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There are several stories as to how Oak Hill came to be and how it came to be known later as Parrish. It is known that Major William Iredell Turner, a civil war veteran, came to own the Oak Hill plantation. He later moved south and sold the property to Crawford Parrish, a cattle rancher. Later his son, John Parrish, with a donation of land for a railroad depot was able to get Oak Hill renamed Parrish in tribute to his father, although some information is that Oak Hill changed its name when the first post office opened because there was already another Oak Hill located in Florida.
Here is what two different monuments read:
The following text is on a monument in the Oak Hill Cemetery erected by Gen. Robert E. Lee Camp Sons of Confederate Veterans, Major William L. Turner Chapter Military Order of the Stars and Bars, and the Turner Family in 1985. It reads: "Oak Hill" Parrish Florida Captain William B. Hooker acquired this land from the U.S. Government in 1850. William H Johnson raised sea island cotton on the land with Hooker. Both were prominent soldiers during the Third Seminole War. Major William Iredell Turner (1812-1881) moved here from Tampa in 1865. His son Charles A. Turner purchased the property from Hooker in 1866 and then deeded it to Major Turner in 1867. Major Turner, who named the plantation Oak Hill, was an outstanding soldier during the Second Seminole War and the War between the States. He was commander of Fort Brooke in Tampa for a period during the last mentioned war and later commanded Turner’s Independent Cavalry C.S.A, in which he served as major. He is credited with naming Gainesville, with leading the founder of Palmetto to that place and with establishing “Braidentown” and was its first postmaster. He was chairman of the first Manatee County School Board. He was a Manatee County Commissioner and formerly had been a Florida State Senator from Hillsborough County. When Major Turner and Major John T. Lesley were helping confederate secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin escape following the collapse of the confederacy, they hid Benjamin in a swamp behind Major Turner's House. He remained there for several days until they were sure the area was cleared of federal soldiers. He was then transported to the Gamble Mansion. The settlement of Oak Hill, the name of which was later changed to Parrish, grew up around this plantation.
The following text is from a historical marker in front of the old school house located on US 301 in the middle of the village. It reads: The first documented settlers in present-day Parrish in early part of 1850 were William B. Hooker and William H. Johnson. Here they found the ideal climate, fertile soil and a nearby river, all suitable for establishing a plantation for their ill-fated joint venture in growing sea island cotton. After the partnership was dissolved, Major William Iredell Turner acquired Hooker’s plantation in 1867 and named it "Oak Hill". Among the other earlier settlers were Crawford and Mary Bratcher (Vanzandt) Parrish. When the post office opened, the name was changed to "Parrish". The railroad provided mail and passenger service by 1902. Parrish became a thriving community depending upon a citrus, cattle and agriculture economy. There's a grove here over 100 years old still bearing fruit. This area had three packing houses, three or more churches, two boarding houses, blacksmith shop and many stores. At turn of century, the Methodist Church served as a school. Crawford P. Parrish gave land for the first schoolhouse. It was removed and replaced with the present building in 1924. Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State, in his 1865 escape from Richmond, was securely hidden in a swamp behind Major Turner's house for several days before he was transported to the Gamble Mansion.
Parrish is named after one of its first settlers, Crawford Parrish (1811–1899) who came to Manatee County in 1869. He purchased land at Oak Hill from Major William Turner, on which Parrish farmed food crops as well as tobacco, citrus, cattle and hogs. He also homesteaded many acres and in 1885 was awarded a 40-acre (160,000 m2) land grant signed by President Grover Cleveland. He and his wife, Mary, had eight children many of whose descendants still call Parrish home. Crawford and Mary Parrish are buried at Fortner Cemetery.
Crawford and Mary Parrish’s son John Parrish (1857–1918) was influential in the early years of Parrish. Like many of his neighbors, Parrish made much of his income from citrus, which had to be hauled by mule and wagon to waiting boats in Bradenton. Parrish knew that a railroad stop at Oak Hill was crucial to the town's development. He convinced railroad and government officials to build a depot at Oak Hill and he donated land for the depot, a water tank and four miles of track. Because of this, he was able to change the name of Oak Hill to his father's last name of Parrish. Parrish was located on the 53.34 mile route that was built by Plant City businessmen south from Durant (just south of Plant City) to Manatee County and into Sarasota with construction starting in 1895. It was first incorporated in 1902 as the United States & West Indies Railroad and Steamship Company. It became the Florida West Shore Railway on May 9, 1903 before being totally engulfed into the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Company on November 4, 1909.
The wooden railroad depot constructed in 1902, brought packing houses, grocers, doctors, druggists and other merchants to town. Parrish thrived until the Great Depression destroyed much of its commerce and farmers and ranchers were forced to leave for work in bigger cities. Packing houses and grocers closed down and it would take decades for many families to recover. But the Parrish name lives on, as dozens of descendants of Crawford Parrish who still call the area home and are active in local government, churches, rural health and civic associations.
The late Ola Mae Sims acted as mayor of Parrish for a great number of years and kept the black community up to date with all the current information within the county. There is a park named after Ola Mae Sims on Erie Road right next to the railroad tracks, its seeks to keep the legacy of helping each other alive and strong.
Passenger train service to Parrish lasted right up to the beginning of Amtrak on May 1, 1971. The railroad station in Parrish was consumed by a fire in the mid-1990's. Earlier, in 1988, an attempt had been made to turn the unused depot into a restaurant, but failed. Not long after the station burned down, the Florida Gulf Coast Railroad Museum (as it was called then) moved the railroad station from Bradley, Florida (also known as Bradley Junction), onto the property. That depot was then also consumed by a fire and sadly lost to history.