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Parkerville, Kansas History

Parkerville is situated on the Neosho River in Parker Township. It was incorporated in February, 1871, the incorporators being C. G. Parker (townsite owner), J. A. Rogers, G. W. Clark, H. Daniels and W. M. Thomas, and these, by the articles of incorporation, were made the trustees of the town. The following spring an election was held for town officers, at which J. A. Wallace was chosen mayor.

Parkerville had the same railroad facilities as Council Grove, both being located on the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas (Katy) Railroad, built diagonally through the county from northwest to southeast in 1868.

The general store run by Captain Brown and the drug store/post office run by Mayor J. A. Wallace were much frequented places in town according to Percy Ebbutt February 4, 1871. The town, which at that time also consisted of about nineteen houses, and a boarding-house.

There was in the town one store devoted to dry goods and groceries, two to drugs and groceries, one to hardware and groceries, one to groceries exclusively, and also two cheese factories according to A. T. Andreas in 1883.

There was likewise two harness shops and a wagon shop. There was, besides, a stea, grist mill, with saw mill attached, which was erected in 1871 by C. G. Parker. Rough native lumber sawed at the Parkerville sawmill was used to build many houses in the area. C. G. Parker built the first residence in town. The first store in town was put up by Eastman and Thomas, in 1870. The town had a very fine stone schoolhouse, two stories high, which was erected in 1871, and the first teacher in town was G. McCullom. In 1880 the Methodist organization of the place put up a very handsome stone edifice, and take the place for all in all, it bears an air of neatness, taste, thrift and prosperity. Its population is between 200 and 250 according to A. T. Andreas in 1883.

The Morris County Enterprise was established in October 1877 by V. C. Welch, who also has been and remains its sole editor and proptietor. It is published weekly on Thursday at Parkerville in Parker Township and was Republican in politics. Its circulation was about 500, has a good local advertising patronage. It was published until September 19, 1884.

Parkerville, Kansas citizens rallied to remove (Morris) county seat status from Council Grove and was defeated. Both communities imported potential voters by giving hordes of transients enough work to last them through the election. In that contest, "there was nearly a vote for every man, woman and child living in Morris County," according to Mrs. Frank Prescott's 1936 "History of Parkerville" in the White City Register.

The last train went through in 1950, and the evidence it ever was a whistle stop was gone by 1963. They even took up the tracks.

It's spirit, not size that counts for Parkerville 'folk'

by Juliana McCully--The Topeka Capital-Journal

It's a trip past orchards and tree farms, where the feathers of native brome and spikes of switch grass fan the edge of two-lane K-177 highway.

The wooden utility poles are weathered to a silvery-ash in the sun. Jaunty mailboxes on the post roads assert themselves every so often.

From K-4 highway west, it's two gravel-road miles to a modest black and white sign that says simply, "Parkerville."

There's no population notation, but if there was, it might say, "44 friendly folk."

Small rebirth

Years have passed since this town dubbed itself such. Today, Parkerville claims 37 residents and 26 dogs. But the tiny town that once boasted as many as 200 people doesn't accept that its pristine Flint Hills home is a ghost of earlier years.

Indeed, retirement for some Wichita folks meant a rebirth for the town, says Mervil Dick, long-time resident and two-time mayor.

In Parkerville, residents walk the town square, sharing stories of their neighbors and each house, or house that used to be, and tales about Parkerville's tail town aspiration.

It's a place of nooks and crannies, where houses and outbuildings go on and on with additions. If Norman Rockwell's America still exists, it is here in the park with big important trees, a white gazebo and a picnic shelter house with ceiling fans and wooden folding chairs, unchained, neatly awaiting use.

In Parkerville, where TV programs come on satellite dishes, techno-companions to vegetable gardens, farm implements and old outhouses, there are no speed limits posted and little to mark its borders. But residents remember when Parkerville nearly became the Morris County seat.

