Legends of the Umpqua: Rosa Parrott

History has often treated women unfairly. But one of Roseburg’s most prominent female pioneers was impossible to ignore.

Story by Sarah Smith Photos courtesy of Douglas County Museum

The early history of Oregon’s settlement confirms an old adage that goes, “Man cannot advance in the march of progress except by the side of woman.” 

If he thinks to march ahead without her, he is compelled to stop and wait. 

Influential women have often been overlooked by history. But every so often, a woman has come along that no one could ignore. 

For thousands of years, men dominated the history books and women were forgotten. While many influential women were overlooked by history, every so often a woman came along whom no one could ignore. 

History remembers the late Rosa Parrott and her family’s home that still stands on a knoll in southeast Roseburg and, after a complete restoration, now houses a fine-dining restaurant. One of the first families to settle in Roseburg, the Parrotts owned 640 acres that extended south from the present homesite. 

Family patriarch Moses Parrott opened the first shoemaking business in Douglas County and became involved in the founding of Roseburg Academy — a private secondary school, where Parrott sat on the board of directors. 

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A teacher of English and philosophy, Rosa Parrott was the 10th child of Moses and Tennessee Parrott, who came to Oregon in the early 1850s. With the exception of Sarah, a middle sister who married young, all of the Parrott girls became schoolteachers. 

The youngest of the six Parrott sisters, Rosa became a teacher while in her teens. She earned a degree in English from the University of Oregon (1897-1900) and later a philosophy degree from the University of Arizona. She taught at universities, colleges and other schools in the East as well as in Roseburg. 

While teaching English at Roseburg High School, she founded the school newspaper, The Orange R, and became its first adviser. She was also the first president of the Roseburg Business and Professional Women’s Club. 

Completed in 1891, the Parrott House was one of the most attractive and elegantly furnished homes of its time in Douglas County. Rosa lived in the house through the 1950s, after she retired from teaching, and was the last member of her family to do so. 

Following her sudden death in 1961, longtime Roseburg newspaper editor Charles Stanton wrote, “We are grateful…for what she and other members of the pioneer family contributed to citizenship through education…A person is successful only if he [she] has made the world a better place in which to live. In that respect, many people bow in gratitude to the ‘Parrott Girls,’ for it was through them that they gained knowledge and inspiration.” 

Rosa Parrott was a member of one of Douglas County’s most prominent pioneer families. But in her own right, she was a powerful influence on her students and an important figure in Umpqua Valley history.