James Parke - Dickinson Stationmaster
In 1901, Mr. James Parke arrived to take charge of Dickinson Depot. Born in Indiana, Mr. Parke lived for a time in Jewett, Texas, before coming to Dickinson. Mr. Parke served not only as the station agent, but also as the town’s unofficial mayor, legal advisor, chief promoter and public stenographer (he owned the only typewriter in town).
Mr. Parke was an active promoter of Dickinson, encouraging families to settle here. He served on the board of directors of the Dickinson Business League, organized to promote Dickinson as “The Center of the Orange Belt, The Fig Orchard & Strawberry Bed of the Coast Country of Texas.”A promotional brochure from the early 1900s read, “Dickinson, Texas, the Strawberry Capital of the World.”
Mr. Parke’s granddaughter describes him, “He was a distinctive figure in his seersucker suit, white shirt, and black string tie; his railroad watch in his vest pocket with a chain arched across his ample front. The sagging pocket of his coat held a tobacco pouch for the pipe that was his constant companion.”
Strawberry Capitol of the World
Although the area produced a variety of crops, the soil seemed particularly suited for strawberries. Dickinson farmers shipped tens of thousands of cases of fruit in boxcars to markets throughout the Midwest in the period between 1900 and the late 1920s. Dickinson proclaimed itself the Strawberry Capitol of the World.
In a letter dated August 18, 1910, Mr. Parke detailed the monthly shipment of strawberries from Dickinson: In March, 1,842 crates at $3 per crate; April ― 13,759 crates at $2.50; and May ― 2,740 crates at $2 each. In 1909 he calculated there were 47,945 crates shipped, producing a revenue of $80,230.50.
The Secret of Successful Farming
Mr. Parke wrote an article for the Mainland Messenger in August 1913 titled “The Secret of Successful Farming,” it reads: “The past season has taught our farmers that this coast country will raise corn and cotton and will produce as much per acre as the famous land of Oklahoma and North Texas. We have corn now growing here that will require a man to get a stepladder to gather it, and cotton that will make over a bale an acre.”
Mr. Parke was fondly known as “Uncle Jim.” He could always be found with Dickinson’s finest at social events and public forums. When he wasn’t selling tickets or handling freight, he was selling lots, drawing up wills, or typing letters. His citizenship and social standing were rewarded when he was one of the very few Dickinsonians to be honored with membership in the Oleander Country Club