The Parsons Photo Album: 1910

A family’s photograph album, small in size but chocked full of pictures, showcases an earlier time in Oil City.

The collection, owned by the late Charlotte Parsons Davies of Oil City and donated in her honor to the Oil City Heritage Society, focuses on family, industry, civic affairs and more in 1910. The collection belonged to Silas R. Parsons, Charlotte Davies’ father.

Silas, son of John Trick Parsons and Roxyette Jones Parsons, was born in 1870 in Oil City. His parents, both children of English immigrants, were born and raised in Ontario, Canada.

The couple moved to Rochester, NY, where John learned the blacksmithing trade. Enticed by the bustling petroleum industry in the Oil Valley, the family relocated to Oil City. John Parsons worked for 12 years for D.L. Trax who owned a wagon building company in Oil City.

In 1890, he built a shop on Seneca Street where he specialized in blacksmithing as well as making and repairing carriages. Silas and his brother, William T., worked for several years with their father. The shop was in a three-story frame and brick building at 228 Seneca Street.

Active in the community, the elder Parsons was a Prohibitionist candidate for Oil City Mayor in 1896. He lost the race but news accounts noted he had garnered “flattering support from the laboring classes, of whose cause he was a staunch advocate.”

John and Roxyette were longtime members of Trinity United Methodist Church. The family lived on Mylan Street and later bought a home on Bissell Avenue.

John Parsons died in 1901. His obituary noted, “Mr. Parsons was one of the most respected citizens of this city. … He was always known for his honest methods of doing business and was held in high esteem by all with whom he had dealings.”

This photograph shows Colbert Avenue as improvement work was being done on the city street. A pair of horses and two ladies are shown using the street.
A carriage is pictured traveling down Seneca Street. The former YMCA is visible on the left.
The noon hour on Colbert Avenue shows the workmen laboring on street improvements taking a break.

His two sons kept the carriage business going until misfortune struck in 1917 when the building burned. Silas, who was an Army veteran of the Spanish-American War, then went into the oil production business until 1936 when he took the job as probation officer for Venango County. He also served as vice president of the Peoples Building and Loan Association, a business that saw his father, John, as the first president.

An article in the 1904 edition of the New York Industrial Recorder noted, “Mr. S.R. Parsons is … young, enterprising and progressive (and) very prominent in business circles and highly popular in social and fraternal life.”

Silas and his family lived at 151 E. Bissell Avenue in Oil City. He died at the age of 83 in 1954. His wife, Charlotte Davies’ mother, Charlotte Schwietering Parsons, died in 1947.

The Crystal Oil Works was located on the site of the old Rouse Well. The office and refinery were located just south of Rouseville. The company was started in 1887 by Thomas Wright. Later owners included J.W. Fawcett of Cleveland and Col. E.V.D. Selden of Oil City.
Oil Creek is shown in this August 21, 1910, photograph. On the right side, the S.R. Parsons sign, the Star Theater sign and others are visible.
Laborers are setting the foundation for pier number one for the new Petroleum Bridge.
Ed Roess, a meat dealer with stores on Central Avenue and Center Street, is shown with Silas R. Parsons.
Workers are shown installing the poles to carry cable over the Allegheny River during construction of the Petroleum Street Bridge.
This downtown street is labeled as Elm Street in the Parsons family’s 1910 album.
A wagon is shown on a country road outside of the city in 1910. The barn advertisement is for the Monarch Clothing Co., located at 19 Center Street.
The Saltzmann Brothers Brewery on Union Street is visible behind the train engine.
A sluice was constructed to keep the water away from a newly placed pier for the Petroleum Street Bridge in this Aug. 31, 1910, photograph.
This photograph was donated to the Oil City Library by Barbara Davies Carr, daughter of Wayne and Charlotte Davies of Oil City. It shows John T. Parsons’ blacksmith and carriage shop in Oil City. Mr. Parsons was Charlotte’s grandfather.
This scene of downtown Oil City shows the Imperial Hotel on the right at 259-265 Seneca Street. John Caffrey was the hotel manager.
Silas R. Parsons and “Mr. Douglas,” as labeled below the photograph, are shown in this picture.
An advertisement for Parsons wagon and buggy business was published in the 1882-83 Oil City Directory. It was located at 228 Seneca Street.
This photograph shows shooting of No. 14 well by the Panther Run Oil Co. along the Allegheny River just north of Oil City.
The Brundred family owned the sprawling duck farm along Route 62 just north of Oil City.
The renowned farm sold top quality ducks to hotels and restaurants across the Eastern seaboard.
Three gentlemen and their pet dog post beside a large advertising sign for the city’s Orpheum Theater on Seneca Street. Another sign promotes the Booker Sheet Metal Works located at 226 Seneca Street.
This large billboard promotes a new show at the Oil City Opera House.

Written by Judy Etzel with research by Kay Dawson and design by Natalie Cubbon.


Jack Eckert & Susan Hahn

In Memory of Carole Eckert

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