William Barker

William Barker, a London merchant, acquired in 1772 a 20,000-acre tract that occupied much of today's Downtown Jacksonville that stretched from the farms established along the south shore of Trout River to Hogan Creek, and then ran inland for approximately eight miles. Land on the St. Johns River shoreline west of Hogan Creek was reserved for the Cowford ferry. Barker's tract encompassed Jacksonville 's shipyards, sports complex, Springfield, and Northside districts. It was a promising site for development but the land lay idle until the 1780s when Governor Tonyn parceled it into small tracts for refugees.

Barker, incidentally, was one of the London merchants involved in the Levant Company of Adventurers who established trading establishments in Italy, Greece, and Turkey. He and Dr. Andrew Turnbull were friends prior to Turnbull's establishment of his Smyrnea Settlement at New Smyrna and Edgewater, Florida. Barker's initial intentions may have been to duplicate Turnbull's plans to recruit Greek, Italian and Minorcan laborers for his East Florida properties.

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This photograph shows much of Barker's 20,000-acre tract. It extended along the west shore of the St. Johns River from Trout River to Hogan Creek, to the left of the western footing of the Mathews Bridge shown here.

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Another view of William Barker's land grant, taken from above its northern boundary, the Trout River, and looking toward the southern terminus at Hogan Creek. From the St. Johns River on the left, the tract extended eight miles to the west. .

A badly decomposed document in the National Archives, Kew, England, refers to a “custom house” somewhere on the Barker tract which functioned as a clearing point for ships bound for Jamaica, New Providence, and Charlestown. It may be that the “custom house” was situated beyond Barker's land on government property used as a landing place for the public ferry that crossed the St. Johns at this narrow spot on the river.

Gabriel Capers, a loyalist refugee, settled on 300 acres along the south shore of Trout River in 1783.

Bibliographic Information

A Note On Sources

T77/23/fragments; T77/24/fragments; T77/28/fragments.