We’ve been somewhat slow over the summer in continuing our historical image series, but as we get ready for “Swab The Decks” day here on our Parkville campus, we are inspired to share these four images of Spencer Cave. He was one of the longest-serving employees in Park’s history, but his impact was felt well beyond his service to the school. Aged 13 at the time, he – along with another young man – was hired by President John A. McAfee in 1875 to tear down a rock wall just south of the current campus grounds. And with the exception of a one-year leave of absence in 1900, Cave worked for Park until his death in 1947, turning down other, more lucrative offers of employment to remain in Parkville.
His inspiration was felt by so many students that for several years following his death, Park celebrated “Spencer Cave Day,” where classes would be canceled and offices closed so that students, faculty and staff could spend time cleaning up the campus – inspired by Spencer’s dedication. Although today’s Swab The Decks day will be led by faculty and staff, we are still mindful of the connection to our history, honored to share our Park Pride and thankful to be able to pay tribute to Spencer Cave.
Spencer Cave was born a slave at the start of the Civil War. His parents belonged to people from Kentucky named Cave who later sold his family to a plantation near Slater, Mo. After their emancipation, they moved to Westport Landing and then to a farm of their own. They came to Parkville in 1875, just ahead of the McAfees. Spencer was 13 at the time, and soon after began working for [Park College]. Although he had no formal education, he was a cultured man. Students often came to him for advice, and even years after they had graduates, he could remember every student’s name. At Christmas time every year, he received hundreds of cards from around the world. He died in 1947, having served Park College for more than 70 years.