Parker's New Book on GrantoN History
Helps Readers Picture the Past


Jay Parker 2020



Jay Parker, originally from Granton, has debuted his second book,
“Looking back – A Pictorial History of Granton, Wisconsin.” 

Valerie Brecht/Clark County Press

By Valerie Brecht

If there is any truth to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then Jay Parker has a plethora of stories to tell in his new book.

Parker has released his second book on Granton history. But while the first book provided  a textual account, the second offers a visual history.

“Look Back – A Pictorial History of Granton, Wisconsin” contains 610 photographs of Granton beginning with photos dating around 1900 and continuing until the present day.

“I’m happy to do this and I’m happy that there’s people who are interested in reading and learning about it,” said Parker.

However, Parker had not planned to put together a pictorial of Granton, or even to write a book in the first place.

Parker grew up on a dairy farm five miles south of Granton. He graduated from Granton High School in 1982. Although he moved away to Columbia Heights, MN, he stayed interested in Granton area history. Parker has spent the better part of 40 years collecting antiques and artifacts from Granton.

“It was during collecting antiques starting running across a calendar from this business, or a match holder from that business or a photo postcard that showed a particular street in town. And I would purchase those, more for just my own interest, and put them away. And eventually, it got to the point where I had a lot of this information, and a lot of these artifacts and I thought, what’s probably going to happen is I’ll die, and someone will throw it all in the dumpster. Or maybe someone says that ‘Hey, this has Granton on it, maybe this person will want it’ and it gets all scattered out again. So, I thought, ‘I better do something with it while it’s in my possession.’ And that’s how the first book came about,” Parker said.

The first book is called “Granton – A Stop on the Stage Route” and was published four years ago. In that book, Parker presents a chronological history of Granton from 1845 to 2016. He used Ken Burns’ documentary on New York City to come up with an outline of how to tell the story. The book reads like a novel and has about 400 pictures.

“I figured this would be the one-and-done project,” said Parker.

But there were still many more historical photos for Parker to uncover.

As Parker was doing research for his first book, one photo remained elusive – a photo of the opera house that stood on the same foundation where the community center is now. The only photos he could find were fuzzy or just showed the rounded top of the opera house above another building.

“As things would happen, no sooner was my first book published than a couple months later, I looked on eBay and here sits the exact kind of card of the opera house that I had been looking for, for 30 years,” Parker said. “And then, literally eight weeks later at the auction house in Loyal, in one of the lots that they had, was a photograph of that exact same picture but it was a photograph, not a postcard. I figured, ‘Where in the world have these pictures been in all these years of looking?’ I figured, ‘I know there are other things out there that exist that I don’t have copies of; I’m still looking for those.”

So, Parker just kept looking and kept accumulating more photos. In his research for his first book he had contacted many people that used to live in Granton and were scattered all over the U.S. Those people began sending him old photographs or postcards because they knew of his interest in history. Eventually he had over 600 photos that he felt should be published in an organized manner, with captions, so the history could be preserved.

The new book is 244 pages and spiral bound, which allows it to lay flat. Many of the photos are large format, with either one or two per page in order to show fine detail. Other photos are grouped by profession, such as banking, barbering or hardware. One chapter is composed entirely of street views, with photos from different eras side by side so people can see how things changed over the years. There are photos even from this year included.

“The reason I went to that level of recentness is, it’s easy to document that now,” said Parker. “I could not document it, wait 40 years and hope someone comes along to do it, but there won’t be any photos because everyone takes digital photos now and either destroys them or erases them, and there is nothing physical to use anymore.”

Parker took care to include interior shots of local businesses. He said it’s much harder to find a photo of the interior than the exterior. He has taken interior and exterior shots of local businesses over the years as well.

Parker’s book also includes photos of the people who have left their mark on Granton over the years. For example, in looking through old newspapers, he would often read of a George Amidon, who at one time owned four drug stores in Granton. He could never find a picture of this prominent figure though. He researched and was able to trace Amidon’s family tree to the nearest relatives he was aware of, two daughters. However, he couldn’t find contact information for either of them so hit a dead end. To make a long story short, through happenstance and an entry in an old newspaper listed the names of Amidon’s grandchildren, Parker was able to get in contact with one of Amidon’s great-granddaughters living in Oregon. The great-granddaughter emailed Parker a bunch of photos of Amidon, his family and buildings in Granton that Parker had never found a photo of before.

Parker shared another instance of an unexpected photo find.

“There was a Dr. [Russell] Rath that lived here, that serviced this town for 50 years. In all my research, I could never find anybody that had a picture of him. And through a lot of searching, searching family trees, I finally tracked down a great-niece who lives in southern Wisconsin and she sent me one photo. And then someone else heard I was looking for it, and a photo came from Arizona,” he said.

He finally got the pictures of Rath he was looking for. That “treasure hunt” aspect of studying history is part  of what Parker enjoys about it, because there’s always something new to discover. He is already in the midst of his next project.

Parker’s next book will be a collection of ads from Mapleworks and Granton businesses. Mapleworks was a hamlet half-a-mile east of Granton at the intersection of Fremont and Romadka roads that was occupied during the latter half of the 1800s. Parker’s goal is to include at least one piece of advertising from every business that has ever been in existence in Granton of Mapleworks from the 1870s until now. He already has more than 1,600 advertisements scanned. Parker said that recording a village’s history is a never-ending process.

“It’s my hope that at some pint someone younger than me will come along and be interested in this sort of stuff and be able to document things, and I’m hoping that at that time people will … still have photos around that they’re willing to share, because these books aren’t possible if people aren’t willing to do that.”

Parker’s book can be ordered online at or purchased at several Granton businesses.

  Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

October 29, 2020

Transcribed by Dolores Mohr Kenyon, October 30, 2020

Web page by James W. Sternitzky PhD, November 1, 2020

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