J.W. Park – Ira H. Park – Marion Park Deaver


Up to fifty years ago or so “Park” and Balsam Lake were synonymous, referring to John Wesley Park, commonly known as J. W. Park. He was born in Ohio, Aug. 4, 1840. In May, 1881 he came to Balsam Lake and negotiated for the mill property. He returned to Ohio and in August brought his family here. His family consisted of his wife, Philora, two sons, Alva and Ira, and two daughters, Ollie and Ella.

So great was Mr. Park’s faith in the future of Balsam Lake that he borrowed $4,000 to make further investments which included the saw mill, the grist mill, the Pioneer Store with post office, the water power and extensive land areas.

The land embraced all real estate south of the lake and extended from main street east almost to the town line with Apple River. He developed a large farm east of town that embraced an open field of over 100 acres. The farm and the sawmill afforded work for most of Balsam Lake’s population. Much white pine timber was cut about the lake. Some of the logs were hauled and dumped into the mill pond which laid just above the mill. Some pine logs were dumped into the lake on the ice, boomed into rafts and floated or driven down to the dam where they were sluiced thru. The writer recalls seeing this done back in the `80’s and `90’s. The dam was located where County Trunk I now crosses the outlet of the lake.

Park was the prime mover in getting the county seat moved to Balsam Lake. The county seat had been at Osceola since Polk County was organized in 1853 but the “powers-that-be” never saw fit to build a courthouse or other buildings and depended on rented property.

Mr. Park was chairman of the township of Balsam Lake eight years in all. In 1896 or 7 he headed a move to build a town hall just north of the present courthouse. The hall was a two-story building. Mr. Park, having the sawmill saw to it that the best of material went into its structure. The amount appropriated was $2,000. During the campaign to remove the county seat, the township agreed that the hall might be used as a courthouse. The vote was held at the November election in 1898 and carried by substantial majority. The promise of a courthouse free of charge, the fact the county had no building or buildings and the argument that Balsam Lake was in the exact center of the county were influencing factors which resulted in a favorable vote.

The county board of supervisors met right after the election and voted an appropriation of $25,000 to build a courthouse, jail and sheriff’s residence. Work was commenced at once and completed in 1899. In the meantime, circuit court session and county board meetings were held in the upper story of the hall and the lower part was petitioned off for various offices.

Park not only donated the ground for the town hall but he also donated the site for the courthouse and jail.


It seems incongruous nothing was ever done to pay homage to the memory of J. W. Park for his contributions. A small bronze plaque placed suitably in the courthouse would be a fitting tribute to his memory.

The saw mill and the grist mill have both been dismantled and about the only reminder of the Park regime is Park Drive which runs along the lakeshore for over a mile and is flaked by cabins and cottages. This drive way was not laid out until after Mr. Park’s death, June 12, 1926, and was turned over to the village by members of the second generation of the Park family.

Anyway, time is fleeing and it is not long after man “passes from life to his rest in the grave” before he is forgotten by those who follow, as Dr. Clyde Park, a grandson, will testify after being told “I believe I have heard that name.”

Ira H. Park, son of J. W. Park, married Nellie L Husband in 1893. The 1910 census records that Ira and Nellie have three children, Clyde H., age 15, Marion L., age 11 and Leslie C., age 8.

Marion Park Deaver was born in the Village of Balsam Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin. As a child, she preferred the outdoors, spending her time on the lake, canoeing, swimming and especially fishing with her two brothers, Clyde was the oldest; Leslie was younger than Marion. She was dedicated to the conservation of wildlife and natural resources for public health, recreation and enjoyment. Mrs. Deaver attended a business school, learning the secretarial skills, accounting, dictation and a special emphasis on handwriting that led to her career. After gaining experience in banking, she became the private secretary to Mr. H. G. Wells, Manager of the Grain Brokerage at the Peavey Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She continually expanded her skills and her value to the Peavey Co., becoming an administrative assistant in the Grain Brokerage and Futures department…

In 1942, she built a log home on Balsam Lake, then convinced both brothers to build cabins next to her, so they could be together for family vacations and holidays.

            Harry Gilbert Deaver was born in Minneapolis. After completing his education, he joined the Peavey Co. and spent part of his career in Canada, where he managed the King Midas Mills and other Canadian Peavey operations. He and his first wife had two children. The daughter still lives in Canada and the son lives in Casper, Wyoming. After his wife’s death, Harry returned to the corporate office in Minneapolis as Wheat Buyer at the Grain Exchange, working in the Grain Brokerage office. There he met Marion Park, and they were married in 1944…

            These two families instilled in Harry and Marion the principles reflected in the Marion Park Deaver and Harry Gilbert Deaver Foundation Charitable Trust.

E.E. Husband, Back In The Gay Nineties, Polk County Ledger.

Polk County Marriage Book 3, 97, Register of Deed’s Office, Balsam Lake, Wisconsin.

Ira H. Park household, 1920 U. S. census, Polk County, Wisconsin, sheet number 2A, dwelling  2851, family 26, HeritageQuestonline.com., Electronic Library online.

Marion Park Deaver and Harry Gilbert Deaver Foundation, manuscript copy in Polk County Historical Society files.