughter, Mrs. Loulie Barker Hendrick (I 869-1952) remembered seeing, as a little girl in the 1870's, many wagonloads of grain drawn by teams of oxen, waiting their turn in the circular road in front i)f the mill. Ox-shoes, made in 2 pieces for split hooves, were found in the mill area several years ago.

After Mr. Barker's death the mill stood idle until it was torn down about 1940. The old road and mill foundations of hand-hewn rock and the dam abutments on both sides of the creek still stand, and in good condition.

The blacksmith shop and cooperage were also under the direction of John Barker. In addition to general blacksmith work, these shops made major repairs to buggies, wagons, plows, and other farm and mill equipment, and also made barrels for the flour.

John Barker's youngest daughter, Mrs. Marguerite Barker Pinson, (1887-1977) related that her father was accompanied through part of his four years' service in the Confederate Army by a servant. He was a black man, known fondly to her in the 1890's as "Uncle Wash" (probably Hopkins). On his return after the war, he became the blacksmith at Barker's Mill for an unknown length of time. Later, about the early 1920's, Mr. Joe Jones was blacksmith here. At least one of these shops was destroyed by fire.

The present store building was erected about 1906, after an earlier store burned, and it operated as a store until about 1950. Over the years the Barker's Mill Store served many people both black and white, including those who had no way to travel except to walk. Although the store's selection of merchandise was wide, some customers lacked money enough for necessities. C. Roy Barker, son of John Barker, was storekeeper during the depression years of the 1930's. His compassion and high principles earned the gratitude and respect of all. An earlier storekeeper was Mr. Bob Cooke of R.C. Cooke & Co., from 1911-1-914. He was one of the first country merchants to stock ready-baked bread. The Post Office of West Fork, Ky. was operated at the store with John Barker as Postmaster and storekeeper until 1926. It consisted solely of one large pigeon-hole desk.

The earliest school in the Barker's Mill Community was held in the original Chapel Hill Church building, a oneroom cabin with a huge open fireplace built by Josiah Cameal around 1856. (See Chapel Hill Ch.) It was a subscription was Miss Charlie Bonds of Trenton. Probably around 1880 the one-room Barker's Mill School House was constructed on Massie property in the woods across the creek from the mill and half-way up the hill toward the church. It still stands, though in very bad state of repair. Two teachers remembered from later years were Miss Elizabeth Cameal (Mrs. Eugene Watts), and Miss Kate Crenshaw (Mrs. Grady Haynes). In the 1930's a replacement school was constructed on Massie property at the cross-road at the top of the hill, but it was only in use for a few years. It no longer exists. Miss May Barker (Mrs. Earl Duncan) was a teacher there.

At the top of the other hill north from the mill another one-room school (colored) was constructed in the early 1900's; it was in use into the 1930's. One of the teachers remembered was Mr. Nat Trice. Mr. Edmund R. Perkins, a community leader, was influential in the establishment of this school.

The church and cemetery referred to above was Chapel Hill Methodist Church, known earlier as Carneal's Chapel. Josiah Carneal donated the land, built the church, and was its first preacher. (See Chapel Hill) One of his sons, longtime community resident Wesley Carneal (?), was a staunch supporter of Chapel Hill until his death. Chiles Barker's daughter Louisa Barker Cloud and her husband, William M. Cloud headed a family which has also provided leadership for Chapel Hill Church and this community, continuing into the present.

The Barker's Mill Community House was dedicated in 1929, and was in use through 1944. It was a large tile building donated by Peter M. Barker for the purpose of the holding of religious services by different denominations, and for other community meetings. It is best remembered for the annual Christmas parties where every child who came received a gift, plus fruit and candy. These events were funded by Mr. Barker with gift-buying done primarily by Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Marshall, (Louise Perkins) with other arrangements under the direction of Mr. Barker's daughter and her husband, Mr. and Mrs. Couts Askew. People from miles around brought their children for this exciting event which was the only "Christmas" many of them knew in the lean depression years. The last one took place in December, 1942, a few days after Mr. Barker's death.

Other well-remembered activities at the Community House were dances under the management of Mr. Couts Askew, with young people coming from as far as Hopkinsville, Elkton, and Clarksville, and all points in between. All were welcome, but neither inappropriate behavior nor drinking were tolerated. Like the Christmas parties, these events added greatly to the enjoyment of life for many, thanks to Mr. Barker's generosity. The Community House is now the home of Mr. Barker's grandson, W.L. (Tom) Askew and his family. Today, the place where Barker's Mill Road crosses West Fork Creek is scenic, peaceful, and quiet, giving no indication it has ever been a center of community life. But early settlers Josiah Carneal, Chiles Barker and others have indeed left a mark in this area, for many of their descendants still live on or own the land these men developed, which makes up the Barker's Mill Community.

*Source- Christian County History

Julie Gibbs and Betty Sellers
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