Theodore Parker.

Genealogy and biographical notes of John Parker of Lexington and his descendants: Showing his earlier ancestry in America from Dea. Thomas Parker of Reading, Mass., from 1635 to 1893 online

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Online LibraryTheodore ParkerGenealogy and biographical notes of John Parker of Lexington and his descendants: Showing his earlier ancestry in America from Dea. Thomas Parker of Reading, Mass., from 1635 to 1893 → online text (page 18 of 47)
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named, and by practice, said he, you can so impress your
mind as to remember them in order a long time. Young Amos
found this to be practical, and he afterwards memorized in
this manner. Up to this day he retains a tenacious memory,
almost incredible for one of his extreme age. In his law
practice this was very useful, as a conversation once heard he
could repeat exactly, with no omissions or additions, and
he still delights in repeating the conversations of his distin-
guished friends of the olden time. His anecdotes seem with-.


out number and are all interesting. After outgrowing Mr.
Sabin's country school at Fitzwilliam he entered the New
Ipswich Academy. He graduated from the Academy in 1809,
83 years ago ! He then prepared for college and entered the
sophomore class of the University of Vermont in Burlington,
a year and a half ahead.

" I was deemed an unusually ready writer and composer and
would finish a long composition in a short time. Although I
might have a greater flow of words than others my composi-
tions cost me many hours of intense thought. Be it known to
all young men that no one is born a scholar, but to be one
costs much time and labor.

"War with England was declai-ed on the i8th day of June,
1812, and in a short time the town was full of soldiers. When
I left at Commencement, in 1813, it was said there were seven
thousand men. Captain Ezekiel Jewett of Rugby, afterwards
Colonel, was then in command of a company. He was an
early acquaintance of mine and often called at my room in
college. He said he could assist me at an}'^ time when the
army was not drilling or marching to visit the camp ground on
the lake shore. All I had to do was to call on the officer of
the day and call for Captain Jewett. He would come, take
me over the lines and show all I wished to see in the camp.
By his aid I witnessed many scenes new to me, some of which
were painful. Not to go into all the particulars, I witnessed
the pardon of two soldiers sentenced to be shot for desertion,
two actually shot and one hanged. And that sufficed for a
long life for I never have witnessed another execution.

"The Yankees had fitted up two sloops of war and the British
had done the same thing and came out to Burlington and com-
menced firing at long shot, a challenge for a fight. The
Yankees had pluck, hoisted all sail and bore down upon them.
The British ships retreated, the wind was strong from the
south and the Yankee ships gained upon them as they passed
down the lake out of sight. Soon after we heard the boom-
ing of cannon in one continued roar for a few minutes and then
all was silent. A short battle and complete victory on one
side or the other. It was some days before we heard of the
result, and then the Yankee sailors returned chop-fallen and


mad. They had been fooled and lost their ships. The
British ships had come out merely as a decoy, not intending
any battle on the water, but went down the lake where it was
narrow and the vessels must pass near the shore. All of a
sudden a masked battery on the land opened upon them ; that
a surrender or cut to pieces was the only alternative. The
British then had command of the lake and in a few days came
out to Burlington with quite a fleet, the Yankee ships among
them. No ships to meet them, but the Yankees had not been
idle. Forty cannons had been placed on the lake shore, some
of large size, to defend the city of Burlington. I was in the
bell-deck of the college, some four hundred feet above the
lake, and had a tine view of the whole scene. The British
fleet came on slowly and with great caution. When about
near enough to hit the city a flag of truce was hoisted on one
of the ships, and a boat started for the shore. The American
commander despatched a similar boat to meet it. They met,
and in five minutes each boat returned to its own place.
Immediatel}^ after the return of the boats the British gave a
broadside, but the balls fell short, came nearer and fired again,
the balls reached the shore. Then it was the Yankees gave
them shot and shell from forty cannons on the shore. It is
said that our guns were masked, except two or three, so that
the British were not aware of their existence. Although the
battle was more than a mile away I could see the balls in the
air and when they struck the ships or water. The first volley
cut sails of the ships and the ships also, and immediatelj'^ a
retreat was ordered, but as they were sailing vessels with a
light wind their movements were slow, and as the guns from
the shore continued firing the ships were more or less damaged.
Soon they were at a safe distance, moved up into Shelburne
Bay, took two or three small vessels there, and sailed back to
Canada. A bloodless battle it seemed and no great mischief
done, and yet it was an attractive scene from the place where
I stood. Indeed, I know of no more splendid scene than at
the balcony of the college. On the west the city, lake, islands
and mountains beyond ; on the east a long chain of the Green
Mountains ; and on the south and north an extended view of
mountains and plains. But what is war? With all its glitter-


ing show and splendor it is but a savage affair, costing many
lives and much property, and settles nothing.

