|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
Parsons is located in the north part of Labette County, three miles from the Labette and Neosho county line. The site of Parsons is a plateau, slightly elevated above the valley of Labette Creek on the west and south. Parsons is now a fine prosperous city of nearly seven thousand inhabitants, regularly laid out, with wide streets, and a large number of substantial brick stores, banks, churches, manufactories, etc., and three railroads.
This city has been of exceedingly rapid growth. Twelve years ago its site and surrounding country were occupied only by a few early settlers upon their claims. The Neosho Division of the Missouri Pacific Railroad was being pushed with all possible energy towards the Indian Territory, in order to gain the right of way through that Territory. Track laying on that division reached the present town site of Parsons, May 20, 1870, and was pushed forward at the rate of one mile a day. The building of a town was determined upon by railroad gentlemen of high official position, and in the fall of that year, L. F. Olney, of Parkersville, Morris Co., Kan., the engineer who had been appointed to survey and plat the town arrived upon the ground. A town company had already been formed, consisting of the following gentlemen: R. S. Stevens, Pres.; O. B. Gunn, H. D. Minck, A. D. Jaynes, J. R. Barrett and N. S. Goss. The town was named in honor of Levi Parsons, president of the Neosho Division of the M. P. R. R. Co.
An agent was appointed to purchase the claims in the immediate vicinity of the town site, which consists of 2,560 acres, and was owned at the time of purchase by the following persons: George W. Briggs, Abraham Cary, John Davis, H. L. Partridge, Henry Baker, Anson Kellogg, Angelina Baker, Joseph R. Simpson, Ed. R. Rall, H. Pearson, Abraham Fultz, Samuel Eaves, John Kendall, R. F. Caldwell, W. K. Hayes, Aaron Midkiff and George Wilson, most of whom owned a quarter section. As soon as it became known that a town was to be located here, people flocked in from all directions, living temporarily in wagons, tents, and hastily-built board houses. On the 8th of March, 1871, the Town Company's books were opened for the sale of lots, and on that day Abraham Carey purchased the first lot sold for $500. This lot was the one on the corner of Forest and Central avenues, now occupied by the Opera House. At this time the town had a population of several hundred. After a few small houses had been built the town of Ladore, five miles to the northwest, in Neosho County, and containing at the time about one thousand inhabitants, was almost wholly moved to Parsons. Montana, a small town on the Neosho, about nine miles southeast, contributed a portion, as also did Labette, another small town, eight miles southeast, on the Pacific Railroad. Thus the growth of Parsons was marvelous from the first, and on the 25th of April, 1871, the town was made a city of the third class.
The lots owned by the Town Company were of two classes--business lots and residence lots, the former being 25x150, and the price at which they have been sold has varied from $25 to $500. The company has refused to sell lots to speculators.
During the winter of 1870-71, a large number of business and professional men moved to Parsons and conducted their business or professions under difficulties and embarrassing inconveniences, with which their present stores and offices present striking contrasts, and it is difficult to say with exactness to whom belongs the credit of having been first upon the ground. But as near as can be ascertained, the business men came in about the following order: hardware, Mr. Perkins and Gibbert & Cary; grocery, Sipple Brothers and E. K. Currant, who also sold dry goods; stationery, Hays & Pearson; general merchandise, John W. Rhodus, M. Johnson, M. K. Brown and Ed. Foley, none of whom are now in business in Parsons; hotels, W. P. Squires, whose "hotel" consisted of a long row of tents and temporary board houses, and Jacob McLaughlin, whose original hotel is now used as a livery stable. The first drug store was opened by Dr. T. L. Warren, in November, 1870, who was the first physician in Parsons. He was followed in regular order by Drs. G. E. Kennedy, A. L. Hutchison and G. W. Gabriel. The first lawyer was J. G. Parkhurst; second, E. E. Hastings; third, T. R. Thornton; fourth T. C. Cory, who came in March, 1871, from Ladore, Neosho County, and is the only one of the four now practicing in Parsons; Willard Davis, afterwards Attorney General of the State, came to Parsons in May, and R. M. Donley, recently shot and killed in Texas, by C. M. Burgess, came here in June, 1871. There are now eleven practicing attorneys in Parsons.
