John Barker Church

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Mrs. John Barker Church, Son Philip, and Servant, oil on canvas, John Trumbull, c. 1785

John Barker Church (October 30, 1748—c. May 2, 1818) was a businessman and supplier of the Continental Army in the American Revolution.

Church was born in Lowestoft, England, befriended the cause of the American Revolution (while making a fortune as a supplier to the Continental and French armies), was Commissary General of the French Army in America, and financially aided the new government. Returning to England after the war, he was elected a Member of Parliament.

The Church family moved back to America for good in 1799, where he became a founding director of the Manhattan Company[1] and a director of the Bank of North America[citation needed]. Church married Angelica Schuyler, a daughter of General Philip Schuyler whose sister Elizabeth married Alexander Hamilton. Their son, Philip Schuyler Church, served as aide de camp to Hamilton; married Anna Matilda Stewart, daughter of General Walter Stewart; and was a founder of the Erie Canal and Erie Railroad[citation needed]. John and Angelica Church befriended many French upper-class refugees from the French Revolution, helping them settle in Allegany County, New York[citation needed] and elsewhere in the United States.

In 1800 Church was admitted as an honorary member of the New York Society of the Cincinnati.

Belvidere, the Church family estate in rural western New York, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 as a prime example of Federal style architecture.[2]

After the death of his wife Church returned to England. He died on or about May 2, 1818, and was buried at St. James, Piccadilly.[3]

Burr-Hamilton duelling pistols[edit]

Church was an experienced duellist, and owned the Wogdon pistols used in the 1804 Burr-Hamilton duel. The weapons had already been used in an 1801 duel, in which Hamilton's son Philip was killed. Following the Burr-Hamilton duel, the pistols were returned to Church, and reposed at his Belvidere estate until the late 19th century.[4]

Later legend claimed that these pistols were the same ones used in a 1799 duel between Church and Burr, in which neither man was injured. This makes sense according to the accepted rules of the 'code duello', in which the challenged (in this case, Church) had the right to choose the weapons.[5] However, the same rule was apparently ignored in the 1801 duel, where Philip Hamilton was the challenger and also supplied the weapons borrowed from his uncle. Also, Aaron Burr claimed in his memoir that he, not Church, supplied the pistols for his duel with Church, and that they belonged to him.[6] Hamilton biographer Ron Chernow accepts Burr's version of the story.[7]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. The Penguin Press, (2004) (ISBN 1-59420-009-2), p.587
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13. 
  3. ^ History of Parliament Trust, The House of Commons, 1790-1820, 1986, page 442
  4. ^ Robert Bromeley and Mrs. Patrick W. Harrington (August 1971). "National Register of Historic Places Registration: Belvidere". New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Retrieved 2009-06-14.  See also: "Unfiled NHL Nomination Form for Villa Belvidere". 
  5. ^ http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/duel/sfeature/rulesofdueling.html
  6. ^ Memoirs of Aaron Burr, by Matthew L. Davis.
  7. ^ Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow, p.590
  • Chernow, Ron. Alexander Hamilton. The Penguin Press, 2004.
  • Phelan, Helene C. The Man Who Owned the Pistols: John Barker Church and His Family. Heart of the Lakes Pub, Interlaken, New York. 1981 ISBN 978-0-9605836-0-7.