How Humphrey Parker’s walking stick became the tree in the middle of the road

I recently received a copy of “The Parker Family Tree”, the Parker family of Cass County, Iowa Its origins and passages by Mary Rendleman Gilchrist. Congrats to Mary, this is an extremely well-researched and put-together history of the Parker family who is credited with planting the tree in the middle of the road.

An aerial view of the Tree in the middle of the road that sits on the Cass and Audubon county line just north of Interstate 80.

It’s one of Iowa’s most unique attractions and there are several stories about how the tree came about. Here’s the exact Google map location where you can find the Tree in the Middle of the Road.

With permission from Mary, here is an exact copy (mistakes included) of what appears to be a family letter from a trusted source, although the specific author of the letter is not noted.

” Your ever welcome letter got here O.K. also the picture of the old cottonwood tree. There is a little history about that tree. John Parker’s brother, Umphrey Parker, used that tree once for a walking stick. He and John A. Parker was misuring land. Umphrey was cripled in one foot so he cut a young cottonwood sprout down by the little creek northwest , west of where the tree stands now and when they come to the corner where the old tree stands they didn’t have nothing to mark the corner with, so Umphrey sharpened the stick and drove it in the ground with a stone and it sprouted and growed.

So that tree was once Umphrey Parkers walking stick and that has been about 80 years ago oar about that long ago, so that is how that lone cottonwood tree come to grow there, so the old tree has a little story attached to its growth. “

Reprinted with permission from Mary Rendleman Gilchrist in The Parker Family Tree.

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    1. It’s sure to be a gem for the family for years to come. It must have been years of research, but it’s so well done.

  1. This is a fun attraction to see plus now know how it came to be. Thanks, Umphrey, for blessing us with such a unique measuring/ walking stick that blossomed and growled – much like Aaron’s staff in Israel.

  2. Weird I have heard it was a John Parker surveyor employed from Adair not Humphrey’s brother John

  3. I came from Seattle and visited the Tree in the Middle of the Road last summer vacation. We have Iowa family that live in the area. Thanks for sharing this. Just makes visiting the tree even better.