Allegheny • Clarion River Valley Region (Blueprint Initiative)

Parker – History

Parker is the only city in Armstrong County. It is located in the extreme northwestern portion of the county. Parker is a mere 1.1 square mile in size.

The City was named for Judge John Parker, lead surveyor of Lawrenceburg and founder/owner of Parker’s Landing.

Parker's Landing Ferry, circa 1870s

Parker’s Landing Ferry, circa 1870s

The western Pennsylvania oil boom began in Titusville, Pennsylvania in August 1859 when Colonel Edwin Drake first struck oil. The excitement reached the Parker area in the spring of 1865 on the William E. Robinson farm, just north of the present day City of Parker. Residents were not genuinely excited about oil being struck until 1869 when they realized the importance of the oil fields surrounding the small village. A forest of derricks dotted the land around Parker’s Landing and it rapidly became a center of activity. Lawrenceburg, settled in 1819 for the Bear Creek Furnace operators, became a busy village filled with operators and drillers wanting to share in the work and profits.

Nine very successful wells on Stump Creek Island, just North of Parker’s Landing, made Parker’s Landing one of the top oil producing regions. By November 1869, 1,056 wells in Parkers Landing and Lawrenceburg were completed, producing, or drilling, leading to a period of unprecedented prosperity.

Downtown Parker - late 1870s

Downtown Parker – late 1870s

Cooper Mansion, circa 1876; 1920-1962, Parker High School

Cooper Mansion, circa 1876; 1920-1962, Parker High School

Hundreds of industries sprang up quickly and Parker’s population grew to more than 20,000 with another 5,000 living on boats along the banks of the Allegheny River. Millionaires built massive mansions on the bluff, and houses were built throughout the villages. Every available space was occupied. In the midst of the oil boom, the villages of Parker’s Landing (along the river) and Lawrenceburg (on the bluff) were incorporated to become the City of Parker on March 1, 1873.

Organized on March 4, 1875, the Parker Oil Exchange was the central trading body in the petroleum fields. It was here that fortunes were made and lost in a day. For several years, the Parker Oil Exchange handled the largest volume of trading in the entire oil region.

Parker Oil Exchange, circa 1876

Parker Oil Exchange, circa 1876

The Bear Creek Pump Station, built in 1879, was, for some time, the nation’s largest pump station. It was a central point for a total of 21 lines connecting the eastern part of the United States and west to the mid-continent fields. This station was so diversified that five different grades of oil could be moved simultaneously.

The oil boom quickly went bust. Oil production was dwindling by 1878, with many wells running dry. When the supply was exhausted, the oil boom (and speculators) moved on to the next field.

Then, in 1879, a disastrous fire gutted almost the entire waterfront section of the city, wiping out 83 buildings in a single night. Little effort was made to rebuild. This was the final straw in the city’s economic collapse. Parker reached its lowest point in 1880 when homes that cost thousands were sold for mere hundreds.

Over a brief span of 10 years, Parker had grown from two simple villages of 1,000 residents, to the heights of a bustling city, then returned to its historic small village size with a population of approximately 1,000, thus earning its status as the “Smallest City in the U.S.A.” Its population today is 840.

Early Parker House

Early Parker House

Present Day Parker House

Present Day Parker House

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