Traditional resources tell us that John Barclay was born in 1720 and that he was the youngest son of Reverend Thomas and Anna Dorothea Barclay. His father, a noted Anglican cleric and missionary suffered from mental illness and died in 1726. The Barclay children grew up during the 1720s and 30s with their mother left alone to plan for their futures.
As the youngest, John Barclay was sent to the countryside to learn from his mother's kin, the Coeymans family, who were substantial landholders in southern Albany County.
During the 1740s, he married Gerritje Coeymans - who inherited a share of the "Coeymans" estate. Gerritje died in 1753 leaving her interest to Barclay's management. That acreage consisted of farmland in the area of today's New Baltimore and parts of Hudson River islands. Over the next two decades, Barclay developed the estate. During the 1760s, he was a prominent West Manor property holder. He also was appointed a local justice of the peace.
By the late 1760s, John Barclay had relocated to Albany where he taught school and was a warden at St. Peters church. In 1771, He married again. His second wife was spinster Anna Margarita Ten Eyck, daughter of an Albany silversmith. Now in his fifties, he began to liquidate his rural holdings and to settle into a comfortable Court Street home.
The outbreak of hostilities ended any thought of retirement. In April of 1775, he was elected Captain of the first ward watch. In November he was elected to the Albany Committee of Correspondence. In 1776, he was the first patriot to sign the "General Association." At that time, he was called "chairman." In that capacity, his name was most prominent in Albany's association with the new revolutionary government and remained so until the New York State government was established under the constitution of 1777. Not surprisingly, in September 1777, he was appointed the first mayor of Albany under the new State government.
In September 1778, Mayor Barclay wrote to the Governor apprising him of the general and focused situation in Albany, recounting his city's long and varied record of support for the revolutionary cause, and informing him that the city could not accommodate the 2,000 new troops rumored to be sent to Albany and billeted on the inhabitants. It also profiled the social makeup of the region and also asked for protection against lawless abuse occasioned by the war. However, Barclay would not be able to provide much follow up as he was dead in less than six months.
John Barclay filed his will in January 1779. It said that he was weak in body and mentioned his first wife and deceased brothers. The bulk of his estate went to his "beloved wife" Margaret and his older daughter Charlotte Mc Carty. It also named six slaves and specified that they could choose their own masters. The city records noted his death on February 18, 1779. His will passed probate in June 1783.
Sources: The life of John Barclay is CAP biography number 7209. This sketch is derived chiefly from traditional family and community-based resources. However, much of his early life is informed only by traditional sources and so remains unclear. A number of same-named contemporaries further complicates the reconstruction of those parts of his life.
That part of Rensselaerswyck west of the Hudson River. In this case, the land near the Coeymans House in today's Coeymans.
first posted 4/5/01; recast and updated 5/30/17