Most of us have traveled down Parker Street in the village of Fairport, and crossed the canal on the Parker Street Bridge. Young Albert Parker settled here, and established a variety of business enterprises. Born in about 1818, the 1850 census lists Al Parker, occupation — boatman, with a wife, Abigail and two young children. Early Perinton documents provide evidence of a new canal bridge, constructed by Parker, before the opening of the canal in 1854. The structure was a pivoting swing bridge, which allowed boat traffic to pass once it was swung out of the way. An 1858 map shows the presence of Parker Street, the bridge and nearby warehouses owned by Al Parker.
In about 1860, Al Parker opened a canal-side store near his warehouses, and was granted a license to sell “strong and spirituous liquors.” His businesses and success grew dramatically. The value of Parker’s estate in 1870 had increased ten-fold from 20 years earlier. Another license was issued by the town to Al Parker in 1878, and at 60 years of age, he opened a tavern, connected to his grocery store. The news was well received by many in the village, including Fairport Herald editor Andrew J. Deal, who described the establishment as a “hell-hole.” We know this because that is how Deal referred to Parker’s tavern in his newspaper. Publication of the article angered the tavern owner, and he publicly berated the newspaperman, according to one printed report, “generally befouling the air with profane and obscene language.”
Al Parker initiated an order for Deal’s arrest, who was charged with libel for his “hell-hole” description of the tavern.
A Rochester newspaper commented, “The case is one in which the editor seems to have the sympathy of all the best people in Fairport, and it is hoped that Mr. Deal will be crowned with success in his efforts to uphold the liberty of the press in the smiling village of Fairport.”
On the day of the trial, Andrew Deal arrived in court with his attorney and a slew of witnesses for his defense, but Al Parker never showed, and the case was dismissed. Two years later, while returning from Rochester in the dead of winter on rutted and frozen roads, Parker was thrown from his horse-drawn buggy. His injuries were severe, and he soon died.
Andrew Deal’s newspaper reported Parker’s death, but omitted the traditional biographical obituary. In its place, Deal simply said of his old antagonist, “He died just before noon on Thursday.”