The first school was taught in 1872 by Prof. Taylor and the first sermon was preached by Rev. H. H. Cambern, in 1871, in a saloon, a whisky barrel being used as a desk or pulpit. Mr. Cambern was a Presbyterian.
The first marriage in Parsons was that of Thomas Deckery to Mary J. Kinnison, January 9, 1871; the first birth was that of Parsons Dana, son of W. W. and Nancy J. Dana, in 1871. A town lot was presented to him by R. S. Stevens.
Parsons was made a city of the third class April 25, 1871, without having been organized as a town. Willard Davis was the first Mayor, and the first Council consisted of J. I. Plato, Abraham Cary, W. W. Dana, J. W. Rhodus and Charles Watson. E. B. Stevens was elected Mayor in the fall of 1871; Angell Matthewson in the spring of 1874; George W. Gabriel, 1875; P. Y. Thomas, 1877; J. W. Thompson, 1879; George W. Gabriel, 1881. Parsons was made a city of the second class, February 25, 1873.
In the fall of 1880 through the enterprise of E. H. Edwards, the city was supplied with an Opera Hall. It is a large two-story brick building, the upper floor being fitted up and furnished as a hall, and the lower floor divided up and occupied as store rooms.
The city government has charitably provided and supports an appropriate cemetery for the repose of her dead. The cemetery grounds are large and tastefully laid off, and are ornamented in keeping with the monrnful [sic] solitudes of this city of the dead. Among the stones already marking the repose of the tomb are numerous large and costly monuments. The grounds comprise an are of twenty acres, and were procured from the Town Company, October, 1872.
Parsons now contains 12 hotels, 15 groceries, 24 blacksmiths, 13 general stores, 4 hardware stores, 5 agricultural implement dealers, 3 book stores, 3 boot and shoe stores, 3 furniture stores, 3 harness shops, 3 jewelers, four lumber yards, 8 millinery stores, 4 real estate and insurance agencies, 1 carriage shop, 3 drug stores, 3 livery tables, 5 meat markets, 6 grain dealers, and a population of about 6 500, 1,400 of whom were registered as voters in the fall of 1882.
This city has been generally known as the "Infant Wonder," on account of its rapid and permanent growth. Its streets are regularly laid off at right angles with each other, and many of them are macadamized, guttered and curbed, and bordered by flagged stone sidewalks, the flagging being found in inexhaustible quantities within a few miles of the city. Many of the business blocks are brick buildings, two or three stories in height, with iron fronts, stone trimmings and plate glass windows and doors. In the residence portions of the town there are a considerable number of commodious, tasteful and elegant dwellings, which lack only shade trees around them to be all that could be desired. This defect will in time be remedied in part; not wholly, however, perhaps, on account of the smallness of the lots, which on this account do not permit ideal ornamentation.
SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES.
