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Charles Barker

Early De Smet grocer. His store was just south of Royal Wilder’s building on Calumet.

Mr. Hinz recalls hauling for E.M. Harthorn, the first store keeper here, and for Charley Barker, another early merchant. – Kingsbury County Independent, June 15, 1890

Charles Barker was one of the first merchants in De Smet; his first building was a “knock-down” type that was replaced early on by the building circled in the photo at right. The building to the north of it (to its right in the photo) was not Royal Wilder’s feed store, which was next to Barker’s Grocery during the Little House years. The feed store was torn down by a later owner and replaced by the garage building shown on the lot in this photo.

Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions Mr. Barker (his first name is not given) and his grocery store in The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie. She also mentions a “Mr. Barclay” as one of the townsmen who participated in the spelling bee in Little Town on the Prairie, and she may have been referring to Mr. Barker.

Charles Philip Barker was born in Canada in 1844 and came to the United States in 1865. He married Elizabeth Dunnett around 1876, and they had two sons born in Minnesota: Fred (December 1877) and Earl (January 1880). The Barkers came to De Smet in 1880, Charles building on Lot 16, Block 1, and opening a grocery store there. The family lived in De Smet during the Hard Winter of 1880-1881, and Fred Barker was a student in the De Smet school beginning in 1885, a classmate of Grace Ingalls. The Barkers moved to Clark County in the early 1890s, and left Dakota for Missouri in 1894, settling instead on a farm in Lincoln, Nebraska. By then, the family consisted of Charles and Elizabeth and eight children.

In 1909, Charles and his son Fay preempted homestead claims in the Black Hills, but Charles died the following year in August, with his widow receiving the patent on the South Dakota land. Charles was buried in Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln. Elizabeth was buried beside her husband after her death in November 1918.


Charles Barker (LTP 6)
     Barker’s grocery (TLW 9-10; LTP 6)
     Mr. Barclay (LTP 18)