Did you know that one of the most unique personalities to ever live in West Plains wasn’t actually a person at all? That’s right! One of our most interesting historical characters was actually a parrot named Polly.
In fact, Polly the Parrot was such a fascinating figure that her story qualified for a Legends and Lore Marker, sponsored by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.
Polly’s story is a long and eventful one, beginning in Cuba in 1867. She lived there for a few years before being taken to New Orleans (along with several other parrots). Upon arriving in Louisiana, she was purchased by Dr. Thomas Bradford, as a present for his wife. She absolutely loved Polly, and the parrot became a delightfully entertaining member of the family.
The Bradfords later moved to Marshfield, Missouri, where Polly experienced her first Methodist Camp Meeting. (She was forced to leave, because she was singing and speaking over the people in attendance.) Later, a man from P.T. Barnum’s Circus offered to buy Polly for $100 when he heard her talking and shouting as the circus passed through the town. But her owners refused as Polly was a beloved member of the family.
Then, on April 18, 1880, tragedy struck the town of Marshfield (and the Bradford family) in the form of a cyclone. Mr. Bradford and his son were killed, along with 98 others. After that disaster, Polly naturally missed her master. However, her constant question to Mrs. Bradford,“Ma, where’s Pa?” became too much for the widowed woman, and Polly was sent to live with the Bradfords’ daughter, Mrs. T.J. Langston of West Plains.
Here, Polly happily lived out the remainder of her years (with occasional trips back to Marshfield to see Mrs. Bradford who eventually moved to West Plains to live with her daughter). As was her style, Polly became a bit of a local celebrity, chatting with anyone who passed by her home, and endearing herself to a whole new community.
When she passed away in 1920, Polly was honored by being the only known non-human to be buried in Oaklawn Cemetery. And it’s here, at Polly’s burial site, where the Legends and Lore marker can now be found.
This information is taken from the West Plains Council on the Arts Legends and Lore – Polly the Parrot web page. It can be found here along with additional information about this fascinating bird and her exploits. The Polly photo appeared in the West Plains Gazette Magazine