PARSONS FAMILY ASSOCIATION WESTERN REGIONS
6. Cornet Joseph Parsons (William ) was born on 25 Jun 1620 in Great Torrington, Devonshire, England. He was christened on 25 Jun 1620 in Beaminster, Dorsetshire, England St. Mary's Church. He died on 9 Oct 1683 in Springfield, , Mass..
CENTURIES OF PARSONS HONORED ON NORTHAMPTON TOMBSTONE
SINCE TIME HAS DIMMED OUR ANCESTOR'S NAMES ON THEIR STONES WE INSCRIBE THEM ON THIS MONUMENT THAT THEY NOT BE FORGOTTEN THE PARSONS FAMILY 1991 CORNET JOSEPH PARSONS 1620-1683 A FOUNDER OF NORTHAMPTON 1654 MARY BLISS HIS WIFE c1628-1712 BURIED IN SPRINGFIELD
JOSEPH PARSONS, ESQ. 1647-1729 NATHANIEL PARSONS 1686-1738
-----ELIZABETH STRONG 1648-1738 -----EXPERIENCE WRIGHT 1695-1715
CAPT. JOHN PARSONS 1650-1728 -----ABIGAIL BUNCE 1701-1789
-----SARAH CLARY 1659-1728 ATHERTON PARSONS 1698-1746
JONATHAN PARSONS 1657-1694 GIDEON PARSONS 1702-1759
-----MARY CLARK 1664-____ -----SARAH CLAPP 1705-1729
LT. JOHN PARSONS 1674-1748 MOSES PARSONS 1708-1746
-----SARAH ATHERTON 1676-1729 -----WAIT MILLER 1711-1731
-----HANNAH CLAPP MILLER 1681-1758 -----SARAH JAMES 1719-1784
CAPT. EBENEZER PARSONS 1675-1744 EPHRAIM PARSONS 1713-1799
-----MERCY STEBBINS 1685-1753 -----MARY SEARLE 1718-____
ELIZABETH PARSONS STRONG 1678-1763 BENJAMIN PARSONS 1716-1805
JOSIAH PARSONS 1682-1768 JOSEPH PARSONS 1722-1807
-----SARAH SHELDON 1688-1738 -----RACHEL KEET 1722-1805
ABIGAIL PARSONS CLARK 1690-1763 MERCY PARSONS KINGSLEY 1706-1772
NOAH PARSONS 1692-1779 SIMEON PARSONS 1731-1809
-----MINDWELL EDWARDS 1695-1775 -----CATHERINE PHELPS 1731-1798
SAMUEL PARSONS 1685-1708 JOSIAH PARSONS 1713-1796
ESTHER PARSONS ALVORD 1687-1707 -----PRUDENCE KELLOGG 1722-1791
LT. WILLIAM PARSONS 1690-1768 ISAAC PARSONS 1715-1799
-----MARY ASHLEY 1693-1759 -----LUCY STRONG 1722-1801
NAMES LISTED ON THE BACK OF THE MONUMENT
JACOB PARSONS 1719-1795 SIMON PARSONS 1769-1810
-----BEULAH HUNT 1723-1810 SUSANNA PARSONS 1778-1803
MARTHA PARSONS PHELPS 1727-1814 EUNICE PARSONS STODDARD 1751-1797
ELIZABETH PARSONS ALLEN 1716-1800 DEBORAH PARSONS 1755-1775
MINDWELL PARSONS SMEED 1718-1775 NAOMI PARSONS 1752-1794
RACHEL PARSONS CLAPP 1721-1762 ABIGAIL PARSONS GRAVES 1759-1796
NOAH PARSONS 1731-1814 PHINEAS PARSONS 1750-1825
-----PHEBE BARTLETT 1731-1805 -----MARY BAKER 1753-1825
MARGARET PARSONS HUTCHENS 1733-1814 DORCAS PARSONS EDWARDS 1759-1841
TIMOTHY PARSONS 1738-1822 JOSIAH PARSONS 1769-1847
-----MARTHA HUBBARD 1741-1799 -----SARAH STRONG 1771-1850
-----MARTHA BARTLETT MUNN 1739-1816 ISREAL PARSONS 1748-1818
SARAH PARSONS CLARK 1717-1747 -----MARY CLARK 1752-1814
LYDIA PARSONS CLAPP 1726-1755 EUNICE PARSONS WRIGHT 1753-1851
MARGARET PARSONS 1731-1774 AMASA PARSONS 1764-1798
SAMUEL PARSONS 1733-1812 -----HANNAH BARTLETT 1785-1845
-----LUCY POMEROY 1739-1782 KEIAH PARSONS PHELPS 1769-1852
ELISHA PARSONS 1731-1805 JUSTICE PARSONS 1773-1834
-----LUCY ALVORD 1740-1822 -----LYDIA CLARK 1780-1862
NATHANIEL PARSONS 1733-1807 MARTHA PARSONS BLISS 1779-1834
-----SARAH RUST 1739-1806 LUCY PARSONS CLARK 1771-1847
ASAHEL PARSONS 1738-1818 ELISHA PARSONS 1774-1843
-----REBECCA CLARK 1740-1814 -----PHOEBE HULBERT 1773-1845
SARAH PARSONS HUNT 1729-1765 NATHANIEL PARSONS 1769-1857
MOSES PARSONS 1731-1814 -----SARAH KING 1767-1805
-----MEHITABLE BRIDGMAN 1738-1822 -----MARTHA CLARK 1767-1856
MARTHA PARSONS 1753-1819 MARY PARSONS BARTLETT 1776-1857
JOSEPH PARSONS 1755-1803 EUNICE PARSONS BROWN 1782-1883
-----DOROTHY CLARK 1761-1832
OLIVER PARSONS 1760-1803
-----RHODA PARSONS 1760-1803
CATHERINE PARSONS GRAVES 1755-1833
Excerpted from:THE PARSONS HOUSE OF THE NORTHAMPTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY.Compiled by the Northampton Historical Society, about 1972. Published by Rosemary Press, Northampton in New England, MCMLXXII.
