It was brought to my attention that I had neglected to mention Parkerville as the only town in the Nation with that name. I knew I’d forgotten someone when I was making that list! I’ll admit I have intentionally been avoiding Parkerville. Not because I don’t like it. I’m actually quite fond of Parkerville. I considered buying property there once. My great, great granduncle Richard Varner’s house and his son’s house are still standing in Parkerville. My great grandfather and his sister were born and went to school there. I have a bond that connects me to the little town across the generations. The reason I’ve been silent about Parkerville is because local historian Bob Strom has said about all there is to say concerning Parkerville. I feel there is nothing more or new I can add to the annals.
It may be accurate to say that the town was first named Parkersville, as that was the name of the post office established there August 9th 1870. The first postmaster of that office was Charles G. Parker for whom the town is named. Charley’s monument in the Parkerville Cemetery says he was born May 5th 1821 and died September 7th 1909. His obituary in the Council Grove Guard of September 17th 1909 says he was born in 1820 and died at the age of 89 years, 4 months and 2 days. Whichever birth date you choose to observe doesn’t change the fact that C.G. Parker was quite old when he died.
Parker first passed through Kansas in 1849 on his way to New Mexico. He was engaged in trading on the Santa Fe Trail for nearly 20 years. The Council Grove Press of August 25th 1860 reads, “C.G. Parker’s train consisting of 21 wagons, 225 mules, and 30 men passed through Wednesday. He had come from Las Vegas, New Mexico and was going to Kansas City. Mr. Parker’s wagons were loaded with government stores. He also brought 18 passengers from New Mexico to the States.” The passing of many years didn’t seem to slow this old freighter down much. Just a few years prior to his death he had taken a shipment of cattle by train from Parkerville to Kansas City.
Of course, no history of Parkerville would be complete without the story of the Great County Seat Contest of 1871. The town was incorporated in February of that year and was the only town other than Council Grove that was incorporated. I suppose that gave Parkerville a legitimate reason to vie for county seat. Most will be familiar with the basic story that Council Grove built a nice stone wall around the cemetery and Parkerville made a beautiful city park in the town square, both for the sake of keeping workers around to swell the vote in their favor. This may or may not be true, but I’ll share what I have found and you may decide for yourself.
The 1912 Kansas Cyclopedia simply states that Parkerville ‘began a spirited contest to become the county seat.’ Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas of 1883 says, “It once had pretensions to be the seat of justice and disputed the field with Council Grove for this honor. Having been defeated it resumed the tenor of its way, and the people turned their attention to making the town as attractive as possible and to compete for the trade of the surrounding country.” Neither mentions employing shady means to obtain the end. Council Grove did install street lamps the year of the race, and the Odd Fellows built the stone wall around the cemetery. There are a number of accounts here and there that mention as many drovers as bovine on the prairie at the time of the election and there were nearly as many ballots cast as there were man, woman and child in the county. Never since has Morris County had so many turn out to vote. After the election was over a petition was circulated in an attempt to put it to a vote again, but it failed and the City of Council Grove voted on the issuance of bonds to start building a court house.
The first newspaper in Parkerville was the Morris County Enterprise, first printed January 3rd 1878. Like most papers in their early days, it changed partners and hands a few times and finally died. The last issue we know of was printed on September 19th 1884. Parkerville went without a paper until October 8th of 1887 when the first issue of The Parkerville Times left the press. It had a very short run and keeled over on July 14th the following year.
One item from the first issue of the Parkerville Times, although not strictly Parkerville related, I thought of interest. There’s an advertisement for S.H. Barrett’s circus that came to Council Grove on Tuesday October 11th of 1887. Incidentally, it also passed through my hometown of Quenemo. Among the many wonders in the side show was Jo-Jo the dog-faced Russian boy. Fyodor Yevtishchev was born in 1868 and had a rare condition called hypertrichosis, also known as ‘werewolf syndrome.’ Basically it caused him to have an unusually abundant growth of hair on his body and face. His father suffered from the same and had toured France in the circus. The great P.T. Barnum discovered Fyodor and brought him to America in 1884 at the age of 16. Barnum concocted the story that his human Skye Terrier and his father were tracked to their cave in Kostroma and were savages. Fyodor was far from a savage though; he could speak German, Russian and English. He died of pneumonia January 31st 1904.
Well, back to the newspapers. The next paper to come to town was the Parkerville Tribune, first printed January 16th of 1896. By January 7th of 1898 the paper came under the ownership of T.B. Haslam of Council Grove and the month following he changed the name to The Morris County News. August 31st of 1900, the last paper was printed in Parkerville and White City took over the responsibility of furnishing Parkerville with news.
From Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas of 1883 we read, that Parkersville (sic) “is a very neat little burgh and a good deal of taste is exhibited by the manner in which the houses and their surroundings are kept.” At that time Parkerville had one store that sold dry goods and groceries, two drug and groceries, one hardware and groceries and one solely groceries. If any assumptions could be had about the folks in Parkerville, they ought to have been well fed. They also touted two cheese factories, two harness and one wagon shop, and the steam grist and saw mill that was built by Charles Parker in 1871.
During the 1925 Centennial celebration in Morris County, a program was printed highlighting all the towns. Along with a short history of the towns were listed the current businesses that sponsored the Centennial. We get a little look at what merchants there were in Parkerville in 1925. Burgner, Bowman & Matthews Lumber Co. of Council Grove (located where Schwerdtfeger Auto Sales is presently) had a branch in Burdick and one in Parkerville of which Lee Churchman was the manager. The Parkerville Garage was operated by George Stewart; Mr. & Mrs. Charles Roehrman owned the Café; A.G. Ernst was the proprietor of Wear-u-Well Shoes; Arnold Roehrman was the barber; W.D. Winters the postmaster and S.L. Cannon ran the General Merchandise. The Peoples State Bank, which was organized in 1909, boasted a capital and surplus of $11,500. W.H. Dodderidge and William Churchman were president and vice-president respectively. A.G. Porter served as cashier and H.W. Clayton the assistant cashier.
Even though it appears the locals called the town Parkerville early on, it was not until June 23rd 1892 that the name of the post office was changed and the ‘s’ dropped from Parkersville. Mrs. Emma J. Hall was appointed the new post mistress. The post office remained open until October 31st 1953. Parkerville may not be what it once was, but then again is any town? One thing that remains in the hearts of the few that remain there is pride for their community, and it is reflected in their work to maintain the park, the band stand, the church and the few remaining old buildings.