This first history
of Parksley is reprinted by permission of Kirk Mariner
little of Parksley's history
from his stellar publication, 'Off 13: The Eastern Shore of
Virginia Guidebook', published 1987.
I understand there is now an update to this really handy guide book.
"Parksley is a nice place to live, but you probably
wouldn't want to visit there. Not unless, that is, you are one of those
who can appreciate the virtues of smalltown America, of which virtues
Parksley has more than its share.
is a planned community, a rarity on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The
town father was Henry R .Bennett, a traveling salesman from Delaware
who, when the railroad was being built in 1884, envisioned the possibility
of a thriving town at this point. With friends and relatives Bennett
formed the Parksley Land Improvement Company, purchased 160 acres from
farmer Benjamin Parks, and laid out a completely new town around the
Bennett did everything in his power to make his little town a model
community. He wrote into its charter a clause to the effect that if
alcoholic beverages were ever sold on any lot in town, that lot would
revert to the Company (they did not live to see the state owned liquor
store on the street that bears his name). All stores/businesses were
gathered into a commercial district in the center of town near the railroad.
Blocks of land were set apart for schools, parks, acres for churches.
Streets, well before the advent of the automobile, were made wide,
laid out in regular patterns. Blacks were segrated into their own section
on the southern edge of town, where one street was named for abolitionst
William Lloyd Garrison. Not everyone appreciated such efforts,
however. Benjamin Parks, the original resident, soon quit his home for
a new farm on the Seaside.
was planned and settled by northerners - Bennett's associates were from
Dover, Philadelphia, Boston- even the street names seem a little foreign
to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Dunne, Patton, Cassatt were named
for railroad executives, the last of them for Alexander Cassatt, brother
of artist Mary Cassatt. Several streets were named for members of Bennett's
family-Catherine for his mother, Jones Maxwell for brothers-in-law.
Two streets were named for Mary Cooke, a fiancee who died before she
could marry Bennett. When Bennett finally did marry a New Yorker named
Phoebe Bell, someone asked her what she thought of Mary Cooke's streets;
replied Phoebe, "She got the streets, I got the man."
Bennett had foreseen, Parksley grew rapidly, and within a short time
was one of the major towns on the peninsula. When it incorporated in
1904 the town fathers drew the boundries so as to exclude the black
section, known today as Whitesville, it boasted a hotel, banks, numerous
stores businesses, a school, several churches, a local newspaper. The
town was by then one of the most up-to-date places around, its homes
admired for the latest in architecture style, its people prosperous
and well-traveled. Parksley was the first town on the Shore whose homes
were lit by electricity, one of the first places on the peninsula to
see automobiles, indoor bathrooms, permanent waves.
has never ceased to grow, and now after a century boasts a population
just short of 1,000. It is the closest thing the Eastern Shore of Virginia
offers to a Victorian town. Large handsome houses line its tree-shaded
streets. Though Victorian styles were always used with restraint
on the Shore, many of Parksley's older homes are admirable examples
of the Victorian railroad era (Mary Street near the railroad offers
a nice cluster of them). The downtown section on Dunne Avenue is still
vibrant, but has lost much of its older facade, in the Farmerís &
Merchants Bank can be seen a large mural by a local aritst depicting
downtown Parksley as it appeared in 1920.The specific sights of Parksley
are few, the town itself its own best attraction. Almost like a scene
from an earlier era, Parksley is the kind of place where kids gather
to play baseball in the schoolyard, families chat at evening on
the front porch swing.Not the most exciting place in the world to see,
but - - as Henry Bennett wanted it to be - - a very nice place to live."
The following comes from
the University of Virginia Record Extension Series:
An Economic and Social Survey of Accomac County
Vol. XIII, No. 9, March, 1929 pp 5 - 6. Chapter II.
Chapter II has short sketches of the development of some of the towns
in Accomac County.
The following sketch is about Parksley Va.and was written by H. R. Bennett.
PARKSLEY By H. R. Bennett
town of Parksley was founded in February, 1885, the year after the completion
of the New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk Railroad to Cape Charles,
by Henry R. Bennett and Samuel T.Jones of Dover, Delaware, and Rev.
J. A. B. Wilson of Philadelphia, who bought the Benj. F.Parkes' farm
and on this site laid out the town. Later,surrounding lands to the extent
of 400 acres were bought at a cost of $16,000, and these individuals
joined by several others formed the Parksley Land Improvement Company.
is located in the approximate geographical center of Accomac County
five miles from Pocomoke Sound and seven miles from Atlantic Ocean and
at an elevation of forty-four feet above sea level.Here was located
the court house before the laying out of Drummond town, the present
county seat. The surrounding lands are of a good loam soil with red
clay subsoil, well drained and underlain with pure water easily tapped
the time this town site was laid out the founders had a topographical
survey made which established the streets, sidewalks and drainage lines.
The streets are sixty feet wide. Additional foresight was shown in the
reservation of a five acre site to be maintained as a park on the west
side of the railroad and a one acre lot on the east side to be used
as a playground. An additional five acres were reserved for school
buildings and two choice lots were granted to each church which applied
for the same. The Methodist Episcopal Church, under the presiding eldership
of Dr. J. A. B. Wilson, was the first to take advantage of this offer
and to build in Parksley. It is interesting to note that the deed for
this land was the first to be recorded in this County, and it is believed
to be the first in the state of Virginia, which contained an absolute
forfeiture clause which provided for absolute forfeiture of property
rights if intoxicating liquors were made or sold on the premises or
if gambling was permitted.
in the center of a rich agricultural and sea food section embryonic
Parksley rapidly became a business center. Today  it is connected
with the main state highway by a hard surfaced road and contains a high
school building valued at more than $80,000, two banks equipped with
first-class buildings and with resources of more than $2,000,000, four
high grade department stores drawing a large trade from all over the
Shore, three general hardware and agricultural supply stores, two chain
grocery stores, four ladies hat shops, two men's clothing stores, six
general grocery stores, a well equipped hotel under competent management,
two good restaurants, electric light and water service and an ice plant,
two wholesale grocery houses, one gasoline distributing agency, one
woodworking plant, two cold storage warehouses, one grist mill, two
saw mills, three machine shops, seven garages, four gasoline and oil
supply stations, three barrel factories,one manufacturing plant for
the production of oyster dredges and tongs and sweet potato vine cutters,
three blacksmith shops, four general dry goods stores, one furniture
store, two drug stores, a new government post-office completely equipped,
one marble works, one wholesale bottling works, one wholesale ice cream
plant, two dairies, three coal yards, one wholesale feed store, one
mortuary establishment, three produce exchanges and a beauty shop. The
health of the residents is well taken care of by four physicians and
two dentists while recreation and beauty are added by the local theatre
and a monument commemorating the Confederate dead. The present population
is estimated to be more than 800 and the value of real estate is conservatively
estimated at more than $3,000,000.