According to those tales, my birthplace stood on ground assigned to Cornet Joseph Parsons at the founding of Northampton in 1655. The area now bounded by Bridge Street, Market Street, Union Street, and Bridge Street Park was divided into three strips of about four acres each, stretching from Market Street to the Bridge Street Park. The middle strip was allotted to Cornet Joseph Parsons, and certainly thereon he erected his house, facing the swampy little stream that came to be called the Market Street Brook. This brook now lies buries deep beneath the railway tracks. When the grade crossing was eliminated and the level of Main and Bridge Streets was lowered at this point, the brook was exhumed temporarily in mire that hampered the laborers. On rising ground on the opposite side of the brook from Cornet Joseph's residence, ran the stockade enclosing the center of the settlement.Reference to this house may be found in Solomon Clark's annals of the First Congregational Parish. When Isaac Parsons Joined the church, the reverend Mr. Clark noted that the ancestral home of Isaac fronted Market Street, directly behind Isaac's house facing Bridge Street Park at the opposite end of the tract. Although I never saw this original mansion, it has been described to me by a man thirty years my senior, who remembered it well as "a great big structure, black with age, dilapidated from lack of care, and covered with vines." An elderly lady of that same generation also reported that as a girl she daily went along Market Street to her work. In passing the old house, she always hurried timidly because of its gloomy and ominous air. Cornet Joseph's wife Mary Bliss was accused of witchcraft. Although she was acquitted, possibly the episode made Northampton a not altogether pleasant abode for them. At any rate, they returned to live in Springfield, leaving the house to their eldest son, who became known as "Squire Joseph." Squire Joseph's oldest son "The Reverend Joseph," being a clergyman with a parish elsewhere, did not live in Northampton. Consequently, the ancestral home descended to Squire Joseph's second son Josiah, and grandson also Josiah.This latter Josiah married late, had three daughters but no son. The first daughter remained a spinster, the second married and removed to Williamstown, the third married Elisha Graves. Through her, ownership of the house passed into the Graves family, eventually to Henry Graves, who lived on Union Street, nearly opposite the County Jail. In 1884, Henry Graves demolished the old Cornet Joseph Parsons house to make way for a new street on that site: Graves Avenue now crosses the spot where Cornet Joseph erected his mansion. Reporting operations at the time, The Hampshire County Gazette refers to the building as "one of the oldest houses in town."
Settled in Springfield, Mass in 1636, Moved to Northampton, then back to Springfield.
(Settlers of Springfield, Mass.)
According to Henry Parsons (Parsons Family, Vol. 1, 1912) Joseph and his brother Benjamin migrated to the US in July 1635.
JOSEPH, Springfield, br. of the first Benjamin, witness to the deed from the Ind. to Pynchon, 15 July 1636, m. 26 Nov. 1646, Mary, d. of Thomas Bliss of Hartford, had Joseph, b. 1647; Benjamin, bur. 22 June 1659; John, 1649, d. soon; John, again 1650; and Samuel, 1653; rem. to Northampton, there had Ebenezer, 1 May 1655, who is said to be the first white b. there, and was k. by the Ind. at Northfield, 2 Sept. 1675; Jonathan, 6 June 1657; David, 30 Apr. 1659, d. young; Mary, 27 June 1661; Hannah, 1663; Abigail, 3 Sept. 1666; and Esther, 24 Dec. 1672. His w. charg. with witchcraft 1674, was sent to Boston, tr. in May 1675, and acquit. by the jury, liv. to 29 Jan. 1712. He was freem. 1669, cornet of the horse, one of the richest men in the town, rem. 1679 back to Springfield, and d. 9 Oct. 1683. Mary m. 1685, Joseph Ashley, and, next, 2 Mar. 1699, Joseph Williston; Hannah m. 6 Jan. 1688, Pelatiah Glover, jr. not his f. (as the Geneal. Reg. I. 266, says); Abigail m. 29 Feb. 1690, John Colton; and Esther m. 15 Sept. 1698, Rev. Joseph Smith, aft. of Middletown. *JOSEPH, Northampton, eldest ch. of the preced. m. 17 Mar. or 11 May 1669, Elizabeth d. of Elder John Strong, had Joseph, b. 28 June 1671, H. C. 1697, first of this surname in the Catal.; John, 11 Jan. 1674; Ebenezer, 11 Dec. 1675; Elizabeth 3 Feb. 1678; David, 1 Feb. 1680, H. C. 1705; Josiah, 2 Jan. 1682; Daniel, Aug. 1685; Moses, 15 Jan. 1687; Abigail, 1 Jan. 1690; and Noah, 15 Aug. 1692. He was freem. 1676, judge of the County Ct. rep. 1693, and sev. yrs. more, rem. to Springfield, was rep. 1706 and 8 for that town, back to N. and was rep. 8 yrs more, last in 1724, but not insequence, in all 14 yrs. and d. 21 or 29 Nov. 1729; and his wid. mo. of all those ten ch. ea. of wh. had fam. d. 12 May 1736.
CORNET JOSEPH PARSONS of Springfield,
Northampton, and Boston, MA
(Gary Parsons, Overseer)
CORNET JOSEPH PARSONS, one of the founders of Springfield and Northampton, Massachusetts, was baptized in St. Mary’s Church at Beaminster, Dorset, England, 25 June 1620, son of William and Margaret (Hoskins) Parsons. He came to New England about 1635, and died at Springfield 9 October 1683. He married at Hartford, Connecticut, 26 November 1646, MARY BLISS, who was born in England about 1628 and died at Springfield 29 January 1711/12, daughter of Thomas and Margaret (Hulins) Bliss of Gloucestershire, England, and later Hartford, Connecticut.
