William Parmelee, one of the leading manufacturers and business men of Leavenworth, was born in Jackson county, Indiana, July 16, 1836, son of William and Katharine (Wright) Parmelee. The Parmelee family came from Holland, but were of French and Spanish extraction, the first American ancestors settling in the United States during the early part of the Seventeenth century. William Parmelee's grandfather was a Presbyterian preacher in western New York, and his children were born at Goshen, Conn. William Parmelee, Sr., was reared in New York and moved from Ontario county in that state to Jackson county, Indiana, when that state was an unbroken wilderness. The Indians were frequent visitors of the pioneer settlers, who suffered all the privations and hardships incident to life on the frontier. Mrs. Parmelee was born in Green River, N. Y., reared and educated in her native state, and there met and married William Parmelee. She accompanied her husband to Indiana, where he died within six months, leaving her with small children. She made her way back to Bloomfield, N. Y., with the children and settled at the old home. They endured many hardships, as the eight children were to be provided for by the mother. She died in Rochester, N. Y., in 1879, aged seventy-nine years.
William was educated in the public schools and at East Bloomfield Academy, and after finishing his education he began to clerk in a hardware store. In 1856 he went to Hastings, Minn., but the same year returned East and went into a broker's office in New York City. Within a year he was offered and accepted a position in a hardware store in Iowa City, Iowa, where he remained for two years, and returning to New York City, he entered the bank of Duncan, Sherman & Co., as receiving teller. During his stay there J. P. Morgan entered the same house to learn the banking business. At the outbreak of the Civil war Mr. Parmelee enlisted in the Twenty-second New York infantry and saw service at Baltimore and Harper's Ferry during the three months of his enlistment. After being mustered out of the army, Mr. Parmelee returned to New York City, and D. A. Millington & Company, the firm for whom he had worked in Iowa City, having opened a store in Leavenworth, sent for him to take charge of that branch of their business. For a year he was in charge of the store and then became the bookkeeper for Watson & Renhart, and one year later he became a partner in the business. In 1864 the firm of Parmelee, Leak & Smith was formed and opened a store at the corner of Fourth and Delaware streets, but in 1865 Mr. Parmelee disposed of his interests and went into Clark's Bank as cashier. He remained there about a year and then engaged in the retail carpet business under the firm name of William Parmelee & Company. Within a short time he added a stock of furniture and formed a new company, the Chamberlain, Parmelee & Company, which carried all kinds of house furnishings. In 1873 he disposed of his interest in the store and went to Chicago, Ill., where he remained for five years, but returned to Leavenworth about 1878 and became a partner of Robert Keith. A year later Mr. Parmelee founded the wholesale and retail house of Helmers & Parmelee. Four years later the store burned and Mr. Parmelee lost $10,000.00 in one hour, but he was not discouraged and immediately went into the retail furniture business under the firm name of William Parmelee & Company and carried on the business of the firm for six years. In 1894 he went to Omaha for a year and then to Philadelphia for two years to be near his daughter. Late in 1896 he came back to Leavenworth and organized his present business which has proved very successful. Mr. Parmelee is popular with his fellow townsman and an ardent admirer of the Sunflower State, which he served at the time of Price's raid. In politics he is a Republican, casting his first vote for Abraham Lincoln, and his church affiliations are with the Presbyterian church, of which he is an elder.
In 1869 Mr. Parmelee married Elizabeth Black, of Columbus, N. J. She was descended from some fine old Quaker stock who settled in New Jersey in an early day. Three of the children of this union are still living: Katharine, the wife of Dr. I. Pierson Willits, of Philadelphia, Pa.; Irving, the receiving teller of the Leavenworth National Bank, and Eleanor, the wife of Lieut. R. J. West, U. S. A., now in Alaska.Pages 898-900 from volume III, part 2 of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed December 2002 by Carolyn Ward. This volume is identified at the Kansas State Historical Society as microfilm LM195. It is a two-part volume 3.
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