52 Ancestors – Week 2018-16
By Don Taylor
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.
Brown-Roberts Research 2017 – Ancestor #102
List of Grandparents
- Grandfather: 6. Clifford Brown | aka Richard Earl Durand | aka Richard Earl Brown
- 1st Great-grandfather: 12. Arthur Durwood Brown (1869-1928)
- 2nd Great-grandmother: 25. Marion Sanford (1846- c. 1895)
- 3rd Great-grandmother: 51. Mary E Parsons (1828-1888)
- 4th Great-grandfather: 102. Chester Parsons (1799-1887)
- 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.
- Michigan, Marriage Records, 1867-1952, Ancestry.Com. – Chester Parsons – Jennett Wakefield.
- The Saline Observer (Saline, MI)– Various repositories:
- 1882-08-17, Page 3, Column 2, Para 16
- 1890-11-20, Page 7 – Auctions – Chester Parsons
- 1890-12-04, Page 5, Column 2, Paragraph 6 – Chester Parsons
- 1890-12-18, Page 7, Column 3, Paragraph 19 – Chester Parsons
- 1897-06-24, Page 5, Column 2, bottom – Obit – Janette A Arnold [Parsons]
————– Disclaimer ————–
Thanks for sharing such a great story of Chester. I love it when there is almost too much information about an individual. Partly makes up for the ones that you have a name and not much else – partly! Chester lived a great life. What a great legacy for his descendants.
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