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Parker can trace its colorful recent history to the establishment of the Pine Grove Post Office by Alfred Butters around 1862. Prior to that time, the area was used for hunting by Indians, including the ancient (prehistoric) Indians, the Plains-Woodland Indians and later (circa 1800s) mostly Arapaho, Cheyenne and Ute Indians.
White men explored the general area in the early part of the 19th century. Explorers included James Pursley in 1803, Baptiste LaLande in 1804, Stephen H. Long in 1820 and John Charles Fremont in 1843.
The old Indian trail that ran next to Cherry Creek near Parker was utilized by early traders, trappers, frontiersmen and gold seekers such as John Beck, Captain R. B. Marcy, William Green Russell, Thomas Fitzpatrick, Jim Baker, "Uncle Dick" Wooten (Wootton) and Kit Carson.
The trail became known by several names, such as Cherokee Trail, the South Branch of the Smoky Hill Trail and a branch of Trapper's Trail. When stage lines rolled into Colorado, it became known also as the West Cherry Creek Stage Road and the Denver-Santa Fe Stage Road.
Gold was discovered in Colorado in 1858 and in the next year more than 100,000 people followed the trails here in search of their fortunes. Small towns and settlements sprang up as the focus changed from gold to land. A man named Alfred Butters built a one-room building in the pines south of the present day Hilltop Road (now known as Rampart Station) around 1862. Butters handled mail, provided provisions and offered a place to leave messages. Butters named this refuge for travelers Pine Grove.
Butters traded the building to a Mr. Goldsmith for a yoke of oxen. Goldsmith in turn sold it to Mr. and Mrs. George Long in 1864. The Longs moved the structure to the site of the present day Town of Parker, made a rough addition and added some other buildings to accommodate animals and wagons. The building was referred to as the 20 Mile House since it was located 20 miles south of Denver. The structure served as a way station that provided meals, lodging and provisions.
Although courthouse records bring the dates into question, historical accounts generally agree that George Long traded the 20 Mile House to Nelson Doud in 1870 for a pair of mules. The Douds enlarged it to include 10 rooms and a second story ballroom. They sold the building in 1874 to James Sample Parker, an ex-bullwhacker and station manager who had been living in Kiowa. Under Parker's ownership, the 20 Mile House grew and prospered. A blacksmith shop with equipment to shoe oxen and a general mercantile store were added to the facility, and it became the first official post office.
James Parker granted rights of way for future roads, ditches, telephone lines and eventually the Denver and New Orleans Railroad. When his daughter Edith reached school age, James Parker built the first school across the road from the 20 Mile House. Additionally, he paid the teacher's salary for the first year and provided her with room and board.
Many of Parker's first rural families were of Scandinavian descent. Some established dairy farms in the area, while others raised cattle or horses. Dry land farming was experimental. A fortunate few began irrigating crops from ditches connected to Cherry Creek.
The Town's first cemetery was located atop the hill just east of the intersection of Highway 83 and E-470. When James Parker's first wife Mattie died on June 12, 1887, he donated land for another cemetery. This would become the present day Parker Cemetery, located west of Highway 83 just north of the Crossroads Shopping Center. James Parker and the townspeople moved the early graves and markers to the new location.
Parker died in 1910 and is buried next to his wife, Mattie, and son, Bela H. Parker, who died at the age of 6. Nearby is the grave of another pioneer whose headstone reads: "Jonathan H. Tallman, Killed by Indians, May 8, 1870." Many of Parker's first families are buried in this little cemetery.
Land west of Highway 83 was owned by James Parker, but land holdings on the east side of highway were under the ownership of James' brother, George. George established a saloon and was instrumental in seeing that other businesses located in the growing Town. The railroad provided the impetus, and by the turn of the century Parker boasted two hotels, the post office, three general mercantile stores, a saloon, a livery stable, two blacksmiths shops, the railroad station with section house, a water tower and warehouse, a brick works, a stockyard, a creamery and a bank that got robbed twice. In nearby Newlin Gulch, gold was found.
The Denver and New Orleans Railroad was the first standard gauge railroad to cross Douglas County, running between Denver and Pueblo. "Pollywog" was the affectionate name given the first train.
In its heyday, the Denver and New Orleans Railroad boasted 10 locomotives, 13 passenger cars and 200 freight cars. The line became the Colorado and Southern Railroad through a succession of failures and reorganizations. Operations began to be curtailed after 1913 and dismantling began in 1917. Operations were totally discontinued after 1935 when a major flood washed out many of the trestles.
Prior to the railroad, the Butterfield Overland Dispatch ran a stage line through the Parker area with stops at Sulphur Creek Station (off Hilltop Road) and the 20 Mile House.
The Town of Parker was incorporated in 1981 and included the Rowley Downs subdivision, the downtown area and the Parker Square and Parker Plaza commercial areas. The incorporated area encompassed approximately one square mile and included 285 residents. Soon after incorporation in 1981, the Town adopted zoning and subdivision ordinances.
The Town increased from one square mile at incorporation to 20.8 square miles currently. The Town's population has increased from less than 300 at incorporation to more than 59,000 currently.