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The Parsons Family

The newly-formed Hillcrest Orchard Company of Seattle, Washington, purchased the property from J.W. Perkins in July, 1908.  Company president Reginald Hascall Parsons of Seattle first considered investing in the southern Oregon orchard when W.F. Gwin of the Seattle fruit brokerage firm of Gwin, White, and Prince highly recommended the region where he had been buying fruit.  Within two years of purchasing the orchard, Reginald Parsons took controlling interest and became owner and manager of Hillcrest.

Born in New York in 1873 to George H. and Lorraine Hascall Parsons, Reginald Parsons spent his early years in Colorado Springs, Colorado, attending school in Providence Rhode Island and later enrolling at the University of California, Berkeley.  In January, 1901, he married Maude Bemis, daughter of Judson M. Bemis who founded the Bemis Brothers Bag Company. After moving to Seattle, Washington, to open a branch of the Bemis family’s business there, the young couple settled in permanently.

Reginald Parsons contributed widely to the development of the Pacific Northwest in his role as financier and philanthropist.  He served as president of the Seattle Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the Whitman College Board of Trustees, and as president of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.  He started the Parsons Investment Company in 1920 and in 1922 was appointed as Seattle’s representative to plan development of the Columbia River Basin Project.  Maude Parsons helped to organize the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital in Seattle and with her husband co-founded the Art Institute of Seattle, later the Seattle Art Museum.  The Museum’s Parsons Gallery is named in memory of Mrs. Parsons, devoted board member and benefactor.

In 1908, the Parsons family established a decades-long tradition of spending long summers in southern Oregon. They had lived eight seasons in the home built by J.W. Perkins when Reginald Parsons hired the Rogue Valley’s leading architect Frank Chamberlain Clark to design a new residence. Clark, who worked in southern Oregon from 1903 until his death in 1957, designed many of the region’s important buildings including the Ashland and Medford Elk’s Buildings, Medford Senior High School, the Holly Theater, and Bear Creek Orchards Building in Medford, Oregon.

In 1917, builders finished the Parsons’s large new dwelling, complete with sleeping porches, maid’s quarters, and fireplaces in the living room, dining room and three bedrooms.  Mr. Clark worked from Mrs. Parsons’s sketches to accommodate her ideas in his design.  The residence and other orchard buildings by Clark – the Office (1917), Recreation Hall with a pool, squash court, and billiard room (1919), Guest House (1926), and Packing House (1926) – reflect the Period Colonial Style. On June 26, 1917, Reginald Parsons wrote Frank Clark:

“Mrs. Parsons and the children are writing their friends of their keen pleasure and enjoyment of the house at Hillcrest. This means a great deal to me and I am simply delighted to have them pleased with it all.”

Following Reginald H. and Maude B. Parsons’s deaths in 1955, their four children assumed leadership of the orchard business.  Judson Parsons, a grandson of Reginald and Maude Parsons, supervised the orchard for over three decades.

Family direction of Hillcrest continues today. With the death of the last of Reginald and Maude Parsons’s children (Anne Parsons Frame died at the age of 100 in 2004), the couple’s eleven grandchildren – the third generation – now oversee operations with plans for the fourth generation to eventually assume leadership.