Those who know me well are aware that I tend to be glued to my tv set in the middle of March, watching the World Figure Skating Championships. And with this being an Olympic year I have been glued to the tv more often than not. I’ve loved watching medal performances by Virtue and Moir, Rochette & Chan… and I still go through my old tapes to watch the heart-stopping jumps of Elvis Stojko.
What does this do with genealogy? Not much. Except it made me wonder if I had any athletes in my family background. Well, my research has come up with a victorious amount of nothing. As far as I can tell I get my lack of athleticism from pretty much everyone in my family tree.
So we weren’t formally athletic… but there certainly was strength in my family. Had there been an Olympic event for rock lifting, my great great great Grandfather, William Riley Barr, could’ve taken gold. But before we get to my award rock-lifting ancestor, we’ll take a look at his Loyalist roots through his maternal Grandfather.
Samuel Doty was a Loyalist. He joined the British forces as a volunteer in the 17th Dragoons and served as quartermaster. He was captured by the Rebels and became a prisoner of war, released, and then became injured in battle. At the end of the Revolution he left America as a Loyalist and settled in Nova Scotia.
The following is an account is taken from a biographical sketch of his life, with his personal input, and published, 1831, by the Society for the Propogation of the Gospel, at Weymouth, N. S.:
At three weeks of age, his mother being too weak to properly care for him [took him] to the residence of his grandparents, at Fresh Meadows, on Long Island, with whom he remained till their deaths. When of sufficient age he was sent to school and obtained a fair education. His grandfather was a Presbyterian, a man of integrity and piety; his grandmother was a Quaker. His grandfather died about 1770, at the age, it is said, of 107 years, and the grandmother in 1774, aged above 90. He then returned to his parents at Westchester.
The Revolutionary War now coming on, he espoused the cause of the king, and crossing to Long Island, avoided joining the American army. When the British landed on Long Island he joined them as a volunteer in the 17th Dragoons, in the capacity of Quartermaster, though never regularly enlisted in the army. During the war he was for a long time a prisoner to the Americans, and after his release returned to the army where he received a dangerous wound with the ball shattering the thigh bone and rendering him unfit for active service for three years. At the close of the war, 1783, with many of the royalists he removed to Nova Scotia, landing at Annapolis Royal and was soon allotted lands at Sissiboo, now Weymouth. Here he engaged in the blacksmithing business, and soon after removed to New Edinburgh, a settlement on the opposite side of the Sissiboo River, where he married. He lived here about ten years, then two years at Clare, and subsequently at Yarmouth, Weymouth and Digby. A portion of this time he led a dissipated life, but subsequently reformed and became an active Christian worker in the temperance cause.
In his biographical sketch, Samuel does not mention ever returning to the United States, but there is an indication in the Westchester NY archives that he returned once or twice to visit his parents.
Samuel married Hepzibeth Porter and in 1791 they had a daughter that they named Hepzibeth Doty. Her son was William Riley Barr… and he lifted rocks (among other things).
William R. Barr, also known as “Old Bill Barr” was noted for his strength. He used to carry 200 lb barrels of flour on his shoulders from Weymouth NS to his home in Weaver Settlement NS (over 2 kms). But there is a bigger, heavier legend about Old Bill Barr in his younger days. On an old stone fence, apparently still visible today, sits 2 massive stones. These stones were carried a good distance by Bill and his brother John. The largest of the two stones was 3 foot, 5 inches in length and 2 foot, 2 inches in diameter with maximum rock density. The weight would have been enormous!
There is a picture of this stone, and the stone carried by his brother, in the book, “Captain Henry Barr and his Descendants” by Annie (Barr) Dennison. There are more Old Bill Barr feats of strength and interesting anecdotes in this book including signing up for the Fenian Raids; the loss of sight in one eye from an occupational shipyard accident; working on the railroads and in the spring log river drives.
It is easy to see that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Bill, like his grandfather Samuel, was a man of strength, perseverance, hard work and determination. For many, it is the Loyalist legacy.