Edited by Kristine Halls Smith
This story was compiled by Kristine Halls Smith in December 1998 from material printed in a booklet called History of Joseph Barker and His Family, published in 1954; from Miller, David E., Hole-in-the-Rock, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1966; and from Freeman, Ira S., A History of Montezuma County Colorado, Johnson Publishing Company, Pueblo, Colorado, 1958.
Joseph Barker was the oldest of five children born to Henry and Sarah Pickersgill Barker. He was born at Bramley, Yorkshire, England on September 29, 1835. He had one brother, John Barker, and three sisters, Mary, Amelia, and Sarah.
Joseph was trained in England for work as a tailor. Sometime during the late 1850’s, he met missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and became converted to the message they brought about the teachings of Joseph Smith who had established a new church in America. His contact with the church led him to meet another young convert, Mary Ann Doidge.
Mary had been born on April 11, 1837 at Brayshop, Cornwall, England to John and Mary Nepean Doidge. She had three brothers, William, Richard, and Edward, and two sisters, Susanne and Emma.
Joseph and Mary Ann’s daughter, Dora Barker Burnham, wrote about Mary Ann’s life. She said, “Charming and one of leisure, was the girlhood life of Mary Ann Doidge before joining the L.D.S. Church in 1857. Living in the little town of Brayshop, Cornwall, England, she spent many happy hours roaming the hills and downs, close to her hometown, gathering the wild flowers that grew in such abundance there. She was once crowned “Queen of the May” in May Day festivities. This day was celebrated by the people who gathered from all the countryside for dancing, braiding the Maypole, and picnicking.
“She was the daughter of a prosperous merchant and had always lived a carefree life, having only to work as she desired. She was never an idler, however, but assisted in clerking in the store and in preparing lunches for miners.
“She had a fair education for her time, being well versed in Bible scripture as that book was used as a text for reading. She was also a good writer and speller.
“Her parents, John and Mary Nepean Doidge, provided well for their family, having hired help to do the heavy work of the home and giving them all a fair education. So, in sheltered comfort, Mary Ann grew up, learning to cook, sew, and perform the small duties of the household, under the guidance of her mother. Her people belonged to the Church of England and taught their children that faith. She learned to read the Bible well and learned the teachings of that church.
“When yet in her teens, Mary Ann was attending the funeral of a relative. While standing with her own group, she was attracted by beautiful singing coming from another part of the cemetery, where the funeral of a small child was being held. Out of curiosity and appreciation of the lovely music, she edged closer to the other assemblage. The words and melody of the song ‘Oh My Father’ floated to her on the breeze. As she came nearer, she could hear them singing:
‘For a wise and glorious purpose,
Thou hast placed me here on earth.
And withheld the recollection
Of my former friends and birth.
Yet oftimes a secret something
Whispers ‘You’re a stranger here,’
And I felt that I have wandered
From a more exalted sphere.’”
Dora wrote, “Mary Ann had often felt just that way, and had spent much time wondering and meditating about it. Listening to the sermon which followed, she learned the service was being conducted by a group of Mormon missionaries. Inquiring further, she found where she could attend their meetings. When her people called her to return home with them, she reluctantly pulled herself away. She attended the Mormon meetings, more to hear them sing at first, but later she became interested in their message. Because she knew her family was very set against the Mormons, she attended the meetings in secret, and gave the missionaries money from her own allowance to help carry on their work. Finally, after much deliberation, she asked to be baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She was baptized in Devonport, Devonshire, England on August 4, 1857. She was well aware of what it would mean to her. But she knew the message to be the word of God, by the continued uplifting of her spirit, of the enlightening principals taught. Things that had been shrouded in darkness were now clear to her mind. As she expected, her parents outrageously disapproved of this ‘preposterous act’ of their daughter. Her mother pleaded with tears in her eyes, and her father stormed and angrily threatened to throw her out of the house if she did not give up this fanaticism. However, she had the courage to stand by her convictions and left her lovely home with nothing but the clothes she wore. She went to another town where she procured work to earn her living. This was an added cross as she was not accustomed to hard labor; but never once did she consider giving up the inner joy she had exchanged for the outward labor.”