Parker, George W.
George W. Parker is described as an old settler and prominent citizen. Guy Perry stated in a recollection that G.W. Parker and J.C. Train were friends to all the young boys in town and were held in high esteem by those boys. The eastern most building in the Lyon block (today Dr. Reagan’s dental practice) still bears the name G.W. Parker, painted on the back.
George W. Parker was the son of George and Amy Parker, Vergennes Township pioneers who rest today in Foxes Cemetery near the intersection of Lincoln Lake and Vergennes. He was born in 1835 and lived until 1905. He married Juliette Walker, daughter of Eliab and Mary Walker. Her brother was Jacob Walker, who operated the Walker Tavern and served as Supervisor for Vergennes for many years. Juliette’s twin sister Henrietta married Lucas J Robinson, son of Rodney Robinson and nephew of fur trader Rix Robinson.
George and Juliette only had one child, Fred, who died at the age of two.
George began working by running a grocery. By 1873, he had partnered with Captain Weatherwax and together they sold “clothing, dry goods, gents furnishings, boots and shoes.” They advertised heavily in the paper. One ad screamed, “The only place in Lowell where buffalo flannels are sold!”
George was involved in the community. He served on committees that planned dances, including the New Year’s Eve dances that were held at Train’s Hall. He served the Old Residents Association on their planning committees. He also served on the Board of Directors for the Lowell State Bank.
He had a home built that was called “magnificent.” The home was considered a farm, with barns out back. This home still stands today at 202 N. Hudson Street.
G.W. Parker’s best gift to the community was perhaps in what he brought to Lowell…horses!
Jarvis Train and G.W. Parker were largely responsible for bringing the thrill of horse racing to Lowell. For many years, Lowell had a national reputation as a horse center. In 1901 it was said “for the past twenty-five years or more, probably no town in Michigan has paid more attention to the breeding of fine horses or that has had any more tracks to work on than has Lowell.”
Three day races were held at Train’s race track by the fairgrounds on the river. These were considered among the most important events of the Midwest. Kentucky thoroughbreds were shipped HERE for competition! An 1873 ad for the Lowell Horse Fair announced horsemen coming from multiple states, including J.C. Breckinridge of Lexington Kentucky.
Parker became quite a horse buyer. He went to Kentucky on buying trips, and he sent horses there for years long training. By 1893 he also owned two farm properties just west of Lowell, in sections 3 and 4 of Lowell Township to house his breeding stock. The farmland was 100 acres just west of Lowell’s West Street from Bowes Road north to Gee Drive. Today we drive through the middle of his property when we drive M21 going west from the Speedway station. Continuing west on M21 you would come to Parker’s second 100 acre farm which encompasses today’s FROM and Fountain View facilities. The award winning stallions were housed at his barn at his residence on Hudson Street. He encouraged people to stop in and see his famous horses.
Lowell native R. P. Waters, who was well known as a horse trainer and buyer reflected, “The late Mr. Parker was largely responsible for the up building of the light harness horses of Lowell. He owned many fine ones that were eagerly sought after by buyers from all over the country. One which Lowell may well feel proud of was that fine Hamilton, owned by Mr. Parker, the horse that at last found royal home in the stables of the late King Humbert of Italy. It was said King Humbert loved his horses and his greatest pleasure was riding.”
Besides Hamilton, other famous horses owned by Parker were local race winner Fred B Sphinx and Bay Colt Sucker. Parker’s pride was Fred B. Hine, named after local businessman. A race champion and breeder, his descendants were said to have brought a lot of money to Lowell. To take his place as he aged, Parker purchased ‘celebrated stallions’, Linwood and Beachwood in Chicago through horse buyer and friend R. P. Waters.
The horses are gone now, as are the farms, but the memories and even the paint on the building remain. Many times history contains mysteries, or things that haven’t been brought to light yet. As of this writing, nothing has been found to connect this or any other George W. Parker to the Lyon block.