“This Old House” was owned by John Parrish and located on U.S. 301 North. John was a landowner; he raised cattle and produced wool from his 1,000 head of sheep. He was an orange cultivator along with being a planter in Oak Hill (now Parrish). He is the son of Crawford and Mary Bratcher (VanZant) Parrish.
He, along with his siblings, received a common education in a one-room schoolhouse in the community and his accomplishments were extensive throughout the county. Although he had to go to work as a young boy, he developed great study habits and became one of Florida’s most well-informed men.
It is said by some in the community that the name changed from “Oak Hill” to “Parrish” in honor of John Parrish donating land for the railroad in 1902.
He began his career as a printer’s devil in Tampa, soon to become a “two-thirder,” a term given to those who had finished two thirds of their apprenticeship. This was not what he wanted to do; he was determined to find another career.
He went into farming, was given land by his father before his marriage, and he built a home. In 1883, he possessed 1,000 acres of land. He became interested in raising cattle stock, and he helped other cattlemen care for their cattle in his area. He planted 75 acres in citrus groves with the seeds that were collected by his bride while he was working on cattle ranges. She gathered the seeds from the original trees that were found growing wild in swampy and low places in this area. These seeds were brought into this country by the Spaniards.
The original orange’s fruit was sour, but eventually by way of grafting a sweeter version orange bud to the sour tree stock, the fruit then produced was a sweeter and better-tasting orange. Some of those original trees can be found in the wild today in Florida.
John was a leading merchant, as well as Postmaster of the township of Parrish. His public service was extensive. He gave land for the Seaboard Air Line railroad station and five acres for the provision of a freight warehouse, water tank, and other necessities needed for the railroad to function. Fifteen years later, 250 solid carloads of vegetables, as well as other farm products, were being shipped annually from this station.
He served on the school board and the Parrish Chamber of Commerce. He was active in the Methodist Church and also was active in Mason’s, having obtained the 33rd Degree. Politically, he was a Democrat.
In 1882, John married Mary Magdalene (Yates), daughter of Jonah and Harriet (Holloway) Yates. They had seven children, Ralph, Magdalene, Jonah, Mary, Marcus Kenneth, Elizabeth “Bessie” and John Jr. He possessed all the attributes of a good husband, a good father, a good friend and a good citizen.
In his passing, the community suffered an irreparable loss. Due to fire, his home burned to the ground.
This article is excerpted from the book “This Old House” by Iris Worth McClain with permission of McClain and the Parrish Arts Council. For more articles like this one, purchase the book for $10 from the Parrish Arts Council.