Civil War veteran's legacy lives on

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The final memorial service John Parker attended at Craig Cemetery was to honor veterans who fought in the same war he had.

The cemetery was called Fairview back then, and the war was the Civil War.

Born in about 1840 in Hudson County, N.J., Parker served as a sailor for three years before the start of the war between the states.

When the Civil War broke out, Parker enlisted as a volunteer. After the war ended, he left the volunteer service and enlisted in the Army.

John Parker was selected to be an orderly for President Lincoln, whom he served until the president's assassination.

Whether it was the Army that brought him to Colorado or a desire for new adventures remains lost in history.

By 1870, the federal census showed Parker living in Kit Carson, in the Colorado Territory.

Newspapers first took note of Parker when, around 1880, he and friend Ernest Kohler form the Leadville Orchestra in that mountain boomtown. Parker is listed as orchestra leader and conductor.

In the early 1880s, Parker and Kohler moved to Routt County.

Parker's name appears on land claim paperwork in 1883 and 1884.

Parker filed papers for a homestead just west of Hayden in October 1888, on land near the current Yampa River State Park.

Articles began to appear in the Craig Courier about the musical abilities of Parker and Kohler. Every dance or musical event would find mention of the music produced by the pair. Parker played the violin, and Kohler the bass.

In the mid-1890s, Parker was known for peddling merchandise around the county from his team-drawn wagon. His trips to Denver to re-supply his inventory were listed under Hayden Happenings in 1896.

"John Parker will soon leave for Denver to purchase his fall goods," states the Craig Courier on Sept. 5, 1896.

"John Parker returned last Saturday from his tour of the county with his general merchandise outfit," it read on Nov. 7, 1897.

A Leadville census in 1885 lists a wife, Myra, and an adopted daughter, Stella, but they are rarely mentioned after Parker moved to Northwest Colorado.

Newspaper reports tell of a fire that destroyed the Hayden cabin and its contents, including a "fine piano and musical library."

All the neighbors in the valley reportedly turned out to rebuild the cabin "better than it was before." To celebrate, thay held an all-night dance with music courtesy of Parker and Kohler.

Parker died on Jan. 26, 1901. He was buried in the Craig Cemetery after a service at the Christian Church on a Sunday afternoon.

Over the years, the exact location of the grave has been forgotten.

At the time, many graves went unmarked, said Museum of Northwest Colorado Director Dan Davidson. He has been researching Parker for months, attempting to obtain a headstone to recognize the man for his military service.

"We know he's buried here," Davidson said. "By next year's Memorial Day service, we hope to have a headstone for him."

During today's Memorial Day service by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Parkers name will be on the list of local veterans, to be read one by one at the ceremony.

Attempts are being made to find any surviving family members that might be able to attend next year's service.

Anyone with information about Parker should call the Museum of Northwest Colorado at 824-6360.

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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