Biography of Basil Tonion Barber

Basil Tonion Barber. The ever-changing conditions of present-day competition in business life offer splendid opportunities for men of foresight and sagacity in any growing locality, whether it be developing from wilderness to settlement or from hamlet to metropolis. The ability to recognize in advance the strategic commercial situation is an asset the value of which may not be overestimated, and the man who possesses this quality is bound to find himself, sooner or later, in a position of importance in the business world. It was through the ability to predict where business would develop and to know in advance what kind of business would flourish that had enabled Basil Tonion Barber, of Iola, to reach a position of eminence at an age when most men are just starting upon their careers. When he located at Iola, in 1910, he was still a youth, with only several years’ experience behind him, but he confidently embarked upon his career, and today finds himself at the head of a paying automobile and garage business and proprietor of the largest establishment in the city.

Basil T. Barber was born at Sunnyside, a small community of Tennessee, May 27, 1885, and is a son of W. L. and Emily (Condra) Barber. He is descended from Irish ancestors who came to the United States during the colonial period and settled as pioneers in Kentucky, where members of the family became wealthy planters and prominent citizens in various walks of life. W. L. Barber was born in 1859, at Frankfort, Kentucky, and as a young man moved to Sunnyside, Tennessee, where he met and married Emily Condra, who was born at Cedar Springs, Tennessee, in 1868. At Sunnyside Mr. Barber was engaged in a variety of ventures. He was first a general merchant, handling the various goods usual to a store in a somewhat rural community, later became interested in real estate, in which line he continued for several years, and then engaged in the jewelry business, to which he gave some attention. Later, removing to Dunlap, Tennessee, he became assistant postmaster and conducted a general store, and in 1897 removed to Whitwell, Tennessee, where he resumed operations in the jewelry business and as a real estate operator. He still resided at Whitwell, where he is one of his community’s reliable citizens and substantial business men. Mr. Barber maintains an independent stand in regard to political matters, preferring to give his vote to the men whom he feels best qualified for the office rather than supporting candidates with regard to party. He was county surveyor of Marion County, Tennessee, and justice of the peace for some years. His religion is that of the Presbyterian Church, of which he had been a stalwart supporter and in which he had served as elder for some years. Fraternally he is affiliated with the Knights of Pythias. Mr. and Mrs. Barber have six children, as follows: Lillie, who is bookkeeper and stenographer for a wholesale drug house at Chattanooga, Tennessee; Basil T., of this notice; Ward, who is an electrician of Kansas City, Missouri; Ezra, who is associated with his brother Basil T. in business at Iola; Eva, who is attending high school at Whitwell, Tennessee, and resided with her parents; and Fernie, who also resided at home and is attending the graded school.

The public schools of Dunlap and Whitwell, Tennessee, furnished Basil T. Barber with his education, and when he was seventeen years of age he gave up his studies to enter upon training of a different nature and one for which it would seem, in the light of subsequent developments, he was singularly fitted. His earliest ambitious seemed to have led him toward work of an electrical nature, for his first position was with a telephone company in Kentucky, where he learned the rudiments of the calling in which he had since engaged. He made rapid progress in this direction and after two years established a shop of his own at South Pittsburg, Tennessee, where he remained for one year. He returned for a short period to Monticello, Kentucky, and from there went to Whitwell, Kentucky, where his parents resided, and started in business. In 1910, with this experience behind him, he came to Iola, having accurately chosen this as a community due to grow and develop. He spent some time in looking about for a location, but in 1911 was ready for his venture, and in that year founded the Palace Garage, which had since become the largest business in the city. This establishment, which is located at 118-120 East Madison Avenue, had floor space greater than any other store in Iola, and is completely equipped throughout for the handling of all kinds of automobiles and their quick and accurate repair. In addition Mr. Barber is agent for several leading makes of automobiles and carries a full line of accessories, a part of the garage being given over to a large, modern salesroom. Another garage owned by Mr. Barber is located on West Madison Avenue and is under the charge of his brother. This business in its growth is an exemplification of the true spirit of American enterprise and energy and its success may be attributed to keen foresight, hard work and good management.

Like his father, Mr. Barber is independent in his political views, and his only public service had been in the capacity of city electrician, an office which he filled in 1910 and 1911. He resided in apartments over the salesroom of his place of business. Mr. Barber had faith in the future welfare and prosperity of Kansas, as is shown in his investing his means in eighty acres of Anderson County farming land. He is also interested in several business ventures here, being a stockholder in the Neoshola Oil and Gas Company and the Midwest Casket Company. Fraternally, he is affiliated with Neosho Lodge, No. 569, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks; Neosho Lodge, No. 43, Knights of Pythias; and Iola Camp, No. 101, Woodmen of the World.

Mr. Barber was married in 1903, at Helenwood, Tennessee, to Miss Lillie Waddell, daughter of Henry and Nettie Waddell, of Somerset, Kentucky, where Mr. Waddell is a stonemason contractor. Mr. and Mrs. Barber have two children: Gladys, born June 26, 1904; and Herman, born June 6, 1909.



Connelley, William E. A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans. Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5v. Biographies can be accessed from this page: Kansas and Kansans Biographies.

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