" On Sundays the troops were under arms and marched miles
away for exercise. As viewed from the college seven thou-
sand men in platoons occupied two miles in length on the

" I never knew before what exhilarating music the drum and
fife could make. The instruments seemed all in tune together
and all together poured forth such a flood of music that would
start a man into action if there was any life in him.

" I shortly entered into partnership with Maj. Pearson, a suc-
cessful merchant of my native town. But in the fall of 1815 I
decided to change my place and occupation. I travelled by
stage to Albany, on to New York in the boat and to Philadel-
phia in the stage. From there to Baltimore in the stage and
steamboat and without stopping passed on to Washington city
in the stage. The war was over but we passed signs of the
battle at Bladensburg, for the British soldiers had been so
slightly buried that red coats, here and there, stuck out of the
ground. At Washington city the capitol had been blown up
and was in ruins. At Alexandria a man was employed to find
a northern man to teach a planter's family living near Fred-
ericksburg in Virginia. I passed on to Fredericksburg and
soon found my place of destination, Holly Wood, on the
northern neck, as the strip of land was called, between Chesa-
peake Bay and the Rappahannock river. The planter had
some 300 slaves and 1,500 acres of land. I had a neat log
school-house, well painted and finished inside, and eight

"In the beginning of the school I practiced the usual form
of school-keeping in New England, but as I had only a few
scholars and a year or more to teach, soon concluded to im-
prove on the old plan as much as I could. New England
schools were then, if not now, governed by strict authority,
but I was determined to govern by kindness and succeeded
even beyond my expectations. I soon gained the confidence
and affection of all the scholars, for they found I was their
true friend and anxious for their enjoyment of all rational
pleasures. I aided them in getting and understanding their


lessons, told them stories to illustrate and explain a sentiment ;
taught them the use of words, how to write and improve the
memory, and then the duty of leading a true honest life and
never needlessly giving any one pain, even to animals. Some-
times I joined them in walks over the plantation, looked on to
see them play marbles and told them pleasant stories. In
short, I had a model school, and the two years of my life
were pleasant and as happy as they could be under the cir-

" On the 4th of July, 1816, I delivered an oration at a barbe-
cue in a grove at Falmouth, Va. The performance was highly
spoken of at the time, and a splendid notice appeared in the

"I had a desire to see more of the State of Virginia before I
left and bought a horse to take a trip and visit some of the
beautiful scenes so well described in Jefferson's ' Notes on
Virginia.' I passed over the Blue Ridge at Ashby Gap and
had a splendid view of the Shenandoah Valley : went to Har-
per's Ferry, where the Potomac and Shenandoah meet and
rush through the mountain, and where the United States
Armory was in full operation. Satisfied with viewing this
romantic spot I passed on through Charlestown, Winchester,
Woodstock, New Market, to Port Republic and stopped at the
hotel near the Wier and Madison caves. They are both in
the same mountain and I visited them both. Wier's cave is
much the larger and goes into the mountain half a mile.
Madison's cave is well described by Mr. Jefferson, but Wier's
was unknown in his day. Monticello, Mr. Jefierson's seat, is
on a fine mountain, five miles distant from Charlottesville,
and a branch of the Rappahannock river rushes by its base.
Mr. Jefferson had a saw- and grist-mill on the stream, and I
had a fine view of him there superintending his workmen.
Montpelier, Mr. Madison's seat, is 20 miles north and his
house stands a mile from the road."