Many of the town's buildings, including three grocery stores, a hotel, depot, and two schools, are gone now. But a Fort Riley soldier bought the Methodist Church, built in 1879, and the land surrounding it for $800 a couple years ago and has been refurbishing it as a home. Another couple call home the town's old gas station, which carried a $250 price tag.

There was a bank here once, but it "kinda died away with all the money in it," said Fern McCully, a resident since 1963.

Bob Strom has ministered to the Parkerville Baptist Church for 33 years. It used to be, any time Sunday school attendance reached 125, he would eat his lunch Sunday noon in the bell tower.

Strom hasn't done that since the early 1970s, but the church still claims a congregation of about 70 people, some from Junction City, White City and Council Grove. This past summer, 92 children and 14 teachers participated in vacation Bible school, residents are proud to note.

New life for a dying town

It was another church congregation that reinvigorated Parkerville.

Parkerville had a population of 14 when some 10 families from Broadway Christian Church in Wichita took a fancy to the town. They all had bought cabins for weekends, fishing and camping, but the way it ended up, they all sold their homes in Wichita and moved to Parkerville, said Mervil Dick.

Dick and his wife, Marie, chose Parkerville because, "It's quiet and away from the big city. I never was a big city man - never got the country out of my life," said the Harveyville native.

"The taxes are low, and you couldn't ask for a cheaper place to live. I like the Flint Hills country anyway," he said.

"It's a nice place to live. There's good fishing - lots of ponds and the Neosho River runs on the south side of town. And it was kind of like coming home," Dick said.

People from the church bought places one by one, he said, and it became a sort of fellowship within the Wichita church. And as their friends bought homes, the men worked together to make them fit to live in.

"We enjoyed working on each other's houses. We tore down old buildings and fixed up town," Dick said.

One man built a miniature golf course in his back yard, and the whole town would play in the evenings and compete in tournaments.

Boom town gone bust

The railroad busted this 19th century would-be boom town. The last train went through in 1950, and the evidence it ever was a whistle stop was gone by 1963. They even took up the tracks.

The railroad had brought citizens to Parkerville, and when founding father Parker laid out the town in 1871, it was to accommodate a public square in the heart of Parkerville.

His intention was that this square be the location of the county court-house, and citizens rallied to remove county seat status from Council Grove.

It was said the means employed by both Council Grove and Parkerville for the top spot weren't altogether scrupulous. Both communities imported potential voters by giving hordes of transients enough work to last them through the election, and in that contest, "there was nearly a vote for every man, woman and child living in Morris County," according to Mrs. Frank Prescott's 1936 "History of Parkerville" in the White City Register.

In the early 1880s, the Missouri Pacific Railroad was built through the county and the towns of Wesley and Herington came into being along the new road and took away from Parkerville the trade from the south and southwest, Prescott wrote.


The town has seen four new couples move in this past summer, and a retiree also has moved back.

It's what Dick likes to see: "It's good for the town."

The town even celebrates "homecoming" every year over the Labor Day weekend, when Parkerville revisits its past in the memories of former residents.

"They come from all over the U.S. - they're liable to come from anywhere," Dick said.

Lucille Rader, Wichita, used to call Parkerville home.

"I remember playing in this park on the same equipment, buying a bottle of pop for a nickel at that store over there. My kids played in this park.

"It's interesting to watch it change - it's smaller and further down the road than it was 20 years ago," Rader said. "But it's amazing how many people know about it for as small as it is."

Even farther down the road from its rail town beginnings, these 1992 residents are the people keeping Parkerville alive. But it's a pioneer dream of a different sort - one that bargains against the elements of urban encroachment.

Parkerville today is a place where the clock doesn't rule, where relaxation is the order of the day, where every person is important, and visitors are special.

The folks in Parkerville like it that way. And so too, maybe, do those of the urban sprawl like knowing there are places where one can find 44 friendly folk.

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