Ashland makes another mark on local history books
history --> Barnes Oil Company in Ashland, Nebraska
ASHLAND - In December, Ashland made
another mark in the history books when the old Barnes Oil
Company building was officially entered on the National
Register of Historical Places.
The Barnes Oil Company building is located on the northwest
corner of Highway 6 and Silver Street. Since the building was
built in the early 1930’s, there have been only three owners -
the Barnes Brothers, Merle Barger and the present owner,
Farmer’s and Merchants National Bank.
Bank President Bob Fricke said that his family has had a
personal interest in the building for many years. Fricke said
that a family ancestor was involved with the Barnes Brothers.
Farmers and Merchants National Bank bought the building in
January of 2000 and have been working through a very long
process to get the building entered on the Register. The
building was considered for the honor because of its
association with commerce and transportation as well as the
"With the United States Department of the Interior National
Park Service and the criteria through the National Banking
everything has had to be approved by Washington, D.C. down to
the doorknobs," explained Fricke.
The Barnes Oil Company building is a one-story brick Tudor
Style cottage-type gas station constructed in 1932. The time
the building was built was a period between World I and World
War II when the development of roadside businesses to better
serve motorist emerged. During that era there was an increased
usage of the automobile, which created a demand and a
competition in the automobile service industry.
Highway 6 began as the OLD Transcontinental Highway (the
Omaha-Lincoln-Denver). Once the link to Detroit was complete
the OLD Highway became the DLD (the Detroit–Lincoln-Denver).
At the time, Highway 6 was one of only three transcontinental
highways to pass through Nebraska and was the major
transportation route from Omaha on west.
A Lincoln architect, John Unthank, designed the Barnes
station. Forrest Wilson, of David City was the contractor of
record. Historic documentation shows that he was awarded the
contract for approximately $5,000.00 and that changes in the
work brought the total to $5,800.00 for the building and the
The Barnes families were prominent business owners in Ashland
during the period the station was built, owning and operating
a hotel and restaurant, billiards hall and four filling
stations in town during this period.
The Barnes Oil Company was co-owned and operated for nearly 45
years by Ernest, also known as "Barney," Chester, who had the
nickname "Toots," and Kenneth Barnes, who went by "Skin."
Chris Barnes, son of Kenneth (Skin) said there was a cabin
camp behind the station with a central shower house. He
remembers being put to work in the family business.
"We stayed busy, there was always something to do," Barnes
went on to say, "there was always beds to make or something."
Barnes, who is a bit of a history buff and a Barnes Brothers
memorabilia collector, has gathered several unique items that
were given out by his family's business over the years. Many
items were given away at Christmas time, including toy trucks,
mugs, pens, key chains, rain hats, and shoe brushes.
Included in the collection is a pair of cowboy boots that were
an anniversary gift for 40 years of service from Frank
Phillips, founder of Phillips Oil Company, to Ernest (Barney).
Barney got to pick out of the boots himself, Barnes said, and
wore them as a symbol of pride.
"I remember him, Barney, tucking his pants in his boots and
wearing them to the Nebraska football games," said Chris
The boots were then given to Chris Barnes' older brother, Max,
who was the Mayor of Ashland for several years. Now they have
their place with the Barnes memorabilia collection.
Chris Barnes also remembered a hamburger shack of sorts known
as Sam’s Place just to the east of the station in front of the
cabin camp. It was owned by said Sally Wagner’s father, Sam
Wagner explained that when her father first came to Ashland in
1930 he ran a hamburger shop in a small building at what is
now 1433 Silver Street (Jim Sanders owns it now). He operated
the food stand there until the Barnes Brothers came to him and
said the building was too small for his business, and
suggested he move over next to their station. And the rest is
YESTERDAY – The
Barnes Brothers standing to the left Ernest, Chester and
Kenneth, as the Barnes Oil Company sign is erected.
copyrighted & used with permission of the
Gazette Newspaper; written by
Wiig, Staff Reporter