Smallest City in the United States
In this little, almost forgotten town on the Allegheny, in the northernmost part of the county limits, Armstrong can claim the credit of possessing the smallest city in the United States. Yet at the date of its incorporation every evidence was given that Parker would one day stand in the class of the average metropolis of from 10,000 to 25,000 inhabitants. But that hope is now past, and Parker has only her charter as evidence of her once mighty population.
The name of this city was adopted as an honor to the Hon. John Parker, who surveyed most of the land now included in the counties of Armstrong and Butler in 1786. In 1797 he was granted several hundred acres of land for his services, most of it being on the present site of Parker City. He settled here and built a house on a hill in the edge of Butler county, where he resided until his death. He was associate judge of Butler county for thirty-five years. He left a large family, all of whom later became identified with the history of Parker City and the surrounding territory.
William Parker, father of Judge Parker, moved from Washington county with his family about the year 1798, settled upon Bear creek and erected a gristmill there. It was of logs and contained only the rudest machinery, but it was a great convenience to settlers for many miles around. It was the first mill erected in the northern part of the county.
Bear Creek Furnace
One of the pioneer industries of Armstrong county was a charcoal blast furnace for the reduction of iron ore, erected at a date probably not later than 1820. The old stack was torn down years ago, and now nothing remains of the once important industry save the memory existing in the minds of old residents. The furnace stood on the north side of Bear creek, about three fourths of a mile from the mouth of the stream. It was built by Whiting & Stackpole, who failed after conducting the business for a time. Colonel Robinson, Henry Baldwin (afterward Judge Baldwin), and a Mr. Beltzhoover were the next managers. They also failed, and were succeeded by John and Alexander McNicoll. A Mr. Davis, of Pittsburgh, next tried the business and failed. Samuel and Reuben Leonard became the owners of the furnace, and carried on a successful business until about the year 1840, when they ceased operations on account of the scarcity of timber and the increased cost of conducting the business. The furnace was run by steam, and had a large capacity for those days. The product was frequently seventy-five tons of pig iron per week.
This village was brought into existence by the Bear Creek furnace, and consisted mainly of rude dwellings occupied by employees of the company operating the furnace. The closing up of the business of the Leonards was the death-blow of the place, which steadily declined until at the commencement of the oil excitement, only three or four houses and two churches remained.
Lawrenceburg was laid out by Judge Parker about the year 1819. John Conway, a wheelwright, built the first house, and was the first settler. He was soon followed by William Cartwright. The old stone house erected by him was used while he owned it as a blacksmith shop, and also contained a carding machine. It is now the oldest building in Parker.
The first store in Lawrenceburg was established about 1820, and was conducted by Judges Parker and Bovard, of Butler county. It was run on the cooperative plan and many settlers of the neighborhood were interested. It flourished a number of years. James Reed opened the first tavern. The number of stores and taverns increased as the village grew, and it was not long until there were three stores and three taverns, each doing a thriving business for those days, and attracting customers from points many miles distant. There was a large amount of traffic and travel upon the river, by means of canoes and keelboats, and all who had business to transact at Parker's Landing naturally came to Lawrenceburg to do their trading, as there was no village at the former place.
Besides those already mentioned, Michael McCullough, John Andrews, Edward Carleton, Dr. Beggs and John McCaslin were among the first residents of the place. McCullough kept store and built the first brick house. John Marshall came to the place in 1825, and bought twenty acres of land at $1 per acre. His land was not included in the original plot of the village, but was adjacent to the northern line of the town. When his land was found to be valuable oil territory, $45,000 was offered for it, but Mr. Marshall concluded not to sell.
