Randall Parrish (1858-1923) was an American author of dime novels, including Wolves of the Sea (Being a Tale of the Colonies from the Manuscript of One Geoffry Carlyle, Seaman, Narrating Certain Strange Adventures Which Befell Him Aboard the Pirate Craft "Namur").
Parrish was born in the city of Kewanee, the only son of Rufus Parker and Frances Adeline (Hollis) Parrish. He was born in "Rose Cottage" on June 10, 1858, at what was later the site of the city's Methodist Episcopal church. The old family home was at Gilmanton, New Hampshire, but the parents removed to Kewanee from Boston, where Rufus Parker Parrish had been engaged in business and was prominently associated with William Lloyd Garrison and others in the anti-slavery cause. Both parents had a wide acquaintance with the famous Boston citizens of that era, including Longfellow, Holmes, Whittier, Wendell Phillips and Emerson. They came to Kewanee, then the merest excuse of a village, in April, 1855, the husband becoming connected with the pioneer store of Morse & Willard, then situated at the corner of Main and Fourth streets. A little later the firm became Parrish & Faulkner, the business finally being sold to Elias Lyman, being thus the nucleus for the large department store of Lyman-Lay Company. From the time of arrival until his death in 1903 Mr. Parrish was ranked among the most prominent citizens of this community, where he conducted a book store and held many offices of trust. St John's Episcopal church was established and maintained largely through his efforts and for twenty-five years he was president of the public library board.
George Randall Parrish was educated in the Kewanee public schools, graduating from the old academy building in the second class, that of 1875, being on that occasion the class prophet. In addition he attended Allen's Academy at Lake Forest, Illinois, and Griswold College, Davenport, Iowa. Deciding upon law as a profession, he took one year at the Union College of Law, Chicago, completing his course at the Iowa State University, where he won the state bar prize for the best essay on a legal topic. He was admitted before the supreme court of Iowa in May, 1879, but his certificate was withheld until he became of age. Mr. Parrish went immediately to Wichita, Kansas, and became an assistant in the law office of William C. Little, a year later forming a partnership with E. S. Martin, at one time principal of the Kewanee high school. Devoting much time to politics and having achieved a reputation as a public speaker, he was elected city attorney, besides being a delegate to county and state conventions.
His health breaking down from close confinement, he crossed the plains in 1882 with a cattle party, walking most of the way to Las Vegas, New Mexico. Arriving there he discovered conditions had arisen in Wichita which left him practically moneyless and compelled him to labor at anything possible. During the next few months he worked at track-laying, engine wiping and firing between Las Vegas and Albuquerque, on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, finally going as a sheep driver to Fort Sumner. He was camped on the outskirts of that place when Billy the Kid was killed by the sheriff of Lincoln County, and saw the desperado both before and after death. Joining a party of prospectors, the next few months were passed in the wildest regions of Arizona. Gold was found, but within the limits of an Apache reservation, and the party was driven out by United States soldiers. After suffering many hardships en route, Mr. Parrish reached Greeley, Colorado, and secured work on the Greeley-Loveland canal, a little later making his way to Denver. Here he became connected as a reporter with the Rocky Mountain News and began a newspaper career, extending over a number of years, serving for various periods with metropolitan and country publications and in every branch of the work. He worked at other times on the Grafton (Nebraska) Leader, Kewanee (Illinois) Courier and Independent, Sioux City (Iowa) Times, Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald and the Chicago Times.
Journalism and ministry
In 1886, while managing editor of the Grafton (Nebraska) Leader, Parrish was persuaded to enter the Congregational ministry, being licensed by the Elkhorn Association and given charge of churches at Leigh and Howells, Nebraska. He was later ordained by the Blue Valley Association and held pastorates at Harvard, Nebraska, Mattoon, Illinois, Constantine, Michigan, and Marshalltown, Iowa. He was chairman of the Home Missionary Committee for Southern Illinois and one of the founders of Southern Collegiate Institute at Albion. In 1888 he stumped the entire state of Nebraska under the Republican state committee, accompanied by a double quartette of ladies, and later lectured extensively throughout many northern states.
In 1887 Parrish was married to Miss Mary A. Hammon, of Clarkson, Nebraska, and four children were born unto this union, two of whom survived to adulthood, namely: Robert Arthur, a cadet at St. John's Military Academy, Delafield, Wisconsin; and Philip Hammon, of Lynch, Nebraska. Parrish was divorced in 1899.
During the winter of 1902 Mr. Parrish resumed newspaper work in Chicago, being first connected with the Associated Press, and later engaged in commercial journalism. August 6 of that year he was married to Rose I. Tyrell, of Kewanee, and the following spring published his first work of fiction, When Wilderness Was King, through A. C. McClurg & Company, Chicago, also publishers of his subsequent books. This manuscript was submitted and accepted when but half completed and for a first book met with remarkable sale. All of his previous experience, the atmosphere of culture and refinement of his boyhood home, his literary and legal education, the hardships and privations which he endured upon the plains of the west, his campaign experiences and his labors in the ministry, all constituted a preparation and equipment for the work which he is now doing in the literary world, and which has made him one of the most successful of the modern writers.
After the publication of his first book he devoted his entire time to literary work, having published the following books of fiction and history: My Lady of the North (1904); A Sword of the Old Frontier (1905); Bob Hampton of Placer (1906); Historic Illinois (1906); Beth Norvell (1907); The Great Plains (1907); Prisoners of Chance (1908); The Last Voyage of the Donna Isabel (1908); My Lady of the South (1909). Many of these have been credited among the "six best sellers," and received high praise both at home and abroad.
Beginning in 1904, Mr. Parrish has made his home at Kewanee, in the old family house at 235 South Chestnut Street, which was built in 1859. He served as one of the directors of the Commercial Club, was leading knight of the local Elks Lodge, and was a frequent speaker at public meetings throughout Illinois.
- Henry L. Kiner, History of Henry County Illinois, Volume II. Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co, 1910