John Parsons, Jr. & The Hartford – Albany Turnpike
By Don Taylor
Sometimes, the obvious eludes me. After my first pass on an individual searching Family Search, Ancestry, and drafting up a basic sketch for an individual, I like to go to my “stage 2” activities. That is to go through my hundreds of bookmarks looking for other potential sources. Virtually every ancestor I have came from somewhere different. For example, my eight great-grandparents were born in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky Michigan, and Pennsylvania.
Likewise, they died in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and “unknown.” Many of my ancestors began on the East Coast and migrated west every other generation or so, to Western New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, the Dakotas, Minnesota, and so on to me who was born in Oregon. That results in many places for me to learn how to research. It gets exhausting and overwhelming.
The Family Search Wiki
I’ve long advocated using the FamilySearch (FS) Wiki to help find specific things. I even manage the page for Scarborough, Cumberland County, Maine Genealogy. But, I never thought about using the FamilySearch Wiki as the basis for my “stage 2” research. Then, I watched a Roots Tech 2020 talk on “Unlocking the Power of the FamilySearch Wiki” and reconsidered my lists of links. I thought I’d give it a try. To start, I’d use the FS Wiki and look at the entries for the towns my ancestor of interest lived in. My current work relates to John Parsons, Jr. He was born in 1764 in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. He lived and married there. Then in 1802 moved west to Windham, Greene County, New York where he died and was buried.
The FS Wiki page for Sandisfield had this really cool little map showing the “Routes and Turnpikes” that people used to migrate to and from Sandisfield. One of those routes was the Massachusetts 10th Turnpike dated 1800. References indicated to see the map between pages 56 and 57 and to see pages 76 to 78 of The Turnpikes of New England and the Evolution of the Same Through England, Virginia, and Maryland by Frederic J. Wood(Boston: Marshall Jones, 1919), and provided a link to the Internet Archive version online.
Besides a nice map of the area showing the pikes, the accompanying article on pages 76 to 78 provided a lot of information. The 10th Mass Turnpike Corporation was created by an act passed in 1800. It began at the Connecticut line and ran thirty-six miles. It was known locally as the “Hartford and Albany turnpike.” The date the 10th Mass. Turnpike went into service isn’t given, however, I suspect that opening up the road helped John Parsons and his family locate west to Windham, Green County, New York in 1802.
Update to John Parsons, Jr.’s Ancestry sketch:
In 1800, the Tenth Massachusetts Turnpike Corporation was created to form a link in the turnpike system connecting Hartford with Albany. Known locally as the “Hartford and Albany turnpike” the road commenced at the Connecticut line and followed the Farmington River up the valley through Sandisfield, Tolland, Otis, and Becket, thence through Lee, Lenox, Richmond, and Hancock, to the New York Line. The new pike probably played a role in John Parsons, Jr. and his family’s relocation to Windham, Greene County, New York in 1802.
There wasn’t anything else in the FS Wiki Page of interest on the Sandisfield page. I wonder if there is something of interest on the Windham page….
One of my processes is to tentatively accept conflicting data regarding an individual. As I continue my research, I look for info to help corroborate either fact. When I finally do my ancestor sketch, I analyze the conflicting facts and make a decision as to what I think is correct and provide my analysis bout what I think is incorrect and why. In the case of John Parsons, Junior, I have conflicting facts regarding both John’s birth and his death. But, more about that in a bit.
John Parsons, Jr., was born on 18 November 1764, the third child of John and Hannah (Wadsworth) Parsons. Some researchers have suggested he was born in Windham, Greene County, New York[ii]; however, I’m sure he was born in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Five of John’s siblings were all born in Sandisfield, including siblings both older and younger. John moved to Windham in 1802, so it is easy to understand how someone could have make a mistake and entered the wrong place.
It must have been exciting times that John grew up in. His father was a lieutenant in the Massachusetts Militia during the Revolution. Samuel Wolcott’s. Living in far western Massachusetts, I suspect that young John was eager for the latest in news of the Revolution.
Sadness did strike in 1777, when John was 12 years old, and his mother died.
There is probably a romantic story to find about John’s courting of Mary Wolcott, the daughter of his father’s Captain during the Revolution. In any event, although it is not clear when John and Mary married. The birth of their first child, Samuel, in April 1789 suggests John and Mary likely married in 1788. John and Mary had seven children:
John and his father were both enumerated as heads of households next to each other in the 1790 Census.
Parsons, John, Jr. 1 1 1
The John Parsons, Jr. household consisted of:
One male 16 & older, who has to be the head of the household, John Jr.
One male under age 16, who apears to be Samuel who was born in born 1789.
One female who appears to be John’s wife, Mary.
