THOMAS J. BARKER. - In a publication whose functions include the consideration of the life and labors of the sterling pioneers who have been actively concerned with the social and material upbuilding of Wyandotte county there is special consistency in according recognition to Thomas Jefferson Barker, who was one of the first settlers of Kansas City, this county. He has been a resident of Kansas for more than half a century and is now one of the venerable and honored citizens of Kansas City, where he is still actively identified with business interests, as head of the real estate firm of T. J. Barker & Sons. He has gained success and independence through his own ability and energies, and his life has been so guided and governed as to gain and retain to him the unqualified confidence and respect of his fellow men. As one of the pioneer business men of the metropolis of Wyandotte county and as one of its loyal and public-spirited citizens he well merits a tribute in the historical compilation here offered.
Thomas Jefferson Barker was born in Bedford county, Virginia, on the 11th of December, 1828, and is a scion of honored families of the historic Old Dominion commonwealth. In Virginia were likewise born his parents, William A. and Sarah (Hobbs) Barker, who passed their entire lives in that state, where the father devoted the major part of his active career to agricultural pursuits. William A. Barker was born in Albemarle county, Virginia, about the year 1796, and his father, Jacob Barker, was born in Richmond, that state, within whose limits was also born the latter's father, James Barker, who served under General Washington in the French and Indian war and who was a participant in the engagement known in history as Braddock's Defeat. The lineage of the Barker family is traced back to stanch English origin, as is also that of the Hobbs family. Sarah (Hobbs) Barker, mother of him whose name initiates this review, was born in Bedford county, Virginia, in 1800, and was a daughter of James Hobbs, who immigrated from England to Virginia about the year 1794, and who was a valiant soldier in the war of 1812. William A. Barker was also found enrolled as a soldier in this second conflict with England, and the family name has always stood exponent of the most fervent patriotism, both in times of war and peace. William A. and Sarah (Hobbs) Barker became the parents of seven sons and one daughter, whose names are here entered in respective order of birth: James B., Mary V., Massena C., William E., Andrew L., Thomas J., Francis S. and Joseph G.
Thomas J. Barker was reared to the invigorating discipline of the old homestead plantation in Virginia and his educational advantages were those afforded in the subscription schools of the locality and period. His receptive mind and his ambition prompted him to make good use of such opportunities as were thus afforded him, as is evident from the fact that in his youth he was for two years a successful teacher in the schools of his native state. From 1846 to 1851 he was in the employ of a tanner and merchant in Mercer county, Virginia, and he then indulged his spirit of adventure by setting forth for the Isthmus of Panama, with the intention of securing work in connection with the construction of a canal projected at that time. Illness compelled his return to the east, however, though he reached his destination, and after recuperating his health he engaged in the general merchandise business in Virginia, where he continued to be identified with this line of enterprise until 1855, in April of which year he came to Kansas and numbered himself among its early pioneers. From Fort Leavenworth he went out with a government surveying party, in which he assisted in the surveying of the boundary line between Kansas and Nebraska. After being thus engaged for a few months he came to Wyandotte county, and for a short period thereafter he was employed in the old hotel known as the Catfish House, in Wyandotte. Thereafter he followed various occupations for an interval of several months and then he entered into partnership with Isaiah Walker, one of the pioneer merchants of the town, with whom he continued to be associated in the general merchandise trade from 1856 to 1858. In the latter year he was appointed postmaster of Wyandotte, which village was the nucleus of the present metropolis of Kansas City, this county, and he retained this office until 1863, after which he was identified with steamboating and saw-milling enterprises until 1867, He then engaged in the supplying of railroad ties, and in this enterprise he did a profitable business for several years. Finally he turned his attention to the real-estate and loan business, in which he has since continued and in which his operations have been of wide scope and importance. Through his well directed energies in this important line of enterprise he has contributed much to the development and upbuilding of this section of the state and especially to the progress of Kansas City, whose every interest has lain closely to his heart during the long years of his residence here. He has witnessed the transition stages that have marked the upbuilding of a fine industrial and commercial city and the development of one of the most prosperous agricultural counties of the Sunflower state. The business with which he has so long been concerned is now conducted under the firm name of T. J. Barker & Sons, and his associates in the enterprise are his two sons, who are numbered among the progressive and representative business men of Kansas City. Beginning his independent career without capitalistic resources or other fortuitous influences, Mr. Barker pressed steadily forward, availed himself of the opportunities presented, manifested mature judgment in his investments, and various operations and ordered his course according to the highest principles of integrity and honesty, with the result that he has accumulated a splendid estate, the while he has done his part in furthering general progress and prosperity in the community that has so long been his home and in which his circle of friends is coincident with that of his acquaintances.
Mr. Barker was reared in the faith of the Democratic party and has never wavered in his allegiance to the same. He was a stanch Union man during the climacteric period of the Civil war and he has been an influential factor in public affairs in the state of his adoption, as is shown by the fact that he was elected to represent Wyandotte county in the state legislature in 1866, as was he again in 1880. He brought to bear in this connection the same careful judgment and discrimination that have conserved his success in business, and he was a resourceful factor in the prompting of wise and effective legislation. He has been a member of the Masonic fraternity since 1857 and is now the only surviving member of the lodge in which he was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason.
In Wyandotte, as Kansas City, Kansas, was still known at that time, on the 1st of January, 1865, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Barker to Miss Ellen Hall, who was born in the state of New Hampshire and who came with her parents to Kansas in 1857. She is a daughter of John L. and Frances (French) Hall, whose names merit enduring places on the roll of the sterling pioneers of this state, within whose borders they continued to reside until their death. Mr. and Mrs. Barker have two sons, - Thomas Jefferson, Jr., and James Edward, both of whom are associated with their father in business, as has already been noted in this context. The family has been one of prominence and marked popularity in connection with the best social activities of the community, and the attractive home of the honored subject of this review is a favored resort for his wide circle of old and tried friends.
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