WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a letter to National Park Service (NPS) Director Jonathan Jarvis, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today called on the National Park Service (NPS) to use its authority to conduct a survey exploring the suitability of designating the John P. Parker House – an important stop on the Underground Railroad – as a unit of NPS. The Parker House is located in Ripley, Ohio.
“John P. Parker, a former slave who rose to become a leader in the abolitionist movement and a successful businessman, was a selfless and trailblazing American,” Brown said. “Including the John P. Parker House as part of the National Park Service is a fitting tribute to his bravery and strength.”
John P. Parker was born into slavery in 1827. Initially living in Norfolk, Virginia, Parker was bought and sold multiple times before securing his freedom in 1845. Following his liberation, Parker moved to Cincinnati and ultimately settled in the Village of Ripley, located in Brown County. Parker went on to own and operate a successful metal foundry, becoming one of the first African-Americans to receive patents for his inventions.
In addition to his successful business, Parker became an active member of the Underground Railroad. Historical records attribute Parker with helping secure the freedom of hundreds of slaves through the Underground Railroad. Parker worked with abolitionist John Rankin, and together they supported a robust abolitionist movement on the Ohio River. The John P. Parker House is located on North Front Street in Ripley and has been operated by the John P. Parker Historical Society since 1996.
In February 2015, Brown introduced bipartisan legislation to begin the process of incorporating the John P. Parker House into the NPS.
The letter can be found below:
July 20, 2015
Mr. Jonathan Jarvis
National Park Service
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Dear Director Jarvis:
I urge the National Park Service (NPS) to use its authority to conduct a reconnaissance survey to explore the suitability of designating the John P. Parker Historic Site a unit of the NPS. Located in Ripley, Ohio, the Parker House reflects Ohio’s significant role in the Underground Railroad, and the incredible work of former slave John P. Parker in helping nearly 1,000 slaves escape to freedom. Official NPS incorporation of this structure would demonstrate the historic importance of the site and provide overdue recognition of John Parker.
John P. Parker was born into slavery in 1827 and purchased his freedom in 1845. At this time, Parker settled in Ripley, Ohio. Ripley had a long history as a transit point along the Underground Railroad for thousands of slaves seeking their freedom. Parker by 1854 was already an established entrepreneur and blacksmith in Ripley, yet risked his freedom by regularly crossing into Kentucky to help ferry hundreds of runaway slaves north. As a former slave, Parker represents the oft-untold side of the Underground Railroad, with freed African-Americans working to bring slaves to freedom and playing an essential role in the network of abolitionists ferrying people to the north. Beyond his work on the Underground Railroad, Parker was an accomplished ironworker, becoming one of the first African Americans to hold a patent, and was a successful businessman, as well.
Today, the John P. Parker House brings to life the journey of runaway slaves through the Underground Railroad and the story of the man who helped secure their freedom. The house has been restored and currently operates as museum tracing Parker’s life and his role in the Underground Railroad, as well as touching on the greater historical themes of the era.
In 1997, NPS designated the house a “National Historic Landmark” and since that time its significance has been recognized, in the form of designated status, by the NPS Underground Network to Freedom, National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and others. The owners of the site have already agreed to deed the house to NPS, making any transition into NPS trusteeship much easier. It is my understanding that the John P. Parker Historical Society is willing to work with NPS on this effort.
Memorializing the story of John P. Parker, preserving his home as a historical monument, and ensuring funding for future generations would reflect the courage, dedication, and nobility of freed slaves who risked their lives to make the Underground Railroad a path to freedom. I believe the Parker House has clear historic value to the nation, and would appreciate all due consideration to my request for a reconnaissance study. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to your reply.
United States Senator