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Ralph Lester Barker

I found he had written about his life and I know he wanted to share it with all of you.

I figure he wrote this when he was around 75 years old. After reading his life, It really made me think of how life then and now is so different. How interesting it was to read how things were back when he was young. How a lot of things would be forgotten if not for people like Dad, who loved to talk and write down things that I know he hoped that generations in the future would read and appreciate.

My Dad was a very loving man. He never met a stranger. I cannot ever remember a time that he did not smile

My Dad was also a Poet. He wrote many poems. He states in his reflections of only finishing school up to being 16 years old.

His Daughter, Debra Kay Rawlings


















My father was a handsome man. he had blonde hair and blue eyes, he was tall and slender, never was a heart so tender as my dad's. My father loved people and loved to talk, he never met a stranger in his walk. He loved the Native American, his respect for them ran deep, this was something he felt we all should keep. When my father was a boy he had what we would think of today as a rough life, he was raised on an Indiana farm. This life did not do him any harm, in fact, it built character. my father was honest and fair never was there a time he did not care my dad had many brothers and sisters they all helped each other out there was true love in this family without a doubt his family was his life he had four daughters and he loved his wife my father loved to write and he was a poem writer his words could make any persons day brighter he loved history and he loved genealogy he helped many people find their tree dad did a lot of this for free my father loved music he would listen forever blue grass was his favorite tiring of this never he loved to work with wood he made just about anything he made all of us girls and mom many things and accomplished it the best he could i have many memories of my dad none of them ever sad except for his last years they brought many tears but even with the tears we know he left a wonderful legacy for all of us to remember for years one thing I know there will never be anyone as wonderful as my dad he was the best friend I ever had.

his daughter,




Our Dad, what a writer he was! I found he had written about his life and I know he wanted to share it with all of you.

I figure he wrote this when he was around 75 years old. After reading his life, It really made me think of how life then and now is so different. How interesting it was to read how things were back when he was young. How a lot of things would be forgotten if not for people like Dad, who loved to talk and write down things that I know he hoped that generations in the future would read and appreciate.

My Dad was a very loving man. He never met a stranger. I cannot ever remember a time that he did not smile

My Dad was also a Poet. He wrote many poems. He states in his reflections of only finishing school up to being 16 years old.
Wow, he was a very intelligent man!

His Daughter, Debra Kay Rawlings


BORN APRIL 16, 1917
DIED JULY 8, 2003



I was born April 16, 1917 to Grover Cleveland and Bessie Helen (Bymaster) Barker. I was born in the Macey Watkins’s house. My folks had rented and farmed the ground. It was about 3 miles northwest of New Maysville, Jackson Township, Putnam County, Indiana.

About a year later, we moved to New Maysville, the first house west of the town hall and general merchandise store. We lived there for a year, then moved back to Macey Watkins Farm. My sister, Edna Katherine was born about a year later on July 10,1920.

I think the earliest I could remember I was two years old. My uncle Earl Barker died. I remember seeing him and crying. The only way they got me to stop crying was my Aunt Nona gave me a large peppermint candy.

We moved again to Shackleford place about three miles south of Ladoga, Montgomery County, Indiana. The place was back off the Haw Creek road next to the railroad. We lived there about a year, then moved to the Squire Eggar’s farm about two and a half miles north of New Maysville. My father farmed the ground and he and Thomas Hood, a friend ran a blacksmith shop in Barnard, Indiana. It was about three miles northeast of where we lived. While we lived there I had the mumps. My mother wouldn’t let me climb fences and things.

I remember we used to raise beans for dried beans. We would pull vines by wagon loads. Then we would run them through the corn sheller that we turned by hand, then put the cleaned beans in 100 lb. Bags. Dad would also take wheat to the elevator and trade it for so much ground into flour and some cracked wheat we used for cooked cereal. I have never been able to find any other cereal as good since then. We would have corn ground into meal for mush and corn bread. We used to raise grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits in the garden. We would cover them with layers of straw and earth so they would keep from freezing and stay fresh through the winter months. We also had what they called a Rat Killing. There was an old school house we used for storage, which had a wooden floor. All the men and boys from a few miles around came with dogs and clubs. We tore the old building down and when we pulled the floor up. I saw so many rats, more than I had ever seen! They say that we killed rats in the hundreds.

