Towns & Communities
The largest town in Decatur County is Parsons. Located near the center of the county, five miles west of the Tennessee River on state Highways 20 (now Highway 412), 100, and 69, it was first known as Parsons Flat. The site for Parsons was donated in 1889 by Henry Myracle. In order to get a new town started on his land, he deeded 143 1/3 acres to the Tennessee Midland Railroad Company on April 11, 1889.
The land was divided into lots with Myracle keeping every other row, which not only made money for him, but also promoted the growth of the new town. The town received its name from a Dock Parsons, presumably son-in-law of Henry Myracle.
The chief road builder in the young town was L. H. Burke, who laid out Tennessee Avenue, 100 feet wide through the business section. His idea stemmed from assisting Captain Rae in laying out Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Main Street and all other streets in South Parsons were laid out at this time; however, North Parsons was not laid out until later.
The town was chartered in 1913 by an act of the general assembly. Instrumental in this action was G. W. Partin, who with other businessmen, realized the need for charter. He contacted Acklee Lancaster, a Lexington lawyer, who drew up the bill. A mayor had to be named rather than elected in the initial plans, so Will Neely, depot agent at that time, agreed to serve. Partin went to Nashville and presented the bill to Decatur and Benton County representative Joe Blount who introduced the bill in the general assembly. It passed and was signed by Governor Tom Rye.
Besides Will Neely, others serving as mayor of Parsons were T. P. Bateman, Carl W. Partin, J. J. Wesson, W. H. Partin, Arthur Tolley, Roy Garrett, Herman Rains, J. Madison Scott, Bob White, Parce Collet, Hobart Goff, Will Long, A. N. Graves, J. L. Lancaster, and Tim Boaz. Parce Collet was the youngest mayor in the town's history to date. He was 29 years old and served the 1960-1962 term in office. W. H. Neely served three terms, and Madison Scott is the only mayor to serve four terms. Tim Boaz is the incumbent mayor, having been elected June of 1976 to succeed J. L. Lancaster who served two terms.
The first aldermen were Frank Houston, Bob Laster, and Will Long. Other aldermen were A. N. Baugus, W. H. Neely, Jack Odle, Hobart Goff, J. D. Porter, J. E. Ingram, O. H. Roberts, N. J. Arnold, S. L. Jennings, J. J. Wesson, H. L. Beale, A. J. Hufstedler, Joe Jennings, G. C. Pollard, Paul Rains, Albert Bowman, L. F. Hufstedler, E. J. Houston, and F. J. Bray. Serving as aldermen in 1976 were Danny Roberts, vice-mayor, Johnny White, Charles Dickerson, Ab Price, Ronald Wart Dickson, James E. Wood, and W. B. Moore.
John Young served as the first city judge of Parsons and Lillye Younger served as the first female city judge succeeding Young in 1972. In 1976 Madison Scott was appointed city judge. Filling the office of recorder have been S. L. Jennings, Hurst Jennings, G. D. Long, Joe Crawley, Olan Davis, John Young, Nell Rogers, and Charlie Pratt. Leo Yarbro is serving as city manager having succeeded Buddy Yates.
Jim Averett was the first town marshall followed by W. E. Jordan, J. L. Lowe, Bud Anderson, J. W. Doyle, W. D. Bateman, R. F. Laster, J. M. Bateman, C. L. Hayes, W. D. Bateman, J. L. Lowe, Edward Brower, Spike Hayes, John Taylor, Jim Taylor, and A. R. Evans.
Among the first business places in Parsons was a jewelry store operated by Mitchell Gibson. Pinkley Roberts ran the first mercantile store in the young town. William C. Cole owned the first telephone company. It was located in the back of Parsons Bank building, and Maude Arnold was the first telephone operator. T. P. Bateman was the second owner and operated it in his home on Eighth Street in Parsons. Later, Jack Odle bought the company and located it in the upstairs of Maxwell's Department Store, 105 Tennessee Avenue South. He moved it later into his home at the corner of North Main Street and Highway 69 North. After his death, his son, Dave Odle, continued the business independently until he sold it to Continental Telephone Company on January 19, 1966. The new dial system invaded Decatur County on April 28, 1953.
Perhaps the first hotel in Parsons was known as the Hop Steed Hotel. It was located on Florida Avenue just back of the Carl Partin house. A the death of Steed, the hotel was sold to Harrison Rains, who continued to run it.
A showplace for Parsons at the turn of the century was the Tulane Hotel on Main Street. The two-story brick structure was built by George Washington Partin who came to Decatur County from Ringo, Georgia. Ike Buckner was the contractor, and Horace White was the brickmason. Completed in 1896, the 12-room hotel was operated by Mr. and Mrs. Will Warden.
Partin ran a hardware store in the lower east side of the hotel building. On the west side was the hotel lobby, a dining area, which seated 50 persons, and the manager's living quarters. The rooms upstairs were for hotel use.