From the closing up of the furnace business in 1840 until the discovery of oil, in 1865, Lawrenceburg continued to exist in name, but was a place of no importance. At the latter date there were, at a liberal estimate, less than fifty inhabitants. By 1870 thousands of people had located here either as permanent or transient residents, while all the surrounding oil fields were thickly populated. No one who has not witnessed the rapid upbuilding of towns in the oil region can form an adequate idea of the growth of the place. The importance of the oil discoveries was not fully realized until midsummer of 1869, and that date really marks the beginning of Parker City. Lawrenceburg became a part of the second ward of Parker City in 1873.
In the early years of the settlement of this part of the country, Parker's Landing was an unimportant station, occasionally visited by the canoes and keelboats plying upon the river. Subsequently it became a steamboat landing and a lumber station. A store was kept at the landing many years, but no village ever sprang up around it. In 1824 Judge Parker erected a large building which was used as a warehouse. It passed unscathed through the many fires since its erection and is still standing and is the oldest house in this part of the city. It has been converted into a hotel, and is now known as the Parker House.
From 1843 to 1869 W. D. Robinson ran a store at the Landing. In 1851 Samuel Craig opened a blacksmith shop. Fullerton Parker was the proprietor of the warehouse, Peter McGough and William Rogers acting as his storekeepers; Thomas P. Parker ran a hotel and James P. Parker was the ferryman. These conditions remained unchanged up to 1869. But a new act was soon to be placed on the stage. Within a few years that spot became the center of enormous activity. Lawrenceburg was swallowed up by its formerly tiny neighbor and the city of Parker was the result. Stores, hotels, banks, daily newspapers, a railroad and hundreds of industries sprang up as from the lamp of Aladdin, and this great transformation was the result of petroleum.
The Oil Boom
In 1858 oil was discovered in Venango county and in 1860 the first succesful well at Oil Creek was put in. This caused Thomas McConnell, W. D. Robinson, Smith K. Campbell and Col. J. B. Finley to purchase two acres of Elisha Robinson in 1860, on the Allegheny river, ninety rods north of Thom's run, on which they drilled a well 460 feet deep. However, the war came on and for a time their operations were abandoned. This proved fortunate for them as well as for the future of the oil industry, as at a later date this territory was proved to be "dry." In 1865 they returned, organized the Foxburg Oil Company, bought 100 acres of the Thom's run tract from Robinson and put down the well which was the first of hundreds that later on studded the hills and lined the hollows of that section. The well was called Clarion No. I, and at first produced eighteen barrels a day, but four years later yielded twenty-five barrels. By that time at least twelve test wells had been sunk and the craze had commenced. In July of 1869 there were 25 wells, producing 310 barrels a day, and in November of the same year 1,056 wells were either completed and producing or in process of drilling. Lawrenceburg became a thrifty village and Parker's Landing rapidly became a center of intense activity. Rude shanties were constructed, in which business was commenced before the carpenters could remove their tools. Saloons, stores, hotels, eating houses and machine ships soon crowded every available space along the base of the bluff, and even encroached on the river bank. Repeated fires destroyed these "shacks," but the loss was unnoticed and they were replaced as soon as the fires died down. In a short time the population became metropolitan as well as cosmopolitan, and in 1873, by a special act of the Legislature, Parker City was incorporated.
A period of unexampled prosperity then ensued. Fortunes were made and lost in a day. Handsome residences were erected by men who were formerly day laborers, and imposing business structures lined the lower flat. At one time the Parker Oil Exchange did the largest trading in oil of any body in the petroleum fields, and they possessed a $5,000 library and lavishly decorated clubrooms. So great was the traffic from the lower part of the city to the upper bluff that an elevator was constructed which carried the wearied speculators to their homes on the beautiful hilltop for the price of a gallon of oil � five cents.
The Floating Palace
As vultures are attracted by the carnage of battlefields, so there came to Parker in her boom days all the scum of the cities, and for a time crime flourished. Among the noted characters of those days the most conspicuous, not only for his crimes but from his remarkable personality, was Ben Hogan. Prize fighter, bounty jumper and blockade runner during the Civil war, he combined versatility in crime with great physical strength and courage. In partnership with the notorious "French Kate," he bought several flatboats and moored them in front of the town. On one he kept a saloon and gambling joint; on another he promoted a series of weekly prize fights, and on the third he kept a large "maison de joie," filled with women of evil character and great physical attractiveness. When business slackened he frequently paraded the water front with his "stock" to attract the spendthrifts.