Well we moved again northwest of Bainbridge about three miles. I was six years old then and started my school years at Carpentersville, Indiana. Carpentersville is about four miles south of Roachdale. I went my first year of school until the first of March. Then we moved again to Montgomery County, about three miles north east of Roachdale on the Montgomery Putnam line road, where we farmed. I say we farmed because all of us kids helped with the farm work. Oh yes, I had three brothers and three sisters older than me. We lived there about six years. I had a sister and two brother born while we lived there. My father could do about any kind of work and do it well. He was known to be a real good machinist, brick mason, carpenter and a real good fiddle player too. My father won a lot of fiddle contests. He drove a school hack, as it was known then, drawn by horses. Dad was also a harness maker and a wheelwright. He used to make wagon wheels and all the hubs, spokes and all. I know the wooden part you fasten the steel rim around was called “fellows”.

I used to fight a lot in school until I met up with someone who really gave me a good beating. It wasn’t until then that I learned it was better to talk your way out of trouble. I went to Ford school on the Haw Creek road.

While we were still living at the farm in Montgomery County, we had a small tornado go through. We had been thrashing wheat and when the storm came up, we pulled some of the wagons and a buggy we used that hauled water in the barn feed way. While we were watching the storm, we watched as lightning jumped off the lightning rod and hit a man that had his foot on the buggy’s wheel hub. The lightning stuck his foot burning his shoe soles off and badly burning the bottoms of his feet. Out side of the feet being burned and knocking him down, that was all it did. Then a few minutes later the wind picked up a flat bed wagon taking it over the barn and setting it down on the other side of the barn not hurting the wagon at all.

After a little over six years, we moved again. This time down southeast of Bainbridge in Floyd Twp, Putnam County Indiana. I went to Floyd Center school. Our move was done by wagons. We made quite a few trips hauling hogs and furniture leading our milk cow behind the wagon. Not long after we had moved, my little sister, Freda Louise died. I taught myself how to swim while we lived there.. I was paddling around in an inner tube when I swam to deep water. I threw the tube away from me and made myself swim to it. I contracted small pox while we lived in Floyd Twp.

A little over a year later, we moved again, two and a half miles northwest of New Maysville in Jackson Twp. Putnam Co., Indiana. I went to New Maysville school my eight grade and then to Bainbridge High school two years. I had to quit school when I was sixteen because my Dad wasn’t able to work. My brother who was two years older than me had to do all the farm work that summer, but in the fall my brother got married and moved away from home. So it was left up to me to take care of all the farm work. We also burned wood for heat and I had to cut all the wood to keep us warm as well and of course we burned wood to cook with. But I managed to do it all. Plus I hired out and shucked corn for some of the neighbors to make money to buy my cloths. I also ran a trap line in the winter and sold fur, plus we had plenty of rabbits to eat. We had chickens and milk from our cow as well as raising all kinds of vegetables.

We knew that in the summer of 1933, John Dillinger and John Louis Hamilton escaped from jail in Kansas. They had returned to Indiana and John Dillinger was public enemy #1, his name was mentioned often. In the spring of 1934, it was said that a man by the name of Charles Vernon Witt had joined the gang. Witt’s parents lived about four miles from where we lived only on another road. When it was reported that they had robbed the bank of Greencastle, Indiana and stolen a veterinarian’s car at Bainbridge, we figured they would be in our neighborhood. One morning as I was walking down the road going to where my father was working in a field, about two miles from home, two cars came down the road at a high rate of speed, one right behind the other one! As the first car passed me and started around a curve, it blew a tire and flipped completely over in the air! It landed on its wheels in the ditch. Naturally I started running to it to help. The second car passed me and stopped. The men crawled out of the wrecked car and told me to stay back! These men got into the second car and they sped away! I was about twenty feet from them. By that time all of the neighbors were running to see what happened. I went on to the field where my father was working and took him a drink of water. Then I came back to the wrecked vehicle where a lot of people were still gathered. As my sister and I started home walking up the road about where they passed me the first time, three men stepped out into the road in front of us. These men we knew as John Dillinger, John Louis Hamilton and Charles Vernon Witt! They were about ten feet in the road in front of us! We watched as they went across the road and over a fence into the field. One of them was carrying an overcoat with something that looked like a gun wrapped in it! By this time a Posse had been formed in search for the three villains!

