Barkley, Benjamin Franklin (1822–1882)

By: Kristi Strickland

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: September 30, 2020

Benjamin Franklin Barkley, physician and county official, was born in Kentucky on November 14, 1822. His father was from Virginia, and his mother was born in New Jersey. Before moving to Texas he practiced medicine in Mason, Bracken, and Harrison counties, Kentucky. In 1855 he and his wife, Malinda Elizabeth (Duncan), emancipated the slaves on their Kentucky farm and traveled to Texas. They settled in Birdville, the county seat, with only one horse and $100 worth of medicine. Barkley practiced both law and medicine and helped provide supplies and assistance to struggling families. He donated land for the town's first school and in 1856 fought unsuccessfully to keep Fort Worth from becoming county seat.

"Squire" Barkley began to fall out of favor during the movement toward secession. He continually spoke out against slavery and secession, but he kept an open house at Birdville to feed the widows and orphans of Confederate soldiers, and when necessary he treated or lodged returning soldiers. After the war he was named to the Tarrant County Registration Board, and in November 1867 he was appointed county judge, a position he held until 1870. He also served as subassistant commissioner of the Freedmen's Bureau in 1867–68. Barkley reported misconduct and conducted hearings on Ku Klux Klan activities; he became so unpopular that he was escorted by black soldiers from his home to his office in Fort Worth. During this time he also served as the local postmaster. He received an appointment as county treasurer from Governor Edmund J. Davis in November 1871 and served until January 1873. Following the return of state and county government to Democratic control, Barkley resumed his practices of medicine and law in Birdville. Additionally, he advertised as a land agent with 7,000 acres for sale in the county. He was named a United States commissioner for his efforts during the crisis.

Barkley died on December 24, 1882, and was buried on land that he had donated for Birdville Cemetery. A historical marker honoring him was placed at the site in 1979.

Evelyn D'Arcy Cushman, Cemeteries of Northeast Tarrant County, Texas (Arlington, Texas, 1981). Ruby Schmidt, ed., Fort Worth and Tarrant County (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 1984). Mack H. Williams, In Old Fort Worth: The Story of a City and Its People as Published in the News-Tribune in 1976 and 1977 (1977). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

  • Health and Medicine
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • General Practitioners
  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Fort Worth
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kristi Strickland, “Barkley, Benjamin Franklin,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 20, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 30, 2020

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