Gardner Thurston Barker

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Immediate Family

About Gardner Thurston Barker

Page 125


While Gardner Thurston Barker became a conspicuous and honorable figure on the stage of business activity in Peoria, he played other parts in the drama of life with ec|ual ability. He was recognized as a leader in public affairs and several times as chief executive of the city administered its municipal interests. Over the record of his public career as well as his private life there fell no shadow of wrong or suspicion of evil, for he held to high standards and neither fear nor favor could swerve him from a course which he believed to be right. With a nature that could never be content with mediocrity, he made constant advancement in business and for a long period controlled important commercial and financial interests of the city.

Mr. Barker was a native of New York, his birth having occurred in Moriah, Essex county, January 10, 1814. His parents were Gardner T. and Harriet (Lyon) Barker and while spending his youthful days under the parental roof he pursued his education, seeking a home and fortune in the west in 1838, when a young man of twenty--four years. At that time Peoria was a tiny town, containing very few inhabitants and giving but little promise of future greatness. His business ability, however, was soon manifest here and with the growth of the city he was continuously identified, his individual efforts constituting an important factor in promoting the commercial and industrial activity and prosperity of Peoria. He was first associated with Almeran S. Cole in a general mercantile enterprise under the style of Cole & Barker, and a change in the partnership afterward led to the adoption of the firm name of Barker & Steams. Still later Mr. Barker became sole proprietor. In 1867 he entered into active connection with the distilling business, which has been one of the chief sources of Peoria's upbuilding and prosperity. He also extended his efforts into various other lines of business and all of his different investments proved successful, indicating his sound judgment and keen discrimination. He never allowed pleasure or outside interests to interfere with the management of his business affairs and gradually he advanced to a position of leadership, enjoying the prosperity which was his by reason of intelligently directed effort and indefatigable energy. He retired in 1887 from the active management of his different interests and thereafter gave his attention solely to his duties as president of the Commercial National Bank and as president of the Allaire-Woodward Chemical Company. In all of his business affairs he found ready solution for intricate and involved problems. He seemed to recognize almost intuitively the opportunities and possibilities of a situation and he so directed forces as to produce a harmonious and resultant whole. As one of the wealthy residents of Peoria he took up the bonds when the city borrowed large sums of money and negotiated them in New York.

Business, however, was but one feature of the intensively active career of Mr. Barker. His deep interest in Peoria and her welfare and his thorough understanding of the political c|uestions and issues of the day led him to cooperate heartily with the democratic party, for he was an earnest believer in the principles which constitute its platform. In local political circles, therefore, he figured prominently. In 1852 he was elected to the city council and ten years later was chosen mayor of Peoria. His first term received endorsement in a reelection so that he served in 1870 and 1871. He gave to the city a businesslike and progressive administration, characterized by retrenchment in useless expenditures yet marked by progressiveness where the best interests of the city were to be conserved. His word could always be relied upon whether in business or in politics.

On the 20th of August, 1840, Mr. Barker was united in marriage to Miss Helen White, of Champlain, New York, a daughter of Elial and Mary B. (Lewis) White, who were natives of Massachusetts, the former born at Medway, December 21, 1794, and the latter at Amherst, February 9, 1799. The marriage ceremony of her grandparents was celebrated by the Rev. Daniel Morton, the father of Vice President Levi P. Morton. The death of Mr. Barker occurred October 26, 1894. He was succeeded in business by his son Walter, who became the president of the Commercial National Bank, and he is also survived by a daughter, Mrs. Ellen B.McRoberts, and her two sons, Walter and W. G. McRoberts, and a grandson, Jesse, who was the son of Mr. Barker's youngest daughter and was left motherless during his infancy, at which time he was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. Walter Barker. Three years after the demise of her husband Mrs. Helen (White) Barker passed away. They had figured prominently in the social life of the city, where Mr. Barker made his home for fifty-six years. He had watched the development of Peoria from a small town to a city of metropolitan proportions and had proven a most important factor in this work of transformation. In all that he undertook, whether of a public or private nature, whether in business or in office, he put forth earnest, persistent effort, realizing that the source of power is within the individual and that not upon any environment or circumstance does progress depend. Whatever the quiet forces and influences at work in his life to shape his destiny, it was evident at the outset of his business career that he understood clearly the fact that energy and unfaltering purpose constitute the surest basis upon which to build success. He was a well balanced man mentally and physically, possessed sufficient courage to venture where favoring opportunity presented and his judgment and even-paced energy carried him forward to the goal of prosperity.

Bibliographic information:

  • Peoria city and county, Illinois; a record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement
  • by Rice, James Montgomery, 1842-1912; Clarke (S.J.) Publishing Company
  • Publication date 1912
  • Publisher Chicago, S. J. Clarke
  • Contributor University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Volume 2
  • Pages 932
  • Possible copyright status NOT_IN_COPYRIGHT

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Gardner Thurston Barker's Timeline

January 10, 1814
Moriah, Essex County, NY, United States
Peoria, Peoria County, IL, United States
October 29, 1843
Peoria, Peoria County, IL, United States
January 8, 1848
Peoria, Peoria County, IL, United States
Peoria, Peoria County, IL, United States
October 26, 1894
Age 80
Peoria, Peoria County, IL, United States
October 26, 1894
Age 80
Springdale Cemetery and Mausoleum, Peoria, Peoria County, IL, United States