Parker Releases Third Book on Granton History


Jay Parker Publishes Third Book



Jay Parker, who grew up near Granton, has completed his third book on Granton/Mapleworks history,
titled “Support Your Local Merchant: The Advertising of Granton, WI.”
The spiral-bound volume contains more than 900 ads.  
Submitted photo

By Valerie Brecht

The story of history is lost if no one takes the time to preserve it. Jay Parker is making sure Granton’s story is preserved.

“It’s good to know where you came from. With the village and people that are here now, it’s good to know how we got to the point we are at now,” he said.

Parker recently completed his third book on Granton history, this one tracing the advertisements of various local businesses throughout the years. It is titled, “Support Your Local Merchant: The Advertising of Granton, WI.” Parker made it his goal to include at least one ad from every business that has existed in the Mapleworks/Granton area.

Mapleworks was a hamlet pre-dating Granton that was occupied during the latter half of the 1800s. It was centered at the intersection where Zion Lutheran Church is now, about half a mile southeast of what is now downtown Granton. When the railroad came through in 1890 by the creek, Mapleworks died out as Granton took shape. Businesses relocated to be by the railroad.

Although he no longer lives here, Parker has ties to the area. He grew up on a farm south of Granton on Highway K, and graduated from Granton High School in 1982. His interest in history dates back long before his latest book.

“Well, I’ve always been into old stuff,” said Parker. “After I graduated high school, I started collecting vintage and antique items related to Granton history. At the time, I didn’t have plans to do anything specific with them; I just thought they were interesting. Then around 2009, it occurred to me that I should do something to catalog all these items, so that way when I die, all that history isn’t lost.”

He started thinking about putting together a book with all the information he had found to go along with these historical items.

There was a book published in 1976 about Granton’s history.

“In 2009, it had been 35 years since that book was put out. Some buildings had been built and others were gone. So, I decided it would be nice to give an update as well as include older information that was not included in the first book. In 2010, I started the process of compiling information for the book. I interviewed some of the older folks in town... I spent several years collecting information, gathering photos and doing interviews.”

Parker’s first book was published in 2016 and titled, “Granton: A Stop on the Stage Route.” He wrote it as a chronological narrative that could be read cover to cover. Besides the text, he included more than 400 Granton-related photos. He had a large number of photos that he couldn’t use because he ran out of space in the first book. He decided to do a second book of just pictures, including ones that didn’t make it into the first book and others that people kept sending him.

“Looking Back – A Pictorial History of Granton, Wisconsin” was published in October 2020. It contains more than 600 photos, from the late 1800s through 2020. But even before finishing his second book, Parker had another book idea in mind.

“When I was doing research for the first and second books, I kept running across all these interesting ads. In the first book, I included a single page, just front and back, of some of the interesting things I found, but I had a whole lot more.

“It’s neat to look at some of the graphics and prices from old ads. For example, in 1920, an implement dealer might be advertising a machine for $100 or a grocery store might be advertising a box of raisins for 3 cents. So, as I was coming across all these ads, I started thinking, ‘Maybe I can do something with these too.”

Parker started toying with the idea of doing a book of all advertisements, mostly just pictures but with the occasional caption if needed to explain something. Ads in the first half of the 20th century tend to have a lot of text, so the ad can in essence “speak for itself.”

“I made it my goal to try and find an ad from every business from Mapleworks to Granton,” said Parker. “However, prior to 1900, it’s very hard to find information. Some businesses also told me, ‘We never advertised. It was all word of mouth.’ Or some businesses were only existent for a very short time.

“For example, in March of this year, they found an old stack of newspapers above the ceiling in the fire hall. They were from 1906-1907. For one business in particular, the paper talked about how it was in one building, a month later it was in the building kitty-corner to that, it moved again, and it was gone. It was only around for three months. So, there are going to be some businesses that there is no record of, but I tried to get as close to my goal as I could possibly get.”

Parker started gathering ads when he was doing research for his first book, but accelerated his pace when working on his second book and spent the last two years doing more intense research. There are more than 900 ads in the book. Some are repeats, because businesses would run an ad every single week in the shopping guide, so Parker chose to highlight a few of his favorites. Also, his book shows just how much ads have changed over time.

