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History of Parrish

Parrish today is a quaint little village town with lots of descendants still living here from the mid-1800’s. At which time, the settlers had begun to discover the rich land and open range for cattle ranching. The rich soil that was along Manatee River seemed to the settlers as the perfect place for orange groves, farming and development.

 One of the better known settlers in Manatee County was William B. Hooker who came in 1850. He was a cattleman and planter and established his homestead “The Oak Hill Plantation” which is the site of today’s Parrish. He and a partner raised Sea Island cotton. At that time, the Seminole raids were still happening; families were settling at Branch Fort or Camp Manatee. A base camp was formed by twenty-five frontiersmen and it was called Fort Hamer which was considered to be located on the grounds of Hooker’s Plantation. The home was eventually burned by the Seminole Indians.

The next well known settler was Charles A. Turner, who purchased “Oak Hill Plantation” from Hooker in 1866.Charles was the son of Major Iredell Turner. Major Turner had to retired from the militia due to injuries deeded the Plantation to his father Major Turner in 1867. He continued to raise oranges, cattle and sugar cane. While living on the plantation, he along with Major John Lesley helped Confederate Secretary of State Judah P Benjamin escaped following the Union victory. They hid Benjamin in the swamp behind the Turner homestead for several days until they were sure the Federal soldiers had left the area. Once assured, they transported him to Gamble Mansion.

In 1866, after the war had ended, Major Turner began to look for land on the southern banks of Manatee River and settled in the village of Manatee and moved on to become Braidentown’s [1] first post-master in 1878. The post office was a general store. He was a vegetable and citrus grower. He purchased seven acres of riverfront land in 1877 where he built a store, warehouse and wharf as well as a mansion house, a large two story home that served as a hotel.

Crawford Parrish brought his family to Parrish in 1868. He and his wife, Mary Bratcher VanZant, settled on acreage located on the present US Hwy 301. They purchased the homestead and holdings of Ida Turner Carnes. This became their permanent home. The land in those days was open range and cattle were identified by branding. Summers round-ups were held with the men known as Cow hunters, they would gather the cattle along with cow dogs and herded to market. Fully grown cattle were taken to ships bound for trade mainly in Cuba. The women carried much responsibility. Many infants died in infancy and those who lived were expected to work along with their parents to help the family survived. In those days they had big families. Meal preparation was hard, harvesting vegetables killing and butchering chicken, baking and milking the cows. Much of what they ate was grown or handmade such as butter and lard. Water was from underground wells and laundry was done outside in pots over open fires.

Crawford Parrish’s son, Crawford P. Parrish became a member of the Florida House of Representative and petitioned the Federal Government for a post office. At that time, it was discovered another town with the name of Oak Hill. The townspeople petitioned to have the name changed to Parrish. In 1879, the post office was established.

In 1902, the railroad came through. The first line stretched from Hillsborough to Palmetto and had a stop at Oak Hill. John Parrish another one of Crawford Parrish’s sons donated the land for the Oak Hill depot and requested that the name be changed to Parrish. With the railroad came prosperity, it opened up shipping of produce either by train and steamship. This produce the economy to prosper and the town became a magnet for immigrants looking for a place to raise their families. John Parrish was major in introducing the grapefruit to this area which did grown into a prosperous way to make a living. Oranges and grapefruit throughout the years remain the bumper crops to raise. Tomatoes and produce also was a way for truck farmers to make money for their families.

The era from 1910 to the depression years, Parrish had grown to have four packinghouses, bank, which turned into a meat market/general stores, mercantile store, restaurant, blacksmith shop, ice cream shop, and barbershop and pool hall. A boarding house, churches, doctor office, post office, several grocery stores and the train depot, water tank for steam engines, county barn and eventually a skating rink in a house for the community. Parrish was a booming little town that everyone came “Uptown” on the weekends to catch up with everyone else in the community. During the latter part of the depression years, people began to go elsewhere for work. In 1957, when the highway was widen, the town buildings were destroyed for the highway.

The people were hard working and looked after each other throughout the years. Children play outside jumping rope, playing hide and seek, catching fire flies, a good country way of life.

[1] Now Bradenton, Manatee, Florida

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