HARVEY J. PARISH & JOHNSTOWN HISTORY
The Town of Johnstown began with the vision of Harvey J. Parish before its platting in 1902. And who was Harvey J. Parish?
H.J. Parish was born in Taylor County, Iowa February 5, 1862. He came to Colorado with his mother when he was four years old; they followed his father, John, to this area where he had settled a year earlier.
John Parish had settled at Namaqua, located on the Big Thompson River, on the west side of Loveland. The Parishes lived in a log cabin on the river there and Harvey and Miss Kittie Clark, 6, whose father was the proprietor of the livery barn, were the only two white children in a settlement of mostly Native Americans and Mexicans. Later born to the family were a daughter Katie (Koenig) and a son Stillman.
Mariana Medina was the principal citizen and leader of that community, being proprietor of the principal store, selling flour at $10 per hundred, whiskey at 25 cents per drink and other necessities of life. He also constructed the first wagon bridge across the Big Thompson, a toll bridge where he charged $1 for every team and wagon crossing during high water.
In 1867 John Parish located on a quarter section of land, which was later part of the Buckhorn Ranch, where he built a log cabin. He, with others, constructed one of the first ditches, taking water from the Big Thompson, the work accomplished with shovels. Two years later the Parish family moved about seven miles east of Loveland to a farm.
According to a biography of H.J. Parish published in the September 7, 1901 Berthoud Bulletin, "On one occasion when Parish and his mother were alone in the little log cabin, one dark autumn night, there came a rap at the door. It proved to be a neighbor, who in a trembling voice informed Mrs. Parish that the country was full of Indians and that he desired to borrow a rifle. His request as granted, and there being no other shooting irons about the premises Parish with his mother took refuge in a tall bunch of weeds and awaited dawn of the day. On the following day it was learned that three men had been killed by the Indians a few miles east of where Greeley now stands, one unlucky man being Wm. Brush, a brother of ex-Lieutenant Governor Brush. The other two were cattlemen in Mr. Brush's employ. (Fall 1868, Wm. Brush was killed by a tomahawk while shoeing a horse. John Brush and a cowboy named Conroy were shot by Indians. Jared Brush avenged his brother's death.) The Indians were pursued but never captured."
From this farm, the Parish family moved two miles further east on the Big Thompson where H.J. resided with his parents. It is said that Parish became quite expert with a rifle and at the early age of 11 shot and killed his first antelope. As a cow puncher in his boyhood days Parish rode over every foot of ground between the Big Thompson and the Little Thompson rivers. At 18, Parish supervised a steam threshing outfit for five successive seasons.
According to the Berthoud Bulletin article, "In 1883, ambitious to secure a home he could call his own, no matter how humble, he pitched his tent on a piece of prairie land on the north half of the northeast quarter of section eight, township four north, range sixty-seven west, in Weld County, where he still resides. Finding the bachelors' life a hard one, on February 5, 1884 he was married to Miss (Mary) Celinda Wygal, since which time five children have been born to him: Albert, Lottie Belle, Raymond, Ruthford, and John." Mary Wygal Parish was born November 20, 1864 at a small fort and trading post near the site of present-day Windsor.
Parish was a farmer and assisted in the construction and operation of many ditch and irrigation enterprises; he was president of the Hillsborough Irrigation Co. for several years and one of the promoters of the Big Cut Lateral Reservoir Ditch Co. In January of 1900 he became involved in the lumber business in partnership with Andrew Fairbairn at Berthoud.
In 1893 he was elected county commissioner of Weld County, in 1896 re-elected and in 1899 elected for the third time. In politics he was a Democrat although he worked with the Populist party during Cleveland's administration. Parish was featured in the "Portrait and Biographical Record of Denver and Vicinity, containing portraits and biographies of many well known citizens of the past and present" in 1898. That publication called him "one of the enterprising young agriculturists of northern Colorado."
Parish knew that the Great Western Railroad Co. was building a railroad from Loveland through this area for the purpose of securing sugar beets for the plants they were building in the area. His land was ideally located for a town by the railroad and so he submitted a plat for Johnstown on November 3, 1902. The town was comprised of only a few streets where Johnstown's downtown stoplight is today. The main street was named Parish Avenue. The other two streets were Ruthford and Raymond streets. The town was named for youngest son, John, who was ill with appendicitis at St. Joseph's Hospital in Denver at the time. It is said that Harvey Jay told his youngest son to hurry and get well because he was naming the town after him.
The first business building was the Fairbairn-Parish Lumber Company, built with lumber hauled from the Berthoud business and started to furnish lumber for the growing town. The railroad was completed the same year and was a cause for a big celebration.
A post office opened in 1903, the Johnstown Breeze began publication in 1904 and other businesses followed rapidly. The First National Bank of Johnstown of which Parish was an organizer along with W.E. Letford and T.M. Callahan, was started in 1904. Also in 1904 the first church (Methodist) was built in town. In 1903 the first school house was moved to Johnstown from a mile south of town. It held 30 children and as enrollment increased, some classes were held at the Johnstown Hall until a new four-room brick building was built in 1904. Johnstown High School was built in 1920.
J.J. Becker owned land east of the main street and in 1904 he sold 40 acres to the Great Western Railroad Co. and it was immediately platted into lots and added to the town.
In 1911 some of the buildings west on the main street were destroyed by fire. They were frame buildings and were replaced by brick ones. The town kept growing and benefited from the Mohawk (later Carnation) Condensed Milk Co. and the Great Western Sugar Company's barium sugar plant, which was the only one of its kind in the world. It also prospered because of the rich irrigated farmland and dairies in one of the most fertile areas in the United States.
H.J. Parish was the first mayor of Johnstown and was re-elected several times over the years. John, the boy who the town was named for, grew up in the town and served as mayor from 1929 to 1935.
Harvey Parish died February 21, 1923. Mary Parish died November 26, 1933.
Information for this article was submitted by three grandchildren of Harvey J. Parish: Robert Ralston Parish, son of Ruthford and Velma Parish, Betty Lou Parish Ellsworth, daughter of Charles Raymond and Marie Parish, and Mary Kay Parish Allen, daughter of John and Ruth Parish.