Stephen Van Rensellar Barber

Stephen Van Rensellar Barber is my paternal greatx2 grandfather. He was born about  in New York

There is so much confusing and contradictory information about him and greatx2 grandmother Mary Jane Mead Barber Davis that I am desperate for help. For the record, I think his middle name is in honor of Revolutionary War General Robert Van Rensselaer. Perhaps he was born in Rensselaer County, NY. Perhaps he’s not English or Welsh but Dutch. Anything is possible.


This is a timeline I’ve pieced together from censuses and family Bibles and recollections.

  • December 1816 – Stephen Van Rensellar BARBER is born in NY.  According to the 1900 census, his parents were both born in NY.
  • October 10, 1852 – married Mary Jane MEAD in Michigan
  • 1853 – son Andrew is born in St. Clair, MI.
  • 1855 – son Mortimer Leslie is born in St. Clair, MI
  • 1858 – son William is born in Muskegon, Muskegon Co., MI
  • 1860 – According to the US Census, the family is living in Round Grove, Livingston, Illinois
  • 1861 – son Chauncy Wallace “Chant” is born in DeKalb, DeKalb Co., IL
  • 1870 – According to the US census, the family is living in Township 108 Range 33 W, Brown, Minnesota
  • 1872 – son Andrew dies in Brown, Stark County, MN
  • 1880 – According to US census, the family is living in Clear Lake, Polk County, Wisconsin
  • Bef 1882 – Splits up with Mary Jane
  • 1896 – takes up a homestead at Big Casey Lake near Spooner, WI, with son Mortimer.
  • 1900 – According to US census, the family (including Stephen, Mary Jane, and Eri B. Davis) is living in Bashaw, Washburn County, WI
  • 1903 – Mortimer and his family move to Oregon, so Stephen moves to Ashland, WI, to live with son Chauncy.
  • ~1916? – Stephen dies in Ashland, WI.  He is rumored to have lived to be nearly 100 years old. 

Marriage to Mary Jane “Jenny” Mead

Minnesota, Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905

Name Van Rensalaer. Barker
Gender Male
Age 23
Birth Date abt 1829
Marriage Date 10 Oct 1852
Marriage Place Muskegon, Ottawa, Michigan, USA
Spouse Jane Mead
Film Number 000984230
Household Members
Name Age
Van Rensalaer. Barker
Jane Mead

U.S. and International Marriage Records, 1560-1900

Name Stephen V Barber
Gender Male
Birth Place NY
Birth Year 1816
Spouse Name Mary Jane Hopkins
Spouse Birth Place NY
Spouse Birth Year 1834
Marriage State of MI
Number Pages 1
Household Members
Name Age
Mary Jane Hopkins
Stephen V Barber

Censuses 1870 – 1910


1870 United States Federal Census
Name S V Barber
Age in 1870 45
Birth Year abt 1825
Birthplace New York
Dwelling Number 5
Home in 1870 Township 108 Range 33 W, Brown, Minnesota
Race White
Gender Male
Occupation Farmer
Male Citizen Over 21 Y
Personal Estate Value 295
Real Estate Value 700
Inferred Spouse Jane Barber
Inferred Children Andrew Barber
Household Members
Name Age
S V Barber
Jane Barber
Andrew Barber
Mortimer Barber
William Barber
Channeg Barber


Minnesota, Territorial and State Censuses, 1849-1905
Name S V Barber
Age 55
Census Date 1 May 1875
County Dodge
Locality Milton
Birth Location New York
Gender Male
Estimated Birth Year abt 1820
Race White
Father’s Birth Location New York
Mother’s Birth Location New York
Line 5
Roll MNSC_5


1880 United States Federal Census
Name Stephen Barbour
Age 60
Birth Date Abt 1820
Birthplace New York
Home in 1880 Clear Lake, Polk, Wisconsin, USA
Dwelling Number 240
Race White
Gender Male
Relation to Head of House Self
Marital Status Married
Spouse’s Name Mary J. Barbour
Father’s Birthplace New York
Mother’s Birthplace New York
Occupation Day Laborer
Months Not Employed 6
Household Members
Name Age
Stephen Barbour
Mary J. Barbour
Mortimore Barbour
William Barbour
Chancey Barbour


1900 United States Federal Census
Name Stephen Barber
Age 83
Birth Date Dec 1816
Birthplace New York
Home in 1900 Bashaw, Washburn, Wisconsin
Sheet Number 8
Number of Dwelling in Order of Visitation 154
Family Number 154
Race White
Gender Male
Relation to Head of House Head
Marital Status Married
Spouse’s Name Mary Barber
Marriage Year 1854
Years Married 46
Father’s Birthplace New York
Mother’s Birthplace New York
Occupation Farmer
Months Not Employed 0
Can Read No
Can Write No
Can Speak English Yes
House Owned or Rented O
Home Free or Mortgaged F
Farm or House F
Household Members
Name Age
Stephen Barber
Mary Barber
Eril Davis


