With all of the new buildings that have given shape to the charming bedroom community of Parker, it’s easy for the relics of the past to become concealed. But for anyone curious enough to look and listen, there are 150 years of lore to explore.
Before it was named after influential founding father James Sample Parker (and his brother, George) in 1882, the town was known to the first settlers as Pine Grove. Beginning in 1864, they came from the prairies to the east and the plains to the north, establishing quaint, hand-built homes in what is now the center of town, along with farmhouses on picturesque spreads around Parker’s present boundaries.
Ensuing years were rife with conflict between the pioneers and Native Americans, and a trade-off of massacres in Douglas and Elbert counties — and the reasons behind them — are still hotly debated among historians and the descendants of those involved. Hints of the area’s first inhabitants are deeply entrenched in the soil, and some may forever stay that way.
Decades on, as more people moved to the community, various industries sprang to life. The railroad brought opportunity from afar; gold mining sent clinks and clanks echoing from the gulches; a stage stop put the town on the map for travelers; a centralized creamery did a booming business; and ranching, of course, was an integral part of daily life from the outset.
For years, the Parker area’s claim to fame was having more horses per capita than any other town in the country. But when Denver went from prairie settlement to blossoming metropolis, a metamorphosis took place on the outskirts of town.
Suddenly, Parker didn’t seem so far away from the Mile High City.
Longtime residents, some who never once considered moving from Parker, watched as young families planted roots. Between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s, the town played a key role in the nationally recognized exponential growth of the southern suburbs.
With added population came fresh commerce, different types of housing, new ways of life.
So it seems fitting, in this 150th year, to give at the very least a cursory glimpse into the past, while not ignoring the fact that some footnotes in the area’s history will inevitably be missed.
The curious can rest assured, however, far more material exists to explore than what is written in these pages. They simply have to look and listen.
Part 1 - The Early Years: 1864-1910
The era spanning the town’s infancy was fraught with hardship and conflict, but also triumphs that laid the foundations for what was to come.
The 17-Mile House and 20-Mile House, both of which have been preserved for educational tours, served as resting spots for weary travelers and first put Pine Grove on the map. Westward travelers trickled in and established homesteads, some of which still stand today. They are crumbling reminders of a tougher time when people survived on backbreaking labor, ingenuity and cooperation among neighbors.
Stories persist of families using logs and winches to move their cabin up to 10 miles, trappers using Native American hunting trails.... read more here
Quick facts about Parker
Founded: 1864 (Pine Grove)Incorporated: 1981Elevation: 5,900 feetPopulation in 1990: approx. 6,000Population in 2000: 23,558Population in 2013: 48,608
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