|Birth: ||Aug. 5, 1909|
|Death: ||Jul. 15, 1991|
John D. Barker was born Haskiel John Barker on 5 Aug. 1909 in Scott County, VA and grew up near Pressmen's Home, Hawkins County, TN. As a young man, he worked on the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.
He married Mable Louise Sizemore of Eidson, Hawkins County, TN on 15 Dec. 1938 in Reno, NV. During WWII, he was in the U.S. Navy's Seabees Construction Battalion.
After the war, he and Mable decided to open a gift shop, cabinet shop and ornamental concrete business known as "Honest John's Trading Post" in a multi-level building on what was then called the Bristol Highway (US 11-W) and now known as Memorial Blvd. (Hwy. 126) in Kingsport, TN. As their Hillcrest location was on a major north/south highway and had lots of out of state travelers, he came up with the idea to construct one of the world's largest Indians to attract customers. "The Big Indian", as it was known to the locals was constructed in John's basement shop and made from lumber, wire mesh, stucco, sand, cement and fiberglass. Dubbed "Kaw-Liga" (after the Hank Williams song) by John, the statue was 25 feet, 8 inches tall and weighed almost 10,000 lbs. Adding a three-foot pedestal and a 48-inch feather during installation, the Indian stood nearly 33 feet tall when completed.
After about ten years at that location, John and Mable bought property on the new US-11W / E. Stone Drive "Super Highway" that was being constructed and built a new "Honest John's Restaurant & Gift Shop", relocating the Big Indian on a flatbed trailer of his own design. The business became very popular with locals and travelers alike boasting a restaurant, conference room, gift shop, concrete statuary, custom cabinet shop and sold gasoline. They sold a lot of postcards showing Kaw-Liga that were a popular tourist souvenir. The long building also contained their comfortable apartment where they raised their daughter Montie and on the land behind it he built a large horse barn, riding ring and a nice stocked fish pond. After some thefts of statuary late at night, John installed an "electric eye" security system that would alert them if anyone crossed a boundary in the parking lot. More than once John shot out the tires of thieves from his bedroom window. The business was a success and John and Mable finally decided to retire and sold the business to the Pratt family in 1971, where it still operates as Pratt's Barbecue.
John and Mable built a fine large brick home several miles east of their former business on US 11-W and enjoyed their retirement. Unfortunately, Mable became sick and while being briefly hospitalized for double pneumonia, she unexpectedly died of an aortic aneurism on 25 May 1975. John continued living at their new home until old age and illness required him moving to Collierville, TN to live with his daughter Montie Barker Grills, husband David and his three grandchildren for the last seven months of his life. He loved those grandchildren.
He and Mable were charter members of Golda United Methodist Church and later St. Matthew United Methodist Church. He was a member of the Kingsport Masonic Lodge #688, a member of the Scottish Rite and the Jerico Temple. He was a former member of the Fraternal Order of Police and a life member of the VFW.
Survivors at the time of his death included his daughter Montie Barker Grills and husband David of Collierville, TN; three grandchildren: Mimi, Lela and Jonathan; one sister, Mrs. Brown (Georgia Marie) Fleenor of Daytona Beach, FL (d. 12 Nov. 2001); one brother, Willard G. Barker of Kingsport, TN; and several nieces and nephews.
A wake and visitation was held with a Masonic service on the evening of Thursday July 18, 1991 at the East Lawn Funeral Home with the funeral conducted in their chapel on Friday July 19, 1991. Rev. Worley Fleenor, Rev. Gerald H. McFarland and Rev. Rye Fleenor (d. 22 Oct. 2009) officiated. Burial was in the East Lawn Memorial Park.
Mable Louise Sizemore Barker (1915 - 1975)
East Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery
Created by: David Sizemore
Record added: Aug 21, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 57444686
Loved the "Big Indian" and visiting the store|
E B Holmberg
Added: Jul. 11, 2012
Added: Dec. 17, 2010