Old Time Florida Living
One of the oldest communities in Florida, Parrish and its residents still cherish the old life.
With the multitude of pre-platted cities and retirement communities across our fair state, we sometimes forget that there were settlements and cities on the Gulf Coast that predate World War II.
Parrish is one of the oldest cities in the Sunshine state, first settled in 1850 by Captain William Hooker after he purchased the land from the United States government and built the Oak Hill Plantation. After the Civil War, he sold the plantation to a fellow soldier from the Seminole Wars, Maj. William Iredell Turner.
Turner, despite his Southern leanings, was already in well accord, having named Gainesville and establishing Braidentown (now Bradenton) as its first official postmaster. He and his son expanded the property, eventually dropping ‘Plantation’ from the title.
In 1869, Crawford & Mary Parrish bought land in Oak Hill from Mjr Turner where they farmed citrus and raised 8 children. In 1885, Parrish got a land grant from President Grover Cleveland that added 40 acres to their property. He built the first school and church in the area. As the railroad proceeded further south, Parrish’s son John devised a plan to make life and commerce easier for his family and his neighbors.
Convinced that a depot was crucial to the development of the town, John Parrish convinced the United States & West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company to build a railroad depot in Oak Hill by donating part of the family’s land holdings for the depot, water tank and four miles of track.
The depot was completed in 1902 and the city’s name changed to Parrish in the family’s honor, at their request, shortly thereafter. The town grew and thrived until the Great Depression crushed business and almost destroyed the entire town.
Today Parrish continues to grow. The depot now houses the Florida Railroad Museum and gives short line tours. The city never incorporated and when the Highway 301 was expended, several of the town’s historic downtown was torn down. Mary & Crawford Parrish are buried in the town cemetery, surrounded by generations of their family, and the town is still home to the descendants of many of the town’s founding families, including the Parrish’s.
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