This caused the better class of residents to finally drive Hogan away by cutting the mooring ropes of the flatboats one dark night and causing them to drift down the stream before the owner could halt their progress. Hogan took the hint and continued on to Pittsburgh, where the authorities finally drove him out of business. Some years later the late Dwight L. Moody, of Chicago, converted Hogan and he started out as an evangelist, visiting the places of his former misdeeds and preaching the gospel to many of his former evil companions. He is now dead.
The Decline of Prosperity
A directory of the oil region in 1875-76 placed the population of Parker at 4,000. At the height of the boom there were probably 15,000 to 20,000 residents and a floating population of 5,000 more. Many large business establishments catered to the wants of this mushroom populace, and every other house was either a saloon or an eating house.
But the decline came at last. Oil, which in 1874 was $4.00 a barrel, dropped at one time to ten cents, and even the tremendous output of the wells could not make the production pay. By 1878 the wells were beginning to be exhausted and the price had not increased to a paying level. In 1879 almost the entire river front was fire-swept and the depression was so great that little attempt was made to rebuild.
The lowest point of the scale was reached in 1880, when homes that cost thousands were sold for hundreds and the population was less than a thousand souls. So in the brief space of ten years Parker had seen the heights and depths of existence and had grown from a simple landing-place to a city and descended again to a minor village.
Until 1872 there was no means of reaching Parker station on the Allegheny Valley railroad except by ferry. In that year, owing to the accumulation of business incident to the oil boom, a fine iron bridge was erected across the river at a cost of $80,000 by S. D. Karns, H. R. Fullerton and Fullerton Parker. In 1873 it was used by the Parker & Karns City narrow gauge road to connect with the Allegheny Valley. Ice in April, 1885, carried away the two western spans, but they were replaced and in 1897 Butler and Armstrong counties jointly purchased it and made the passage free to the public. The price paid to the heirs of James E. Brown, who finally owned it, was $35,000.
Railroad facilities became an important item to the town in the days of its prosperity, and in 1874 the Parker & Karns City road was pushed as far as Karns City, and in 1876 completed to Butler. S. D. Karns, H. R. Fullerton and Fullerton Parker were the promoters. In 1881 the road became a part of the Pittsburgh & Western. That road was financially embarrassed in 1879, but was reorganized and the old Karns City line was made standard gauge in 1887. The Baltimore & Ohio leased the road in 1892 and at present operates it as a through line to the East. The total length of this line through the two townships of Perry and Hovey is but seven miles. For a time the repair shops were maintained in Parker, but no vestige of them now remains.
The most important enterprise ever undertaken in Parker was the glass works, which were organized as a stock company in 1879, with John B. Leonard, president; William Morgan, James P. Parker, A. Sheidemantle and C. P. Hatch, directors. Buildings were erected in 1880 and for a time coal was used as fuel. Gas becoming plentiful and its value recognized, it was substituted within a short period. The product, which has been strictly high-grade bottles and druggists' containers, was valued at $100,000 the first year. Twenty-six blowers, twenty-five laborers and forty boys were employed in that year. In 1882 the Thomas Wightman Glass Company of Pittsburgh bought the plant, and in a few years the name was changed to its present title, The Wightman Glass Company. At the death in 1910 of J. Smiley Wightman, his sons, W.K., A. R. and J. S., continued the business under the last name. In 1913 a bottle machine for the rapid manufacture of gallon and half-gallon containers was installed, but smaller bottles are still blown by human lungs. The works give employment to two hundred workmen and produce an average of nine carloads per month. The company arranged to remove the works to Punxsutawney, where better shipping facilities could be had, and have begun the erection of a fine factory building there. The citizens of the town, however, did not relish seeing the removal of their chief industry elsewhere so they organized a company and purchased the principal part of the works for $15,000, the Wightmans retaining the bottle machine and some private molds. It is proposed by the townspeople to repair and refit the factory, and run it on a modern system. With the near advent of the extension of the Shawmut road, the branch line of the B. & O. already here and the Pennsylvania just across the river, the projectors of the new company are not worried about lack of shipping facilities.