We had rented a farm about two and a half miles west of where we lived. There was a house and a barn on this property with no one living there. We kept our cows and calves on the pasture and it was my job to feed the animals twice a day. So, one night and the next morning I went down to feed the livestock. Right behind the house was a root cellar and I walked between it and the house to go to the barn. I found out later that the tree crooks were hiding in that very root cellar and they watched every move I made when I went to feed the animals! I was also told that when the Law was looking for them at the Witt’s house, Dillinger was hiding in the attic watching the them. That was my brief encounter with the Dillinger gang !

When I was 17 and 18 years old I stayed at my oldest sister’s home in New Market, Indiana and helped them out. My brother In-law would let me use his team of mules. I also worked for the county hauling gravel. While I was there I would haul bundles for three different thrashing rings with my brother In-law and his mule team.
When I was 19 years old, I went to Indianapolis and got work at the Diamond Chain Mfg. Co. I worked there for six months and things slacked up and I got laid off. That winter I came back home. It was the winter of 1936 and 1937. It was a very bad winter. I scooped snow for the County $1.25 a day. I also worked on W.P.A. on the roads for $1.25 per day. But in February the Diamond Chain Co. Called me back to work for the Kingan Packing Co. I did this for three months, but was laid off again!

In 1938 I received another letter from the Diamond Chain Co. They wanted me to work for International Harvester Co. I worked on the motor block line, making motors for their tractors and trucks. I only worked there until the spring of 1940. My foreman came around and jumped me about something that was not my fault, so I quit. The foreman begged me to stay and so did my supervisor. But I was stubborn with false pride. After telling them I quit, I was not going to back down. I stayed home for a few months then I got a job at Martin Brothers south of New Market. I helped them put their crops in.

I went back to Indianapolis and got a job with Switzer-Cummins Mfg. Co. Then I got married to Helen Marie Cunningham on the 12th day of October, 1940. I worked at Switzer-Cummins until the spring of 1943. While working for Switzer, I was working some new punch presses and we were on piece work and the new machines didn’t have counters on them. So, they took the old counters off of the old presses and put them on the new presses. Only thing was they would not work unless they turned them upside down. The maintenance men could not figure out how to make them work right. So, one day I called them over to my press and showed them how to make it work by using a rocker arm on the press. Of course this seemed very simple to me, I didn’t think anymore about it. They made rocker arms for each press. I found out later that the draftsman made a blueprint of my idea and got paid $500.00! I got nothing. That is the way things are sometimes. The right people don’t always get credit for a lot of things, I guess.

I worked at Switzer-Cummins until the spring of 1943. Then I quit to go to farming for myself. This was south of Morton, Indiana in Putnam County, Indiana. I farmed on shares with my father In-law. That lasted just a year. Then I went farming completely for myself in Hendricks Co.,Indiana. This was east of North Salem. But in the fall of 1944, I received my notice from Uncle Sam to go into the Army. I had to sell everything in a hurry. I didn’t get enough from the sale I had to pay off the loan. My wife paid it off while I was away with what I could send home.