By 1800, the John Parsons, Jr. household had grown.
John Parsons, Jr. 3 1 – 1 – | 1 – – 1 –
Three males under 10: Likely Orrin (Age 5), John (Age 4), & Chester (Age 0)
One male, age 10-16: Likely Samuel (Age 13)
One male, age 26-45: Obviously, John Jr. (Age 36) who is the head of the household.
One female under 10: Likely Mary/Polly (Age 8)
One female 26-45: Clearly Mary (age 33) his wife.
In 1802 John and his family moved from Sandisfield to Windham, Greene County, New York.
I have searched at length for John in the 1810 Census. I have not been successful in discovering John Parsons (Jr.) in the 1810 Census. I believe he is probably living with one of his children in Greene County, New York. As such, if I research each of his wife and all of his children, I may well find John living in someone else’s household.
John Parsons died on 7 April 1813 in Windham, Greene County, New York. He was buried in section 1 at the Pleasant Valley Cemetery (also known as the Ashland Cemetery), about 2 and a half miles west of Windham. He was survived by hie wife, Mary, all seven of his children, and his father.
Events by Location
Massachusetts, Berkshire County, Sandisfield Town – 1764 thru 1801 – Birth, childhood, marriage, and birth of his first five children.
New York, Greene County, Windham – 1802-1813 – births of his two youngest children and his death.
New York, Green County, Ashland – 1813 – Burial at Pleasant Valley (aka Ashland) Cemetery.
Further Actions / Follow-up
Research each of John’s children and both his and his wife’s siblings for their location during the 1810 Census. Were John and Mary with them.
Sometimes you encounter sources that don’t make sense. Recently, I encounter several trees that identified John Parsons being in the American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI), Volume 131, Page 462, and that the AGBI was the source. The AGBI isn’t really a source, rather, it is a finding aid. It is an index that points to actual sources. In this case, it directed the researcher to “Heads of fams. at the first U.S. census. Ms. By U.s. Bureau of the Census. Washington, 1908. (363p.): 34.”
Heads of Families – 1790 Census – Massachusetts:
Page 34, Column 1, Persons 3 & 4 show John Parsons, Jr. & John Parsons (Sr.) in Sandisfield Town, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.[i]
Parsons, John, Jr. 1 1 1
1 Male 16 & Older John Jr. (Head of Household) 1 Male < 16 Appears to be Samuel born 1789 1 Female Apparently Mary, John’s wife.
Parsons, John [Sr.] 2 2 5
2 Males 16 & Older
John (Head of Household)
Possibly Simon (17), Timothy (21), or Ashbel (24)
(Note: Frederick died before 1790)
(Note: John, Jr., was enumerated above.)
2 Males < 16
Apparently Gibson (age 8)
Apparently, Frederick (age 6)
Clearly John’s 2nd wife, Mercy
Apparently daughter Sally (age 2)
Apparently daughter Mercy (age 12)
Apparently daughter Martha (age 15)
Possibly Roxey (age 23), or Mary (age 29)
(Note: John’s daughter, Hanna, died before 1790.)
John Junior’s household exactly fits expectations for his household in 1790.
John (Senior’s) household fits expectations for John with his second wife (Mercy) and their children. Plus, there are several individuals in the household The only household individuals of question are several of his children from his first marriage. Which were still at home and which had either moved out or had died.
Neither Simon, Timothy, nor Ashbel appear to be enumerated elsewhere. So, the second male over 16 could be any of them.
Likewise, I haven’t found any records for marriages or deaths for John’s daughters, Roxey or Mary, so the fifth female could be either of them.
Search for Simon, Timothy, and Ashbell in other records for 1790 to eliminate them from being in the household of John Parsons, Senior.
Search for marriage records for Roxey and Mary. If married before 1790, verify if they might be in the census record of their husband(s).
Search for evidence of death for Roxey, Mary, Simon, Timothy, or Ashbell prior to 1790. Eliminate them as being in John Parsons Senior’s household in 1790.
By Don Taylor
Microfilm, 1728095, microfilmed by the Genealogical Society, Salt Lake City, Utah at the Town Hall, Sandisfield, Massachusetts provide a treasure of information regarding the various families of Sandisfield. Image 377, (Page 335) provides two entries regarding my Parsons ancestors. Although Family Search provides a great index to the pages, they don’t really come to life until you can look at entries directly and see the patterns of these people’s lives.
