Last week I wrote about Adele Von Ohl Parker’s early life as a trick rider. The year 1928 found her stranded in Cleveland, giving horseback riding lessons. By 1929, she was able to purchase land on Mastick Road in North Olmsted where she continued giving riding lessons and started day camps for children. The current owner of Parker Ranch, George Wasmer, was one of those children who learned to ride in exchange for cleaning stalls and caring for the horses. George fondly recalled trick-riding at the Berea Fairgrounds with other young performers and riding home through the Rocky River Valley near midnight each night back to Parker Ranch. Adele’s “kids” would even ride from North Olmsted to downtown Cleveland to put on shows!
Publicity photo circa 1920s (Photo courtesy of Cleveland Public Library)
In the 1950s and 1960s, Adele began to host “Wild West Shows” using more than one hundred of her students and local American Indians as performers. The proceeds from the shows always benefited children’s charities. During the 1940s, Gene Autry kept his animals at Adele’s Ranch while his Stampede show was in Cleveland.
(Photos from Parker Ranch collection-Kathy Scebbi)
In addition to teaching children and adults, Adele hosted rodeos and circuses at Parker Ranch. Elephants from the circus could sometimes be seen bathing in the Rocky River, which they reached by walking down a trail from the ranch.
Trail from Parker Ranch to Rocky River, now overgrown-Photo by Kathy Scebbi
During the “American and Canadian Sportsman’s Show”, Parker Ranch looked like a scene from the Old West when dozens of Tee Pees were setup by American Indians as their temporary homes. In 1942, Hollywood came to Parker Ranch through Gene Autry and his Stampede show. While performing in Cleveland, he kept his animals at Adele’s ranch.
Although Adele loved horses and children, she also found time for community work. She became the first trustee of the Olmsted Historical Society, and her side saddle is still on display at Frostville Museum on Cedar Point Road in North Olmsted.
Adele continued to introduce children to her love of horses until she was well into her 70s. She was part of the childhood memories of many youngsters, remembered as a “kind” and “much loved” woman.
Barn tack exactly as Adele left it-photo by Kathy Scebbi
In the early 1960s, Adele sold her ranch to her neighbor and former student, George Wasmer, who allowed her to live there until her death a few years later. The Wasmers have kept many of the barns just as she left them, and they have gathered all of her memorabilia. Parker Ranch is now private and not open for visitation, but you can learn more about Adele Parker’s incredible life by reading the following books:
Buffalo Gals – Women of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show by Chris Enss, Globe Pequot Press
Images of America: Cleveland Metroparks by Thomas G. Matowitz, Jr, Arcadia Publishing
Adele Von Ohl Parker 1956 Photo courtesy of Cleveland Public Library
Adele Von Ohl Parker lives on in the memory of the many people who she taught to ride, love and care for her beloved horses.
Kathleen Schmidt, Naturalist
Brecksville Nature Center