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Jackson Parker



Courtesy Nancy Ohda

Jackson Parker, honored as one of the founders of Woodford County and for several decades numbered among the citizens of Minonk, is certainly entitled to a prominent place in the history of this section and state. Long and earnestly he labored in the grand work of bringing the prairie wilderness into its present condition -- the abode of thousands of happy, prosperous people and with the fortitude of the true frontiersman, the pioneer of civilizations, he endured hardships and trials of which this generation can form little idea. All honor to such heroic souls, the bulwark and mainstay of this great nation!

In tracing the ancestral history of Mr. Parker it is learned that he is of German extraction, though as long ago as the Revolutionary War in the United States, his paternal grandfather, James Parker, was in the service of the patriots and was a drummer boy, helping to inspire his comrads to their devoted duty. He was one hundred and one years old when he died, about 1830, and in his last years received a pension from the government which he had thus helped to establish. The maternal grandfather of our subject was Abner Settle, whose wife lived to the age of ninety-nine.

James Parker, Jr., father of our subject, was born and reared in Virginia, becoming a thorough millwright and carpenter. When he had passed his sixtieth anniversary he conceived the idea of settling in Illinois, where he believed better opportunities for his large family would be afforded. In 1838, therefore, they made the long journet in wagons, over the mountains, valleys and plains of what seemed almost impenetrable wildernesses, and at the end of six weeks arrived at their land of promise.

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They located at a point near the Illinois River, where for fifty miles in some directions there was not a habitation. The two eldest sons, Jackson and James, bought eighty acres of land in Cazenovia township, Woodford County, and here the parents dwelt for several years. Then they went to Minonk to reside and spent their last years there, the revered father dying at ninety-one (lacking twelve days), and the mother at eighty-four. She was Frances Settle in her girlhood, and, like her husband was a native of Virginia.

Their eldest born, Judge, was killed when in his fifteenth year, and of the others, James, Jackson, Joseph, Martin, Lewis, Mary Ann and Mildred, only three survive. James, who sold out his possessions near Dana, Illinois, about twenty-six years ago and went to Washington, is still living in that state. Martin is a prosperous citizen of Elburn, Illinois. The parents were devout members of the Christian Church and possessed the affection and high esteem of a large circle of friends.

The father had been married prior to his union with Frances Settle and the wife died, leaving nine childres, namely; Thornton, Shelton, Jane, Louisa, Matilda, Alcinda, Emily, Sarah and one who died in infancy.

The birth of Jackson Parker took place in Rappahannock county, Virginia, November 2, 1819. He attended the old-style subscription schools, when ten dollars a year was the payment required for each child's tuition. Perhaps his own youthful enthusiasm was an important factor in his father's decision to remove to the broad western prairies, and certain it is that he has not seen reason to regret his choice of a location. After farming in partnership with his brother for three years he sold out his interest and then rented land for a period. In 1847 he purchased some wild prairie land in Bennington township and from his house, situated in the border of Marshall County, not a furrow had been turned as far as the Vermilion River, nor on his side of Sandy Creek on the north, Panther Creek on the south and for twenty miles to the eastward. He still owns two hundred acres of finely improved land and retains forty acres of timber land, situated at the head of Crows Creek. He rents his farm, receiving grain in payment.

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In partnership with Charles Dobson, Mr. Parker built the first store erected in Minonk and for two years, from 1854 to 1856, wa engaged in selling dry goods there. Subsequently he conducted a hardware establishment for a short time, but the town, at that period, comprised only six or seven houses. He has dwelt here continuously since its infancy, and few have been more thoroughtly interested in its upbuilding. He purchased some of the first grain ever sold in the place, and for many decades has dealt to some extent in this product of the fertile country around. Strict attention to business and unusual sagacity in his investments have been factors in his financial success.

On the 11th of March, 1847, Mr. Parker married Harriet Dobson, daughter of Thomas and Mary Dobson. Born in England, November 17, 1825, she emigrated to the United States when in her fifth year and passed her early girlhood in Pennsylvania, where her father owned and carried on a farm.

Later the family removed to Marshall County, Illinois, and thus Mrs. Parker also is one of the early settlers of central Illinois. Six children were born to our subject and wife, namely: Mary Frances who is the wife of Samuel Richardson, of Minonk, and has one child, Frances; Alice Jane, who is living with her parents; Ida May, wife of Mebalon Campbell, of Minonk, and the mother of Grace, Fred, Harry, Alice, Edna and John (deceased); Nora A., wife of Charles Stonier, a farmer of the vicinity of Pattensburg, Illinois, and mother of five children, Elsie, Flora, Josephine, Floyd and Esther; and Harriet Ellen, who became the wife of Friar Richardson, a farmer of Livingston County, and has one son, Roy.

Mr. Parker is not a politician, not has he been an aspirant to public office, though he has filled some positions when called upon to do so by his neighbors and friends. He votes for Democratic nominees and principles in national elections. Fraternally he is identified with the Masonic order and carries a souvenir of the good will and esteem of that brotherhood -- a beautiful fold-headed ebony cane, presented to him as a worthy exponent of Masonic principles and as one of the most venerable and most revered early settlers of Woodford County. Mr Parker was one of the charter members of Rob Morris Lodge, No. 247, A.F.& A.M., and is the only one now living.