Highways, Births, Deaths, Marriages, Town Records, Miscellaneous Records of Sandisfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts[ii]
Samuel son to John Parsons Junior & Mary his wife was born 5 April 1789 Polly Daughter to Do [iii] was born 17 January 1792. Orrin son to Do was born 6 March 1794 John son to Do was born 5 May 1796 Charles son to Do was born 1 Dec 1799 PARSONS
Mary Daughter to Lt John Parsons & Hannah his wife was born 28 September 1761. Hannah Daughter to Lt. John Parsons & Hannah his wife was born 5 May 1763. John son to Do was born 18 November 1764 Ashbel born to Do was born 19 April 1766. Boney Daughter to Do was born 18 Aug 1867 Timothy son to Do was born 1 September 1769. Frederick son to Do was born 1st May 1771 (Frederick Died 23 August 1777. Simeon son to Do was born 26 April 1773 Martha Daughter to Do was born 29 Mar 1775 | Hannah wife to Lt John Parsons Died 26 May 1777 Mercy Daughter to Lt. John Parson & Mary his wife was born 24 October 1778 Gibson son to Do was born 26 March 1782 Joseph son to Do was born 23 April 1784 | Joseph died 17 September 1786 Frederick son to Do was born 22 July 1786 Sally, Daughter to Do was born 21 August 1788 Sally died 20 January 1793
PARSONS – Lt. John Parsons died March AD 1821 age 84.
These entries provide for the clear understanding of the two John Parsons families,
Children of John Parsons, Jr & Mary his wife
Samuel son born 5 April 1789
Polly daughter born 17 January 1792
Orrin son born 6 March 1794
John son born 5 May 1796
Charles son born 1 Dec 1799
Children of Lt. John Parsons & Hannah, his wife.
Mary daughter born 28 September 1761.
Hannah daughter born 5 May 1763.
John son born 18 November 1764
Ashbel son born 19 April 1766.
Boney daughter born 18 Aug 1867
Timothy son born 1 September 1769.
Frederick son born 1st May 1771 Died 23 August 1777.
Simeon son born 26 April 1773
Martha daughter born 29 Mar 1775
Hannah died 26 May 1777
Children of Lt. John Parsons and Mary, his wife.
Mercy Daughter born 24 October 1778
Gibson son born 26 March 1782
Joseph son born 23 April 1784 Died 17 September 1786
Frederick son born 22 July 1786
Sally Daughter born 21 August 1788 Died 20 January 1793
[i] John Newmark started the “Amanuensis Monday” category in 2009 on his Blog, Transylvanian Dutch and many bloggers have followed suit using the tag. Google provides the following meaning for amanuensis: “A literary or artistic assistant, in particular one who takes dictation or copies manuscripts.”
[ii] “Massachusetts, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1626-2001,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q29L-DWB6 : 18 February 2020), citing Birth, Sandisfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts, United States, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, Boston; FHL microfilm 004267208.
[iii] “Do” is used throughout the original document to signify “Ditto,” In this case “John Parsons Junior and Mary his wife.”
I never imagined I’d have an ancestor that there is just too much information available. Amazingly, I have more information about Chester Parsons and his life than I can keep up with. Ancestry, suggests there are 85 Ancestry Hints and 13 other public Ancestry Member Trees relating to Chester Parsons. Admittedly, five of those Ancestry Hints are from me because of one of those old trees, but still 80 Hints is more than I recall seeing elsewhere. I went through all of them, several weren’t clearly my Chester Parsons (1799-1887) and appeared to have been other Chesters. But still, there were a couple items I hadn’t seen before including a photo of Chester. I have several sources of information that I didn’t add to my tree because they didn’t add any new detail, instead confirmed information that I already had. But still, I ended up using 21 sources for information about Chester’s life.
5th Great-grandfather: 204. John Parsons (1764-1813)
6th Great-grandfather: 408. John Parsons Sr. (1737/38-1821)
Chester Parsons (1799-1887)
Chester Parsons was born on 1 December 1799, the fifth child of John Parsons, Jr. and Mary Wolcott, in Sandisfield, Berkshire County, Massachusetts.
Chester’s siblings included:
Samuel – Born 5 Apr 1787
Polly – Born 17 Jan 1792
Orrin – Born 6 Mar 1794
John – Born 5 May 1796
Sometime shortly after his birth and before 1802, the family moved from Massachusetts to Windham, Greene County, New York. In April 1813, Chester’s father, John, died. It appears that older brothers Samuel and Orrin established their own households by the 1820 Census. I have not been successful determining where Chester, his sister Polly, his brother John or his mother, Mary, were during the 1820 Census. I suspect they were living with another family member whose surname was not Parsons.
Chester married Deborah Buel Maben on 26 November 1824 in Greene County, New York.
