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This historical marker in Oaklawn Cemetery in West Plains designates final resting place of Polly the Parrot, the only known non-human buried in the cemetery. Polly was originally the pet of Dr. Thomas and Laura Bradford of Marshfield, Missouri. On April 18, 1880, a tornado killed nearly 100 people in Marshfield, including Dr. Bradford. Following his death, Polly would often ask, “Ma, where’s Pa?” This question was such a constant reminder of the tragedy, that the grief-stricken widow sent the parrot to live with her daughter, Sallie Bradford Langston, in West Plains where Polly lived out her days as a well-known, local “celebrity.”
Polly spoke both Spanish and English with rare fluency and had a long and eventful life. She loved to sing, especially church hymns, and when company visited, she would encourage someone to play the piano so she could entertain with a song. She was born (or hatched) in Cuba 1867 and died in 1920. For almost 53 years, she lived with the Bradfords and Langstons, and even though famed showman P.T. Barnum made repeated attempts to purchase the talented bird, he was denied because Polly was considered a beloved family member.
The marker is in the northwest corner of the cemetery, near the intersection of Evans and Amyx Streets. Other historic grave sites are located nearby.