In the fall of 1869 the first machine shop was opened by Bradley & Duff in Lawrenceburg, and continued in successful operation until 1882. One machine shop is at present located in the first ward. John Sweeney's machine shop and foundry and James McNutt's foundry were in operation from 1872 to 1882, as was also the Evans & Foster carriage factory.
An important industry of the early seventies was Wilkins & Fullerton's sawmill and box factory, which did a business at one time of $150,000 per year.
A small factory for the manufacture of oil cups for the oil well pumps, an invention of Elliott Karns, brother of the famous "Dunc" Karns, has been in operation since 1880.
WATERWORKS AND FIRE PROTECTION
The Parker waterworks were set up in 1872 by Miller & Vesey, who later sold out to Coulter & Overy. In 1874 H. R. Fullerton purchased the works, enlarged their capacity and laid several miles of pipe. In 1882 Tinsman & Russell acquired the works and replaced the old Cameron pumps by a large triple-action Fleming, run by a gas engine. Water is taken from the Allegheny by a pump built from the two old ones, and lifted into a tank, whence it is forced to the top of the bluff into a filter plant before delivery to consumers. The plant requires but one man to run it and has cost but $13 for repairs since 1880. For fire protection hose reels are pulled to the scene by a volunteer force, and the pressure is sufficient to control an ordinary fire. The water is suitable for fire protection, but is far from desirable as a source of drinking water, owing to the fouling of the river and its shallowness the greater part of the year. The plant is now owned by M. T. Pew and T. A. Kerr.
A stock company, in which W. C. Mobley, William Smith, M. Naylor and J. Dougherty were interested, built the gas works in 1887, and manufactured gas from crude oil under Smith's patent. Later a way was found to utilize the vast stores of natural gas underlying the town, the works were closed and the natural flow turned into the pipes. So cheap is the gas that the street lights are allowed to burn all the time and only extinguished when replacing the mantles on burners. Gas is supplied to private houses at 25 cents a thousand cubic feet.
The rapid growth of the town and the increase of business soon rendered a bank necessary and in 1869 the Parker Savings Bank was opened and did business till 1882, when it failed, causing large losses to its depositors. The old Exchange Bank was established in 1871 and ceased business in 1880. In October, 1882, Parker, Fullerton & Co. revived the Exchange Bank and remained in business until 1901, when they, too, went under.
The First National Bank of Parker was organized December 11, 1901, with $25,000 capital. It now has a surplus of $25,000 and ample resources. The officers are: Dr. A. M. Hoover, president; G. A. Needle, Sr., vice president; D. B. Heiner, vice president; E. C. Griffith, cashier. Directors: Dr. A. M. Hoover, S. J. Ervin, G. A. Needle, Sr., W. G. Heiner, E. C. Griffith, W. P. Parker, D. B. Heiner, Daniel Galey, Alex Affolter, I. G. Smith and M. T. Pew.
The State Bank (Incorporated) of Parker's Landing was organized December 6, 1911, with a capital of $25,000, and now has a surplus of $7,500, which is rapidly increasing. The officers are: A. S. Wightman, president; T. A. Kerr, vice president; A. E. Butler, vice president; C. W. Wick, cashier. Directors: A. S. Wightman, T. A. Kerr, A. E. Butler, S. W. Harrison, Charles E. Say, S. A. Hetrick, G. M. Slaughnhoupt, R. A. Robinson and W. A. Wick.