Children of Joseph Parsons and Mary Bliss:
JOSEPH, perhaps in Conn., Ca. 1647 - 21 or 29 Nov. 1729 (Overseer ______)
BENJAMIN, ? - 22 June 1649
JOHN, 14 Aug. 1650 - 19 April 1728 (Overseer ______)
SAMUEL, 23 Jan. 1652/3 - 19 Nov. 1734 (Overseer ______)
EBENEZER, 1 May 1655 - 2 Sept. 1675. (Overseer ______)
JONATHAN, 6 June 1657 - fall of 1694 (Overseer ______)
DAVID, 30 April 1659, d. young
MARY, 27 June 1661 - 23 Aug 1711
HANNAH, 1 Aug. 1663 - 1 April 1739
ABIGAIL, 3 Sept. 1666 - 27 June I689
ESTHER (recorded as Hester), 4 Dec. 1672 - 30 May 1760
NOTE: Cornet Joseph Parsons and Deacon Benjamin Parsons were the sons of William Parsons Sr. and Margaret Hoskins. They, Joseph & Benjamin, were born in Beaminster, Dorset, England and emigrated to New England. They had older brothers; Christopher, Thomas & William, and a sister Mary. All were born in Beaminster, Dorset, England. The Thomas Parsons of Windsor, CT is believed to have been the brother of Benjamin and Joseph, not proven. It is also believed that Joseph Parsons and William Parsons of Windsor/Simsbury, CT were the sons of William Parsons Jr. of Beaminster, Dorset, England. This would make Benjamin, Joseph and Thomas their uncles.
Joseph married Mary Bliss daughter of Thomas Bliss and Margaret Hulins on 26 Sep 1646 in Hartford, Springfield, Mass.. Mary was born about 1620 in of Rodborough, Gloucestershire, England. She died on 29 Jan 1712 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass. She was buried in Old Hadley Cemetery, Wilbraham, Hampden, Ma.
...in 1675 a Boston jury reached a verdict in the case of Mary Bliss Parsons of Northampton: they found her not guilty of witchcraft. In seventeenth-century New England, virtually everyone believed in witches. Hundreds of individuals faced charges of practicing witchcraft. They were women, or sometimes men, who had "signed the Devil's Book" and were working on his behalf. Their wickedness was blamed for calamities ranging from ailing animals to the death of infant children. While most of the accused never went to trial or were, like Mary Parsons, acquitted, not everyone was so lucky. Six Massachusetts women were hanged as witches in the years before the infamous Salem witch trials, which claimed 24 innocent lives. Colonial Massachusetts has a well-deserved reputation as a litigious culture; fortunately it was also a record-keeping one. County courthouses are full of 300 year-old documents — depositions, trial transcripts, judges' orders— that allow historians to reconstruct the stories of the people accused of witchcraft. One of the best documented, and most unusual, is the case of Mary Bliss Parsons of Northampton. Mary Bliss and Joseph Parsons married in Hartford in 1646. After several years in Springfield, the Parsons family, which now included three children, moved to Northampton, a brand new settlement some 20 miles up the Connecticut River. Joseph Parsons soon became one of Northampton's leading citizens. A successful merchant, he served as a selectman and on the committee to build the first meetinghouse. Since the Parsons also owned the first tavern in town, they were right in the thick of things. Another couple, Sarah and James Bridgman, followed a similar route but had a very different experience. They had also wed in Hartford, moved to Springfield, and then onto Northampton, where a feud developed between the families. Soon after arriving in Northampton, Mary Parsons gave birth to a son, the first English child born in the town. Sarah Bridgman had a baby boy the same month. When he died two weeks later, she claimed it was the result of Mary's witchcraft. Rumors began to swirl about the town. Joseph Parsons decided to go on the offensive. He charged James Bridgman with slander for spreading rumors about Mary Parsons's alleged witchcraft. Even though juries usually sided with the plaintiff in such cases, Joseph Parsons was taking a risk by bringing rumors to the attention of officials. Authorities might decide there was merit to the accusations, and the plaintiff could suddenly find herself the defendant. When the case was heard at the Magistrates' Court in Cambridge in October 1656, 33 depositions were given. Almost half of Northampton's 32 households sent a witness; a few others came from Springfield. Sarah Bridgman related her tale of how in May 1654 she heard a "great blow on the door" and immediately sensed a change in her newborn. Then she saw "two women pass by the door with white clothes on their heads." The women disappeared, and Bridgman concluded her son would die because "there [was] wickedness in the place." Other witnesses saw that same "wickedness" at work in other ways. One woman testified that the yarn she had spun for Mary Parsons ended up full of knots. Since the yarn the woman spun for others had no knots, the cause was Mary's witchcraft. Another woman blamed Mary Parson when her daughter fell ill shortly after she had refused to let the girl work for Parsons. One man stated that the day after "some discontent[ed] words passed" between himself and Mary Parsons, he found his cow in the yard "ready to die," which it did two weeks later. Such testimony was the norm in witch trials. An argument took place, and when something went awry later, people attributed the problem to witchcraft. For example, when six cattle froze to death in Topsfield one January, witchcraft was said to be the cause. Testimony was even given that a witch traveled from Amesbury through a raging storm and appeared at the accuser's door in Newbury dry. At Mary Parsons's trial, a number of people testified in her defense. Three women described Sarah Bridgman's baby as "sick as soon as it was born." A neighbor stated that the cow in question had died of "water in the belly." The court ruled in favor of the Parsons. The Bridgmans were given the choice of paying a fine or making a public apology. They paid the fine. The feud and Mary Parsons's ordeal were not over. Eighteen years later, in 1674, the Bridgmans' son-in-law filed a new complaint. He "strongly suspect[ed] that [his wife, the Bridgman's daughter] died by some unusuall meanes, viz, by means of some evell Instrument." The instrument he had in mind was Mary Bliss Parsons. On January 5, 1675, Mary was called before the county magistrates. Women chosen by the magistrates searched her body for "witch's teats," unexplained (to seventeenth-century eyes) protrusions where "imps" were said to suck. The record is silent as to what they did or did not find. In March, the Court of Assistants in Boston sent Mary Parsons to prison to await trial. The records from this trial do not survive, but we know that on May 13, 1675, the jury found her not guilty. The Parsons returned to Northampton, but in 1679 or 1680, they moved back to Springfield, perhaps to escape the rumors that continued to dog them. Mary Bliss Parsons was in her mid-80s when she died in 1712. Although Mary Parsons occupied a far more secure social position than almost all of the women charged with witchcraft in early New England —after all, she was the wife of one of the richest, most respected men in western Massachusetts — her experience fit the norm in many other ways. Middle-aged women were the most likely to be accused of witchcraft. The issues of jealousy, personal animosity, and family feuds that were so evident in her case would fuel the Salem witch hysteria <http://www.massmoments.org/index.cfm?mid=27> of 1692 as well. The horror that began in Salem Village (present day Danvers) and spread to almost every town in Essex county saw women, children, and men, including the former minister of Salem Village, hauled before magistrates. At one point some 170 accused witches were being held in jails in Ipswich, Salem, Boston, and Cambridge. Between June and September of 1692, authorities hanged 19 people and pressed one to death; four more died in prison, awaiting trial. In 1693 the madness ended. There would be no more convictions and executions for witchcraft in New England. It would take another century, however, for the widely held belief in witches to finally abate. Sources A Delusion of Satan, by Frances Hill (Da Capo Press, 1997). Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, by John Putman Demos (Oxford University Press, 1982). "The Goody Parsons Witchcraft Case: A Journey to Seventeenth-Century Northampton." Available online <http://ccbit.cs.umass.edu/parsons/hnmockup/>.
