William Barclay Foster

William Barclay Foster

William Barclay Foster the father of Stephen Collins Foster
Born (1779-09-07)7 September 1779
Berkeley County, Virginia
Died 27 July 1855(1855-07-27) (aged 75)
Allegheny, Pennsylvania
Resting place Allegheny Cemetery[1]
Occupation Businessman; merchant
Known for The father of Stephen Foster.
Board member of Cannonsburg Academy
Spouse(s) Eliza Clayland Tomlinson (1788 - 1855)
Children Charlotte Susanna Foster (1809 - 1829), Anne Eliza Foster Buchanan (1812 - 1891), Henry Baldwin Foster (1816 - 1870), Henrietta Angelica Foster Thornton (1819 - 1879), Dunning McNair Foster (1821 - 1856), Morrison Foster (1823 - 1904), Stephen Foster

William Barclay Foster (1779 - 1855) was the father of Stephen Foster and a notable businessman in his time. He has been referred to one of the most prosperous merchants of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was a Pennsylvania state legislator and served three terms. He was also elected mayor of Allegheny City (now part of the city of Pittsburgh) twice in his lifetime. He has been idenitied as a "patriot", a "lover of home" and an "outstanding servant to his community, state and government". He married Eliza Clayland Tomlinson on November 14, 1807, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

His father James Foster, was born in 1779 in Berkeley County, Virginia. At the end of the revolutionary war, he and his family moved to Western Pennsylvania along with other Scotch and Irish families. James Foster was one of the founders and original trustees of Canonsburg Academy, a school founded in 1791. William attended the academy until he was sixteen and then moved to Pittsburgh shortly after the city's incorporation along the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. William Foster found work with the company of Denny and Bellen, "Dry Goods, Hardware, etc." He represented the company promoted to a partner, and traveled widely.[2][3][4]

Primary source material including family letters, business documents, ledgers, maps of property and other of Barclay's writings are housed in the University of Pittsburgh Library System Archives Service Center. These have been digitized and are accessible remotely.[5]


  1. Wilson, William Bender (1895). History of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. 2. Philadelphia: Henry T. Coates & Company. p. 262.
  2. Tirindelli, Margherita. "Stephen Foster Parents, Settle Lawrenceville, Pa.". Stephen Collins Foster; America's Famous Folksong Writer;. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  3. O'Conell,, Joanne H. (2007). Understanding Stephen Collins Foster His World and Music (PDF) (Thesis). University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved 13 November 2015.
  4. "Experience - Stephen Foster - People & Events". pbs.org.
  5. http://digital.library.pitt.edu/cgi-bin/f/findaid/findaid-idx?c=ascead;type=simple;q1=William%20Barclay%20Foster;rgn=Entire%20Finding%20Aid;size=25;view=reslist;subview=standard;cc=ascead;sort=occur;start=1;didno=US-PPiU-camfhc201101
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