Among the prominent merchants of Parker are William Leslie, T. H. McCamey, William P. Parker, E. F. Dunlap, Thomas A. Kerr, J. T. Overheim, P. M. Ramsey, Charles Feicht and H. C. Elder.
A number of unsuccessful newspaper enterprises originated in Parker during the prosperous period of the city's history. A daily paper was established by Johns & Jackson, and published a short time in 1871-72. Clark Wilson conducted the OILMAN'S JOURNAL several years. These papers, and several others which were started, were never financially successful.
The PARKER CITY DAILY, however, had an exceptionally prosperous career. Established in September 1874, by G. A. Needle, it soon became recognized as one of the most reliable and influential journals of the oil regions, and its circulation rapidly increased. The DAILY was started as a rival of the OIL CITY DERRICK, and was of the same size as the latter journal. It was controlled by able editors, who were assisted by a staff of enterprising reporters and correspondents. The DAILY contained the Associated Press dispatches and much general information, in addition to its careful digest of news from every part of the oil region. It was published as a morning paper until 1879. The office was destroyed by fire in that year, and the paper ceased to exist as a daily. Mr. Needle, who had for some years been issuing a weekly edition of his paper, at once procured new quarters and on Christmas Day began the publication of the PHOENIX, which like the fabled bird arose from the ashes of the DAILY. The PHOENIX is still prosperous under the direction of a son of the proprietor, G. Alfred Needle, and occupies the building once occupied by the famous Standard Oil Company when in the first throes of organization.
For many years, Dr. Simeon Hovey was the only medical adviser for the entire northern region of Butler and Armstrong counties, as well as considerable portions of Venango and Clarion counties. Some account of his services will be found in the history of Hovey township.
The first physician who settled in Lawrenceburg was Dr. Joseph Beggs, who came from Ireland and located at this place about the year 1824. He was accounted a good and skillful doctor, and won many friends and a most excellent reputation. He practiced in Lawrenceburg several years, and died at Miller's Eddy.
Dr. James Goe, a cousin of Dr. Beggs, came from Ireland a little later, and joined his uncle in the practice of his profession. After the death of Dr. Beggs he moved to Callensburg, Clarion county, and thence moved West and died.
After 1869 physicians became so numerous in Parker that it would be useless to attempt to catalogue their names. Scores took up their abode here, some of whom remained a few days, others a few weeks or months. The principle of "the survival of the fittest," however, appeared to prevail, and the number of those whose stay lengthened into years was not large. We mention the names of those who practiced longest and most successfully: Dr. A. M. Hoover, who has been a resident physician of Parker longer than any other member of the profession in the city, located at this place in 1870, coming from Freeport. Dr. Hoover is a native of Butler county, and a graduate of Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia. He is still practicing in 1913 and conducting a prosperous drug business.
Dr. Joseph Eggert was the second oldest physician in Parker, coming in 1870, after having practiced for several years in neighboring towns. His son was associated with him after his arrival.
In 1880 the following physicians were located in Parker: Drs. George L. Eggert, Joseph Eggert, J. R. Murray, J. E. Hall, B. F. Goheen, J. Y. McCulloch, A. M. Hoover and W. B. Wynne.
In 1913 the registered practitioners were: A. M. Hoover, N. S. Reed, B. H. Brewster and J. E. Stute.
In 1881 a fair association with the original title, Parker Petroleum Agricultural Association, was organized by Elisha Robinson, Samuel M. Robinson, G. A. Needle, J. P. Parker, W. J. Parker, Henry Kohlmeyer, Ira D. McCoy, John M. Shira, J. S. Grant, William Crawford, Dr. J. W. Wick and William Dee. They leased thirteen acres of land, erected suitable buildings and held three successful fairs, with creditable exhibits of the products of the surrounding county. However, lack of interest and decreased population finally caused the abandonment in 1889 of the association project and the grounds for some years have reverted to their original use for agricultural purposes.
