Return to Ohio Biographies
Return to Index

pages 163-165

O NE of the most beloved of men was the late Myron I. Barker', of Cincinnati and Carrollton, Kentucky. The extent of his liberality toward the needy will never be known, as in his case surely the left hand never knew what the right hand was doing,—but both were at rivaIry to see which could accomplish the most good t for his fellow man. Known far and wide as one of the leading he tobacco industry in this country—in fact, referred to often as the "Tobacco King" —Myron I. Barker, despite the favor- first of all a simple citizen and was most e of wealth was himself when dealing as an individual man to man. Perhaps it was the recollection of his own early days and his plucky grappling with adverse circumstances that gave him his sympathetic insight into the lives of others. Whatever it was, surely never was there philanthropist more imbued with the true Christly spirit in giving. His kindness was instantaneous, it sprang from the heart at the sight of poverty, and it seemed at times that he could not endure the thought of withholding aid, even where the unfortunate was plainly in part to blame for his needy condition. His charities were for the most part in secret. He was peculiarly adverse to talk of himself or to hear encomiums on his own deeds
Few lives have been so interesting or marked with such contrast as that of Myron I. Barker. His family were among the old established families of the east, mostly engaged in agricultural pursuits, and his father Enoch Barker was farming in a small way near Penyan Yates County New York, when the boy Myron was born April 26, 1839. His mother was Mary Taylor (Hemmingway) Barker, a noble woman to whom he owed much that was inspirational in his life. The father not being in the best of health, moved west with his family settling at Madison, Wisconsin, while Myron was still a small child. A few years later they again moved to Three Rivers, Michigan, where in 1853, death ended the struggle with poor health which had made existence hard for Enoch Barker. Myron was but a lad of fourteen at this time, but he had  the stuff that makes manhood in him, and immediately set to the task of caring for his widowed mother and his sisters, now solely dependent on him. At first he worked on a farm at wages scant indeed—at first no more than ten dollars a month—but such as they were they proved enough to tide the little family over those frugally managed years. After the toil of the day the boy would study by himself at night, and in this way he mastered a good education. The little family moved on to Wentsville, Missouri, where young Barker worked for a Mr. Mav for some time in the tobacco business. He then went on to St. Louis, his dream being to prepare himself for medicine. He became a student in Dr. Pope's Medical College, but health failed him and he again sought activity in outdoor work. He was fortunately employed by the great tobacco house of Liggett &.Myers. Already young Barker was a settled tobacco man, even at this early age, but with this great company he was enabled to study the business from the best possible vantage ground, and he did study it from every angle. He remained with them many years, proving to be of extraordinary value to the great house. He only left them to take a better position with a Mr. McLaughlin, having charge of the latter's tobacco business at Covington, Kentucky. A little later we find him one of the best known tobacco buyers in the country, operating for his old firm of Liggett & Myers, and such well-know houses as the Drummond Company, with his offices in Cincinnati.
His long years in the tobacco business and faithful study of it in all its branches had by this time rendered him an expert. He was a peculiarly successful buyer of the leaf, knowing its grades and qualities instantly. At length, having gathered a moderate fortune for himself he determined on going into business on his own account and formed the firm of M. I. Barker & Company at Carrollton, Kentucky. This firm came in time to be recognized as one of the leading leaf tobacco houses of the section, handling about six million pounds a year, the largest in the whole State outside of Louisville.
The business of M. I. Barker & Company was the making of the town of Carrollton. Mr. Barker expended about $125,000 in buildings alone, and gave employment to two hundred hands regularly. In addition he supplied a convenient market to tobacco growers in all the country round about. Carrollton and the county throve as never before. The town today is only too eager to acknowledge its huge debt to its benefactor. Myron I. Barker was the leading spirit in every public movement. He was a stockholder in the bank, and was in fact interested in every leading local enterprise. He owned a beautiful country place outside of Carrollton, and took a great interest in the breeding of fine stock, especially horses. Here, close to his business interests, he was also free to live life as he liked to live it, and to reap rewards of the fortune built by his early-formed habits of industry. He was a man to take pleasure in his home and children and was in every way the ideal husband and indulgent father. His fine country home is still the show-place of Carrollton, being owned by his widow and managed by his son Ralph.
In 1905, when the great American Tobacco Company was formed, Mr. Barker sold his business and himself retired from active business. He had a beautiful residence on Prospect Place, Avondale. Mr. Barker was for many years a martyr to asthma and hay fever, and found best relief from these afflictions at Booth Bay, Maine, whither he went each summer. It was here in the fall of 1909 that Mr. Barker died, aged seventy years, the end coming as many of us would wish it to come—without warning. The body was brought back to Cincinnati and interred in beautiful Spring Grove Cemetery with all honors by Colonel Clay Lodge, K. T. (Masonic) of which he was a member.
The death of Myron I. Barker recalled to many not only his well-known leadership in the great American industry he helped to build, but also the countless kindnesses which marked his conduct as a private gentleman throughout his long life. Lips long sealed because of Mr. Barker's known distaste for laudatory comment, spoke in heart-felt gratitude for his far-reaching charities. Many a little incident was recalled touching on his generous self-forgetfulness and his genuine concern for others. It was related of him that more than once he would give his last coin away and himself be reduced to walking the long distance to his home in cold or inclement weather, in order that some needy applicant might go on his way rejoicing. It is little incidents like this—acts that he himself would have considered insignificant—that really interpret him aright and show the large altruism that ever possessed his noble heart.
Mr. Barker is survived by his widow and four of the five children born to this union. Mrs. Barker was Miss Virginia Clark of St. Louis. Her parents were William and. Maria (Heafline) Clark who came from Philadelphia to St. Louis when Miss Virginia was but three years old. Here her father—an expert mechanic—erected the machinery for the Belcher Sugar Refinery, and remained to make St. Louis his permanent home. The marriage of Miss Virginia Clark and Myron I. Barker was solemnized January 31, 1865. Their children are: Ada, who married William E. Fisher, of Carrollton; Bertha, who married J. D. Mathews, of Richmond, Virginia; Ralph, who with his wife Nell (Long) Barker remains on the Barker Stock Farm at Carrollton, together with their son, Myron Irving, Jr., who has been named for his distinguished grandfather; Charles Allen, who resides in New York City, and Clifford, the beloved son who preceded his father to the great beyond, dying at the age of seventeen.
With her loved ones thus scattered Mrs. Barker no longer cares to reside in the spacious family home at Prospect Place, but maintains her own adequate establishment in Avondale. Here she can be near old scenes and old friends in Avondale, yet free to divide her time among the beloved sons and daughters who now have homes of their own. In the tender haze of the evening of life, hers are the recollections of early days and the long wedded comradeship with one of Nature's truest, kindliest gentlemen—the noble-souled lover of humanity -Myron I. Barker.


Background Design

Barbara's Bordered Backgrounds

Representative Citizens of Ohio; Memorial--Biographical (Cleveland 1917)

Page design © 2002 - 2008 by &