David Parks was born in Beaver County, Pennsylvania in 1805. His parents were said to be Quakers. David married Catherine Shellenberger in 1827. She was from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents were of German “Pennsylvania Deutch" descent, but their names are unknown at this time. Some family members have said that Catherine could read and write only in German.
The young couple apparently traveled to Columbiana County, Ohio about 1831 or 1832, where they cleared up land for a farm. David and Catherine bore their first four sons in Ohio: John, Absalom, David Jr., and Charles.
Assuming they followed the migration trails of the times, the family moved westward into Indiana, which was still a wild, heavily forested, unsettled region. Their first settlement was in Pulaski County, Indiana about 1835 or 1836. Upon their arrival, they created a lean-to with branches, brush, and a quilt for a door. Deer, grey wolves, coyotes, bears, and rattlesnakes were their neighbors. A campfire was kept burning outside the crude shelter in hopes of keeping the animals away at night.
More children were born in Indiana: George, who died in infancy; and Maryan, the only daughter, who died at the age of seven. The births of Isaac, William and Daniel followed, according to family records.
After clearing up several farms in Indiana, including land in Cass County, David and Catherine decided to emigrate to Oregon. The couple and their family of seven surviving children traveled first to St. Joseph, Missouri where they waited until there were enough families with ox teams gathered together to make up a wagon train. The Parks family left St. Joseph in April of 1848 (some records say 1849), probably anticipating a six-month trip overland.
On the family's trip west, there was only one occasion when Indians surrounded the wagons. According to Catherine, one evening several Indians appeared at the wagon campsite, throwing down a buffalo hide. The translator who rode with the wagon train explained that the Indians wanted some supplies. Each family donated whatever they could spare -- a cup of flour, a little salt or coffee -- until the Indians were satisfied, after which they took the goods and left. The Parks family and others had difficulties crossing rivers with their oxen and wagon; the dangers of being washed away or of the wagon bed tipping over were very real. They tied trees onto the back of the wagons going down hills, to slow them and prevent the wagons from rolling over the oxen.
When the Parks' neared Fort Bridger, they reportedly heard from Mormons of the discovery of gold in California. They broke off from the wagon train (probably with several other families) leaving the Oregon Trail to travel south, in anticipation of the possibility of finding gold in California. The Parks family traveled through the mountain pass that had taken it's toll on the Donner group in 1846, and later Catherine Parks became acquainted with some of the Donner survivors. One of them was Mary Murphy Covillaud, for whom the town of Marysville, California was named. David and Catherine's granddaughter, Laura Minnie, wrote in her journal: “I have heard grandmother tell of the Donner disaster... they went over the same road and saw the pile of human bones still there. Grandmother got acquainted with one of the girls that survived. She told Grandmother that they ate the skin off the bones of the ones that died. She helped eat her own mother. She said no one knew what it meant to be starving to death. Some were raving maniacs before they died.”
The Parks family arrived at Sacramento in early September, 1848. On the banks of the Yuba River, they soon set up a gold mining camp. History of Yuba County, by Thompson and West, c.1879, p. 88: “David Parks, from whom the bar derived its name, came here Sept. 8, 1848. He with his family, consisting of wife and several children, was on his way overland to Oregon when he was met by a train of Mormons, who informed him of the discovery of gold.
He at once altered his course and came to this place. The Parks’ settled at a spot on the Yuba River, about 15 miles upriver from Marysville, which came to be known as Parks’ Bar. Mrs. Parks was the first white woman in this township. Parks mined and kept a trading post and store, his customers being the Indians and the many miners that now began to cluster about this spot. Daniel, the ninth child, quickly learned the language of the Indians of the area, and spoke it fluently. Goods brought enormously high prices, especially among the Indians, who knew little of the worth of gold dust, and set great value upon beads and sugar, which they used to buy supplies from Mr. Parks. They would give a tin cup even full of gold dust for the same quantity of beads, and buy sugar weight for weight. The Parks family remained only about six months.” (Note – the Parks family remained at least until July 1851, when their tenth child was born.) "Early in 1849, the miners began to gather rapidly at this point and the bar soon became a populous and thriving town. It was very rich, and many a hard-working miner returned from here to his eastern home with a golden belt.”
