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Jonathan S. Barclay (1807-1887)
& Sarah A. Sweney (abt. 1814-?)
Historical Biographies.
(Long paragraphs of original document may have been edited for easier viewing.)


1883: Biography. (Added September 2005)

History of the Lake Huron Shore, 1883, H.R. Page, Chicago, IL
Bay County



JONATHAN SMITH BARCLAY, more familiarly called Uncle "John", was born in Northumberland County, Penn., August 8, 1808. When sixteen years old he went to Mauch Chunk, where he learned the trade of mill-wright. When twenty-two years old he went to Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, to build railroad. From there he went to Pottsville, where he worked at his trade six or seven years; thence to Lycoming County to build a furnace. When finished he started for Rochester, N. Y., hearing there was a great demand for mill-wrights at that place. Here he stayed two years, helping to build some of the largest flouring mills there.

At this time the war between Texas and Mexico was raging, so he with a party of young men started as volunteers for Texas, but when they reached Cleveland, Ohio, news came that Santa Ana was taken and had surrendered to the Texans.

At this time, the Toledo war had broken out concerning the boundary line between Ohio and Michigan, so instead of going to Texas, he with sixteen others took a boat to Monroe. When they landed, Gov. Mason was removing his troops. After the review was over, he with his party of sixteen went to the Governor and offered him their services, which he declined, saying he had nothing to feed them, and no arms to arm them with.

He then started for Detroit, where he stayed a few days and started on foot for Jackson and from there to Albion, looking for work, but found none.

He then went to Tekonsha where he took a contract to build a saw mill and afterwards a hotel.

He stayed there three years, then he returned to Albion to help build the first flour mill, and tended it for five years. While here he was elected justice of the peace, which duty he attended for years, besides occasional pettifogging suits. He was also appointed agent for the Michigan Central Railroad, which position he held four or five years.

During this time he married Miss Sarah Ann Sweeney; he then moved to Detroit and kept the Michigan Central Eating House in the depot for the accommodation of passengers. He then went into company with a man by the name of Hiram McKain, in a general assortment for a country store, which they were to start at Lower Saginaw, now Bay City.

They purchased their stock and started for Lower Saginaw, where they arrived the 20th of December, 1849.

This was the second store in Bay City. They had not been long in the business when he and his partner dissolved, Barclay taking the groceries and his partner the dry goods.

After a while his business increased so that he had to build a larger store, when he sold his store and goods to Park &. Munger, and commenced building the Wolverton House, on the corner of Third and Water Street, which he kept fifteen years, during which time he was very extensively engaged in the fishing business on the Saginaw Bay.

In 1856 and 1861 was sheriff of Bay County; afterwards he devoted a great deal of his time to his large grape yard and peach orchard on the Bay shore.

At an early day Mr. Barclay traded extensively with the Indians, as many of the early settlers in this new country were in the habit of doing. He also run a stage between Lower Saginaw and Alpena, and experienced all the hardships incident to pioneer life.

He and his wife are still living in Bay City, hale and hearty and surrounded by children. Mr. Barclay has always been one of the foremost men of Bay City; always upright in his dealings with his fellow man; his word is as good as his bond.

1924: Political biography. (Added April 2004)

Michigan Biographies
Michigan Historical Commission - 1924 (Page 51)


Representative from Saginaw County, 1855-6.
Was born in Northumberland County, Pa., Aug. 18, 1807.
He came to Michigan and settled at Albion in 1835.
He lived in Detroit from 1846 to 1849, when he
removed to Lower Saginaw, now Bay City,
where he was prominent in the business circles of that thriving city until age and infirmities unfitted him for the active duties of life.
In business he was a mill-wright, politically a Democrat.
He was Sheriff of Bay County in 1861-2.

He died Aug. 4, 1887, leaving a widow, two sons and a daughter.


1892: Historical biography. (Added November, 2007)

Portrait & Biographical Record of Saginaw and Bay Counties, Michigan. Published by Portrait Publishing Co., Chicago. (1892)


Mrs. Sarah A. Barclay, who is one of the oldest residents of Bay City, and was so well know to the lake captains as being the head of one of the most important hotels in this city, was born in Sugar Loaf, Luzerne County, Pa., and is a daughter of David Sweney, a native of Maryland. Her grandfather, Richard Sweney, was born in Ireland, and after coming to America, located in Maryland on the Delaware River, where he established a chair factory. The father learned the cabinet-making trade, but later engaged in lumbering business on the Susquehanna River, building a mill on the Fishing Creek, which was afterward swept away. He died there at the age of seventy-seven. His good wife, whose maiden name was Frances Bartelson, was born in Columbia County, Pa., and died in the Keystone State at a good old age. They were members of the Christian Church, and were the parents of eleven children.

Our subject had her early training among the mountains of Pennsylvania, and early learned to work, so that from a child she could do all that was necessary in transforming the raw flax into complete garments. At the age of twenty she left home, and in 1834 came to Marshall to her grandmother Peterman, who had married a second time, and was then living in Michigan. On her journey to Marshall she had to travel through Dundee Swamp, which was then almost impassable, and passed the first night of that part of the journey in a log hotel, where she had bread and milk for supper and slept on the floor. Seven years later she returned over the same road, which was then a solid macadamized railway.

The lady made here home in Marshall until her marriage, which took place at Albion, November 2, 1804, and she was then united with Jonathan Smith Barclay, who was born in Northcumberland County, Pa., and there had his education and training. His father, Richard, was born in Philadelphia, of Scotch descent, and was a farmer and miller, having a fulling mill and a carding mill in Northcumberland County between Milton and Dansville. He was a prominent man in that region, and was a large lauded proprietor.

