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Historical stories in Harmar; Barber family history in city’s oldest cemetery

December 7, 2012
By Sam Shawver - The Marietta Times ( , The Marietta Times

Among the 1,000 or so graves in historic Harmar Cemetery-Marietta's oldest graveyard-are the final resting places of three men bearing the name of Levi Barber who lived in the Harmar district from 1799 to 1899.

Levi Barber Sr. was born in 1777 in Simsbury, Conn. By 1799 he arrived in Ohio as a surveyor and spent some time in the Monroe and Washington counties areas surveying for Gen. Rufus Putnam, according to the website

In 1803 he married Elisabeth Rouse and the couple set up house in the Fort Street area of the Harmar district.

Article Photos

SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Fort Street resident Ed Engle is shown amid the graves of his Barber family ancestors Thursday in the historic Harmar Cemetery in Marietta

"Levi was only 26 when he moved into this area. He must have been a pretty gutsy guy to have come here at that time," said Ed Engle, a direct descendant who lives in the 407 Fort St. home originally built by Levi Barber Sr. in 1829.

Levi Sr. served in the rank of colonel during the War of 1812 and later became Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas and Supreme Court of Washington County. He was also elected to the U.S. Congress in 1817 and 1821 as a member of the Whig Party.

Engle said during Levi's time as a congressman he remained concerned for his family's affairs.

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That's apparent in a letter from Levi Sr. to wife Elisabeth from Washington, D.C., dated Jan. 7, 1818:

"I am still enjoying very good health, and the weather very fine and moderate. We have had no snow here yet. By yesterday's mail I did not receive a letter from Marietta. I have generally had some anxiety for mail. I hope you will keep the children to school. It will be as much as you can do to keep them clothed. I wish you to see that they have shoes worn and removed in season....

"I have nothing new. Give my love to all the children. I hope you and them will write often. Affectionately, Adieu, L. Barber."

Fact Box

About Harmar Cemetery

- Located at the end of Wood Street in Marietta, off Gilman Avenue.

- The oldest cemetery in the Northwest Territory, opened in 1796.

- Approximately five acres.

- Known burials at Harmar Cemetery total more than 1,000.

- Final resting place of early pioneers, including many Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans.

- The cemetery is owned and maintained by the City of Marietta.

After his two terms in Congress, Levi Sr. returned to the original family home that was also located on Fort Street, next door to the new home he eventually built in 1829. The couple had five children.

"Many people don't know he and Elisabeth only lived in the new house for a few years before they both died," Engle noted.

Elizabeth died in 1831, and Levi Sr. in 1833.

Their son, Levi Barber Jr., was born in 1814 and named for his father as well as for an older brother, Levi Barber II who died in infancy.

Levi Jr. was a local real estate merchant who served in the rank of captain in the Union Army with the 36th Ohio Regiment during the Civil War. He was later promoted to Provost Marshal, headquartered in the Harmar district.

He married Abigail Kelly of Marietta. The couple also lived in the home at 407 Fort St. where they raised six children, including the last member of the family to bear the name Levi.

Born in 1839, Levi III had disabilities from birth. His legs were useless, and by age 32 use of his arms was also limited, according to the genealogy website.

Engle said he lived in the Fort Street home until he died in 1899. His death was listed as a suicide.

"My great-grandmother, Lucy Mayberry Barber, was his sister," Engle noted. "She married my great-grandfather, Capt. James Franklin Cole, who was a river engineer."

He said Cole reportedly died of meningitis in St. Louis, Mo., in 1881, leaving his wife with little to live on and two children to raise.

"She also took care of Levi III until he died," Engle said.

Engle's parents moved into the Barber house in 1946.

"I was raised in this house, but moved to Wheelersburg, Ohio, in 1965," he said.

After his mother passed away in 2001, Engle and his wife, Cathy, considered selling the Barber home for a time.

"When his mother died we weren't thinking at the time that we would be moving here," Cathy said.

But Ed said he couldn't bring himself to sell the place, and in 2006 he and Cathy moved in.

"I'm really glad we did," he said.

Since then the Engles have been working to restore the home.

"The fact that my family's ancestors lived here played a large part in our decision to move here," Ed said. "It's been a job to restore the place, but I don't complain because it's something I've really enjoyed doing."

In addition to the Barbers, there is plenty of other history in the Harmar district, according to Marietta Councilman Tom Vukovic in whose ward the historic Harmar Cemetery is located.

"It's one of Marietta's most historically significant cemeteries, and one of the jewels located in the Harmar district," he said.



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