Mary Bliss and her husband, Cornet Joseph Parsons, lived in Longmeadow, Hampden Co., Mass. Mary was apparently high handed and haughty. Her speech was "forcible and she had domineering ways." When they had lived in Springfield, Mary had walked around at night and exhibited odd behavior. She would fall down, dead in her tracks and wake up flailing around and not know where she was. Mary and Joseph moved to Northhampton in 1656, and lived to regret it. Stories began to circulate about Mary from a visitor from Springfield. Before long, Mary was tried for witchcraft. After her acquital, Joseph sued for slander the woman most responsible for spreading the rumors about his wife. This was Sarah Bridgeman, who was arrested, fined 10 pounds, and ordered to retract her statements. But the bitterness continued between the Parsons and Bridgemans and in 1672, Sarah's daughter died after only 2 years of marriage. 2 years after her death, her bereaved husband accused Mary of witchcraft. Mary was in a Boston prison for 3 years before she was brought to trial, where once again, she was acquited after speaking on her own behalf.
Springfield Union News, 9-18-99
Meadow City Milestones, by Alice Manning
A History of Springfield for the Young 1923
Mary Bliss Parsons, wife of Cornet Joseph Parsons, daughter of Thomas and Margaret Bliss of Hartford, Ct., both very prominent families, was born in England about 1628 and came to this country with her parents when she was about eight years old. She was eleven or twelve when they decided on still another move, to the rude little settlement of Hartford. There for a time life stablized, and Mary grew to womanhood as an average member of an ordinary New England community. In 1646 she married Joseph Parsons, a successful merchant, and went to live in Springfield. Henceforth, her life would be increasingly set apart from the average.
In 1654 the Parsonses moved to Northampton. The family, which included eleven children, became members of the church. Local tradition has remembered Mary as being "possessed of great beauty and talents, but ... not very amiable ... exclusive in the choice of her associates, and ... of haughty manners."
In 1656, soon after the Parsons family moved to Northampton, Joseph Parsons brought an action for slander against Sarah Bridgeman, charging that Sarah had accused Mary, his wife, of being a witch. On the docket of the Middlesex County Court, for its session of October 7, 1656, is found the following entry: "Joseph Parsons, plaintiff, against Sarah, the wife of James Bridgman, defendant, in an action of the case for slandering her [Parson's wife] in her name. This action, by consent of both parties, was referred to the judgment of the Honored Bench of Magistrates." A separate document records the magistrates' finding in favor of the plaintiff and their order that the defendant make "public acknowledgment" of the wrong she had done. The acknowledgment was to be a dual performance - once in the town of Northampton and again at Springfield. Failure to fulfill either part of this requirement would result in a fine of £10.
The testimony against Mary Parsons was that following hard upon the heels of any disagreement or quarrel between Mary Parsons and any member of the Bridgeman family, a fatal disease would seize upon some horse, cow, or pig, belonging to the Bridgeman family and, as the disease could not be accounted for in any other way, it must be the result of Mary's uncanny influence exercised by way of revenge.
The first set of testimonies was recorded at Northampton on or about the 20th of June. For example: Robert Bartlett testifieth that George Langdon told him the last winter that Goody Bridgman and Goody Branch were speaking about Mary Parsons concerning her being a witch. And the said George told to the said Robert that my [Langdon's] wife being there said she could not think so - which the said Goody Bridgman seemed to be distates with. As also [according to Langdon] they had hard thoughts of the wife of the said Robert [Bartlett] because she was intimate with the said Mary Parsons."
The other depositions in this early group enlarge on the gossip theme. The same Hannah Langdon mentioned in Bartlett's statement testified that "Sarah Bridgman ... told her that her boy when his knee was sore cried out of the wife of Joseph Parsons." Bridgman had also alleged widespread "jealousies that the wife of Joseph Parsons was not right." For a time Langdon herself had entertained suspicions of Mary Parsons, but recently "it hath pleased God to help her over them, ... and [she] is sorry she should have [had] hard thoughts of her upon no better grounds." These depositions converged on the issue of what Goody Bridgman had said.
The second major group of papers in the case carries a date several weeks later. They were taken before a different official, and probably in a different place (Springfield). They expressed a different viewpoint, as the recorder noted at the top of the opening page: "Testimonies Taken on Behalf of Sarah, the wife of James Bridgman, the 11th day of August, 1656." The Bridgmans themselves supplied lengthy testimony on the events which had caused them to suspect Goody Parsons.
