Plumb full of talent, cowgirl Adele von Ohl Parker graced arenas and stages brimming with bravado. Parker was raised on a horse farm in Plainfield, New Jersey, and is said to have been placed in a saddle when she could only barely walk. Coming from a long line of horsemanship—one of her ancestors supposedly sold horses to George Washington during the American Revolution—it was no surprise Parker took to a saddle so quickly.
Early Career Canter
She worked her way to being in front of a crowd by 1905, plunging on her horse Delmar from a high platform into a tank of water. Her daring, crowd pleasing feats garnered the attention of Buffalo Bill. Parker would work with the Wild West show from 1907 – 1909. In 1909 she married fellow Wild West cast member James Letcher Parker but they divorced around 1932.
Fresh from the Wild West show, the couple decided to break their way into the vaudeville circuit and took roles in multiple shows from 1910 – 1928. Adele would eventually take to the silver screen as a stuntwoman in several films. In the midst of her active performing years, Adele also advocated for the creation of a mounted Red Cross during WWI. Along with her suggestion to the government, she offered to train the mounted Red Cross nurses, a prospect which made front page news.
New Ambitions Saunter In
Eventually she traveled to Cleveland for a show, yet it was canceled, and she became stranded in the city. Instead of letting this event trample her, Parker decided to open her own riding school in Cleveland. To garner interest in the operation, she once again took to the saddle and performed some daredevil riding at a livestock show.
After bouncing around for months, the location for the Von Ohl School of Horsemanship settled in North Olmsted, Ohio. Later renamed Parker’s Ranch, her vision grew to have more than 30 buildings, four barns, and a slew of various animals living on the property. The programs offered started to grow as well. A day camp was instituted to help teach children how to ride and care for horses; students would then perform in events to showcase their skills. Eventually Parker could not stay away from the limelight and created a Wild West show akin to Buffalo Bill’s in which the proceeds would go to the Society for Crippled Children.
A talented sketch and painting artist as well, Parker would continue to be active in her community and on the ranch until her passing in 1966. Her funeral reportedly was attended by more than 300 area children who had participated in her Parker’s Ranch programs, while an estimated 10,000 learned how to ride throughout her years of operation. Her legacy stretches longer than her life in the saddles and hearts of the next generation of riders.