1910 United States Federal Census
Name S V Barber
Age in 1910 88
Birth Year abt 1822
Birthplace New York
Home in 1910 Ashland Ward 8, Ashland, Wisconsin
Street S Twenty Avenue
Race White
Gender Male
Relation to Head of House Father
Marital Status Widowed
Father’s Birthplace New York
Mother’s Birthplace New York
Native Tongue English
Able to read Yes
Able to Write No
Household Members
Name Age
Chan W Barber 49
S V Barber 88
Nora Barber 18
Lyle Barber 13
Myrtle Barber 11
Edna Barber 9


  • Andrew, b. 1853 St. Clair, MI, d. 1872 Brown, Stark County, MN 
  • Mortimer Leslie, b. 1855 St. Clair, MI; d. 22 October 1920, Portland, OR; buried Nehalem, OR; m. Hannah Priscilla Zenobia DURRIN on  in Clear Lake, Polk Co., WI
  • William, b. 1858 Muskegon, Muskegon County, MI; buried in Minong, WI; m. Ida  
  • Chauncy “Chant” Wallace, b. 1861 DeKalb, DeKalb County, MI; d. 20/Feb/1938, Minneapolis, Hennepin Co., MN; m. Emma Amelia BROWN, on 28/Aug/1887, in Star Prairie, St. Croix Co., Wisconsim
William Barber

Death Certificate for Mortimer Leslie Barber as transcribed by Roberta Chesley

Death occurred in Multnomah County.
State: Oregon City: Portland
Full name: M. L. Barber.
Death occurred at St. Vincent Hospital.
Residence: Nehalem OR.
Personal: White Male, married to Hanna Barber.
Date of birth: Oct 17.
Age 63 years 5 days.
Occupation: Farmer.
Birthplace: Springfield Illinois.
Name of Father: Stephen V. Barber from Michigan.
Mother: Jane Mead from Pennsylvania.
Died October 22, 1920.
Autopsy was held and the findings were double labor pneumonia.
Duration: Not known.
Informant: Hugh Barber, Tillamook Oregon.

Reminiscences of Hugh Barber’s family

Mary Jane Hopkins and Steven Van Rensellar had four sons.  The oldest is buried in Minn.  Mortimer Barber is buried in the Nehalem cemetery.  Chauncy (Uncle Chant) of Ashland, Wis. and Will of Spooner, Wis. is buried at Minong, Wis.

The earliest Barbers Hugh heard of was that three brothers came to the U.S. from Canada either to Michigan or NY from Ontario.  He believed it to be Michigan.  He said Mortimer’s some historical name.  Steven Van Rensellar Barber was always called Van.

Grandfather Van Barber lived in St. Clair, Michigan, where the Diamond Salt Mines are.  (Carl Haberlach, head of the Tillamook County Creamery Ass’n. always insisted on using this salt in cheese making.  As late at 1957 it was still the purest salt.)  He went to Pine Island, Minn. to take up a homestead–probably near Rochester–when about 40 years old.

He married Mary Jane Hopkins, nicknamed Jenny.  During the Civil War, she was so frightened by the Indians of the Sioux uprising that they moved to Sycamore, Ill.  (the oldest of the four sons is buried in Minn.)  Here they separated.  She married Grandpa Davis from Mass, and a spiritualist.  The old pine chest belonged to him.  He brought it to Wisconsin.  They had a cherry wood drop-leaf table and mahogany chest of drawers.  Hugh remembers also a box-like checkerboard that folded up.  On one side was a game which the throw of dice determined the plays.  Eri B. Davis was a meat cutter.  Both were past middle age when married either in Illinois or Wisconsin.

He was aging so he became a caretaker at a lodge near Clear Lake.  He lived with Hugh’s folks.  He took a homestead near Spooner, Wis. when Hugh’s folks did in 1896.  This was at Big Casey Lake.  They sold both homesteads in 1903.  Hugh’s folks came to Tillamook, Oregon and Grandfather Barber went to Ashland, Wis. on Lake Superior to live with Uncle Chauncey (nicknamed Chant).  Another brother was Uncle Will.  He lived at Spooner, died at Minong, just north of Spooner.  One son is still in that area.  Hugh’s father, Mortimer Leslie Barber died in Portland, Oregon in 1920.  He had gone from their Nehalem home more or less on a prospecting trip.  (Hugh and brother Leslie went to Portland to make arrangements as their father died on the street.  The money he had with him was given to the boys by the undertaker there.)