Jonathan Barclay learned the of a millwright which he followed for some years, and help to build one of the first railroads in that State, which was located at Mauch Chunk. He had a mill and carried on lumbering at Valley Furnace, where he was married in 1832 to Lydia Fisher, who died there while he was absent working on a railroad in the Alleghany Mountains. One child of this marriage grew to maturity, Harriet, who is now Mrs. Moorehead.

After spending some time as a millwright at Rochester, N. Y., Mr. Barclay came to Michigan in 1834, and located first at Albion, and afterward at Tekonsha, where he made an unsuccessful attempt to build a hotel. Afterward he returned to Albion, and began work in the first mill which had been put up there. Later he repaired and took charge of this and after was engaged in railroad contracting, and became paymaster of the Michigan Central Railroad, and Justice of the Peace.

In 1847 Mr. Barclay removed to Detroit, and there engaged in the wholesale grocery business. In 1849 he brought a stock of dry-goods and groceries on a vessel to Bay City, and opened a store with Mr. McKane as his partner, trading with the Indians for furs and fish. The necessities of his increasing business force him to seek more commodious quarters, and he therefore erected a store building on Water Street, where he carried on a grocery and dry goods business one year and then sold to Mssrs. Parks & Munger in 1853. He then built the Wolverton Hotel, whch was completed in 1852, and was then the largest one in the county.

During the fourteen years that he carried on this hotel Mr. Barclay was also prominent in various ways, being School Director, County Sheriff, and serving for one year in the Legislature. He was the first Representative elected in Saginaw County, and was prominent in all political movements, and, in fact, Mrs. Barclay was really the manger of the hotel during many years of that time, as he was greatly absorbed in public affairs. She still owns much valuable city property, although she has disposed by sale of a great deal that she once had.

Our subject was made a widow August 4, 1887, and the death of her husband was deeply felt, not only by his family, but the whole community. He was one of the vestrymen of the first Episcopal Church here, and was prominent in the Masonic order, and in the Democratic party. Their three children are: Fred W., Lyman M. and Helen F.

The oldest son enlisted in the spring of 1863 in the United States Navy, and was made a part of the West Gulf Blocking Squadron, and did service on board the monitor “Winnebago.” He was present at the taking of Ft. Morgan when Rebel ram, “Tennessee” and the gun-boats “Selma” and “Gains,” were captured. He was also at the taking of Mobile, and the Spanish Fort, and was mustered out of service in July, 1865. From a boy he has been on the river and lake, and has sailed tugs and vessels for thirty years as master and owner, but has now retired from that work and is carrying on a small grocery business. His brother, Lyman M., is also Captain of a tug, and the daughter, Mrs. Coman, is now a widow.

When Mrs. Barclay came to Bay City from Detroit, she was a week on the way, and had to come in the brig “William Monteith,” and from the mouth of the river in a small boat. She is a prominent member of the Episcopal Church, and helped effectually in its building. She is active as a member of the Ladies’ Aid Society, and a staunch Democrat in her political views. She has not only seen Bay City grow from a hamlet to a city, but has also been an active helper in every moment of progress. She is still hale and hearty, enjoying the fruits of her successful labors, loved and respected by all who know her; long may it so continue is the wish of all.

Additional Notes.

    1880 - Census: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Barkley, Jonathan - b. 1808, Penn. - real estate.
  • Sarah Anne, wife - b. 1817, Penn.
  • Millie, daughter - b. 1869, Missouri.

    1887 - Michigan Deaths: Bay City, Bay, Mich.

  • Jonathan S. Barkley, b. 1805,Penn., died Aug. 4, 1887.
Related Pages/Notes

Jonathan S. Barclay

Daughter, Helen, married Harry J. Clark, afterwards Lucien S. Coman.
Related Pages:
Barclay, Fred - son
Coman (Barclay), Helen - dau.
Trinity Episcopal Church
People Referenced
Ana, Santa
Barclay, Fred W. (son)
Barclay, Jonathan S. (subject)
Barclay, Harriet (dau.)
Barclay, Helen F.(dau.)
- m. Clark, Coman
Barclay, Jonathan S.
Barclay, Lyman M. (son)
Bartelson, Frances
Fisher, Lydia
Mason, (Gov.)
McKane (McKain), Hiram
Moorhead, Mrs.
Plumsteel, Mary J.
Sweney, David
Sweney, Richard
Sweney, Sarah Ann (wife)
Subjects Referenced
Albion, MI
Alpena, MI
Bay City, MI
Bay Co. Sheriff
Calhoun Co., MI
Civil War
Clarkston, MI
Cleveland, OH
Columbia Co., PA
Dansville, PA
Delaware River, MD
Detroit, MI
Dundee Swamp, MI
Episcopal Ch, Bay City
Fishing bus.
Fishing Creek, MD
Flouring mill
Jackson, MI
Indian trade
Lower Saginaw, MI
Luzerne, PA
Lycoming Co., PA
Marshall, MI
Mauch Creek, PA
Michigan Central R.R.
Michigan Central Depot
Milton, PA
Monroe, MI
Northumberland Co., PA
Park & Munger
Philadelphia, PA
Pottsville, PA
Rochester, NY
Saginaw Bay
Saginaw Co., MI
Saginaw Valley, MI
Schyulkill Co., PA
Stage coach
Sugar Loaf, PA
Susquehanna River, MD
Tekonsha, MI
Texas & Mexico war
Tamaqua, PA
Toledo war (MI/OH)
Valley Furnace, PA
U.S. Navy
Wolverton House
Wolverton House
The Wolverton House was named after Stephen Wolverton, of Erie, PA, who was hired to build the first lighthouse at the mouth of the Saginaw River. He came here in 1839, and began construction of the lighthouse, but didn't complete it. The following year the lighthouse was finished by Capt. Levi Johnson, of Cleveland, OH.
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.