Parker Lodge No. 521, F. & A. M., was instituted October 28, 1873, with fourteen members. In 1880 there were seventy-five, and in 1913 over one hundred.
Parker Lodge NO. 761, I. O.O. F., was instituted June 30, 1871, with twenty members. In 1880 there were thirty members in good standing and in 1913 the number had increased to one hundred.
Lawrenceburg Lodge NO. 782, I. O. O. F., was instituted November 22, 1871, and the membership in 1880, as at the present time, was sixty-four.
Parker council No. 179, Royal Arcanum, organized October 17, 1878, with thirty-two members. In 1880 there were forty-six members and in 1913, sixty-eight.
At one time almost every secret order was represented in this city, but their names are now only recalled with the memories of the city's former greatness.
The first school building erected within the present limits of Parker was a little log structure which stood in Lawrenceburg. It was supported by subscription and presided over by the itinerant schoolmasters of the pioneer days. Later a union school district was formed and the expenses divided between Armstrong and Butler counties. In 1880 three buildings were used, conducted at a cost of $3,400 annually. The buildings were valued at $5,000 and seven teachers were employed, T. J. Moffitt being principal. In 1882, after much opposition, the school board erected a two-story brick schoolhouse at a cost of $11,000. It contained eight schoolrooms and housed 497 scholars.
In 1913 the number of schools was seven; average months taught, eight and one-fourth; male teachers, two; female teachers, five; average salaries, male, $82.50; female, $55.00; male scholars, 137; female scholars, 110; average attendance, 247; cost per month, $1.97; tax levied, $3,737.66; received from State, $1,460.50; other sources, $3,986.03; value of school-houses, $16,000; teachers' wages, $3,915; fuel, fees, etc., $1,553.01.
The school directors are: E. W. Allen, president; J. E. Stute, M. D., secretary; treasurer, Parker State Bank, depository of funds; David Burt, S. A. Hetrick.
The first church organized in the northern part of Armstrong county was the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church of Lawrenceburg in 1819. William Redick and Gideon Gibson were the first ruling elders and the congregation was largely composed of residents of Butler county. A meetinghouse was erected in 1822. It was of brick, with a high peaked roof, and was not plastered until twenty years after its erection. In 1867 it was removed and a frame structure built at a cost of $3,200, which in 1876 was remodeled at a cost of $3,500. For several years the church had no resident pastor, but in 1821 Rev. Alexander Cook entered upon a service divided between Ebenezer and Bear Creek churches. He remained until 1827. Rev. John R. Agnew was the next pastor, from 1838 to 1839. For a time the church again was supplied, and in 1845 and 1846 record is made of the pastorates of Revs. Louis L. Conrad and John K. Cornyn. From 1847 to 1856 Rev. Ebenezer Henry served, and was followed for one year by Rev. John V. Miller. From 1860 to 1869 Rev. James Coulter was pastor, and from 1870 to 1877 Rev. Samuel A. Hughes. Next in order were: Revs. John M. McGonigle, 1878-80; Houston W. Lowry, 1881-85; Clark B. Gillette, 1885-86. The pastors between 1887 and 1913 were Rev. J. W. Miller, Rev. James A. Cunningham and Rev. Paul Slonaker.
The United Presbyterians also were located here for a time, but they never gained much following, and at present there is no congregation in existence in the city.
METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH
At the first session of the Erie Conference in 1836, Lawrenceburg was missionary territory, and Rev. D. Richey was appointed to take charge of it. He was followed by Rev. H. Elliott in 1837, Rev. N. S. Hitchcock in 1838, Rev. Stephen Hurd and Rev. H. S. Winans in 1840. That year, owing to the closing down of the Bear Creek Furnace, upon which most of the congregation depended for a livelihood, the appointment was dropped from the list and for the eighteen years following no history can be traced.
