Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.
Hezekiah Barker, a native of Rhode Island, settled within the limits of the present village of Fredonia in the fall of 1806. The village common, in the center of the village, was a donation from him to the corporate village and bears his name. He built a gristmill in partnership with Richard Williams and traveled 80 miles to Pennsylvania with an ox team to get the grist stones and then to Buffalo to get the mill irons, making the trip in 21 days. In the fall, as the mill neared completion, a freshet washed away the milldam. The closest mills were Black Rock (Buffalo) or Erie, Penn. Local settlers volunteered to help rebuild the dam, and the mill was soon in operation.
Barker came to the county at the age of 50. After building a cabin he brought his wife and 8 children. When he donated the land for the village common, it was full of tree stumps. The Justice of the Peace sentenced every man found “uproariously drunk in a public place” to dig a tree stump. With nine distilleries in town, and whiskey over the bar at three cents a drink, it didn’t take long to get the stumps removed.
– J. Sample