I took my Army training in Camp Walters, Texas. I was put on K.P. (Kitchen Police) working in the kitchen, as they go by your name, mine beginning with B, but I just got started peeling potatoes when my Platoon Sargent came in and asked me if I would like to be squad leader. I said I don’t know what I would have to do, he told me if I knew how to make right turns and left turns marching, that was all I needed to know. I would be in charge of my squad which was the first squad, Co.,A. He said I would never have any extra duty or stand guard. So, I said why not, I’d try it and you know, I was pretty proud of my squad as we would have marching contests and we won almost everyone of them. Then I went to the Pacific Theater, my tour of duty was in the Phillippines and Japan. My outfit was the Bushmasters, the 158th Reg. Combat Team. I saw some combat, which was enough, but lucky I guess and came out without a scratch. While I was in the Phillippines, when we went on patrol, I was second scout, which meant the first scout and myself would go ahead of the rest to see if it was clear. We sure had some funny experiences, like thinking we heard a Jap and it would be a cow or hog. Then one day we were checking a house or shack. I kept hearing something like someone moaning. I found an old woman laying in her waste. I found out when I reported it, that when they got old they send them off by themselves to die. Also one day, I walked around a bush in the jungle and was staring a Jap in the face! He started to raise his gun, but I shot from the hip. I guess that’s why I am still here. I got my discharge April 11, 1946.
I came home and purchased a tractor outfit with what tools I needed to farm. I rented 258 acres and just grain farmed for two years. Then I bought a truck and hauled the grain and coal. I drove a lime truck and in 1948 I started driving a Huckster Wagon. I worked out of the Stark and Bettis Grocery Store at Morton, Indiana. I had a different route each day, five days a week. I sold groceries, hardware, shoes, seed corn and fertilizer to farmers around through the country. I also hauled kerosine for lamps and other uses as most farmers did not have electricity. I also purchased chickens and eggs from the farmer’s wives and got a lot of gossip! I drove the Huckster for two years. Then in 1950, I went back to Switzer-Cummins until August 1952, when I started working for Meadow Gold Dairy located in Crawfordsville, Indiana. I left Meadow Gold in 1955 because I had a chance to buy the Milligan Store in Milligan, Indiana. It was three miles south of Waveland, Indiana, in Parke Co. I also started working for the Morman Feed Company as a sales person along with my store. After working there six months, they made me sales manager for Parke co. and Vermillion Co. In 1957 I had to close down the store as I was carrying too many people on credit without any money to back me up. There are still people to this day that owe me money from that store. I stayed with Morman Feed until the first of 1959. I sold electronics for three months to TV and Radio shops. We lived in Marshall, Indiana at this time. I went back to Meadow Gold Dairy and drove back and forth from Marshall to Crawfordsville until 1962 when I purchased a house in Crawfordsville. When I first came back to the milk co. I had a retail route in Lafayette and what they called West Lafayette, plus north in White County out in the country. About six months later, they gave my route to Goodland,Indiana Meadow Gold Branch. So, I got a wholesale route Indianapolis and between Crawfordsville and Indianapolis. In 1972 they sold the Meadow Gold Branch to Dewey Servies and the three drivers had to park our trucks in Indianapolis. So when I had enough time, I retired from Meadow Gold Dairy Teamsters Union. I took my retirement in the spring of 1974. Then I started working for the Park and Recreation Department of Crawfordsville. I work as an assistant Greens keeper at the golf course. I helped the golf course build ten new greens. I did a lot of the grading and shaping of the greens, putting in the new tees, shaping and fixing sand traps. I did a lot of the mowing and keeping the machinery running. Maybe it is my Dad’s blood in me that as I do any and all of my repair work.

A hobby that I had was making furniture. After we moved to Crawfordsville, I had to put a new roof on the house. This included completely tearing the old roof off and putting sheating and roof both on. The next year I put in a new gas furnace. I had to put in all new registers and duck work. But I used the old large coal furnace registers for the cold air returns. I had to make reducers for them so they would fit the 6" pipe on the gas furnace. As I had never done any tin work before, I had to learn this from scratch. But I got it right because it works fine to this day. I have always had the theory that if someone can do something, so can I. Also if you want something done right, it is always better to do it yourself. 1970 I put in central air conditioning. It is doing fine too. 1969 I decided to tear down the old garage at the back of our lot and build a new garage on to the house. In talking stage we wanted to attach the garage to the house with a breeze way. But we ended up with a family room 12x18' and a hallway to the garage thar was 24x30'. I didn’t know how to do it. I just figured it out as I went along. I got all of it done and am real proud of it today. It proves if you try anything hard enough and have a little patience, you can do it! I have done a lot of work in the house and around it. I put up aluminum siding and his and her wardrobes the full length of the bedroom.

