What kind of person would have pulled up stakes in the mid 1800s and come several hundred miles into unsettled territory to make his home? Let’s call him, intelligent, educated, adventurous, committed, a man of integrity who loved his family and God.
All these adjectives describe Livingston Parker who came to Franklin Township in 1854. Parker was born in Henderson, New York, February 7, 1815. Parker went through the “common schools” and graduated from the Belleville Academy and pursued a course in Civil Engineering. He also graduated from Union College, now Union University, in Schenectady, New York, in 1835. He taught school in Northern New York and studied law.
In 1838 he moved to Dayton, Ohio, where he was employed as an engineer in constructing the Miami Canal. On June 2, 1841, he married Nancy J. Barney. They taught school for several years in Ohio.
It was his father-in-law, Benjamin Barney, who was given claims to land in Franklin Township, Iowa, in payment for his wartime service. Parker must have been about 38 years of age at the time that he and his father-in-law made a long, arduous journey on horseback to find a place to homestead in Appanoose County, IA. Parker and Barney laid claim to 320 acres of land in Franklin Township. They then returned to Urbana, Ohio, so that Parker could finish his term as an instructor at the Union Academy. His family and the Barney family returned the following year to make the claim their permanent home.
When Parker and Barney got to Franklin township, they found ample amounts of trees for lumber, water for a mill and necessities of life, coal, clay for a brick kiln and shelter. They determined it to be a good place to meet the needs of the families who would gather there. Iowa had just become a state in 1846 and by 1853 when the men came to stake their claims, settlers were making their ways westward into Iowa. Farmland was homesteaded in the area from around 1850 to 1856 because of its rich, productive soils, particularly to the west.
Parker was a leader. He was a person of integrity. Other settlers in the area looked to him as the standard of this pioneer life. They named the village they were settling after the man, Livingston Parker, calling it Livingston. Parker was a surveyor, a brick maker, a coal miner. He became a minister celebrating his calling and new occupation with a two-day ordination service in Franklin Baptist Church, which he was instrumental in building. He was co-publisher of the Centerville newspaper, which was a Republican newspaper. In basically Democratic Appanoose County, this could have been a life or death matter. However, things of this magnitude did not deter Parker from doing what he believed was right.
Although past the age of military duty, Parker enlisted in Company B, Sixth Kansas Cavalry, in May of 1863. He had previously been a Quartermaster Sergeant but was given an officer's commission for Company M, Sixth Kansas Cavalry. He was almost immediately given the command of Company B of that unit and was stationed at Westport, Missouri. Later, he became First Lieutenant of Company M, Fifth Kansas Cavalry, and, afterward, Captain of that company.
The company was a typical frontier crowd, composed of Mexicans, Indians and soldiers from the regular army, a group of almost every nationality and occupation. It has been written "this Company has a record not excelled by any that served in the Civil War." It is reported that they engaged in the pursuit of Quantrill, after the burning of Lawrence, Kansas, on August 21, 1863, and on that occasion were in the saddle for 36 continuous hours. William C. Quantrill was the leader of a confederate guerilla band during the Civil War. Quantrill led his troops on raids against Kansas and Missouri farmers and townspeople who favored the Union.
A book of letters written between Parker and his wife during the time of the Civil War was given to Historic Livingston Foundation by a great granddaughter of Parker and is to be on display in the Historic Livingston Museum. It tells of the hardships of a wife raising the children and keeping a farm going while her husband is in the war. Livingston’s wife was the first schoolteacher in Livingston. She also accompanied her husband at times and nursed the soldiers during that time. The letters in that book reveal that she was an amazing woman.
The Parkers lost one of their sons in a Civil War battle. Two sons served with their father in the war. In this battle, both sons were engaged in war. Both were injured, one fatally. The letters reveal the love Parker had for his sons and the agony of losing one of them.
Parker died at Livingston, Iowa, Appanoose County, on March 23, 1905, at the age of 92. He and his wife are buried in Livingston Cemetery.