R emnants of our community’s history, many of them long-forgotten, are all around us. One such indication of a person from the past is the Louisville street sign for Parbois Lane. The sign marks a lane going south from Elm Street between Main and Front, just south of Sweet Cow Ice Cream and Lucky Pie Pizza at 637 Front Street. Where does the name Parbois come from, and is it connected to Louisville’s French community? And what is the relevance of the Parbois name to that particular location?
Desire Parbois was one of Louisville’s very first French- born residents, coming to Louisville by 1893. He had been born in 1861 in Henin-Lietard, Pas de Calais, France. This was in a coal mining area of northern France where most of the members of Louisville’s French community originated. In about 1884, he married Josephine Duval and they immigrated to the United States together in about 1888 with their young son, Maurice. Once here, they had four daughters: Millie, Jennie, Elsie, and Vivienne.
Desire Parbois not only worked as a coal miner and farmer, but he also bought and sold property, engaging in a numerous property transactions in the Louisville area. In particular, he purchased land that was established as the Parbois Tract and he sold off residential lots to local French and Italian families in the early 1900s.
Until recently, little else was known about the Parbois family. Thanks to the generosity of Desire and Josephine Parbois’s great-granddaughter, Dolores Barzler, the Louisville Historical Museum now has not only photos of members of the Parbois family but also information about their lives. The photos accompanying this article are from her and her family. She remembers how the family members spoke French with one another. Desire Parbois’s name was pronounced “Dezery Par-boys,” and he was called “Grandpa Par-boys” even by members of his family. It has also been said by others that some people in Louisville pronounced the name “Par-boy.” (While we may today consider the French pronunciation to be more appealing, it may have been from a desire to sound and be American that the name was pronounced as it was.)
Desire and Josephine Parbois are shown with their children Maurice (back) and Millie (front) in this photo from circa 1892. (Photos in Louisville Historian)
When Desire Parbois died in 1933, his five children inherited the Parbois Tract of property. His daughter, Millie Parbois Jenkins, and her husband, Williams Jenkins, lived at 553 County Rd. that was a part of the Parbois property. (Their son, Bill Jenkins Jr., is remembered for having been one of the only two survivors of the 1936 Monarch Mine explosion that killed eight men.) The house was located across from the Louisville Grain Elevator. As a girl, Dolores visited them, her grandparents, during the summers. Sheremembers that although she wasn’t supposed to cross any streets by herself, she was allowed to explore the Parbois property close to her grandparents’ home.
<Maurice Parbois, son of Desire and Josephine. (Photos in Louisville Historian)
Millie Parbois, daughter of Desire and Josephine. (Photos in Louisville Historian
Today, the properties in downtown Louisville that are believed to be within the Parbois Tract include 529 Main, 537 Main, 541 Main, 545 Main, and 555 Main on the west side of Main, and 524 Main, 536 Main, 544 Main, 552 Main, and 556 Main on the east side of Main. Parbois Place, the plat of which was recorded with the County in 2009, also contains properties that were once part of the larger Parbois parcel. Parbois Lane was established as part of the development of Parbois Place.
The name of Desire Parbois lives on in downtown Louisville!
553 County Rd., shown in a 1948 County Assessor photo, was the home of Millie Parbois Jenkins and William Jenkins and was part of the Parbois property. (Photo in Louisville Historian)
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