In the winter of 1858-59 M. S. Adams, a local preacher, held a series of meeting which aroused interest, and, assisted by Rev. John McCombs of the North Washington Circuit, a society was organized and Lawrenceburg returned as one of the appointments of that charge. For ten years it continued to be one of the appointments, and was served by the following pastors: S. A. Milray, 1859; William R. Johnson, 1860; S. K. Paden and R. B. Boyd, 1861-62; E. Bennett and William A. Clarke, 1863; George Moore and Stephen Hubbard, 1864; A. J. Merchant and A. H. Domer, 1865-66; J. Perry, 1867; William Hays and J. P. Hicks, 1868; J. K. Mendenhall, 1869.
In the beginning of the oil development the society, which numbered but forty-seven, began to build, and in 1871 completed a neat frame edifice at a cost of $1,400. At this time the charge was made a station, Rev. R. W. Crane being the first pastor in the new home. The dedication services were held by Rev. Dr. Pershing. Following came as pastors: R. M. Bair, 1873-74; R. N. Stubbs, 1875-76; J. S. Lytle, 1876-79; E. D. McCreary, 1879-80; J. M. Bray, 1882-83; Dr. John Lusher, 1883-86; Dr. W. W. Wythe, 1886-87; P. J. Slattery, 1887-90; E. K. Creed, 1890-92; J. B. Neff, 1892-93; Manassas Miller, 1893-96; A. J. Merchant, 1896-98; D. C. Planette, 1898-1901; T. J. Hamilton, 1901-03; J. C. Gillette, 1903-05; C. H. Quick, 1905-07; J. E. Iams, 1907-08; Dr. John Lusher, 1908-13. The present pastor is Rev. A. D. Stevens.
In 1904-05 the first church was replaced by a handsome brick edifice, which on the night of May 13, 1912, was burned. Dr. Lusher at once planned to replace it, and on July 27, 1913, the present magnificent structure was dedicated. It is made of native sandstone, donated by W. H. H. Piper, president of the Bear Creek Oil Company, and taken from their quarry. The memorial windows are of Pittsburgh plate glass and practically all of the interior fittings are of home production. The building is a spacious one, and is a monument to the Lord which gives evidence of the energy and perseverance of Dr. Pershing and Dr. Lasher and the loyal congregation, at a time when the city of Parker is at a low ebb in the tide of its progress.
Christ's Evangelical Lutheran Church of Parker City was organized in the fall of 1897, just at the time when the town was starting to decline in prosperity. R. M. Zimmerman, a theological student, aroused the people with a series of sermons, and the formation of a congregation of twenty-one members resulted. Rev. W. A. Passavant became the first pastor and a house of worship was erected at a cost of $3,300. In 1880 Rev. J. H. Kline took charge and served one year. The reduction of membership and business depression then caused the congregation to convert the church into a mission and occasional supplies were their only dependence until 1903, when the building was sold and for a time used as a dancing hall. Finally in 1913 the old church was purchased by A. E. and J. O. Conn of Emlenton, who conduct a woolen and knotting mill, employing quite a number of persons. The last pastor of whom any record is made was Rev. George Stitsell.
The first Catholic services in Lawrenceburg, so far as there is any record, took place September 6, 1831, when Bishop Kenrick visited the place and confirmed eighty-three persons, gathered from a wide extent of surrounding country. Few if any Catholics were residents of the place until the discovery of oil. In 1869 Rev. Joseph Haney, of Murrinsville, visited Lawrenceburg and conducted services. He continued his labors until July of the following year, when lots were purchased and the work of erecting a church was begun. Though the building was not completed until the summer of 1871, it was occupied in October, 1870. It was then a frame building 45 by 30 feet. In March, 1871, Rev. I. (or J.) Stillerich became pastor. He remained until November of the same year, when he was succeeded by Rev. James P. Tahany. To Father Tahany's labors much of the temporal prosperity of the church was due. He built a neat house to be occupied as a parsonage; and after the congregation had increased, enlarged the church by additions. The belfry was added and the interior of the church finished. The edifice was dedicated by the bishop as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, November 24, 1874. Father Tahany also organized a church in Petrolia, and the two formed one pastorate. In December, 1875, Father Tahany was succeeded by Rev. James Donnelly, who acted as pastor until October, 1877. Rev. P. M. Garvey then became pastor, and in August, 1879, was succeeded by Rev. F. X. McCarthy. Father Melady was pastor in 1880. The church was then in a prosperous condition, although its membership had been greatly diminished by the decline of the town. At present the church, which bears the name S. Mary's, is served occasionally by priests of the Butler diocese.
