For many years as I drove on Mastick Road to Rocky River Nature Center I would pass “Parker Ranch” with its historical roadside marker. I stopped to read it once, learning that the ranch was the home of Adele Von Ohl Parker.
My dear friend Lee Smith, whom I often mention in my blogs, told me stories of being in a horse riding club that met at Parker Ranch. The photos of his trail rides showed a smiling Lee and many happy friends on horses, riding through the park. Over the years I have met a number of people who learned horseback riding from Mrs. Parker. It seems as if almost everyone growing up in this area in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s learned from her. I decided I needed to learn more about this much- loved woman whose property abutted Rocky River Reservation.
George Wasmer, who currently owns Parker Ranch, was a former neighbor and close friend of Mrs. Parker. He and his assistant Lisa graciously allowed me to view the many photos and displays of Adele Von Ohl Parker's memorabilia and through them I learned who Mrs. Parker really was.
(Photo by Kathy Scebbi, taken of a photo displayed at Parker Ranch)
Adele Von Ohl was born in New Jersey to parents who bred horses and taught riding. She learned quickly, and in 1908 she joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Soon she married a fellow performer named Jim Parker. Adele was a trick rider, one of several female performers that Buffalo Bill described as a “mixture of feminine delicacy and masculine will”. In 1911 she moved west to Hollywood to act and perform stunt riding in silent films.
(Photo by Kathy Scebbi, taken of photo displayed at Parker Ranch)
In 1928, Adele came to Cleveland to perform at the Hippodrome Theater in Cleveland. After arriving with her two horses, husband, and sister, she learned that the show had been canceled. She decided to give horseback riding lessons at the stockyards on West 65th Street and ended up staying, saving her money. Although the Depression years seemingly brought an end to her career of actress/stunt rider/show-woman, her life as a much-loved teacher/horse-woman was just beginning.
Part Two will continue next week.
Kathleen Schmidt, Naturalist
Brecksville Nature Center