The previous summer the Bridgemans' eleven-year-old son had suffered a bizarre injury while tending their cows: "In a swamp there came something and gave him a great blow on the had ... and going a little further he ... stumbled ... and put his knee out of joint." Subsequently, the knee was "set" but it would not heal properly - and he was in grievous torture about a month." Then the boy discovered the cause of his sufferings: "He cried out [that] Goody Parsons would pull off his knee, [saying] 'there she sits on the shelf.' ... I and my husband labored to quiet him, but could hardly hold him in bed for he was very fierce. We told him there was nobody ... 'Yea," says he, 'there she is; do you not see her? There she runs away and a black mouse follows her.' And this he said many times and with great violence ... and he was like to die in our apprehension." At about the same time the Bridgmans had also lost an infant son:
"I [Sarah] being brought to bed, about three days after as I was sitting up, having the child in my lap, there was something that gave a great blow on the door. And that very instant, as I apprehended, my child changed. And I thought with myself and told my girl that I was afraid my child would die ... Presently .... I looking towards the door, through a hole ... I saw ... two women pass by the door, with white clothes on their heads; then I concluded my child would die indeed. And I sent my girl out to see who they were, but she could see nobody, and this made me think there is wickedness in the place."
The decision of the court was in favor of the plaintiff and against Mrs. Bridgeman, and she was ordered to make public acknowledgment of her fault at Northampton and Springfield, and that her husband, James Bridgman, pay to plaintiff 10£ and cost of court.
But the charge of witchcraft against Mary Parsons did not end with the judgment in the slander suit. Her name was cleared, but only from a legal standpoint. In the years that followed, her husband prospered ever more greatly, her children grew in number and (mostly) flourished, her mother and brothers sank the Bliss family roots deep into the CT Valley. But her reputation for witchcraft hung on.
In 1674 the whole matter was renewed in court - with the important difference that now Mary Parsons was cast as defendant. Unfortunately, most of the evidence from this later case has disappeared. All that survives is the summary material from the dockets of the two courts involved. In August 1674, a young woman of Northampton, Mary Bartlett, had died rather suddenly. She was twenty-two, wife of Samuel Bartlett and the mother of an infant son. More importantly, she was a daughter of Sarah and James Bridgman. Her husband and father jointly believed, as they later testified in court, that "she came to her end by some unlawful and unnatural means, ... viz. by means of some evil instrument." And they had distinct ideas about the person most likely to have used such means..
On September 29, the Hampshire County Court received "diverse testimonies" on the matter. Mary Parsons was also there - on her own initiative: "She having intimation that such things were bruited abroad, and that she should be called in question ... ..."the fact that Mrs. Parsons voluntarily appeared before the court desiring to clear herself of such an execrable crime, and that subsequently she argued her own case before the court must not be overlooked. On both these occasions she met her accusers boldly, protesting her innocence, and showing 'how clear she was of such a crime.' In this trial Mrs. Parsons was called to speak for herself and from the meager report upon record, undoubtedly did so most effectively." The court examined her, considered all the evidence, and deferred further action to its next meeting in November. There followed a second deferral "for special reasons" (about which the court did not elaborate).
On January 5, 1675, the county magistrates conducted their most extended hearing of the case. The previous depositions were reviewed and (apparently) some new ones were taken. Both Samuel Bartlett and Mary Parsons were present in person once again.
Mary was "called to speak for herself, [and] she did assert her own innocency, often mentioning ... how clear she was of such a crime, and that the righteous God knew her innocency - with whom she had left her cause." The magistrates decided that final jurisdiction in such matters belonged not to them but to the Court of Assistants in Boston . Still, considering "the season" and "the remoteness" [i.e., of their own court from Boston] and "the difficulties, if not incapabilities, or persons there to appear," they determined to do their utmost "in inquriing into the case." Among other things, they appointed a committee of "soberdized, chaste women" to conduct a body-search on Mary Parsons, to see "whether any marks of witchcraft might appear." (The result was "an account" which the court did not disclose.) Eventually, all the documents were gathered and forwarded to Boston.
At the same court, and apparently as part of the same proceeding, "some testimony" was offered "reflecting on John Parsons." John was Mary's second son: he was twenty-four at the time, and as yet unmarried. How and why he should have been implicated in the charges against his mother cannot now be discovered; but the evidence was in any case unpersuasive. The court did "not find ... any such weight whereby he should be prosecute on suspicion of witchcraft" and discharged him accordingly.
Meanwhile, the case against Mary Parsons moved towards its final round. On March 2, Mary was taken to Boston, "presented" at the Court of Assistants, and formally indicted by the grand jury. Thereupon the court ordered her commitment to prison until "her further trial." The trial came some ten weeks later (May 13, 1675). An imposing roster of Assistants lined the bench: the governor, the deputy-governor, and a dozen magistrates (including her husband's old associate, John Pynchon). However, her fate rested with "the jury of trails for life and death" - twelve men, of no particular distinction, from Boston and the surrounding towns. The indictment was read one last time: "Mary Parsons, the wife of Joseph Parsons ... being instigated by the Devil, hath ... entered into familiarity with the Devil, and committed several acts of witchcraft on the person or persons of one or more." The evidence in the case was also read. And "the prisoner at the bar, holding up her hand and pleading not guilty, ... [put] herself on her trial." The tension of this moment must have been very great, but it does not come through in the final, spare notation of the court recorder: "The jury brought in their verdict. They found her not guilty. And so she was discharged."
The jury gave her a full acquittal of the crime. Of Mary's life subsequent to 1674 there is little direct information. She and her husband would eventually give up their home in Northampton and move back to Springfield. Joseph would died in 1683, leaving a substantial estate of £2,088, and Mary would enter a very long widowhood.
