Henry Obediah Barber | Waycross, Georgia
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At 6’6” tall, Obediah Barber was a larger than life character who lived on the northwestern rim of the Okefenokee Swamp. He served as guide for surveying parties exploring and mapping the swamp in 1857, 1875 and 1890. By the 1890s, his reputation and knowledge had made him a living legend.
Henry “Obediah” Barber was born in Bryan County, Georgia, on July 25, 1825. Independent, self-sufficient, and self-reliant, he spent most of his adult life—with the exception of serving in the Georgia Calvary during the Civil War—farming at the edge of the swamp. According to the Obediah’s Okefenok website, “By the 1880s, he was a prosperous country squire. In 1880 Obediah owned 1,520 acres, three horses, and four working oxen. He reported 40 acres of improved land. He had owned 76 head of cattle, 150 hogs and 34 chickens. He devoted four acres of his farm to rice growing, producing 3,875 lbs. of rice in 1879. Corn was grown on 24 acres, four acres were devoted to oats, two acres to sugar cane, and sweet potatoes were grown on two acres. His bees produced 110 lbs. of honey and 12 lbs. of wax in 1879. He estimated that he sold $300.00 worth of farm products in 1879.”
A backwoods naturalist, Barber loved everything about the swamp. Known as "King of the Swamp," his outdoorsman exploits were the topic of much storytelling. One story relates how when attacked by a black bear, the unarmed Barber grabbed a piece of wood and beat it into submission.
A source of wit and wisdom, Barber witnessed the beginning of the end of the wilderness and the frontier tradition in the Okefenokee Swamp. Married three times and the father of 20 children, Obediah Barber died December 28, 1909, and is buried in Kettle Creek Cemetery, about 10 miles northwest of his home.
Today, his homestead on Swamp Road, just 7.5 miles south of downtown Waycross, is the centerpiece of a historical park known as Obediah’s Okefenok. The log cabin he built in 1870 and lived in with his family is the oldest swamp settler’s home in the area.
Tagged with: People in Georgia
Visitors to Obediah's Okefenoke in Waycross will see the restoration of Obediah Barber's cabin, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.