Surely George S. Park frolicked now and then. Or, maybe not, since he was founding Parkville, Park College, a Presbyterian Church and having his newspaper press thrown in the Missouri River before the Civil War. Mr. Park’s stern gaze greets visitors to the McAfee Memorial Library on the college’s campus. I can almost feel him evaluating my demeanor. “Say young man, do you have your weeding and trimming done in the orchard? Tell me you weren’t among those I’ll have to discipline for riding the packet to visit those ungodly saloons near Front Street in Kansas City, again.” Well actually, it’s just a life-size cut-out of Mr. Park watching over a display about his life as the town founder. Archivist Caroyln Elwess put together a wonderful display of artifacts and photos. You can see it for free inside the library, which is part of the college’s underground development. Just follow the signs as you enter campus off Missouri 9. The display will be up through May 31. The display is part of the Platte County 175th observances. Go here for a complete rundown of current and upcoming events: platteparks.com/news/2013/121913.html. Allow me to give you one strong tip: the “Running with Bonnie and Clyde” presentation and road tour on May 24 will have some amazing artifacts such as Thompson sub-machine guns present when the Red Crown Tavern was shot up south of Platte City. But meanwhile, old downtown Parkville and the Park campus are places that feel like old friends every time I visit. They change in subtle ways but somehow are much the same. Mr. Park would be satisfied to stand on the parking lot above the library entrance and see McKay Hall regal and the Missouri River running not far away. He would also appreciate that the town has some excellent historians, which Elwess tapped to full advantage. How amazing it is to gaze down at the first official town plat for Parkville, hand drawn by Mr. Park himself in 1844. There’s Main Street, East Street and West Street pointed toward the river, with the town ending beyond Seventh Street. White Aloe Creek is present, of course, but also fascinating to me is the spring branch penciled in beyond West Street. Platte County had a strong array of springs before settlement changed to ground cover and the groundwater hydrology. Mr. Park did not do all of the town and college founding by himself. Wife Mary Louise was by his side. Various other persons were also involved. But he was the backbone for all. Photos capture him in his later years. He would stand out in a reception today for being clean shaven except for a lower beard between the chin and the neck. In his full body cutout made from a photo he appears to be standing on a bearskin rug. Perhaps the rug was shipped in from the mountains in the West. After all, steamboat packets ran regularly past Parkville in the mid-1800s. The college benefactor, whose quarried-stone hotel was the college’s first building, valued education and used his own training in keeping meticulous notes. For instance, on display is his map record of the college orchard. Missouri Superior apples are on a large tract, while early strawberries are part of a more narrow cultivation. Park College, originally aligned with Mr. Park’s Presbyterian faith, was a work college. Students were able to work at the campus farm or business operations to pay their way through school. There was a bit of trouble in 1855 when his Industrial Luminary newspaper serving the city published an editorial critical of voting in Kansas regarding slave versus free state. A group of men threw the paper’s printing press in the river. Park pleaded in his paper that he had done no ill will for north or south. He would later file a lawsuit against those he felt guilty of violating his property. Interesting pages of the Luminary are on display and speak of far different times. Riverboats promote their services and schedules. There is time for poetry, such as: “Mighty river! mighty river, Rolling onward to the sea…” Among my favorites in the display is an 1860 map of Missouri and Kansas, where the early towns and main roads of Platte County are shown. There are few towns and fewer roads. I finally know where Buena Vista was, it was in the county’s northeast corner. For you firearms buffs, there’s a copy of a gun permit issued by a provost marshal to Mr. Park in 1865. Also of note is the metal ball that once topped the spire of the first stone church on the campus. Local lore says soldiers in the Civil War used the ball for target practice. Holes in it show somebody was a good shot. This display is modest in size, but mighty, much like the town and the college… Oops, now it’s a university. Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.