Hugh remembers hearing his Mother’s father had a newspaper possibly at St. Paul which federal sympathizers demolished in the Civil War because of his belief of the South.  He was elderly then.  He had married Caroline M. Johnson in St. Paul Territory of Minn.  Ava Durrin was in the Civil War on the southern side.  (Hugh’s cousin Carrie West, a namesake of Caroline, told me that the children tormented her mother and her family by calling them “Copperheads.)

Grandmother Caroline Johnson was born Aug. 17, 1835 in Hella, Norway.  The earliest Barbers probably came directly to Canada if not from the states to canada, following the Civil War.  At least he was strongly pro-British.  Hugh thinks they were Welsh.  If not, they were English.

Hugh’s mother was Hannah.  Her sister was Mary born 1858 and her brother Ava born 1860.  Born 1863 in Minnesota Hannah was very erect, had a good figure, Norwegian type.  She looked very much like Caroline in the picture belonging to Hugh which Carrie West has.  When we moved to Enterprise, Hugh left the picture with Carrie West.

The Johnson family came to Virginia from Norway.  Caroline married Grandpa Fox after Grandpa Durrin died.  She died before he did.  They lived on the Trask River Acreage, later building the Fox house on Nestucca Ave., which is the second house south of Carrie West’s.  Aunt Mary Kinney took care of him about a year and got all his property.  Both died at __.  He was a year younger than she.  She reared Carrie Salton Scharf whose mother died in childbirth at Ellsworth, Wis.  The Scharffe family lived in Mountain Vie, Calif.  Stanley Fox was adopted and electrocuted on an electric line in Tillamook.

Hugh’s grandfather Steven Van Rensselaer Barber had hard eyes.  If you looked in them they never blinked.  They were gray or brownish.  He played cards but did not drink.   His wife left him.  She said he played cards too much.  He learned to read newspapers after he was grown.  He lived in Ontario Province, Canada and married in New York State.

His grandmother had black hair and blue eyes.  She was supposed to be Pennsylvania Dutch.  She was small, lean, about one hundred pounds.

Grandfather was of heavy build, never fat.  He was like Hugh’s brother Leslie.

Hugh’s father, Mortimer Leslie Barber, was born in Michigan, lived in Minnesota, Illinois, then in Wisconsin.  His grandmother was afraid of Indians during the Sioux uprising so they moved to Illinois.  Hugh thought his grandfather could not stand civilization so they moved to Wisconsin for frontier life.

Grandmother met step-grandad in Illinois.  He converted her to Spiritualism.  She thought Hugh would make a wonderful medium.  She married this man before Hugh was born or shortly after. (1883)  He was a big tall man with a hooked nose.  They moved in with Hugh’s folks.  He got sick at Turtle Lake.  Grandma cooked for a man at Turtle Lake.  Step granddad died so then she lived with Hugh’s folks until she died.  She is buried at Rocky Ridge, Wisconsin.

Grandfather Barber lived on a homestead adjoining Hugh’s folks.  He got too old so he moved in with Hugh’s folks.  He’d cut wood for Hugh’s mother, carried it in etc.  He walked ten and a half miles to visit Uncle Chant, his brother, when he was eighty years old.  He did not come West but went to Ashland to Uncle Chant’s, where he died.

Hugh’s Grandfather, Steven Van Rensselaer Barber, married Mary Jane Hopkins, who later married Eri B. Davis.

Their son, Mortimer Leslie Barber married on Aug. 13, 1881 Hanna Priscilla Zenobia Durrin who was born Dec. 18, 1863.  Her parents were Ava Durrin of Hartford, Conn., and Caroline Johnson of Norway.  Her second husband was Asa Fox who is buried in the IOOF cemetery in Tillamook, Oregon.

Mortimer Leslie Barber and Hanna Priscilla Barber oldest child was Hugh J. Barber born Mar. 31, 1883 at Ellsworth, Wis.  In Tillamook he married Anna Ripley on Oct. 21, 1908.  She was born July 3, 1884 and died Aug. 1931.  His second wife was Dorothy Marquam Bentley.  She was born March 27, 1893 and they were married July 6, 1934.  Dorothy died at Portland, Sept. 13, 1975.

Hugh Aunt, Marry A. Durrin, sister of his mother Hannah Barber, married William Kinney who was committed to a State Hospital where he died.  These were Carrie West’s parents.  Hugh barely remembers him.  Next Marry Kinney married Robert Eichinger (pronounced Iin ger).  This was about thirty years later.  He is buried in the Tillamook IOOF cemetery.  Later she married her third husband, Jacob Pesterfield, a fine gentleman.

Hugh’s Great Grandfather came to Michigan from Ontario.  He may be one of three Barbers who came to Canada from England or is at least a descendant.  His father lived in Michigan.  He had little education.  He became an alcoholic and would trade horses from someone’s old team etc., thereby keeping the family in want.

Grandmother Barber read continually–especially novels.  Grandfather Barber became a caretaker after he and wife separated.  The lodge was for vacation fishing or hunting located at Balsam Lake near Clear Lake, Wis.