And from “The Journals of Charles E. DeLong”: “Parks Bar was probably the richest of all the gold-strewn bars of the Yuba River. It was located on the northerly side of the stream, some fifteen miles above Marysville, and at the point where the river leaves it’s canyons and debauches onto the broad plain of the Sacramento Valley. Parks Bar was worked as early as June 1848, by a company of prospectors from Benicia led by Major Stephen Cooper. These worthies left in disgust because they could not average more than fifty dollars an hour in their mining labors. David Parks and his family, fresh from the plains, was the next comer (September 1848), his wife being the first American woman in the township. The bar was christened after Parks because he was a man with a family, and more persons answered to the name of Parks than to any other. Charles Covillaud opened a store there later, and employed a number of Indians to dig gold for him. He (Covillaud) married on Christmas, 1848, Mary Murphy, one of the survivors of the Donner party. He purchased the rancho where Marysville now stands, laid out the town, and named it for his wife.”
According to family records, seven year old William Parks was accidentally killed in March of 1851, when he fell in front of an axe being used by a man chopping wood. In July 1851, Catherine gave birth to their tenth child, Yuba River Parks, on the banks of the Yuba River. In late 1851 or early 1852, David Sr. and Catherine decided to return to Indiana from California. However the three oldest sons, now in their early twenties, wanted to remain.
Although Catherine was distraught at leaving her sons behind, she and David boarded a small ship at Sacramento with the younger children, which took them to the Isthmus of Panama. According to Minnie's journal, when the family was at sea after only a short time, the boat hit a large three-cornered piece of rock which broke off and lodged in the side of the boat. Carpenters could not repair it, so the men resorted to pumping out the water to keep the ship from sinking. When the boat arrived at Panama, the family went ashore and hired burros to carry them and their belongings across the Isthmus to the Atlantic side. This was a treacherous trip; the burros had only a narrow, slippery path on which to travel in the drenching rains. If they'd lost their footing, in many places they would have fallen hundreds of feet down. After crossing the hot, steamy, snake and mosquito-infested jungle of Panama, they boarded another boat, crossed the Gulf of Mexico, and landed at New Orleans with over eighty-thousand dollars worth of gold – a fortune in those days. Catherine was told she was the first white woman to make the return trip east via the Isthmus. The family then sailed for New York, followed by an overland trip to Ohio, then Indiana.
David purchased land in Wayne County, Ohio, but eventually brought his family to Carroll County, Indiana, purchasing several farms there. A beautiful gold pocket watch, gold-trimmed spurs, and a gold nugget brooch were crafted from some of the gold mined at Parks' Bar. David & Catherine's son, John, also had a ring made which was inscribed (prophetically) “Don’t Forget Me” in Spanish. Some of the other family items known to have survived these many years are a Jenny Lind bed used by David & Catherine, a leather saddlebag, a powder horn, fancy glassware, a Bible belonging to Isaac, and David, Sr.'s Bible, which lists his ten children and some of the grandchildren.
Left behind by their own choice in California, the Parks brothers apparently thrived. John Parks and a partner, John G. Smith, built the first hotel at Marysville, called the United States Hotel which was located near the El Dorado Saloon on “D” Street. It was used as a stage terminal and political rendezvous, according to Earl Ramey’s Beginnings of Marysville. Other sources describe various celebrations and grand dinners having taken place at this hotel. John was a member of a committee to draft resolutions in the early incorporation of Marysville, was named as a delegate to a county convention held at Parks Bar May 10, 1851, and became involved in the effort to establish a catholic church in Marysville. In 1852, Parks’ Bar had six stores, three hotels, two blacksmith shops, a barber shop, post office, and a number of saloons. Six hundred votes were polled in the Marysville elections. Descendant Helen Parks Scott recalled that the first hotel in San Francisco was owned and run by David Jr. and his brother, Absalom Parks. It was a simple frame building, and Helen remembered having seen a photo of it at one time. (White’s History, Volume 2 reports that two brothers named “Parker” had the first hotel.)
