BY JENNY GOLDSBERRY
From the late 1800s to today, one of the most noteworthy institutions in Roy is the Weber Memorial Hospital. It’s also known as the Weber County Infirmary. For over 100 years, it was the home for the aged and infirm, where an atmosphere of happiness and peace was fostered. In a previous issue of the Roy Connection, we covered the infirmary, namely its “Poor Farm Cemetery.” In this issue, we’re featuring the story of the kind man who dug many of those graves: the infirmary’s first superintendent, Charles Parker. In the spirit of the holidays, we’ve chosen Charles as the “Ebenezer Scrooge of Roy,” although, there is no record he was ever a “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner,” as Charles Dickens described Scrooge.
At the age of 22, Charles left his home in Preston, England, and came to Utah. Charles’s father, William, was the sexton of the parish church in Preston. He took care of the churchyard, dug the graves, and rang the bells as a deacon in the Church of England. Meanwhile, Mariah, his mother, taught Sunday School in the parish, and in a girls’ school. Charles himself had just been baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
On his way to join the Saints in Utah, Charles and his oldest brother George stopped in St. Louis, where an epidemic of cholera broke out. The ocean voyage took six weeks, and they arrived at New Orleans on February 4, 1854. Charles, who never contracted the disease, cared for the sick. He administered to the stricken like a trained nurse, for he worked night and day to comfort and nurse the pain-riddled patients back to health. He also helped the less fortunate and buried many of the dead.
In 1889, when the Weber County Infirmary in Roy was completed, Charles was handpicked to be its founding superintendent. At that point, he had been living in Utah for nearly 30 years, been married, widowered, and married again; he raised seven children all the while. His generous reputation preceded him. He cared for the poor, the aged, the physically and mentally afflicted, prepared the dead for burial–all these things, plus the many chores involved in the physical plant and the grounds each showed the true character of Charles. The infirmary hosted 40 permanent patients and fed roughly 150 passersby every month. Some of these were Native Americans, who were allowed to ride the trains free of charge, but many were from Coxey’s army as result of the great financial panic and depression.
Charles became a prosperous farmer and was very generous, often giving land to destitute families and supplying the needs for families while the husbands were away on missions. His heart was big, and his charity boundless. Many were the times he lent a horse for the summer without receiving or asking pay. On many occasions, he gave away acres of land to destitute families so that they could secure for themselves a living from the soil. He made it a point to look out and help supply the wants of needy widows and families while the father was away in the mission field.
He was Roy’s Health and Quarantine Officer. As a result, he visited the sick, diagnosed and treated their illnesses, and quarantined people to prevent epidemics. Charles Parker died on his way to quarantine a family in Roy. A stroke came upon him at the age of 80, but he had been active and alert until the day he died.