A Brief Early History of Our Town
According to popular legend, Parker can trace its colorful history to the establishment of the Pine Grove Way Station by Alfred Butters in 1864. Prior to that time, the area was used for hunting by Indians and renowned archaeologists have unearthed several semi-permanent hunting camps. The first residents of the area were the ancients (prehistoric), including Plains-Woodland Indians, and by the 1800s consisted mostly of Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Utes.
White men explored the general area in the early part of the nineteenth century. These included James Pursley in 1803, Baptiste LaLande in 1804, Stephen H. Long in 1820, and John Charles Fremont in 1843-44.
The old Native American trails that ran next to Cherry Creek near Parker were also used by early traders, trappers, frontiersmen, and gold seekers, such as John Beck, Captain R.B. Marcy, William Green Russell, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Baker, "Uncle Dick" Wootton, and Kit Carson.
The main trail became known as the Cherokee Trail and was a branch of Trapper's Trail. When stage lines rolled into Colorado, it became known as the Smoky Hill Trail South, the West Cherry Creek Stage Road, and the Denver-Santa Fe Stage Road.
Gold was discovered in Colorado in 1858, and the following year over 100,000 people followed the trails here in search of their fortunes. Small towns and settlements sprang up as the focus changed from gold to land.
Alfred Butters built a tiny one-room building in the pines just south of the present-day Parker United Methodist Church around 1864. Butters handled mail, supplied provisions, and provided a place to leave messages. His place was a refuge for travelers and was appropriately named Pine Grove. He soon traded the building to a Mr. Goldsmith for a yoke of oxen, and Goldsmith in turn sold it to Mr. and Mrs. George Long. The Longs moved the original structure to its present location on Mainstreet, and built an addition to include ten rooms and a second-story ballroom. They also added some outbuildings to accommodate animals and wagons.
Since the property was situated about 20 miles from Denver City, the Longs named it 20 Mile House. Like the other "mile houses" in the area, it was a stage stop that provided meals, lodging, and provisions. Although courthouse records bring dates into question, historical accounts generally agree that George Long traded the 20 Mile House to Nelson and Susan Doud in 1869 for a span of mules. The legend says that the Douds then sold it to James Sample Parker, an ex-bullwhacker and station manager who had been living in Kiowa, in 1874. However, the deed is dated September 15, 1870.
Under Parker's ownership, the 20 Mile House grew and prospered; a blacksmith shop with equipment to shoe oxen and a general mercantile store were added to the facilities. It became Pine Grove's first post office on December 8, 1870. James Parker granted rights-of-way for future roads, ditches, telephone lines, and eventually the Denver & New Orleans Railroad. When his daughter, Edith Alice, reached school age, he provided the first schoolhouse, Pine Grove School, across the road from the 20 Mile House. He also paid the teacher's salary for the first year and provided her with room and board.
The town's first cemetery was located atop the hill just east of the intersection of Highway 83 and E-470, but when Parker's son Charlie died in 1874, his son Bela in 1882, and his first wife Mattie in 1887, he buried each on a knoll just northeast of 20 Mile House. Those three-plus acres were donated by James as the town's new cemetery, and since it was surveyed in 1884, presumably that was when the land was donated, though to what organization is unknown. In 1885, the four people known to have been buried in the original cemetery were re-interred in the new one. The title to the cemetery was transferred by James Parker's heirs to the J.S. Parker Cemetery Association in 1911.
Parker died in 1910 and was buried next to his wife Mattie. Nearby is the grave of another pioneer whose headstone reads "Jonathan Tallman. Killed by Indians, May 8, 1870." Many of Parker's first families are buried in this little cemetery.
Land west of Highway 83 was owned by James Parker, but the land east of the highway was homesteaded by James' brother, George. George established a saloon and was instrumental in seeing that other businesses located in the growing town. The railroad provided the impetus and by the turn of the century, Parker boasted a hotel, the post office, two blacksmith shops, water tower and pump house, three general mercantiles, a dry goods store, a saloon, a livery stable, a brickworks, a stockyard, a creamery, a barbershop, a school, and a few miscellaneous dwellings. In nearby Newlin Gulch, gold was found in the mid-1880s.