Absalom and David Jr. apparently came back to Indiana before their brother John, who stayed in California about five years. Although Absalom apparently remained in Indiana, David Jr. must have returned again to California, as he was noted as living at Marysville in 1854, when his brother Charles and his bride Margaret Burntrager, arrived. The couple had met when Charles briefly attended school upon his family’s return to Indiana from California. Margaret wrote in her journal that handsome Charles was quickly a favorite of all the girls in the neighborhood, but that she had first been enamored of his beautiful pony. After marriage, the couple chose California as the destination for their wedding trip.
Also in 1854, the oldest son John made a trip back to Indiana for his first visit since leaving the state in 1848. When he reached a hotel in Michigan City, Indiana for an overnight stay, the hotel proprietor learned of the wealth he was carrying, and poisoned John. Aware that he'd been poisoned, John told another roomer at the hotel that he wished to travel the 80 miles to his parents' home, but probably wouldn’t survive that long. The roomer promised the dying man he would stay with him and take care of his things until John’s relatives arrived. The helpful stranger was true to his word, however John had to be buried before David Parks, Sr. arrived. David received his son's personal belongings from the roomer, but the hotel proprietor made a clean getaway with John's wealth.
In about 1855 or 1856, David Sr. returned to California to settle some of his business, and probably his deceased son, John's, as well. David and his son Charles purchased a ranch in the mountains over 100 miles from Marysville. Charles and Margaret had a three month old baby at the time.
After about two and a half years at this ranch, David Sr. and Charles disposed of it, and after meeting up with David Jr., the group returned again to Indiana, by way of San Francisco, Panama, and New York. After weeks of dangerous travel, the family members reached Carroll County, Indiana. It was after dark when the weary travelers at last arrived at Absalom's brick home near the town of Rockfield, Indiana. Margaret reported that at first they weren't recognized when they knocked on the door, but when Absalom at last realized it was his family, there was great rejoicing among them all.
Absalom Parks had married Lydia Wolf in about 1854, and they set up housekeeping near Rockfield, Indiana. Lydia gave birth to six children, but died at the age of 28, leaving three surviving children:
Charles D., Ella L., and Douglas C. In 1867, a few years after Lydia's death, Absalom married Keziah Gardner Hanawalt, a widow who had lost her preacher husband and two children to illness. Absalom and Keziah (Kizzie) became the parents of Grace and John Absalom. Kizzie became widowed again when Absalom died of black erysipelas in March of 1873 at the age of 42. Absalom, along with his father, owned a flour mill -- probably on Rock Creek in Carroll County -- and gave land in Rockfield for a Methodist-Episcopal church to be built. Absalom was also instrumental in the establishment of the I.O.O.F. in Rockfield
David Parks Jr. married Margaret Fording, and they became the parents of four children before Margaret died in 1872: Nancy, Jesse, Alfred and Alforetta. In 1874, David Jr. married Absalom’s widow, Keziah. David Jr. and Keziah became the parents of three sons -- only one of whom survived to adulthood: Beecher. Keziah gave birth to seven children that we know of, however she raised at least 14 children throughout the years. No wonder she was well loved and well spoken of by her descendants. Keziah died in 1899 at the age of about 65. David Jr. died in 1892 at the age of about 60 years.
Charles and his wife Margaret eventually moved from California to Indiana, then later on to Kansas. They became the parents of Mary Ellen, Frank, William, Ira, Amanda, Jennie, Allie, & Josie. Several of the children died and were buried at Fairbury, Nebraska. In 1886, Charles wrote his will and died the same year in Nebraska at the age of 51. Margaret returned to Delphi, Indiana the following year and became a milliner (hat-maker). She died in 1927 and is buried in a cemetery near Delphi.
Isaac Parks married Rachel Rutter in 1861. They lived for a time in Cass County, Indiana, before moving to Hanover, Kansas. They were the parents of ten children at the time that Isaac met an untimely, horrible death in 1889 at the age of 47. After a tiring day loading hogs, Isaac was struck and killed by a train. His youngest child was only about eight years old at the time of this tragedy. His widow, Rachel, remained in Kansas until her death at the age of 88 years. Their children were: Andrew Luther, Alonzo, John, William Elmer, Yuba, Leander, Laura Minnie, Sillvia, Isaac Jr., and Douglas F.