After 80 years of age he was on a farm next to Hugh’s folks at Spooner, Wis.  He chewed tobacco, played cards, but did not drink.  He was stubborn, hot-headed, weighed 160 lb.. all the time, was muscular and strong for his age.  He did not want to give up their homestead in Pine Island, Minn., during the Sioux Uprising.  His wife did so she and maybe Grandpa Barber went to Illinois.  Later she married Grandpa Eri B. Davis, from Mass., either in Ill. or Wis.  He was a butcher.  His wife was dead 1876 but he had a son.

Grandmother Johnson had six brothers in the Civil War.  Five never came back.  She, Jennie, and husband lived by the Erie Canal when married.  They always talked of Towe paths and canals so when Hugh, while coming west, saw irrigation ditches in the Yakima Valley he thought they were canals.  She told about mules pulling boats along tow paths so Hugh was surprised that people called paths trails in Oregon.  Also what we call a creek was a brook in Wisconsin.

Grandfather Barber always brought presents when he came to visit–some trinkets, toys or candy.  He often brought cloth for Hugh’s mother to make clothes from.  He brought Hugh a Lincoln Cabin bank with two Canadian pennies in it.  When he was a caretaker he took care of the driving horses and milked the cow.  Also met the train with the horses when guests arrived.  He was good at figures.

Grandmother Barber lived with Hugh’s folks after her husband died.  This was at Spooner, Wis.  Before that she was a housekeeper on a homestead at Dunn Lake.  A Doctor owned it but his wife would not come there to the summer cabin.  Hugh was Grandpa Davis’ favorite.  When Hugh would stay over night with them Grandpa would heat a board for Hugh to stand on while dressing by the stove.  He’d hang the board on the wall much as we hang up a bread board.  Both grandparents are buried near Spooner, near Three corners on the Rocky Ridge Road, the one going to Shell Lake via Yellow River on the west side as you go north.

Dec. 1962:

Hugh thinks Grandpa and Grandma Barber were divorced in Illinois.  It was before he was 5 years old.  He thinks Grandma married Eri B. Davis at Clear Lake, Wis.  Uncle Will married Aunt Ida.

Uncle Chant married Aunt Emma.  Hugh’s brother Leslie went to school to Aunt Emma as did Hugh.  In school one day Leslie said that Uncle Chant had come.  This was the first time she had heard of her future husband.  This was at Joel, Wis.  She was still teaching when Hugh’s folk moved to Oregon in 1903.  She was the daughter of Dr. Brown of Turtle Lake, Wis.

Grandpa Durrin was born in 1811 in Hartford, Conn., so he thinks maybe his great grandfather or wife were there during the Revolution.  He is the man who had his newspaper destroyed during the Civil War, in Minnesota at Taylor’s Falls.  He was accused of sympathy for the South.  He died and Grandma married Asa Fox.  They are both buried in the IOOF cemetery at Tillamook, OR.  Both were 84.  She was a year older than he and she died a year earlier.

Hugh thinks Grandpa Barber was born in Michigan or Ontario, Canada.  His father lived in Michigan and Hugh remembers Grandpa went to Michigan to visit him–maybe at St. Clair as Hugh’s father was born there.  He was a small child near Rochester after the Civil War when the Indians rampaged.  They moved as his wife was afraid of Indians.  They lived in a village and each family had a cow and their kids herded them on the prairie in high grass.  Mortimer was small but he herded.  Grandma Mary Jane Hopkins Barber may have been born in Pennsylvania.  She often talked of York State where she once lived.  Her second husband always called her Jenny.  He was Eri B. Davis of Mass.

Grandfather Barber plowed prairie in Minnesota.  Some of the first wheat land.  At Turtle Lake he had oxen for farming and for work in the woods.  He did not put them on the road.  He made ox-yokes.  Oxen were cheap and did not have to by harnesses for them.

Hugh told of going when he was small with Mortimer to visit grandpa Van Barber.  They met an Indian Chief carrying a heavy wagon wheel on his back to get it fixed.  Mort turned around and took the chief back to the town and waited until it was repaired.  Then took chief and wheel several miles back to the Indian’s wagon.  The chief was on his way to the annual meeting of the tribes and out of gratitude for thier help, asked Mortimer and Hugh to attend in the long house.  After quite a while the chief came back out and said they could come in though no whites had ever been allowed.  The chiefs would talk and argue in their own language until they apparently came to an agreement, then would light the peace pipe and pass it from hand to hand around the circle.  Then repeat the process on what Hugh presumed to be the next business.  Hugh said the first time the pipe was passed, the Indian passed it to him.  He was so scared his father would not approve, but was more afraid of the Indians so he took a puff.

For more information, check out Stephen Van Rensellar Barber’s profiles:




To be continued…

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