She remained thereafter in Springfield, completed the rearing of her numerous progeny, and saw her sons - and then her grandsons - assume positions of prominence in several CT Valley towns. Death claimed her in January, 1712, when she was about eighty-five years old. She was not again tried for witchcraft, but neither was she ever free from local suspicion.
Descendants of Cornet Joseph Parsons, Springfield, 1636--Northampton, 1655 by Henry Parsons, A.M., Frank Allaben Genealogical Company
History of Northampton by J. Hammond Trumbull, Vol. I, pp. 43-50; also on pages 228-234
Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England by Davd D. Hall, Northeastern University Press, Second Edition, Boston, MA, 1999
Entertaining Satan by John Putnam Demons, Oxford University Press, New York, 1982
Graphic - "Arresting a Witch" - 1883 Illustration in Harper's New Monthly Magazine by Howard Pyle
THE PIONEERS OF MASSACHUSETTS,
Rev. George, was adm. to the chh. of Dorchester at the same time with Revs. Samuel Newman and William Tompson, about 1636. Rem. to Springfield, where he was the first minister. Frm. Sept. 7, 1637. House built for him in 1638. He sold house and lands to the town Sept. 14, 1652. No further record of him there. Ch. Union b. 1(; (12) 1641, Samuel b. 10 (3) 1645, a son b. 19 (3) 1647. His daus. Martha and Rebecca were among the persons who accused Mary Parsons of witchcraft in 1651.
A Genealogical Dictionary of The First Settlers of New England,
Volume #1, Pgs 198 - 209
Blaxton - Boltwood
By James Savage
Special thanks to Robert Kraft and his assistant, Benjamin Dunning for scanning this book and to Warren Wetmore for perfecting the text and providing technical help in presenting this work for researchers to enjoy.
BLISS, THOMAS, Hartford, was an early, but not orig. sett. of whose com. from Eng. nothing is kn. but his first resid. was in that pt. [[vol. 1, p. 202]] of Boston call. the mount, afterwards Braintree, now Quincy. In 1639 or 40 he is first ment. in Conn. at the same time with Thomas, jr. wh. may be the freem. of 18 May 1642 in Mass., there left by his f. whose d. is early heard of, tho. exact date is not gain. His wid. Margaret was very resolute and capable, and after two or three yrs. rem. with all her ch. exc. Thomas, and Ann, to Springfield, there d. 28 Aug. 1684. She had nine ch. and it has been absurd. said, that all were brot. from Eng. Of most, this is true. Ann, wh. m. 29 Apr. 1642, Robert Chapman of Saybrook; Mary m. 26 Nov. 1646, Joseph Parsons; Thomas; Nathaniel; Lawrence; and perhaps Samuel; were b. in Eng. but our side of the water may claim, prob. Sarah, m. 20 July 1659, John Scott; Elizabeth m. 15 Feb. 1670, as his sec. w. Miles Morgan; possib. Hannah, wh. d. 25 Jan. 1662, unm. and certain. John. THOMAS, Weymouth, was possib. the freem. of 18 May 1642, but next yr. certain. rem. to Rehoboth, there d. June 1649. His will, by careless statem. in Geneal. Reg. IV. 282, said to bear date of 8th of that mo. but also on same day to be brot. into Ct. gives valua. inform. a. his ch. Jonathan, to wh. he devis. his ho., his eldest d. whose bapt. name is not told, w. of Thomas Williams; Mary, w. of Nathaniel Harmon of Braintree; s.-in-law (perhaps mean. s. of his w.) Nicholas Ide, and his s. Nathaniel. From find. no ment. of him after 1649 at R. I suppose, confus. of him with Thomas of Norwich was easy. THOMAS, Norwich, 1660, s. of Thomas the first, had been of Hartford, and early after d. of his f. rem. to Saybrook, a. the end of Oct. 1644, took u. Elizabeth had Elizabeth b. 20 Nov. 1640; Sarah, 26 Aug. 1647; Mary, 7 Feb. 1649; Thomas, 3 Mar. 1652, wh. d. 29 Jan. 1682, prob. unm.; Deliverance, Aug. 1655; Samuel, 9 Dec. 1657; all bef. rem. from S. and at N. had Ann, Sept. 1660, the sec. Eng. ch. b. in that place; Rebecca, Mar. 1663; and he d. 15 Apr. 1688. By will, made two days bef. (req. by the insuffer. tyranny of Sir Edmund Andros to be brot. to Boston for proof and rec., support. his retainers by the fees of office), provis. for w. Elizabeth six ds. and only s. Samuel, is seen. Of this name, in 1834, four had been gr. at Harv. four at Dart. seventeen at Yale, beside six at other N. E. coll. of wh. most disting,. are Rev. Daniel of Concord, b. at Springfield, Jan. 1715, Y. C. 1732, d. 11 May 1764; his s. Daniel, b. 1740, H. C. 1760, d. in the Prov. of New Brunswick 1806; Jonathan, H. C. 1763, Ch. Just. of the Sup. Ct. of N. B. and George, Y. C. 1784, LL. D. wh. d. 8 May 1830, aged 65.
Joseph and Mary had the following children:
+ 8 M i Rev. Joseph Parsons 9 M ii Benjamin Parsons (Twin) was born on 22 Jan 1649 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass. He died on 22 Jun 1649 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass. 10 M iii John Parsons (twin) was born on 22 Jan 1649 in Springfield, Hampden Co. MA. He died on 22 Jan 1649 in Springfield, Hampden Co. MA. 11 M iv John Parsons was born on 14 Jun 1650 in Springfield, Middlesex, Mass. He died on 15 Apr 1728 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass.
John Parsons ye sone of Joseph Parsons borne ye 14 day of ye 6 mon. 1650.
