Parker History in the mid 1800's
The city of Parker was, in its beginning, intended to be a major port and a thriving city on St. Andrews Bay. It was competing with St. Joseph, a fast developing city to the east.
William Loftin, pioneer of Lynn Haven and St. Andrews was the promoter. He purchased 80 acres in 1835 to the east of Millville on Parker Bayou. He was joined in the venture by Marianna plantation owner L.L. Revierre and Florida Representative in Congress James White. Another Property owner, Peter Parker, was also in the venture.
Parker arrived at St. Andrews Bay in 1838 when a ship he was on as a stowaway was washed ashore in a storm on the gulf shore. The vessel was destined for St. Joseph. Peter Parker made his way to the present Parker site and staked out a 40-acre homestead adjoining that of Loftin. He was a German youth born in Dantzie, Germany, January 6. 1817. He changed his German name to Peter Parker. For two years he was employed in construction at St. Joseph to Lake Wimico Rail Road, the first in Florida.
Loftin had the land surveyed into lots and streets by D. H. Horne. On the suggestion of Peter Parker, the name chosen was Austerlitz, names for the famous German battle in the Napoleon era.
Another plan for the East Bay community was a canal connecting east St. Andrews Bay with Apalachicola River. It was built in later years.
Loftin also planned to make Austerlitz the location or the Florida Constitution Convention and even the Florida Capital. St. Joseph was just as unsuccessful in this venture.
A dock was constructed into the Bay for handling bay boat traffic. Launches and other types of vessels were constructed by Parker.
To get to Parker by land was by way of a road extending north to Marianna. A branch connected with another road to Vernon. Travelers came by wagon, on buggies or on horseback.
The construction of Coastal Highway, from Pensacola to Apalachicola (now Highway 98) in 1936, passes though Parker. To reach Bay Harbor from Parker was over Martin Bayou by boat. The first bridge across the Bayou was a wooden structure built in 1915. The construction of Highway 98 included a concrete bridge over this bayou. The Dupont Bridge was also constructed to present-day Tyndall Air Force Base.
Prior to Dupont Bridge, travelers crossed East Bay from Parker by ferry to Military Point. The ferry was authorized by Florida Territorial Legislature Council on January 1, 1836. L. L. Revierre, one of the charter founders, operated the ferry. It was a barge capable of transporting passengers and vehicles. A brother, L. F. Revierre, moved to Austerlitz to assist in its development. A road connected Military Point to St. Joseph.
Another Parker pioneer was John D. Martin. He was attracted by the St. Andrews advertising and came from a plantation in Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1885. He preferred the Parker site and bought 41 acres at the location for the later Southern Kraft Paper Mill. He constructed a home by the Bay. When the property was purchased by the International Paper Company in 1931, the y used the home as a business office during the mill construction. At one time, Martin was a crewman on the S. S. Tarpon.
Sarah Martin, John’s mother, bought 120 acres around Martin Bayou, which was named after the family. She constructed a large two story home on the west side of the Lake known as the Martin House. It was also purchased by the paper company and still stands as a community building. Long time Bay County teacher Bessie Martin was a daughter of Sarah. Another daughter, Catherine, served as Postmistress in Southport.
Dr. William F. Parker responded to the St. Andrews advertising and came from the Middle Quest in 1885. In sailing around the bay he liked the Austerlitz site better and purchased property there. In partnership with John Martin they constructed a dock on Parker Bayou and erected a general store. A son, W. H. Parker, was surveyor and real estate dealer. He laid out plats for St. Andrews, Panama City, and Lynn Haven, as well as in his own community. He had a real estate office with F. A. Black in Panama City.
W. H. Parker also laid out the 18-hole Panama City Gold Course in Lynn Haven shortly before he died in 1927. He was the first person to be named Deputy U.S. Surveyor in this section of West Florida.
Masonic Parker Lodge 142, the first in Bay County, was formed on June 11, 1892, in a building constructed next to the Parker dock. It was a large two story structure used as a community center as well. W.H. Parker was elected the first Worshipful Master, a position he held for 23 years. Charter members were: Peter Parker Jr., James Holmes, of Millville, M.H. Spicer, R.E. Palmer, E.J. Fox, Tyler Fox, Charles Forbes of Cromanton, A.R. Spicer, W.H. Freeman, and J.T. Sheffield of Millville. The lodge was chartered in 1894.
Dr. Jim Pennington moved to Parker from Dothan, Alabama in 1916 as a doctor for the Br Harbor Lumber Mill. He also practiced in the community. A son, Henry, was an active community leader. He served as President of the Parker Men’s Club and was a charter member. He assisted in developing a recreation park near the Parker Elementary School on Highway 22A, which was his name. He was a carpenter and was employed at Tyndall Field and Wainwright Shipyard during World War II.
R.E. Palmer was another pioneer in Bay Country for Parker. When the officials were chosen for the new county in 1913, Palmer was the first Supervisor of Elections.