Returning to New Hampshire Mr. Parker began the prac-
tice of law in Epping, N. H. Devoting a similar interest and
thoroughness to this work, as was characteristic of him as a
student and teacher, he achieved immediate success ; won
every case of law while there and soon enjoyed a large prac-


tice. At this time Isaac Hill published the New Hampshire
Patriot, which had a large circulation and great influence.
In an arbitrary manner the editor had so much offended some
of the leading men of his own party that they started a sheet
at Concord called the New Hampshire Statesman and wished
to find an editor of sufficient power to successfully combat the
Patriot. Mr. Parker was urged to accept this charge and he
proved to be the proper man for the place. In regard to his
life as editor he says :

"I left Epping with regret, for I had been very successful
in law business and had many good friends, and felt I was
leaving a certainty for an uncertainty, and so it proved, finan-
cially, but politically a success. At Concord I made a thorough
investigation of the condition I had assumed and found I had
a hard task before me. Isaac Hill was lord of all he surveyed,
his paper had a large circulation and was full of advertise-
ments. He did much more printing than his newspaper, was
successful in business, had grown rich and asked no favors.
And I, single handed, was expected to meet and successfully
contend against such odds.

"Before I had time fairly to begin he made an onslaught on
the Statesman and attempted to crush me at a blow. But in
the end he had reason to feel discretion was the better part of
valor, for the Statesman carried the State three successive times
against him on the Governor and on the election of President
of the United States. But I do not claim to be the author of
all the vigorous editorials that were published in the New
Hampshire Statesman. Ezekiel Webster, the brother of
Daniel, freely wielded his vigorous pen, and one article.,
which caused a great sensation, was written by Daniel Web-
ster, himself. Even the great lawyer, Jeremiah Mason, then
of Portsmouth, N. H., lent a helping hand.

"'The war was carried into Africa,' and Mr. Hill at last
treated me with due respect, showed me kind attentions and
when I left Concord, bade me a friendly adieu.''

In 1824 and 1825 Col. Parker was aid-de-camp to Gov.
Morrill, during which time he rendered conspicuous service.
Soon after Gen. Lafayette arrived in Boston in 1824 Col.
Parker received an order from the Governor to invite the


General to visit the Granite State and to escort him from Bos-
ton to Concord, N. H. Lafayette had won the affection
of all patriotic citizens, and was held by our people in the
highest esteem of any man of foreign birth. It is little won-
der that Col. Parker became very interested in his famous
guest. The General once told him, in the best of good na-
ture, that he was the most inquisitive man he had found in
America. When about to depart from Concord, Lafayette,
placing his arm around Mr. Parker and pressing him to his
side, gave him a cordial invitation to visit him at his home in
France. The Colonel thus describes his experience in the
performance of his official duty :

"On the 2ist of June, 1825, five days after the celebration at Bunker Hill,
during which Gen. Lafayette placed the mortar on which the corner-stone was
laid, I was in Boston prepared to escort the General to Concord. Besides the
General, there were his son, George Washington Lafayette, his private secre-
tary, Emile Lavassiur, and a servant.

" I had three carriages, a barouche drawn by four horses, a four-horse stage
coach, and a two-horse covered carriage for baggage. When I was ready to
call at the General's lodgings for him, an aid of the Governor of Massachu-
setts informed me that the honor of the State required that he should escort
the guest to the State line at Methuen ; so there was nothing for me to do
but keep out of their way till that place was reached.

"Just then a Revolutionary veteran from Vermont who had attended the
Bunker Hill celebration, and had been left by the stage, begged me for a ride
as far as Concord. I took him in, unsuspicious of the consequences of my
act, till we reached Maiden.

"There we were welcomed by a great crowd, the bells ringing and cannon
firing, bands playing, and people shouting, 'Welcome Lafayette.' They took
the soldier at my side for Lafayette.

"I drove right into the crowd and said: 'This is not Gen. Lafayette; he
will be here in an hour. This is an old Revolutionary veteran — give him
three cheers, please.'

"They did so with a will. The veteran saluted and we passed on. On the
way I had to make more than ten speeches before we reached Methuen.

"When the General arrived at Methuen he entered my barouche, the old
soldier retiring to the stage coach. The General laughed heartily at my ex-
perience in speech-making, and laughingly proposed that for the rest of the
way we alternate in making speeches, in order that he might have a rest.

"At all hotels, stores, villages and cross roads crowds had assembled to
greet him. It was June and roses were abundant, and our carriage frequently
became so encumbered with them that we were forced to unload them in
solitary places. In every crowd men, women and children pressed enthusi-
astically forward, babies being frequently presented for the General to kiss.