They had eight children
Lucinda Born 1825 in New York
James Born 1826 in Michigan
Mary Electa Born 1828 in Michigan
Alfred David Born 1830 in Michigan
Harriet Eliza Born 1832 in Michigan
E. W. Born 1833 in Michigan
Sarah Jane Born 1833 in Michigan
Melissa Born 1843 in Michigan
In May 1826, Chester and his brother, Orrin headed west to Michigan Territory. The two of them purchased 160 acres of land in Saline Township on 1 November 1826. They built the first mill in the area as well as the first frame house.
The 1830 Census found Chester as the head of the household consisting of two males and three females. On 1 August 1831, Chester purchased 78.24 acres of land, and in 1837 he bought another 80 acres.
The 1840 Census found Chester’s household consisting of four males and six females. There is one male, age 50 to 60 and one female age 20 to 30 that are unknown and do not appear to be Chester’s children.
The 1850 Census finds the Chester Parsons household consisting of Chester, his wife, five of his daughters, one son, and four unrelated farm hands, although Zebe Fuller would marry his daughter Harriet. Chester’s real property was valued at $7,800.
The 1860 Census finds a prosperous Chester Parsons living with his wife and two daughters. Also living in the household are two young females, ages 19 and 22 who are domestics as well as three farm laborers. Chester’s real property was valued at $12,500.
The 1870 Census finds Chester and his wife, Deborah, living alone. His real estate is valued at $21,000 and his personal property at $5,000.
Deborah died in 1874 at the age of 69. They had been married for nearly 50 years.
Chester remarried on 11 November 1875 to the Widow Wakefield. Chester’s second wife, Jennette Arnold Wakefield, was 24 years younger than Chester.
The 1880 Census finds Chester and Jennett living together in Saline, Chester was 80 and Jennett was 56 and keeping house.
Chester died on 7 June 1887. He was buried at Benton Cemetery, in Plot 30 next to his first wife.
Chester’s property went through probate. Many of his children and grandchildren were mentioned in the various probate documents. There were auctions of his property as well. At one auction, on November 28th, 1890, 52 acres wheat on the ground sold for $6.95 per acre. Also, and a large number of farm implements. Sixty acres of timberland was sold to Sturm and Reeves. Also sold at the auction were 12 cows, 16 head young cattle, and seven horses,
Because Chester was an early pioneer in Saline Township he is often mentioned in various historical books, such as The History of Washtenaw County, and newspaper articles long after his death. According to them Orrin and Chester built the first sawmill in town in 1827, two miles south of the village. There is another story where Chester and Orrin were concerned that someone else might purchase the land they wanted, so they walked by an old Indian trail through the night to Monroe to acquire the property. Chester became the postmaster for Benton in 1835 and cut a road from Saline to Tecumseh road. He kept a hotel before the railroad was completed to Ann Arbor.
Page 437 of The History of Washtenaw County provides a portrait of Chester Parsons. (See above.)
Likewise, page 105 of York, Saline, Ypsilanti, Lyndon, Sharon (Mich.) Township residences, ca. 1874, provides an image of Chester Parsons’ house in Saline. (See above.)
I’ve found a photo of Chester, a birth record, a death record, two marriage records, presumably him in the 1800 Census and through all the Census records in his adult life, 1830 through 1880. I’ve found photos of his home, Bureau of Land Management records of his land purchases, his probate records, and maps showing his property during various years. Finally, stories about his life and activities abound. His was a life well lived and I am proud to be descended from him.
Further Actions / Follow-up
The History of Washtenaw County, page 1406, indicates that Chester’s wife Deborah wrote a history of their move from New York to Michigan what recounted the “hardships and privations of their early pioneer life.” Apparently, she did not complete it, but I would love to find a copy of whatever might have survived from that writing.
I have so many sources for Chester Parsons, I’ve decided to abbreviate the sources so that the sources aren’t longer than the article. Additional detail is available; however, the information provided should be sufficient to find the record.
1800 Census – John Parsons Jr. – Sandisfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts (3rd from bottom).
1830 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan Territory/
1840 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1850 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1860 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1870 Census – Chester Parson – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
1880 Census – Chester Parsons – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan
Daughters of the American Revolution, “Ancestor Search,” DAR, Buell, Grover – Patriot: A016639 – Member: Ruth Evelyn Hill Carr
Daughters of the American Revolution, “Ancestor Search,” DAR, Maben, John – Patriot: A072838 – Member: Ruth Evelyn Hill Carr
Chas. C. Chapman & Co. (2012). History of Washtenaw County, Michigan: Together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens: history of Michigan: embracing accounts of the pre-historic races, aborigines, French, English and American conquests, and a general review of its civil, political and military history – Pages 1370, 1371, 1373, & 1405.
Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620 – Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011 – Parsons.
Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950 Ancestry.com – Chester Parsons – Died: 7 Jun 1887.