Why Wilma : Thomas ParksWhen you drive west on the Skalkaho Highway over the Mungas Hill and down Trail Gulch to the valley, you arrive at the original Parks homestead. The house and barn were located on the left (south) side of the road just as you come out of the gulch.. The ranch was settled by Thomas and Mary (Wight) Parks in 1902.
News articles state Catherine Wight was Tom’s sister. Research shows all of Catherine’s children listing her maiden name as Haeger and I now realize that Tom married Catherine’s sister-in-law. Because all of the ranchers from East Fork, Middle Fork, Ross’ Fork and West Fork, had to travel to Philipsburg to pick up their mail, Tom petitioned for and became a postmaster. He named his post-office Wilma and located the log building on the north side of the current Highway 38, in the box draw just west of the mouth of Trail Gulch.
The post office was short lived and served from 1903 to 1905. The reason why he named the area Wilma obviously was left for us to ponder. I found where the Post Office Department was advertising for bids for carrying the mail from Philipsburg to Wilma a distance of eighteen miles twice a week in the August 11, 1905 Mail. The term for carrying the mail was from September 19, 1905 to June 1906. The schedule would be: leave Wilma Tuesday and Saturday at 7 a.m. and arrive in Philipsburg at noon. Leave Philipsburg at 1 p.m. on Tuesday and Saturday and arrive at Wilma at 6 p.m. A bond of $4,800 would be required for each person bidding. Since the Post Office closed in 1905 one has to assume that there were no bids for the contract from September to June 1906.
Tom was very active in Granite County and ran on the Democratic ticket for state representative in November 1908. He received a total of 381 votes; Hanifen received 455; George Maywood received 311; and Hugh T. Cumming the republican won the office with 488 votes.
Tom was born in Clayborn County, Tennessee on July 29, 1846 and married Miss Mary A. Wight on his birthday in 1880. Two years later they moved to Montana and located on a ranch near Stone Station. They lived at Stone for ten years then homesteaded the property on East Fork. Tom died July 29, 1923 after suffering a stroke while he tended to the ranch irrigation. At the time, Tom and Mary were living in town and motored out to the ranch where he went to work on the irrigation ditches. When he failed to return to the ranch house at the expected time, Mary became alarmed and notified their daughter, Mrs. William (Lala Parks) Carey. She lived on the adjoining ranch just west of her parents. Tom was found on his side in a small irrigation ditch. He was unable to speak but conscious. A physician was summoned and the stricken man was brought to the family home in South Philipsburg. All measures were used to save his life, but were unsuccessful.
Tom died on his seventy-seventh birthday and forty-third wedding anniversary. Survivors were his wife and two daughters: Mrs. William (Lala) Carey of the adjoining ranch and Mrs. Paul (Nellie Parks Hickey) Neal of Sandpoint, Idaho. The funeral was held at the family home in South Philipsburg on August 1. Rev. W.H. Calvert of Wibaux, Montana officiated. Pallbearers were: C.E. Kennedy, Claude Russell, Vatis Page, A.J. Murray, Dr. W.I. Power and Robert McDonel with internment in the Philipsburg Cemetery.
Tom’s widow Mary A. Parks was buried next to him when she died in 1934. After leaving the ranch Mary resided at the home in Philipsburg until infirmities forced her to move to her daughter Nellie’s home in Sand Point, Idaho. Nellie was the widow of James Hickey who with his brother owned the Hickey ranch on Mungas Hill. Mary died in Sandpoint on September 30, 1934. Survivors were: daughters Lala Carey and Nellie Neal; nine grandchildren and one great grandchild (not named in the obituary) and sister-in-law Mrs. Catherine Wight. The funeral was held from the family home in Parkerville on October 2. Rev. Smith performed the service. Pallbearers were: Vatis Page, John Murray, C.E. Kennedy, Frank Richards, S.R. Seelos and Olaf Sandin.
Thomas McLeary Parks (Photo from Joel Christensen Collection)The Parks homestead ranch was bought by the Allen Webb family after Tom’s death in 1923. After Webb sold the ranch to step-daughter Annie (McCale) and Walt Sanders in 1948, the log post-office was moved across the road to the ranch and remained as a bunkhouse. The ranch house had been rebuilt and burned down in 1934. Neighbors helped rebuild it and that house was demolished a few years ago. At that time the log post-office was still standing. This property is owned by the same people that own the original Sandin ranch so no one lives on the homestead.