I got to reminisce my youth. New Maysville had their Sesquicentennial (150 years). This was on Founders day the 19th of June 1982. I went to it and had a wonderful time! I met old friends I knew as a young boy. It was fun hashing over old times as I was born just three and a half miles northwest of there. When I was in the eight grade there I used to sing in the choir at the Baptist church.

Helen and I have four lovely daughters, Patricia Ann was born 23, July 1941. Patty married Larry Eugene Bowman the 17, April 1959. Their children are: Randal Joe, born 4, Oct. 1959. He married Mary Alice Ellison 12, April, 1982. Nedra Sue, born 10 Oct. 1960. Neal Preston born, 29, Jan. 1965 and Eric Ray born, 27, Sept. 1969.
Our daughter, Linda Lou was born 22, April, 1944. She married Earl Amil Taylor 22, June 1963. Their children are: Angela Rene born 23, May 1964. Teresa Ann born, 26 May 1970. They now live in Broadway, Virginia.
Our daughter, Debra Kay was born March 25, 1954. She married Richard Allen Fendley Oct. 9, 1972. Their children are: Pamela Sue born, Feb. 25, 1973 in New Jersey. Edward Max born, Jan. 28 1978 born in Mass. They live in Fort Ritchie,Maryland.
Our youngest daughter, Donna Rae was born Sept. 16 1962. She married Robert Matthew Ralston 27th Sept. 1980. They live in Crawfordsville.

In 1977 I joined a Genealogy Group in Montgomery Co.,In. And decided to be the Historian of the Bymaster/Barker families. I was elected Vice-President of our group in 1980. Then the group split up in 1981. So we started another group, but decided to go in with the Montgomery County Historical Society. I was elected Vice-chairman of the Genealogy Section in 1981.

My advice to young people today would be:
1. Always be honest in everything you do and with yourself.
2. Never ask anyone to do something you wouldn’t do yourself.
3. Always do just a little more than is expected of you.
4. Do your work well. It is just as easy to do things right than
5. Always be proud of yourself and what you do.
6. Always do right by people and people will do right by you.

If you do these things and be willing to help people when needed, you will always have friends who will be willing to help you if the need arises.

Always remember. There is some good in everyone. To have friends, you have to be a friend.


I guess I should write more about the good times I had as I grew up. My cousin, David Lasley and I spent many a day fishing and just exploring the woods and hills. But before we could go fishing, we would have jobs like weeding the garden or mowing along the road and fence rows. We always had special jobs before we could have fun. Old time music was one of the big enjoyments for me. My father played the fiddle or violin by ear. He never knew how to read a note of music. I remember many times he would get up in the middle of the night, pull his fiddle out from under the bed, where he kept it and start playing a new tune which he had never played before. He said, as he lay in bed he could hear the music the way it should sound going through his head, maybe a tune which he heard some place, so he would get up and play it just like that!

After I was 12 years old, we would have a music session every night, Dad, my brother and I. We used to play for dances and parties. They used to have square dances on the street every Saturday night at Bainbridge, Indiana. If it rained, we would have the dance in the town garage. Joe Edwards, who played backup music at the Grand Ole’ Opry used to play with us.

When I was 18, I shucked corn for 3cents a bushel for Clay Adams with his boy Max. We fixed our wagons so they held 50 bushel of weighed corn. We weighed it at Adams’ all the time and the corn only made around 30 or 35 bushel per acre. When we got through with the corn, a fellow by the name of Wright, who lived across the road wanted us to shuck a field for him. He said his corn would make twice as much as what we had been shucking, so we said all right. We started over there on Saturday and we only wanted to work until noon so we could go to Crawfordsville in the afternoon. So we really shucked corn that morning. We each had 50 bushel shucked by 12, noon and had to scoop it off by hand too. When Mr. Wright went to pay us, he said he didn’t think we had 50 bushel, so since he bragged about his corn being twice as good as 30 or 35 bushel corn we had been shucking, we told him to count the rows we had shucked. He did and we each had shucked exactly 1 acre. He paid us without any more questions. We both got a grand sum of $1.50 for our Saturday morning. That looked mighty good!