Springfield, Hampden Co, MA vital records
JOHN, Northampton, s. of Joseph the first, m. 23 Dec. 1675, [[vol. 3, p. 363]] Sarah, d. of William Clarke, had Sarah, b. 1678; Mary, 1681; Samuel, 1685; William, 1690; Experience. 1692; and Joseph, 1695. He was a capt. freem. 1690, and d. 1728, as did his w. The s. Samuel and Joseph were k. by the Ind. 9 July 1708. JOHN, Gloucester, s. of the first Jeffery, m. 19 Jan. 1693, Isabella Haynes, had John, Josiah, Thomas, Daniel, and Solomon, beside others, nine in all; but perhaps two, three or more of the latest were by sec. w. m. 29 July 1701, Sarah Norton, wh. d. 25 July 1726, aged 56, and he d. 1 Dec. 1714. JONATHAN, Northampton, br. of John of the same, m. Mary Clark, had Jonathan, b. 1683, d. soon; Jonathan, again, 1684, d. young; Nathanael, 1686; Mary, 1688; Hannah, 1690; Jonathan, again 1693; and Lydia, 1695, posthum. the f. who. was freem. 1684, hav. d. 19 Oct. 1694.
John married Sarah Clark on 3 Dec 1675 in Northampton, Hampshire, Mass. 12 M v Samuel Parsons was born on 23 Jun 1652 in Springfield, Middlesex, Mass. He died on 12 Nov 1734 in Durham Middlesex, Mass.
SAMUEL, Northampton, s. of Joseph the first, freem. 1690, had two ws. Elizabeth perhaps d. of Capt. Aaron Cook, who d. 2 Sept. 1690, and Rhoda Tayler, had Samuel, b. 1678, d. soon Samuel, again, 1680, d. at 3 yrs.; Elizabeth 1684; Jemima, 1691; Rhoda, 1694; Timothy, 1696; Hannah, 1699; Simeon, 1701; Phineas, 1704; and Ithamar, 1707. This last was b. at Durham, Conn. THOMAS, Boston, seems to have, by the old book of possessns. an est. bound. E. by Elder Thomas Leverett, and this bef. 1639, but we kn. no more, unless he be the man by Worthington named of Dedham and Medfield, and this is all. THOMAS, Windsor, was soldier in the Pequot war 1637, for wh. some of his ch. had gr. of ld. many yrs. aft. m. 28 June 1641, Lydia Brown, had Bethia, b. 21 May 1642; Abigail, 21 Jan. 1644; Thomas, 9 Aug. 1645; John, 13 Nov. 1647; Mary, 23 July 1652; Ebenezer, 14 May 1655; Samuel, 18 July 1657; and Joseph, 1 May 1661; beside William in some earlier yr. not specif. and d. 23 Sept. 1661. His wid. m. Eltweed Pomeroy. Of these ch. Ebenezer, Samuel, William, and Joseph live. at Simsbury, and some, if not all, had fams. but I kn. not the details. Bethia m. 10 May 1660, Thomas Massor, s. of the preced. m. 24 Dec. 1668, Sarah Dare, if this name be well giv. rem. to Brookfield 1666, had Sarah, b. 12 Oct. 1669; Hannah, 3 Oct. 1671; and Thomas, 2 Jan. 1674, who d. bef. his f. and his w. d. 14 June 1674; and he rem. to Springfield, may have ret. to B. aft. the war, and d. 14 Dec. 1680.
Samuel married Elizabeth Cook about 1677. 13 M vi Ebenezer Parsons was born on 1 May 1655 in Northhampton Hampshire, Mass. He died on 8 Sep 1675 in Northhampton Hampshire, Mass. 14 M vii Jonathan Parsons was born on 6 Jun 1657 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. He died on 19 Oct 1694 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. Jonathan married Mary Clark on 5 Apr 1682 in Northampton, Hampshire, Mass. 15 M viii David Parsons was born on 30 Apr 1659 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. He died in 1660/1667. 16 F ix Mary Parsons was born on 27 Jan 1661 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. She died on 23 Aug 1711 in Springfield, Hampshire, Mass. Mary married Joseph Milliston about 1699 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
Name not legible...could be Williston, Willston, or Joseph Ashley
17 F x Hannah Parsons was born on 1 Aug 1663 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. She died on 23 Aug 1739 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. Hannah married (1) Peletia (Pelatiah) Glover on 7 Jan 1685/1686. Hannah married (2) Christopher Foster. 18 F xi Abigail Parsons was born on 3 Sep 1666 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. She died on 27 Jun 1689 in Longmeadow, Springfield, Hampden, Mass. Abigail married John Cotton (Calton) (Colton) on 19 Feb 1684. 19 F xii Esther Parsons (Twin) was born on 11 Sep 1668 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. She died on 11 Sep 1668 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. 20 M xiii Benjamin Parsons (Twin) was born on 11 Sep 1668 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. He died on 11 Sep 1668 in Northhampton, Hampshire, Mass. 21 F xiv Hester Parsons was born on 24 Dec 1672 in Northampton, Middlesex, Mass. She died on 30 May 1760 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass. Hester married Joseph Smith on 15 Sep 1689 in Springfield, Hampden, Mass.
7. Deacon Benjamin Parsons (William ) was christened on 1 May 1625 in St. Mary's, Beaminister, Dorsetshire, England. He died on 24 Aug 1689 in Springfield, MA.
DEACON BENJAMIN PARSONS of Springfield, MA
DEACON BENJAMIN PARSONS , an early settler of Springfield, was baptized May 01, 1625 at St Mary's Church in Beaminster, Dorset, England, son of William and Margaret (Hoskins) Parsons. He came to New England about 1650, and died at Springfield August 24, 1689. He married first at Windsor, 06 October 1653, SARAH VORE, who was probably born in Dorchester, MA, about 1635, and died at Springfield, January 01, 1675/76, daughter of Richard and Ann Vore (or Voare) of Crewkerne, Somerset, and Windsor, Connecticut.. He married second, in Springfield 21 February 1676/77, SARAH HEALD, who died there 23 November 1711, widow of John Leonard. She married third, at Springfield, 3 November 1690, Deacon Peter Tilton of Hadley, Massachusetts.