“For the early ads, you can almost think of the Sears Roebuck catalog, because they had such long descriptions of items. Gradually, a lot of businesses moved to smaller ads or internet ads.

“By the end of the book, I have a lot of pictures of business cards because people don’t advertise as much anymore,” said Parker.

Parker also has pictures of other forms of advertising, mainly giveaway items like pens, calendars, drink tokens, ice scrapers or coin purses.

The book is organized chronologically. The first chapter is for ads prior to 1900 and the rest features chapters by decade.

Parker combed through several sources to compile his book. Besides looking in old newspapers, he found ads from unusual sources, such as an old cookbook. One business hadn’t advertised, per say, but had a brochure so Parker used that. He also took the time to thoroughly cover the area, not limiting his book to Main Street only.

For the purposes of his book, Parker decided to define the “Granton area” as a square including everything south of Highway H but north of Highway 73, and east of Miller Avenue but west of Badger Avenue.

“So, I took that big box and drove every road in there, north to south and east to west, several times,” said Parker. “Even when I did that, I still missed some businesses. I wanted to make sure I included Amish businesses, so I stopped at several of their businesses as well as homes that looked like they could also have a business with them. I showed a couple Amish families my list of businesses I knew of so far, and one family said, ‘Oh, here’s 20 more.’ Another family said, ‘Here’s 10 more.’ There was some overlap between their two lists, but there several businesses that were unique to each. So, that was a huge help.

“I say in the foreword of the book that you can’t just look at the Main Street of a town to determine how thriving of a business community it has,” said Parker.

In fact, there are currently more than 160 non-farm, operating businesses in and around Granton.

Parker used a spreadsheet to organize all the information. He had over 2,000 items that he pared down to the 900-plus that made it in the book.

“I sort of expected this, but there were a lot of businesses I came across that I had never heard of,” said Parker. “For example, in a Shopper from 1940 I found an ad for Wally’s Welding Works. Oftentimes I had a list of things I was trying to find, and then as I was looking for that specific thing, I would inadvertently find something else… There is an appendix in the back of the book listing a lot of businesses that we know existed, but I just couldn’t find the ad for.

“Another thing that surprised me was for some people in the early 1900s, how frequently their occupation changes. They might be listed as a barber in one ad, then running a confectionary shop in the next ad and then something else in the next ad.”

Parker felt the book would be of interest to anyone who lives in the area or used to live in the area, because there would be at least one section of the book with businesses they recognize.

“People will be able to say, ‘Oh, I remember that’ or ‘That was there when I lived there? I never knew,’” he said.

“Most people don’t have enough interest or don’t have the time to search out all the information, but if someone’s compiled it into a book, they would look at it… It’s a way of documenting what has been and what is now. Maybe 20 years down the line, someone can pick it up and use these books for whatever research they are doing. Between the three books together, it gives a real good picture of what has been here.

“The three together really feel like one giant project. It feels complete now. I feel like I’ve left something behind that will be of some level of importance to somebody. And I hope that people in the future enjoy it just as much as people do today.”

Although Parker doesn’t foresee putting together another book in the future, he has some smaller projects. He has been working on finding each of the Fall Fest posters and wants to put together a booklet of those. He also is working on a chronological history of each building in town, that he plans on providing to some local historians and the library.

Parker has lived in Columbia Heights, MN for the last 29 years. He taught high school agriculture education in Minnesota for several years and then worked for a company providing adult continuing education classes for health care professionals. Most recently, he works for a nuisance wildlife company.

Parker still regularly visits the area and has family in Neillsville and Loyal.

Copies of the new book are available in Granton at the hardware store, Mapleworks Café and the village office. There are also copies of the second book available at those locations.

People living outside the Granton area that are interested in a book should contact Parker at


  Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI

August 31, 2022

Transcribed by Dolores Mohr Kenyon, September 3, 2022

Web page by James W. Sternitzky PhD, September 4, 2022

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