When I was about 14, I hired out to hoe corn. I remember my three brothers and I hoed corn for Clay Dean. We all hoed the same amount of rows each day. When we went to get paid, my oldest brother said it would be $1.00 a day for the older boys, but since I wasn’t but 14, it would be 75 cents a day for me. Mr. Dean said I hoed just as much as the older brothers so he gave me $1.00 a day too. I was thrilled! I remember hoeing corn for Ollie Sanford. He said I was the hoeingest kid he ever saw!

One day my brother-In-law and sister was going to town. It was on a Saturday when I was staying with them. My brother-In-law told me there would be a new pair of overalls in the potato patch for me. So I hoed out the weeds in the potato patch. When they came home, they had me a new pair of overalls!

We used to raise Sorghum. I remember having to strip all of the blades or leaves from the cane, then we would cut it like you would corn stalks and haul it in to the Mill. The mill was made up of large rollers which were turned against each other by gears. The power we used was horse power. I mean horses walking in a circle which turned the gears to turn the rollers, which squeezed the juice out of the cane stalk. We would put it in vats like making maple syrup and cook it until it was just right. We kids always made ourselves some wooden spoons to scrape the vats after the Sorghum was emptied out. Boy was that good!

My father had black hair and blue eyes and was about 5 foot 10 and a half. He had a medium build. He was easy going but strict and set in his ways. He was stubborn but fair. He never smoked or drank.

My mother was very religious person. I never heard her use a cuss word or have a bad word to say about anyone. Her children were everything to her and she loved my father with all her heart. My mother taught school a year before she married my father. She taught at a little school house about 1 and a half mile east of Lapland, Indiana in Montgomery Co.

My oldest sister, Lorna Pearl had light wavy hair and was a hard worker. Everyone liked her. My sister, Lola May was more like our father. She had dark hair and gray-blue eyes. My brother, Lloyd Franklin was also like dad. He had dark hair, small in stature though. He did care much for farm work, although he worked on a farm for a while in Franklin Co. He worked for a William Barker (Not related) He also worked in a steel mill and factory work retiring from Allisons in Indianapolis. He never smoked or drank. My brother Lawrence Russell had brown hair, medium complexion. He never smoked or drank. He was also a hard worker. He worked on building state road 36 and on state road 43 with a team of horses. When he was younger, he worked on pipe lines. He also farmed and own’s quite a bit of land. Two of his boys are farmers. One boy works at Allisons. My brother Wain Lodell was the unsettled one. He never stayed in one place very long. He would buy a house, fix it up and move quite a few times. He had black hair. He is religious and never smoked or drank. At the present, he is unable to work. My sister, Edna Katherine had blonde wavy hair. She almost died when she was little. She was a small girl and spoiled all her life. Her and her husband are unable to work. My brother, Kenneth Dwight has dark hair. He never smoked. He works at Allisons. My brother, Carl Delbert is blonde and light complexion. He has worked as a salesman for Morman Feed Co.,Indianapolis Star as a sales manager and at the present he is a car salesman in Greencastle, Indiana. My brother, Benjamin Lewis was a red head. He never smoked. He was a great musician. He worked at IBM in Greencastle, In. He was killed in an auto accident when he was 25 years old.

I met my wife Helen Marie at a square dance at Portland Mills, Indiana. I never started dating her until later. The first time I asked her for a date, she said she wasn’t aiming to go with me. She told her Dad she didn’t want to go out with me. But when I asked her to go to the show with me, she turned and asked her dad and he said he didn’t care. (She said it made her mad). But we went out. I guess it was almost an accident that she went that time! But we went together from then on!

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This page created:  16 Nov 2009