William and Alice Boyd moved to Parker from Destin, Florida in 1915. A son, Ira Boyd, was one of the early constables to serve in Bay County. A grandson teaches in Bay County School system today.
Frank and Alonzo Purcival came to Parker in the late 1880’s to their land on Donaldson Point.
Other families settling in Parker in its early years were: K.N. Fox; C.M. Poston; J. A. Creamer; A. P. Weekley, C. W., J. E. and W. L. Davis; Capt. C. A. Sweeney; Capt. H. E. Hasselbourg, Charles and Cliff Mashburn, and L. L. Pratt, among others.
Author Pratt moved to Parker from north Washington County in 1909. He married into the Parker family. Their sons were Stuart, Harry, Angus, and Donald. Stuart served as a crewman on the S. S. Tarpon for a while. He was very active in the community and in the Methodist Church. His daughter is Ann Hought of Panama City.
Parker continued as Austerlitz until the Post Office was approved for the community on January 26, 1892. The office was located in the Parker store on Parker Bayou. The postal inspector decided to the change the town from Austerlitz to Parker, because so many in the community had the Parker name. Mrs. Annie Parker was appointed the first Postmistress.
Others who served were: William H. Parker, 1897; Martin Post, 1902; Frank Boutelle, 1907; C. A. Mashburn, 1911; Frank Purcival served three times; Martin Davis, 1913; Emma Brock, 1917, Evelyn Parker, 1919; Rosa Pennington, 1945; Carrie Caswell, 1950; Stella Donaldson, 1950. She served until the office was closed and mail was routed through a Panama City station beginning June 1, 1950.
The first school was opened in a one room log building near the Bay in Parker in the late 1800’s. it was used until Washington County constructed a one room school near the cemetery in 1905. The building was also used for community gatherings and community church when ministries were available. More rooms were added at a later date.
When the Bay Country School Board was created in 1913, the Parker School was designated as School No. 27. Ida Jefferies was an instructor in 1915. Upper grades and high school students attended Millville and Panama City High School until Bay High was opened in 1926. The school board budget for that year was $175.00.
A site was secured on Highway 22A and a building constructed with Work Progress funds in 1942. A small building was moved to the site to serve as a lunchroom operated by the school PTA, in 1951.
The Bay County School Board completely renovated the school in 1951. Added space included a library, cafeteria and additional classrooms.
On the recommendation of the School Superintendent Tommy Smith, the small classroom near the cemetery was leased to the Parker Men’s Club as a club house for 99 years for $1.00 a year. It was later deeded to the City of Parker.
Past principals serving the school have been Lucille Moore, Doug Wallace, Gil Wilson, Joe Rogers, Dick Locker and Herb McFatter. Edwina Parker Sweeney served twice as a principal. Another Parker educator was Bertha Parker.
One of the forces working for the development of Parker was the Parker Men’s Club. It was formed in 1945 with Clarence Teal as its first President.
The Club was involved in community development, school support, creating parks, and organizing a volunteer fire department. Roy Roberts served as President, as did Henry Pennington and Earl Gilbert. They joined with PTA to secure an underpass at Highway 98 near Parker Elementary School.
Through the activities of the Parker Men’s Club, a meeting was called to prepare a bill that would incorporate Parker as City in 1967. The bill passed in the Florida Legislature and was signed into law by Governor Claude Kirk on June 7, 1967. Senator WAS Dempsey Barron; Representatives were Ben Williams and John Robert Middlemas.
An election was held to select officials on September 12, 1967. Earl Gilbert was elected Mayor. The only other person to serve as Mayor was Brenda Hendricks, who recently resigned her post to run for Supervisor of Elections of Bay County.
Commissioners elected were: Aubrey Dykes, Jack Askew, Irving Meyers, and Cliff Fleming Sr.
The first city business was the appointment of Joyce Robertson as City Clerk and Joe Walker as Police Chief. The city water system was contracted in 1972 to Bonnie Hathaway to include laying of water lines and customer service. Parker tied into the county water system in 1972.
Roy Roberts was named Fire Chief. The department included a fire truck and hoses. A fire station was constructed, and all firemen were volunteers. Fire hydrants were also installed.
The City Council met in the Parker Men’s Club building until they could construct a city hall. A community building was built next to the City Hall in 1979.
Other improvements in the city were paving most of the streets and avenues. Earl Gilbert Park was built o donated land. They also developed the Little League Park in the City. A new fire station, with a new fire truck, was constructed in 1970.
The first budget of Parker was $29,500, and there were no ad-valorem property taxes. Parker Cemetery (previously mentioned in this section) is located near City Hall on land donated by Peter Loftin when the town was first laid out. William Loftin was buried there when he died in 1845. Many pioneers and their families were laid to rest there. A monument to Peter Loftin was dedicated to the cemetery by the Bay County Historical Society. Society President Tommy Smith made the dedication speech.