The Bishop-Parker Family

As told by Mary Jarrell 

The story begins with an English immigrant named John Huntington.In 1854, at 22, he came to Cleveland, OH, with his wife, Jane Beck. He began working as a contractor in slate roofing and, in 1863, he joined Clark, Payne & Co. (an oil refining firm). “During his time there, John developed and patented many inventions for improving furnaces, oil refining methods, and machinery used to produce barrels for storage and transportation of oil,” Mary Jarrell says. “In 1870, Clark, Payne & Co. was taken over by John D. Rockefeller’s original Standard Oil Company, and John became very prominent in the business affairs of Cleveland’s oil industry.” He became part owner of a large fleet of lake vessels in 1886, and later vice president of Cleveland Stone Company. Huntington served for 13 years on Cleveland’s city council, supporting many significant and historical city improvements.

On his 57th birthday, Huntington established a benevolent trust, based mostly on his 500 shares of Standard Oil stock, Jarrell says. “The fund provided charitable benefits to more than 40 cultural and educational institutions in the Cleveland area,” she says. He also recorded his will in 1889, establishing the John Huntington Art and Polytechnic Trust with the goal of producing a “gallery and museum” and a “free evening polytechnical school.”  Upon his death in 1893, the trustee of his estate, Henry Clay Ranney (who was also the trustee for the estates of Hinman Hurlbut and Horace Kelley) channeled bequests from all three estates toward the establishment of the Cleveland Museum of Art. “Today, the Cleveland Museum is internationally renowned for its substantial holdings of Asian and Egyptian art, and it provides general admission free to the public,” Jarrell says. “With a $755 million endowment, it is the fourth wealthiest art museum in the United States.”

Huntington was survived by five children—one of whom was William Robert Huntington, a successful businessman and the commodore of the famous Put-in-Bay Yacht Club on Lake Erie. Lillian E. Huntington was the daughter of William and Marie Baldwin Huntington. “She and her mother, Marie, first visited Bradenton in 1904, where they stayed at the A.F. Wyman home,” Jarrell says. “She and her mother were later among the first guests to register in ‘Braidentown’s’ new Manavista Hotel—currently the site of the Courtyard retirement center in downtown Bradenton.”

Marie and Lillian Huntington eventually moved to Bradenton permanently after William Huntington’s death. In 1914, Lillian Huntington married Edward Everson Bishop in her home in Ohio. “The newly-wedded couple built their honeymoon home on the Manatee River in Bradenton,” Jarrell says. After a few years, the Bishops built their lifelong residence, also on the Manatee River. The Bishops were active in civic and cultural life (in both Bradenton and Sarasota, as well as in various other communities along the east coast of the United States). The major turning point in this family history would be in 1934, when the Bishops met Mary Evelyn Parker, a recent graduate from the Metropolitan Hospital in New York City. Parker would come to be Mary Jarrell’s late aunt and namesake. “Due to the fragile nature of Edward’s health, the couple invited Mary to become their full-time nurse and companion--a position which Mary held throughout their lifetimes,” Jarrell says. “During the time Mary lived with the Bishops, their relationship evolved into deep-seated feelings between them.” So much so, the Bishops legally adopted Parker as their daughter. The Bishops had no children of their own, Jarrell explains, but Parker remained, at all times, close like family to the Bishops.

The value of charitable contributions given during the Bishops’ lifetime, as well as Parker’s, is inestimable, and has had a profound impact on both Manatee and Sarasota counties. “Their philanthropic gifts have usually been made privately, often anonymously, and where possible (as was the case with John Huntington before them), accomplished on a person-to-person basis rather than through organizations,” Jarrell says. “Their giving reflected their personal interests in a variety of organizations and nonprofits working to build better communities. In fact, it would be hard to name worthy projects in the Manatee area that did not receive generous contributions from the Bishops and Mary—including the Conquistadores, the Pram Fleet, Boys Ranch and so many others.”

The Bishops also worked directly with the community. Lillian Bishop developed an interest in nursing and, for several years, worked both day and night shifts as a volunteer operating room nurse in the Bradenton General and Manatee County hospitals. When these hospitals became overcrowded, the Bishops matched community donations and grants—creating a new wing for Manatee Veteran’s Memorial Hospital (now Manatee Memorial Hospital).  This new two-story wing contained operating rooms, an orthopedic operating room, a tumor clinic and a recovery room suite. The Bishops provided surgeries for numerous patients at no cost, as well as other medical care for people who were indigent. They were interested in theatre and were among those who founded the Players Theatre in Sarasota. Lillian Bishop especially took an active interest in Bradenton’s Manatee Players Theatre–participating financially in the operation and construction of the original theater building (situated on 12th Street in downtown Bradenton), and serving for many years as chair of the theater’s properties committee.

Another one of the Bishops’ contributions was the South Florida Museum, which originally began its operations in a warehouse located on Memorial Pier in downtown Bradenton. “The museum was able to remain solvent, largely as a result of anonymous gifts from the Bishops and Miss Parker. Lillian played a major role in the 1966 construction of the new museum and the subsequent construction of the planetarium,” Jarrell says. Only after the planetarium was completed did Lillian Bishop most reluctantly allow the naming of the planetarium after her departed husband. Parker then donated funds for Snooty, the resident manatee, to have a larger aquarium (and she provided substantial funding to increase the museum’s overall permanent endowment). Before their passings, the Bishops had an abiding love for and understanding of animals. According to Jarrell, their genuine interest in animal welfare resulted in the establishment of many local foundations for the benefit and care of animals.  The principal beneficiary of these foundations is the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) of Manatee County. This foundation was created in 1957 and deeded two tracts of Manatee County land, both of approximately 40 acres. The SPCA established an animal shelter on the tract, which is across from what is now Blake Memorial Hospital, at the northeast corner of the intersection of 59th Street and 21st Street West in Bradenton. The hospital was not there when the land was donated.  “After the death of both Mr. and Mrs. Bishop, the SPCA directors determined it was in the best interest of all that the animal shelter be known as the Bishop Animal Shelter,” Jarrell says. “These trusts, established by the Bishops, are for the sole benefit of the Manatee County SPCA.”

In July 1986, Parker created the Mary E. Parker Foundation with her own assets. “While the Bishops left considerable income and assets to Mary without restriction, the majority used for her Foundation was due to the major land sale of her family’s farm in Maryland,” Jarrell says. “On March 30, 2020, Mary passed away quietly in her sleep at home in Bradenton, at the age of 108 years. Mary felt strongly about continuing the legacy of the Bishops, and she took an active interest in ensuring the enrichment of the community throughout decades of financial support.”

Some of those institutions that are continually benefiting from her generosity include Manatee Memorial Hospital, the Bishop Museum of Science and Nature, the Manatee Performing Arts Center, State College of Florida, Manatee Community Foundation, Turning Points, Bishop Animal Shelter, Southeastern Guide Dogs Inc. and Mote Marine. Additionally, Parker sought out and supported many organizations around the county in the interest fields of animal welfare, supporting vulnerable people, nursing education, medical research and the arts. “Mary E. Parker was a very humble and private person. She preferred to support the community anonymously when possible. Her support had a huge impact on the healthcare of low-income families as well as nursing education,” Jarrell says. “Her focus was on the health, education and welfare of the community as a whole, which included the environmental preservation of Manatee and Sarasota counties.”  B.Mattie