Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pioneer Farmsteads: Abner C. Parker Farm

In Rochester Hills, we have only a handful of nineteenth-century farmhouses remaining to bear testimony to the agricultural heritage of the former Township of Avon. The best-known and best-preserved example is probably the Taylor-Van Hoosen farm in Stoney Creek, but if you look closely as you travel through Rochester Hills, you will spot some others. This occasional series will look at our remaining pioneer farmsteads.

The subject of this post is the Abner C. Parker farmstead, which was located on the east side of Crooks Road, north of Hamlin and south of the Christian Hills subdivision. A mid-nineteenth century farmhouse still stands on this property (currently in distressed condition), and is an example of the "upright and a wing" design that was a fairly common house style in its day.

Abner C. Parker was born in Wayne County, New York in 1814 and migrated, with his wife Eleanor, to Oakland County, Michigan about 1840. He purchased several tracts of land in Avon and in other places, but chose to make his home in Avon Township. On February 10, 1857, Parker purchased most of the southeast quarter of section 20, as well as a portion of section 21. This property included a sawmill along the Clinton River, according to the 1872 plat of Avon shown here. Abner Parker was also listed a the proprietor of a sawmill in Avon in the 1863-64 Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory.

Eleanor Parker died in 1864, and was buried in Mt. Avon Cemetery in Rochester. Abner Parker then married Rebecca DeMun, who died in 1880 and was also buried in the Parker plot in Mt. Avon. Abner's third wife, Nancy Smith, whom he married in 1881, survived him, as did several children of his first two marriages. Abner Parker died on July 24, 1884, at the age of seventy, and was buried in Mt. Avon near his first two wives. His children sold the property on Crooks Road to his widow, Nancy Smith Parker, for 900 dollars in September 1884.

As architectural historians date the house on Crooks Road to the mid-nineteenth century, and given that Abner C. Parker lived on the property from 1857 to 1884, it is likely that Parker built the house and that he may have sawed the timbers for its construction on site in the sawmill that he operated along the Clinton River. The next time you pass by this location, take note of this valuable remnant of Rochester Hills' agricultural past.

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