BARCLAY, GEORGE, Baptist minister, farmer, and office holder; b. 1779 or 1780 in Cupar, Scotland; m. Janet Tullis, and they had nine children; d. 10 Aug. 1857 in Pickering Township, Upper Canada.
Little is known of George Barclay’s early life. He grew up in Cupar, graduated from the University of St Andrews in Fife, and became a Baptist minister. In 1816 or 1817, when in his mid to late thirties, he brought his family to Pickering Township. Whatever he had done during the intervening years, he seems to have saved some money, because in 1819 he was able to buy the rear 100 acres of the farm at Pickering owned by the mother of Peter Matthews*, along with livestock and implements.
Barclay’s subsequent career appears to have been rather nomadic. He was the minister at First Baptist Church in neighbouring Markham Township in the early 1820s, an area previously served by Elijah Bentley*, but his stay at the church was apparently short and contentious. A section of the congregation split off in 1821 over the question of paying Barclay a salary, and it formed the First Pickering (later Claremont) Baptist Church to accommodate Pickering and Whitchurch townships. During this period and afterwards Barclay served as a travelling preacher, ministering also in Whitby and Uxbridge townships. No record remains that he ever held a pulpit again on a permanent basis.
Perhaps the need to look after his farm and other property in the area – he had purchased additional land in 1835 and 1839 – occupied much of his time. He certainly must have been there for much of the period between 26 Aug. 1836 and 13 Dec. 1837, when he worked as the first postmaster of Brougham. That he was appointed to this position indicates he had some standing in the community. That he was removed in the general purge of postal officials whose loyalty was deemed suspect following the rising of 1837 indicates that his behaviour caused concern among more than members of his congregation.
Barclay was an outspoken critic of the policies of the “family compact,” which he had experienced as a Baptist minister; his was one of those sects forbidden to carry out marriages prior to 1831. Peter Matthews’s wife insisted after the rebellion that it was George Barclay’s attitude towards reform which had persuaded her husband to join the rebels. Two of Barclay’s sons, George and William, also participated in the uprising.
Barclay’s latter years were spent quietly on the farm, which was a prosperous one providing a good living for himself and some of his children. At his death he was buried in the cemetery of the church at Claremont (Pickering), among the graves of those who had disagreed with him in 1821 and had founded this congregation.
[The records of the First Pickering (later Claremont) Baptist Church (Claremont, Ont.) are to be found in the Canadian Baptist Arch., McMaster Divinity College (Hamilton, Ont.). George Barclay’s will is in AO, RG 22, ser.264, and Whitby (Ontario County), reg.A, no.138 (mfm.). Records of his land dealings are in Durham Land Registry Office (Whitby, Ont.), [Ontario County], North Pickering Township, Abstract index to deeds, vol.A (1798–1958) (mfm. at AO, GS 4835). The Barclay–Matthews connection is discussed in PAC, RG 1, E3, 33: 61–63. There are several references to Barclay and his family in W. A. McKay, The Pickering story ([Brougham, Ont.], 1961), and some rather inaccurate information in R. A. Miller, The Ontario village of Brougham; past! present! future? (Brougham, 1973). r.j.s.]