" At one place a middle-aged woman put her arm about his neck and kissed
him on the cheek, he returning the compliment. The air rang with applause
and cheers, and all along the route the General would rise in the carriage,


wave his hat and return thanks tor the attentions, but he made no formal
address till he reached Concord."

"For the evening reception the capitol and surrounding
buildings were illuminated and a vast throng attended. At this
levee I introduced my wife and tirst-born child, announcing
his name to be George Washington. He shook hands with the
wife, took the child in his arms, impressed a kiss on its
cheek, looked at the mother and then at the child, and in a
subdued voice said : ' I am reminded of the loved and the lost.'
I knew he was thinking of his own beloved wife, his first born
child and his noble friend, Washington — all dead!"

Many years later Mr. Parker published his reminiscences
of that eventful trip in his '"Recollections of General Lafay-
ette," a work of great interest and of much historical value.
His memory of the occasion and of the General is clear and
distinct and his conversation concerning them is extremely

In 1826 he removed to New Market, N. H., where he
practiced law, taking a very active part in the social alfairs of
the place, and charged no fee for enforcing justice for those not
possessed of worldly goods. He was very determined in his
work of reform and the town of New Market owes much to
his attentive interest and able leadership. It soon became
known that the new lawyer would vindicate rights, money or
no money. Speaking of his experience there he says :

" I then became aware how one man could chase a thousand
tipplers and vagabonds, for they scattered and went elsewhere,
as they found it was no place for them. It was manifest that
the village had improved and that good order had taken the
place of disorder and drunkenness."

At this time very little was known of the country west of
the Mississippi. Col. Parker decided to devote a part of his
life in exploring some of this large territory, stories about
which were mostly conjecture, and make his trip of service to
the public on his return. Even concerning what is now Mich-
igan, Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana and Texas very little was
definitely known. He writes as follows :

"1 took the stage to Albany and then the canal-boat to Buffalo.
Visited Niagara Falls, Detroit, and went by stage 200 miles to


St. Joseph on Lake Michigan and by boat to Chicago. There,
in company with three young men, took a team and explored
the upper portion of the State of lUinois as far as Rock
river, then southerly to Peoria and then on steamboat to St.
Louis. I rode in a steamboat to Natchez and from there on
horseback into Texas beyond the Colorado river. I returned
to the sea-coast at Velasco and sailed in a vessel to New
Orleans. From there I came in a sailing vessel to Boston and
home at Exeter ; having been absent about five months, and
travelled by land and water eight thousand miles.

" At this time emigration was rapidly increasing to the South
and West. Many letters of inquiry were addressed to me and
I at once wrote the book entitled 'Trip to the West and
Texas.' The first 500 copies were so readily sold that a sec-
ond edition was called for. Forty thousand copies were struck
oft' and sold in a short time."

The book was very eagerly read by all. The following
extract from his active pen, shows his interesting style, and
the able manner in which he treated matters of deep research
and thought. The second edition was published by William
White of Concord, N. H., and B. B. Muzzey of Boston, Mass.,
in 1836, more than half a century ago.

"By diligent research," writes Col. Parker, "I have found
one solitary copy, and in looking it over I find it so completely
out of date that the southern and western portions of the United
States have so completely changed that the book is useless
now, as it can give no certain information of the present con-
dition of the country. One thing, however, seems to be the
same now as then, the great Mississippi valley, its rivers and
tributaries, and, therefore, I copy an extract on that subject:

"The Mississippi river, which imparts a name and character to the great
valley of the West, claims something more than passing notice. It rises in
about the 48th parallel of latitude in wild rice lakes and soon becomes a large
river. Sometimes it moves silently along over a wide, muddy channel, at
others it glides swiftly over a sandy, and its waters as transparent as air, and
again it becomes compressed to a narrow channel between high limestone
cliffs, and foams and runs as it lashes the projecting rocks and struggles
through. The Falls of St. Anthony, following the course of the river, is
three hundred miles from its source. It is about half a mile wide and falls
eighteen feet. Above the mouth of the Missouri its numerous large tributa-
ries are the Wisconsin and Illinois from the east, and the Des Moines from