It received its name from the Tulane Hotel in Nashville. Partin stayed at the Nashville hotel and was so impressed that he asked the owners if he might use the name for his new hotel and was granted permission. The upstairs parlor was where Partin entertained dignitaries such as Governor Ben Hooper and Governor Alf Taylor. The elaborate furnishings came from Chicago.
Another showplace in the town was a hotel built by John P. Rains. The two-story, brick building was completed in 1898. Upon completion, a gala ball was held before furnishing were added. Downstairs quarters were used for a business place in which the owner operated a mercantile store. Three downstairs rooms were used for a lobby, dining area, and kitchen. There was a side entrance to the hotel. The upstairs was used for a hotel with the exception of three rooms which were used for the family.
Rains sold the building to the Colwick family and moved to Memphis. Later W. D. Colwick and son, Glennie, bought the business and continued operation of both the hotel and mercantile company. The hotel operation ceased, but the mercantile business continued until 1972. (Currently the Rains Hotel is known as the Townsend building and is home to NetEase Internet Service and Indulgence Day Spa.)
Located at the intersection of Main Street and Tennessee Avenue, the hotel had an iron-fenced garden with benches. In later years, this was used for checker players in the town, and old timers swapped yarns and knives.
The first bank located in Parsons was known as the Bank of Parsons, which was organized by L. H. Burke and Wid Long around 1903. This bank was located on Main Street in a two-story building. The first cashier was Leslie Rains. Its capital stock was $25,000. As was often the case during depression days, this bank was not able to re-open after President Franklin Roosevelt closed all banks. It was closed in 1931.
Farmers Bank opened its door for business in a side room of Milton Houston General Merchandise Building. The charter was obtained on April 15, 1907, and the bank was capitalized at $20,000. The original stockholders were John H. Jennings, Joe Jennings, W. W. Jennings, S. L. Jennings, Hiram Jennings, Ezra Jennings, Frank Houston, Dr. A. Y. Fisher, Joe Wheat, M. L. Houston, and D. W. Lacy. The first depositor was Mossie Arnold, who deposited ten cents.
In December of 1944 the bank reached a milestone in operation with total assets of one million dollars. With continued growth and after two additions to the old bank quarters, the directors decided to construct a new building. Located at 121 Tennessee Avenue South it opened for business April 7, 1954.
Another financial institution, Citizens State Bank, opened in Parsons on August 31, 1968. The bank was capitalized at $400,000 and had 204 stockholders. The initial board of directors included E. E. Mooney, Robert Fisher, Richard Charlton, Mrs. H. E. Barnett, Madison Scott, James Goff, Bud Tuten, Ralph Smith, James Smith, James Jordan, George A. Bell, J. C. Richardson, Carl McNeil, and Douglas Hayes. The bank moved into a modern new building in 1969 at 115 Main Street.
C. V. and Mae Maxwell started the first variety store in Parsons in 1927. It was located in a small building on Tennessee Avenue South and later moved to 105 Tennessee Avenue South. For a time tin dishpans were used for a cash register and at the close of the first day, the 5-10-25¢ items had reached the gigantic sum of $258. It took quite a time to count it out. Serving as clerks on opening day were K. K. and Mable Houston. It was the first store of its kind in Henderson, Perry, and Decatur counties.
Moviegoers in Parsons have been exposed to the entertainment for a long time. Showing silent movies, the first theater was locate at 117-118 Tennessee Avenue South. It was a big tent owned and operated by a Mr. Drake in 1918 and 1919.
Later Jim Lamping operated a silent movie theater at 213 Tennessee Avenue South. It was a long wood building with individual seats. Between scenes entertainment was furnished by Mary Bruce Elvington, who played the piano.
Herman Rains operated a theater in the 1920s. He sold it to Hobart Goff who added an extension to the building where boxing matches were held. Among early fighters were Ray Dodson, Howard Greenway, Mutt Cagle, and others from Lexington and Jackson.
A great educational advantage to Decatur County was when the Parsons Public Library became a reality. The project began in 1963 when Lerah Washam and Lillye Younger, representing civic-minded groups in the community, proposed to Mayor Madison Scott that the town pay one-half of the cost of maintaining a public library. County court members voted to pay the other half of the cost.
Black settlers living in Parsons settled in an area called "Two Foot". An A.M.E. church was established and later business places located there. One such was Need-More, Sam Booty's store, located on South Georgia Avenue during the Depression days which furnished the settlement with groceries. Later a tea room opened, operated by Lynn Ray Scott and later by Gene Scott. Parham's Funeral Home located in Two Foot for a few years but later moved to Lexington.
Among the early settlers of Two Foot were Edd Clay, who was an early church leader. He had a son named Charley Clay who worked for G. W. Partin. Others were Guy Williams, who was employed at Holcomb Produce Company, Henry Fisher, who worked at Partin's Flour Mill, Square Faulkner, Henry Scott, Pete McDonald, Jim McElrath, Wes Ashcraft, who was highly respected and the father of Grant Ashcraft, and Henry McLemore.
From "Tennessee County History Series: Decatur County" by Lillye Younger 1979. ISBN 0-87870-077-3