The people of the city early availed themselves of every means and convenience for the education of the rising generation. No sooner had a sufficient number of children of school age been gathered into town than a school was furnished for them to attend. The earliest effort in this direction was made in 1871. A school house, a frame structure, was erected, in which the first school was taught by E. H. Taylor. The influx of settlers and the increase of the population of the town was so rapid that it was not more than one year until the building already erected became inadequate to accommodate the increased number of pupils. Accordingly a large two-story brick building containing four rooms, was erected at a cost of $15,000, and stands in the east part of the city. In 1874, two years later, the cramped condition of the schools demanded still more room, to satisfy which another two-story brick building was erected, costing the same as the former, to which it is very similar in appearance and size and stands in the west part of the city. In 1880 necessity compelled the erection of another building. This one stands in the north part of the city and is a tastefully constructed two-story brick, containing five rooms, three school rooms and two recitation rooms, and although perhaps the largest and finest school building in the city, yet it cost only about $12,000 or less by $3,000 than either of the others. A school building for the accommodation of the colored children was erected recently and is a plain two-story frame building. The schools, numbering a population of 1,596 have been thoroughly graded, the departments and grades corresponding to the schools in other cities, and are under Lee Tomiln as superintendent; J. W. Iden and J. W. Richardson as principals; assisted by a corps of nine competent lady teachers as follows: Misses Helen G. Steele, Lina Diggs, Mary Grover, Elsie Abenchain, Phoebe Reynolds, Alice Wilson, Leta Gabriel, Alice Yarnell and Maude Kyser. The rapid increase of the school population is already beginning to crowd the capacious buildings now in use and will soon necessitate the erection of another building. The present officers of the school board are: William Mon, President; A. D. Arnett, Vice-President; A. H. Tyler, Clerk, and M. Johnson, Treasurer.
Rev. Mr. Chambern, of the Presbyterian Church, preached the first sermon in Parsons, in the spring of 1871, the services being conducted in the Cary's building which stood where the Opera house now stands. Since then the spread and influence of religious teaching has kept pace with the progress of the town, the various denominations becoming organized as the respective numbers would permit.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in April, 1872. A small frame church house was built in which services were conducted until 1880, when a spacious brick edifice was erected. The congregation has flourished since its beginning, and now has a membership of 180, with Rev. H. W. Chaffee as a pastor.
The Presbyterian Church was organized in February, 1871. Meetings were at first held in whatever place afforded accommodation. The foundation for a regular church building was begun in 1874, but the structure was not built, and what work had been done was afterward torn up with the view of enlargement. The building was erected in 1875, and is a one story frame. The membership is 185, and W. F. H. Keys is pastor.
The Congregational Church was organized July 12, 1873. The church building, a one-story brick, was erected during the same year. The congregation, numbering sixty members, is under charge of Rev. Mr. Hartley.
The Baptist Church became established in 1872. For some time they conducted worship in other churches and in halls, until in 1879, when the p resent church edifice was erected. It is a small one-story brick structure. The society has a membership of fifty-one, and is under the spiritual guidance of Rev. H. M. Carr.
The Christian Church was organized in 1873. The present membership is sixty, under charge of Rev. Asa Curl. This body also held its meetings in other churches until the erection of a regular church building in 1879, which is a one-story frame.
St. John's Memorial Protestant Episcopal Church was organized in 1873, through the efforts of Angell Matthewson. During the following year a church edifice was erected - a one-story brick building. Rev. W. T. Bowen is the present pastor, and the congregation has a membership of sixty.
The United Brethren became regularly organized as a church body in February, 1875. They for some time depended on the courtesy and christian charity of other churches for a place of worship, until the Methodist built their new one, when these Brethren procured the old frame one, in which they now worship. The society has a membership of forty-one with Rev. Foley as pastor.
The Catholic Church was established in 1872. The present membership is 350 under the charge of P. J. Roos, priest. A building has been erected and is a substantial structure. During the fall and winter of 1881 this body established a school for the education of children belonging to that church, Protestant children being also admitted. Four teachers, or sisters, are employed in the school, and the whole is managed by Father Roos. A neat frame building was erected for the accommodation of the school, which will be superseded by a larger and more expensive one when the necessities demand it.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in November, 1876, and a Baptist organization was effected by the colored people, the latter having erected a house of worship in 1882, a plain one-story frame building.
THE PRESS AND SOCIETIES.
A flourishing newspaper press is the greatest indicator of the intelligence of any community. Where these flourish there is a reading public and a consequently intelligent one. Thus it is in the city of Parsons, with a wide and liberal patronage, her journals of news and intelligence prosper. There are at present three live newspapers published in the city, tow of which being long established enjoy wide circulation, and the third, though but recently started, meets with such encouragement as is conducive to its success, and as only intelligent and reading people bestow.
