History of Parsons
The Beginning of Parsons
By R. C. Stegall
In 1819 the Tennessee Legislature created the first three counties that encompassed land west of the Tennessee River. One of these, Perry County, included most of what is today Decatur County. Early settlers, moving from Virginia and North Carolina, crossed the Tennessee River into the western part of Perry County in search for land and a place to settle. One area that caught early attention was near a small creek flowing south from springs and a drain basin to a larger stream known today as Beech River.
Around 1880 a young man named George Washington Partin left home in Ringgold, Georgia in a horse-drawn buggy and headed northwest into Tennessee to sell sewing machines. Eventually his travels led him to Decatur County where me met and married Margaret “Maggie” Rushing. Partin and his new bride were attracted to the Bear Creek area and thought it would be a good place to live and start a town.’. He purchased a number of acres on the Perryville-Lexington dirt road near the present Bear Creek church building and opened a large general store that went over big. His success attracted others and soon two cotton gins and a doctor’s office were added to the community.
Since there was no post office nearby application to establish a post office for the new town was submitted to Washington. The proposed post office would serve 575 persons. The post office, to be called Partinville, was approved and on November 13, 1885 George W. Partin became the first postmaster in the town which bore his name. But coming events would soon prove fatal to the new town.
In 1886 the Tennessee Midland Railroad Company (TMRC) received a charter to build a railroad from Memphis across Tennessee to the Virginia State line. In 1889 the railroad was completed from Memphis to the Tennessee River at Perryville where it ended. The railroad missed Partinville about one mile to the south. But the big blow came when the new railroad agreed to build a depot one mile east of Partinville on land owned by Henry Myracle. In order to get a town started on his land, Mr. Myracle deeded one hundred forty three and one-third acres to the (TMRC). The railroad company engineer drew the plans for lots and streets on land owned by both Myracle and (TMRC) and the town of Parsons was about to begin.
George W. Partin, seeing the handwriting on the wall, immediately prepared to move to the new town. On April 20,1889 he purchased the first lot sold in the new town and on August 19, 1889 bought nearby Buckner land and shortly thereafter tore his store building down at Partinville and moved his business to the new town.
The fateful day came on May 7, 1897 when the post office officially moved to Parsons. Partinville, the forerunner to Parsons was now history.
Early Days of Parsons and the Pea Vine
By Wanda Conger
History of the Tennessee Midland Railroad in Parsons, Tennessee
Before 1889, Henry Myracle, one of the early settlers of the area, owned a large flat piece of land in Decatur County, Tennessee. He wanted to get a town started on his land so he deeded 143 1/3 acres of land to the Tennessee Midland Railway Company on April 11, 1889. (Decatur Co. Deed Book ft II, Page 85-86)
The Tennessee Midland Railway Company was charted December 29, 1886, and constructed 135.6 miles of track during the years from 1887-1889 to connect Memphis, Tennessee to the Tennessee River at Perryville, Tennessee. With the completion of the route, trains operated without a break for over 45 years between Memphis and Perryville, Tennessee. The first train pulled into Parsons on June 30, 1889. It consisted of six coaches-two passenger cars, a baggage car and three freight cars. The last run of the “Pea Vine” was on October 31, 1936. It was a sad day for the citizens of the area. The loss of the train whistle was the passing of another piece of Decatur County history. The railroad began to lose money as a result of the new highway and bridge over the Tennessee River. The owners of the railroad could not raise the money to build a bridge over the river, so the automobile conquered this era of transportation.
The 24-mile Perryville Branch of the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway came under control of the Paducah, Tennessee & Alabama Railroad, later to become part of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. In 1893 both Tennessee Midland and the PT&A went into receivership that lasted until 1895 when they were sold at foreclosure and purchased by the Louisville and Nashville Railroad. Almost immediately, these newly acquired properties were leased for 99 years to the Louisville and Nashville controlled Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railway. The lease, dated September 9, 1896 involved a rental of 50% of $ 3,093,000, plus expenditures for additions and betterments by the lessor from time to time. Maintenance, taxes and operational expenses were to be assumed by the NC&StL.
The passenger train of the Perryville Branch was known as the “Hot Shot” or the “Cannonball”, and consisted of a mail-baggage car and two coaches that were usually filled with passengers. Numbers 230 and 233 ran daily; 231 and 232 ran daily except Sundays. At Lexington, the beginning of the route, there was a continuous train order station, standard clock, bulletin board, and a registering station. At Parsons, there was a train order station and a water tank(8 a.m.-5 p.m.). At Perryville, there was a train order station. Perryville was an important point on the railroad because of the incoming freight and passengers connecting to the train from riverboats. Manufactured items were also delivered to citizens of the towns along the route between Lexington and Perryville.
Several towns were established along the route. In Decatur County, Tennessee first was Beacon (called Moray until the railroad), which was named for the Decatur County Beacon newspaper established by W.V. Barry; Parsons, named for the Parsons family; and Perryville, which was already named for Perry County, TN. The railroad contributed greatly to the development of these communities.
The town of Parsons was created by the railroad in the late 1880’s but did not receive its charter until 1913. L. H. Burke, a surveyor for the Tennessee Midland Railway, was chosen to develop the town. The land south of Main Street in Parsons was laid off in uniform blocks, with streets 100 feet wide. The blocks were 320 feet by 320 feet, separated by 20 foot alleys, making 4 quarter blocks each in the size of 150 feet by 150 feet. Streets funning East and West from Main Street are numbered First through Tenth Streets. Those running North and South are named for the States.
Alternate blocks were conveyed to the Parsons Improvement Co., a partnership composed of some of the developers of the railway. The Myracle family maintained the other blocks. Parsons was sometimes called Parsons Flat because of the lay of the land. The railroad surveyors coined the term. The north side of Main Street was developed from the lands owned by the Buckner and Parsons families. It was not developed until the 1920’s when Highway 412 was built.
The railroad depot was located in the center of town where the BP station is today. Community South Bank stands on the commercial lot owned by the railroad, which was used as a tie yard where farmers brought their crossties to be shipped out by rail. A storage lot and livestock pens were located where Townsend Chevrolet-Buick-Pontiac, Inc. is today. Livestock dealers would purchase livestock and load the animals in the stock cars for shipment to the various markets. In the summer local farmers raised tomatoes as a cash crop. There were two packinghouses for the tomatoes to be processed and shipped out by rail. The tomato season usually lasted three to four weeks during the summer months. There was a large water tank beside the depot for the locomotive. There was also a town pump and a small park located at the site of the water tank where a vacant lot is at the present time.
Even though there is no sound of a train whistle anywhere around the town of Parsons, Tennessee, we as citizens must always remember the beginnings of our little town. Had it not been for the Tennessee Midland Railway Co. and Henry Myracle, Parsons would not be on the map today.