Daniel Parks married Mary Melissa “Mittie” Reddick in 1865 in Cass County, Indiana. They moved to Belleville, Kansas and became the parents of five children: William, Nora, "Kittie", Walter, and an infant who died. Daniel died in Kansas in 1905 at about age 58. Mittie's death date is unknown to this writer, however it is known that she was visiting Yuba's family in California at the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
Yuba Parks first married Lydia Reddick in 1871 in Jefferson, Nebraska. Lydia and Mittie were sisters, the daughters of Hiram & Sarah B. Reddick. Yuba and Lydia seemed to be on the move, residing in Indiana, Kansas, Arkansas, and California. They became the parents of five children: Sandra, Cora, Charles, Yuba, and Rollie. It is unknown when or where Lydia died, but in 1914, Yuba married Lillie Harlow -- their romantic marriage taking place on the banks of California's Yuba River, according to a newspaper account. Yuba was a grocery wholesaler who traveled a great deal. According to family descendants, he sometimes was known as “Dr. Parks,” selling bottled elixirs and medicinal concoctions. Yuba reportedly suffered financially and materially in the California earthquake of 1906. He died of a heart ailment in Portland, Oregon in 1916 at the age of 64. It is unknown when Lillie died, however she was listed as a widow in an Oakland, California 1917 Directory.
In the year 1862, David Parks Sr. filed for divorce from his wife of 35 years. Catherine was still raising the two youngest boys: Daniel, about 15 yrs. old, and Yuba, about 11 yrs. old. David Sr. and Catherine had several grandchildren by this time, but it seems that David’s restlessness had surfaced again. He became involved with a young woman named Esther “Etta” Snep, daughter of Henry & Esther (nee Shoup) Snep. They reportedly were a prosperous Mennonite family. The younger Esther apparently spent part of her childhood in Kosciusko County, Indiana, as her parents and siblings owned land in Kosciusko County over a span of many years, including the early 1840's when David and Catherine also resided there.
David’s divorce from Catherine became finalized in September of 1862. David Sr. and Etta obtained a marriage license in Kosciusko County just over a month later, in October of 1862. Etta gave birth to five daughters over the next few years: Ida, Rosa, Etta, Lilly, and Amanda. The family apparently moved and traveled a great deal, as the elder Etta told of taking a trip around the horn of South America to get to San Francisco when she and David had two young children. After moving from Indiana to Wisconsin, then to Minnesota, David and Etta eventually purchased farmland at Fairview, Oregon, and settled down. By the mid-1870's, David became sickly. At one point, he was in such poor health after a visit with his son Isaac in Kansas that he required accompaniment back to Oregon. David Sr. died in 1875 and was buried at Sandy, Oregon. His youngest daughter was but four years old at the time of his death.
David's first wife, Catherine, eventually married the father of her daughter-in-law, Rachel Rutter Parks. Benjamin Rutter was a widower, and for a time this elderly couple lived with Rachel's family. Catherine died in Kansas, in 1890 at the age of about 82, but not before she had shared the story of her interesting life with her granddaughter, Laura Minnie Parks.
After David Sr.'s death, Etta sold the farm at Fairview, Oregon, as it became too much for her to look after. She moved with her girls to Portland, Oregon and became employed at a hotel or rooming house. She may also have run a restaurant, perhaps in a hotel. Etta married Samuel T. Dickerson in 1878. It is believed that Etta passed away in 1916 in Seattle, Washington.
Before his eventful life was over, David Parks had traveled thousands of miles, and fathered fifteen children by two wives. Much of what we know about David's lifetime came from the writings of his granddaughter, Laura "Minnie" Parks Gundelfinger, who heard her Grandmother Parks' stories in person and kept a written record of them. Other information about the life of David Parks was derived from previous research by family members, from documents long preserved, and from recently discovered descendants and evidence.
(Click on photos for larger
||Parks Bar 1964
photos and newspaper clipping courtesy of T. Goebel.