The Sun, the longest established of all the papers now published in the city, began its career in June 1871, through the enterprise of N. W. Reynolds and L. J. Perry. For several years it was subject to an almost annual change of proprietorship, until in 1878, when it was purchased by H. H. Lusk who has since been engaged in its publication, as a weekly news journal. It is a six column folio, Republican in politics, and has a circulation of 1,400 copies. The addition of a daily paper was made in September, 1880. It is a five column folio, and has a circulation of 1,200 copies. It is a morning paper, and the only one receiving Associated Press dispatches.
The Eclipse was started in April, 1874, by J. B. Lamb, as a weekly paper, which has enjoyed gratifying success, now having a subscription list of 1,000, and is an eight column folio. The additional publication of a daily was begun in April, 1881, at which time also, A. C. Lamb, son of the proprietor, became interested as partner in the concern. The circulation of the daily is 350 copies.
The Leader was established by G. F. Kimball, as a Sunday morning paper, in October, 1882, the first issue being made on Sunday, October 29. Being recently begun the enterprise has, as yet, made little history but judging from the ability and experience f its founder, as a newspaper man, and the encouragement bestowed by the people of the city upon undertakings of this kind, it is safe to predict for it a prominent and lasting standing among the journals of the city.
Perhaps nowhere is social and fraternal fellowship so highly cultivated and general as in the city of Parsons as shown by her numerous organizations of this kind. All the various secret, social and mutual benefit organizations are here represented, with large and full membership.
Parsons Lodge, No. 117, A., F. & A. M., was instituted October 17, 1872, and was the second secret organization in the place. It now has a membership of 160, with S. B. Newton, worshipful master, and A. C. Peck, secretary.
Mount Lebanon Lodge, No. 38, A., F. & A. M., was instituted July 10, 1876. This organization is composed of colored men, and now has twenty-eight members. George Starr is worshipful master and Ephraim Woods, secretary.
Parsons Lodge, No. 94, I. O. O. F., was instituted June 28, 1872. The present membership is forty, and the officers are: J. M. Shulse, noble grand; J. W. Cowles, secretary. This was the first secret organization in the town.
Parsons Lodge, No. 46, I. O. G. T., was instituted November 12, 1874. The present officers of the lodge, now numbering twenty-five members, are H. E. Thompson, worth chief templar; James Grimes, worthy secretary.
Prairie Valley Grange, No. 37, P. of H., was established in April, 1873. The organization contains about 100 members, of which E. F. Williams is master, A. E. Kees, secretary, and W. H. Porter, treasurer.
Forest Park Association. - A stock company known as the Forest Park Association of Parsons, was organized and chartered December 10, 1881. The capital stock of $5,000 is divided into fifty shares of $100 each, all of which have been taken. A tract of eighteen acres of land lying to the southeast of the city, and on the west bank of Labette River was purchased and is being fitted up and beautified with walks, drives, lakelets, fountains, statuary, rustic bridges, etc. This Association is made up from the wealthiest and most enterprising men of the city, and the enterprise they have undertaken is indeed praiseworthy and meets the hearty approval of the pleasure loving public. W. H. Morris is President of the Association; John Dean, Vice President, and S. W. Kniffin, Secretary.
A Library Association, under the auspices of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, was formed in 1880, the object being to establish a public reading room. Several efforts of the kind had previously been made, but they met with failure. During the year 1881 Mrs. Augustus Wilson visited the Eastern cities, where she procured aid through the donation of money and books toward the enterprise. The erection of a large library building began in the spring of 1882, and is a most beautiful brick structure one hundred feet long by sixty feet wide, and three stories high. It is handsomely finished on the exterior, and the interior is elegantly fitted up for library purposes. The library at present contains about 2,000 volumes of miscellaneous books. Mrs. Wilson is president of the association and Mrs. Kate Grimes, secretary.
