Saturday, May 3, 2008

Jared Parker, The Namesake of Parker High

Way back in the day, Clarence had a loose system of one room school houses to provide the basics for the children at the primary level. Some of them still survive, such as Eddie Haidon's childhood home on the corner of Keller and Strickler (pictured). Most live on in memory only.

From the book "History of the Town of Clarence" by Oneta Baker (source of school pictures), the history of the schools receives much attention. After all, everyone went to one of them. The historical information following is from this rich source.

After the Civil War, the Union Free School law was passed. This was the movement to have a public school system which was to be supported directly by the taxpayers. The first thing on the "to do" list was to organize a high school. There already was a private one on Main Street, but the farmers weren't the only ones who were frugal.

Dr, Jared Parker enthusiastically embraced the new Clarence school system. He donated books and other things, including a 5" refracting telescope for the observatory. He also gave land for a park, and a later school site. But most of all he pledged to donate $15,000 for an endowment fund, if the taxpayers did the same.

Thus came the first establishment of a school tax, as they did indeed match the amount. This began the 1st school in NY to be comprised entirely of rural districts. The school was renamed the Parker Union School in recognition of Dr. Parker's outstanding contributions to local education.

The Parker school buildings themselves are gone now, but Jared Parker himself is memorialized in Forest Lawn, and in a fantastic book produced by Forest Lawn Cemetery, which notes prominent people and unusual monuments. Parker receives mention in both categories.

The monument IS unusual. Dr. Parker stands on top of a base that shows the faces of his wife and sons protruding through the sides. It's almost as if he's keeping them captive for eternity. When I look at the photo of Laura Parker I can almost imagine the eyes popping open and the face beginning to scream...over-active imagination, I know :) From "Forest Lawn Cemetery - Buffalo History Preserved" (page 126, source of Laura Parker picture):

" Dr. Jared Parker, sculpted in the days before women's rights, stands lordly and autocratic over bas reliefs of his wife and 2 sons. Dr. Parker (1803-1886) was a prominent physician in Clarence and assumes a heroic pose in his marble likeness, with a Napoleonic right hand tucked in his suit coat and a classical robe draped over his Victorian clothes.

Meanwhile, his wife, Laura looks dour and unhappy, and his sons Napoleon (age 38) and Hiram (aged 20) are especially serious. The carefully executed sculptures are by noted Buffalo artist, Elias Beach."

The monument is located in section Q of Forest Lawn in Buffalo NY.

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