William Barclay Foster

American politician, father of Stephen Foster

William Barclay Foster (1779 - 1855) was the father of Stephen Foster, a well-known American songwriter. William was an important businessman in his time. Some people have written about him and have called him one of the most prosperous merchants of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He worked in the state of Pennsylvania as a state legislator. He was also elected mayor of Allegheny City two times. (Allegheny City is now part of the city of Pittsburgh.) He married Eliza Clayland Tomlinson on November 14, 1807, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.

William Barclay Foster
William Barclay Foster, Stephen Fosters father.JPG
William Barclay Foster
OccupationBusinessman; merchant
Known forThe father of Stephen Foster.
Board member ofCannonsburg Academy
Spouse(s)Eliza Clayland Tomlinson (1788 - 1855)
ChildrenCharlotte 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

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 with other Scottish 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. He moved to Pittsburgh shortly after the city's incorporation along the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. William Foster went to work for the company Denny and Bellen, "Dry Goods, Hardware, etc." He represented the company, was promoted to a partner, and traveled to many places.[1][2][3]


  1. Tirindelli, Margherita. "Stephen Foster Parents, Settle Lawrenceville, Pa". Stephen Collins Foster; America's Famous Folksong Writer;. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved November 14, 2015.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  2. O'Conell,, Joanne H. (2007). Understanding Stephen Collins Foster His World and Music (PDF) (Thesis). University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved November 13, 2015.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  3. "Experience - Stephen Foster - People & Events". pbs.org.