The Parsons Fair and Driving Park Association was established in 1880, as a stock company, with a capital of $20,000, and is composed of the wealthiest citizens of the place. The grounds of forty-six acres, were procured and fitted up for the purposes desired, in which a large speed ring is included, and such other conveniences as help to render attendance on such places enjoyable.
BUSINESS AND MANUFACTURES.
The First National Bank of Parsons was established and chartered March 29, 1872, by a banking company of which A. D. Jaynes was president, Angell Matthewson, cashier, and R. S. Stevens, A. D. Jaynes, O. B. Greene, Samuel Fry, W. G. Melville, E. B. Stevens, and M. N. Reynolds, were directors. The present officers of the bank are R. S. Stevens, president; Lee Clark, vice-president and cashier, and E. B. Stevens, assistant cashier. The banking capital is $50,000, with a reserve of $4,500, and deposits averaging $110,000.
Parsons Commercial Bank was first started in May, 1874, as the Parsons Savings Bank by a stock company composed of about fifteen members, and was duly incorporated. In 1878 it was changed from a savings bank to its present situation. A. Wilson was first president, and Joshua Hill, cashier. The institution carries on business on a capital of $50,000, and a reserve of $2,000. The deposits amount to $100,000. At present J. Hill is president; A. Wilson, vice-president, and G. W. Hawk, cashier, who is also chief manager of the concern.
The Osage Coal and Mining Company was organized in May, 1871, by R. S. Stevens and a number of Eastern Parties. The company was formed for the purpose of mining and dealing in coal, and has a capital stock of $500,000. Mines now being operated are in the Indian Territory, Missouri and Kansas, the product being from fifty to sixty car loads per day.
The Telephone Exchange was established in Parsons, in July, 1882, by the Merchants' Telephone and Telegraph Company, located at Kansas City, Mo., the business at Parsons being under the management of J. C. Stimmell. There is also a line connecting with the city of Oswego.
As a manufacturing city, Parsons holds no mean place. The principal establishments of this kind are the shops of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad Company, located and built here in 1872. Of these there is a semi-circular round-house, containing stalls for fourteen engines, and the machine shop proper, which measures 100x300 feet, with an engine house 40x50 feet. These buildings are massive stone structures, costing more than a quarter of a million dollars, and contain machinery valued at $60,000. A new foundry was erected in 1882 taking the place of the old frame one. It is a substantial brick building, 60x166 feet, costing about $10,000. The blacksmith shop is a frame building, 50x130 feet. In all the departments of these shops there is employed an average force of 210 men the year round, to whom is paid annually as wages $180,000. Besides these the Bridge Department for over 800 miles of road, employing about thirty men, is also located at this place.
The Parsons Foundry and Machine Shops were established in 1879, by Robert Crichton, and are employed in the manufacture of all sorts of machinery to order, and in doing all sorts of job and repair work, the foundry being used in making mouldings of all sorts.
The National Flour Mill and Elevator was brought to arsons from Osage Mission by H. H. Brown and H. D. Mirick, in 1879, and was fitted up by Angell Matthewson. It is a steam mill with five run of buhrs, and has a capacity for grinding 200 bushels of wheat per day. The building is a three-story frame, to which is attached a large frame elevator. The business is now in the hands of H. H. Brown & Co.
A sash and door factory was built in the summer of 1882, by D. P. Deprey and G. L. Ellis. The building is a large two-story brick, the lower story is being fitted up with a full line of machinery for the manufacture of all sorts of carpenters' house-furnishing, finishing and ornamental goods.
The Foster Automatic Windmill Manufactory was started in June, 1882, by John Keys and William Alexander. The shop is operated in making windmills, as ordered, and also in doing all sorts of wagon and carriage work, and blacksmithing. The building is a one-story brick, measuring 40x60 feet in dimensions.
C. C. Keyser operates a plow factory, in the manufacture of his patent breaking plow, which, it is said, possesses points of superiority over any other plows of the kind, and its manufacture bids fair to develop into a large and lucrative enterprise.