the west. A little below 39° dashes in the Missouri river from the west, is a
longer stream and carries more water than the Mississippi. Undoubtedly
this is the largest tributary stream in the world, and from the facts that it has
a longer course and carries more water, and gives its peculiar character to the
united stream, it is claimed it ought to have given its name to the united
stream and great valley of the West. In opposition to this claim it may be
stated that the valley of the Missouri appears to be secondary to the Missis-
sippi, has not the general direction of that river, joins it at right angles, and
the direction of the Mississippi is the same above and below the junction.
From these considerations it seems the Mississippi rightfully gives its name
to the united stream and to the gi-eat valley from its source to the sea.

"The Missouri rises in the Rocky Mountains, nearly on the same parallel
as the Mississippi itself It is formed of three branches, called Jefferson,
Madison and Gallatin, and the head waters of some of these are not more
than a mile from the Columbia river which empties into the Pacific Ocean.
These streams unite at the base of the mountain and become a foaming tor-
rent, and is full of islands. It then passes through what is called 'The Gates
of the Rocky Mountains.' The river appears to have torn for itself a passage
for six miles through the mountains, and perpendicular cliff's of rock rise
twelve hundred feet above the stream ; the chasm is not more than three
hundred feet wide, and the deep, foaming waters rush through with the speed
of a race horse. For seventeen miles the stream becomes an almost continued
cataract. The first fall is ninety-eight feet, the second nineteen, the third
forty-seven, the fourth twenty-six. The river in a few miles assumes its dis-
tinctive character, sweeps briskly along in regular curves through limestone
bluffs, boundless prairies and dark forests to its junction with the Mississippi.
It has a current of four miles an hour, but is navigable for steamboats twenty-
five hundred miles.

"The tributaries of the Mi.ssouri are many and large, the most important
are the Yellow Stone, La Platte and the Ossage. The Yellow Stone rises in
the same range of mountains as the main river, to which it has many points
of resemblance. It enters the Missouri from the south eighteen hundred
miles above its mouth and at the junction appears to be the largest river. It
is sixteen hundred miles in length and boatable one thousand. Its shores are
generally heavily timbered, its bottoms are wide and of the richest soil.
Here the government has selected as a suitable place for a military post and
an extensive park.

"The La Platte also rises in the Rocky Mountains, enters from the south,
and measured by its meanders is two thousand miles in length. It is a broad,
shallow stream, a mile wide at its mouth and not navigable except at high

"The Ossage also enters from the south and is a large stream, boatable six
hundred miles, and its headwaters interlock with the river Arkansas.

"The Gasconade enters from the south also, boatable for sixty miles and
has on its banks extensive pine forests from which St. Louis is supplied with

"The Missouri, measured from its highest source to the Gulf of Mexico, is
longer than the Mississippi, and brings down more water, although it is not
more than half as wide. It is at all times turbid or muddy, and gives to that
river its own complexion. It dashes into the Mississippi fifteen miles above
St. Louis, and gives its four-mile current to that stream to its mouth.


" Nearly two hundred miles below St. Louis comes in from the east the
beautiful Ohio. At its junction it is as wide as the parent stream and far
exceeds it in beauty, for it has clear water and a smooth and peaceful cur-
rent. It is formed bv the junction of the Alleghany and Monongahela at
Pittsburgh. Beautiful streams come in on both sides in its course of eleven
hundred miles to its mouth. And between these two points are a hundred
islands, the most noted and beautiful is Blenerhassett Island of a hundred and
eighty acres.

"Below the Ohio the most important tributaries are the White river,
Arkansas and Red river, all entering from the west. The White river rises
in the Black Mountains and is twelve hundred miles in length. The Arkan-
sas, next to the Missouri, is the next largest tributary from the west, and
twent\'-five hundred miles in length. Its waters are at all times turbid and
when the river is full are of a dark flame color.

" Eighty miles below Natchez comes in from the west Red river, though
not as wide as the Arkansas it has as long a course and probably carries as

Online LibraryTheodore ParkerGenealogy and biographical notes of John Parker of Lexington and his descendants: Showing his earlier ancestry in America from Dea. Thomas Parker of Reading, Mass., from 1635 to 1893 → online text (page 18 of 47)