Tom Parks was born Thomas Jefferson Parks in 1849 on the Texas frontier, three years after Texas was admitted to the United States, and Dallas was incorporated as a town when he was three years old. He was the tenth of eleven children born to Amelia Sharp and Curtis Parks. Several of his siblings stayed in Indiana and several came to Texas with their parents.
“Grandpa Parks,” as I have always heard him called, was a successful farmer and was active in civic affairs in the Lancaster area before DeSoto was incorporated. He really enjoyed family, keeping them close by giving them parcels of land to farm. He and his wife, Texana Christian, made their home the center of life for their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Grandma Parks’ parents were Tom and Jane (Tuttle) Christian, and she and Grandpa married January 5, 1871 in Dallas County.
According to the August 21, 1930 issue of The Lancaster Herald, Grandpa Parks “saw the first railroads as they were being built in Texas. Even before that, he drove an ox team and hauled freight from Buffalo Bay-ou to north Texas. He lived to drive a high-powered automobile and make the trip, which in his early life took six weeks, in a little more than twice that many hours. In his boyhood he was familiar with the sight of deer, antelope, prairie chickens, wild turkeys, and even Indians, roaming at will over the hills and prairies of Dallas County.”
Grandma and Grandpa Parks had six children: Samuel Nathe married Anabell Darby, children were Hobart and Harold; Clara May married Charles Edgar Bagby, children were Clarence Orla “Orley,” Nathe Parks, and Raymond Fred; Sarena married Joe L. Gable, no children; Abbie married Will Freeman, children were T.C. and Thelma; Ida Pearl married John Frank “J.F.” Grimes, children were J.F., Jr., Foy, Loura Alice, Parks, and Lettie May; and Loura married Paris A. Carrell, children were Albert Raymond, Thomas, Julia Pearl, and Ruth. All of Texana and Tom’s children were born between 1871 and 1882 on the Parks’ farm in DeSoto.
“Grandpa was well-liked and very well thought-of,” said my Daddy, Ralph, “and quite pragmatic. Once when a neighbor came over to buy a dollar’s worth of grain, Grandpa told him to just go out to the barn and get it. The man asked if Grandpa didn’t want to come out with him to verify the amount. Grandpa replied, “No, if you want to go to hell for a dollar, that’s your business, and just chuckled.”
Grandpa Parks usually wore a mustache and Grandma Parks wore long dresses and often a beautiful cameo pin on her high-neckline blouses. Aunt Eleanor says that Grandpa was the man of the house during the War Between the States when the men were off fighting for the Confederacy. He was twelve years old when the war began in 1861.
According to The Lancaster Herald article, “Tom Parks was one of the most successful farmers and stock raisers of this section. Inheriting a small farm, he added to its acreage until at his death he owned several hundred acres. He was known all over Dallas and Ellis Counties as a raiser of fine mules. In his early life he owned and operated one of the first power threshing machines in Dallas County and was an extensive grain grower until very recent years.”
The Herald article goes on to say, “He was a student of history, and a man of few faults and of fearless convictions…For many years a political leader of the County, and until his last illness a strong political factor in the community, he always stood for clean politics and civic righteousness.”
The article also says, “His influence started the movement to build the first church ever built in DeSoto, and he was one of its most liberal supporters. … His earliest memories of religious worship date back to the old Hardshell Baptist Missionaries who made regular visits among the ‘Brethren,’ preaching in their homes, and to the Methodist itinerants, who held revivals in groves of trees. …He never joined any church because, he told the writer, he never quite agreed with every tenet of faith and practice of any one denomination. He was an avowed believer in Christ, and S.L. Randlett, in his eulogy at the grave, paid him this tribute: “He came nearer living the Golden Rule than any man I ever knew.”
Grandpa Parks died August 21, 1930 at home in DeSoto, and Grandma Parks died in 1936. Both were buried at Rawlins Cem-etery in Lancaster, where many southern Dallas County early pioneers are buried.
By Clarence Burton Bagby for Dallas County Pioneer Association‘s Proud Heritage, Volume III.
Photo: Texana Christian Parks, holding great-grandson Alfred Parks Bagby. Behind—Raymond Fred Bagby, and daughter, Loura (Parks) Bagby.