While Parker was most flourishing a Baptist congregation was organized, which during 1875-76 enjoyed great prosperity. A church was erected and the attendance was large, but the decline of the town affected the church, and it soon ceased to exist.
PARKER IN 1913
After an eventful life, Parker's Landing is now enjoying a quiet old age. From their sun-kissed bluffs the residents can look down upon the peaceful "flat," once the scene of violence and passion, and across the winding Allegheny to the dark hills of the farther shore, secure in the thought that out of waste and dissipation of the past have come some material benefits and many needful warnings against extravagance.
The soil is more fruitful than ever before, the coal and gas underlie every portion of the country, new railroads are being projected toward her borders, and the water power and carrying capacity of the Allegheny have not yet been fully exploited. Compared with less naturally favored locations, Parker has a bright future before her.
Although the smallest city in the State, Parker is so large that she laps over Perry township into Butler county. The population in 1900 was 1,070 and in 1910, 1,244. There are 217 qualified voters in the two wards.
The assessment returns for 1913 show: Number of acres, 229, valued at $17,095; houses and lots, 450, valued at $216,620, average, $485.20; horses, 83, value, $3,860, average, $46.51; cows, 30, value, $595, average, $19.86; taxable occupations, 505, amount, $20,720; total valuation $268,370. Money at interest, $76,733.
At this date there are four hotels, sixteen stores, two livery barns, two butchers, three saloons, two pool rooms, one tailor, one clothier, one stationery store, one furniture store, two jewelers, two drug stores, three millinery establishments, two plumbers, three shoe dealers, three barbers, three restaurants, two blacksmiths, one lumber dealer, one machine shop, one photographer and two dentists.
Borland & Corso conduct the motion picture theatre that is a necessity in every town in this country, and their auditorium has a seating capacity of 135. They manufacture current for the electric lights by means of a dynamo and gas engine, owing to lack of a city lighting plant.
George S. Kelly, Samuel Craig and W. B. Ramsey are the present justices of the peace.
A neat iron bridge connects the two divisions of the bluff. It was erected under the supervision of Mayor G. A. Needle in 1906, and J. A. Foster and W. G. McGlaughlin were the commissioners.
The mayors of the city have been as follows: J. W. McFarland, 1873-74; George S. Kelly, 1875-76; H. R. Fullerton, 1877-78; E. H. Randolph, 1879-80-81-82. E. F. Dunlap, S. J. Ervin, Frank Ottinger, George A. Needle and William Leslie were the successive officials, the latter being the present incumbent. J. H. Borland is treasurer; C. S. Overheim and W. J. Speer, directors; the former also street commissioner.
In the oil boom days a number of peace guardians were required to preserve order, but at the present time one lone officer is all that the town needs.
Records of the earliest postmaster are not obtainable, but for some years before and during the oil excitement Miss Tillie Olden looked after the mail for the residents of Parker. She was succeeded consecutively by A. T. Pontious, P. Bracken, Capt. W. S. Barr, Abner Carson and S. M. Turk, the present official, who has at this date (1913) been in service for sixteen years.
Source: Page(s) 166-179, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J. H. Beers & Co., 19114.
Transcribed June 1998 by Kathy Zagorac for the Armstrong County Smith Project.
Contributed by Kathy Zagorac for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)
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