A living memorial in tribute to Upper Iowa University’s first professor of natural sciences, Dr. Charles Coleman (C.C.) Parker, is once again rooted at UIU’s Fayette Campus. On Tuesday, June 4, UIU administrators surprised visiting descendants of Parker in planting a sapling near the location of an elm tree originally planted by the former Civil War surgeon.
It is long believed that Parker planted the elm tree prior to he and the University Recruits (Company C, 12th Iowa Infantry) entering the Civil War. It is unclear when the elm tree blew down on Campus, but it is thought that the tree was destroyed in a storm during the 1970s.
“We are joined here today by three generations of Parker descendants to plant a new elm tree,” UIU vice president for external affairs Andrew Wenthe said during the brief ceremony. “Hopefully many years down the road, some of us will be able to speak of the Parker family legacy and the tree as fondly as Luther W. Waterbury, a member of UIU’s first chemistry class, did of Dr. C.C. Parker and the original tree.”
Waterbury is documented in the February 11, 1935, UIU Collegian (student newspaper) saying, “As you go up the street and take a look at that elm, I know you will join with me in kindly thoughts of the doctor and that his hopes of a wider and better life may be as well rooted as that tree. That its breadth of foliage may be a symbol of the broader and happier life which he may expect among the friends on the other side.”
Dr. Parker grew up in Ohio and attended Starling Medical College (now Ohio State University College of Medicine) in Cleveland. He first arrived in Fayette when UIU’s College Hall was just taking shape in 1855. He also served on the UIU Board of Trustees for nearly 40 years from 1858-1896. Parker served with the University Recruits during the Civil War and was Fayette’s first town doctor.
The C.C. Parker Herbarium of Upper Iowa University was recently named to honor Parker, who was reported to have collected nearly 500 herbarium specimens in the 1860s and 1870s, including several rare specimens no longer typically found in the region. Thanks to a generous gift from Dr. James D. Parker, the great-grandson of C.C. Parker, and other Parker family members the collection samples are being reviewed and information updated so that they can be appropriately recognized and utilized for archival or historical significance by the scientific community.