Children of BENJAMIN PARSONS and SARAH VORE:
Sarah, 18 Aug.1656 - 27 June 1740
Benjamin,. 15 Sept. 1658 - 29 Dec. 1728 (Overseer, ______)
Mary, 10 Dec. 1660 - 27 Jan.1662/3
Abigail, 6 Jan.1662/3 - Aft. 1695
Samuel, 10 Oct.1666 - 17 Feb. 1735/6 (Overseer, ________)
Ebenezer, 17 Nov. 1668 - 12 or 23 Sept.1752 (Overseer, ______)
Mary, 17 Dec. 1670 - 3 Nov. 1758
Hezekiah, 24 Nov. 1673 - 18 Mar. 1756 (Overseer, ______)
Joseph, Dec. 1675 - 21 Oct. 1733 (Overseer, Robert Heath <http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=rheath>) (linked)
DEACON BENJAMIN PARSONS of Springfield, MA (Carl Parsons, Overseer)
DEACON BENJAMIN PARSONS, an early settler of Springfield, was baptized May 01, 1625 at St Mary's Church in Beaminster, Dorset England, son of William and Margaret (Hoskins) Parsons. He came to New England about 1650 (see note 1), and died at Springfield August 24, 1689. He married first at Windsor, 06 October 1653, SARAH VORE, (see note 2), who was probably born in Dorchester, MA, about 1635, and died at Springfield, January 01, 1675/76, daughter of Richard and Ann Vore (or Voare) of Crewkerne, Somerset, and Windsor, Connecticut.. He married second, in Springfield 21 February 1676/77, SARAH HEALD/ HALE, who died there 23 November 1711, widow of John Leonard. She married third, at Springfield 3 November 1690, Deacon Peter Tilton of Hadley, Massachusetts. NOTE 1:
Some early Parsons Family genealogies state, no proof, that Benjamin Parsons was from Great Torrington, Devon, England and he came to New England about 1630 - 1635. Benjamin was born in Beaminster, Dorset, England as recorded in St. Mary's church records. Where his father, William, was born is not known. There is no birth record for any Parsons in Beaminster around the time he was born and to date no one knows his birth location. It is possible, not provable, that William or his father came from Great Torrington, but Benjamin definitely was born in Beaminster, Dorset, England. Did he come to America about the same time as his brothers, Joseph and Thomas? Probably not. There are no records to substantiate that he arrived before 1651. He would have to go back to England, probably get married, get a cottage, lose his wife, sell out in 1649/50 and sail back. In 1635 he would only be ten years old and it is highly doubtful someone that age would be traveling to and from America.
(Pynchon, p.57) This may actually have been a second marriage for Benjamin. Court records in Beaminster reveal that Benjamin surrendered a cottage there to widow Mary Dent on 4 March 1649/50. Mrs. Marie Eedle, historian of Beaminster, informed Gerald Parsons that it would be most unlikely for an unmarried man to be allowed to have a cottage alone, especially when his parents were living, so it would appear that Benjamin had married in Beaminster, If so, his wife and any children must have died before he emigrated.
The first authentic record of Benjamin Parsons in New England is his appointment as a fence viewer in Springfield on 4 November 165 1. That Benjamin was a brother to Comet Joseph Parsons is proved by two entries in the account books of John Pynchon and an entry in the records of the County Court held at Northampton on 31 March 1668. Benjamin Parsons took an active role in town affairs in Springfield, serving as surveyor of highways, fence viewer, juror, constable and selectman. He was active in establishing the First Congregational Church there in 1679 and became a deacon. When he was chosen a selectman in February 1678/9, his name was not prefixed with a title, but at a meeting of the selectmen on 2 June 1679, he was designated as "Deacon Benja: Parsons. He owned land in Springfield, Suffield, and Enfield the latter two towns then in Massachusetts but now in Connecticut. He is one of six settlers that are named on the Enfield Plantation deed. That deed was negated with the Indians on 16 March 16 80, see Enfield Deed <http://hometown.aol.com/parcpar/decben/beno2.html>. He never lived in Enfield, but was given more than one parcel of land. In 1691, B. Parsons, S. Terry & I. Morgan were given a tract of land to build a sawmill. This was the first building built East of Enfield, Two of Deacon Benjamin sons, Benjamin II and Samuel, settled in Enfield. The will of "Deacon Benj Parsons deceased - of Springfd," dated 20 February 1687/8 and probated 30 March 1690, named his sons: Benjamin, Samuel, Joseph, Ebenezer and Hezekiah; daughters: Mary "who is as yet unmarried," Sarah Dorchester and Abigail Richards; and grandsons: John Parsons, John Dorchester, James Dorchester, Benjamin Mun, John Mun and John Richards. His sons Benjamin and Joseph were to be executors. The inventory of his estate, taken on 17 March 1690 [1689/90], was presented to the court by the "Widow Parsons Relict to Deacon Parsons," and amounted to 222 pounds 9 shillings. Children of BENJAMIN PARSONS and SARAH VORE:
Sarah, 18 Aug. 1656 - 27 June 1740 Benjamin, 15 Sept. 1658 - 29 Dec. 1728 (Overseer, Mary, 10 Dec. 1660 - 27 Jan. 1662/3 Abigail, 6 Jan. 1662/3 - Aft. 1695 Samuel, 10 Oct. 1666 - 17 Feb. 1735/6 (Overseer, Carl Parsons) Ebenezer, 17 Nov. 1668 - 12 or 23 Sept. 1752 (Overseer, Mary, 17 Dec. 1670 - 3 Nov. 1758 Hezekiah, 24 Nov. 1673 - 18 Mar. 1756 (Overseer, Joseph <http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=rheath>, Dec. 1675 - 21 Oct. 1733 (Overseer, Robert Heath <http://worldconnect.rootsweb.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=rheath>) Linked Web Site
Benjamin married (1) Sarah Vore daughter of Richard Vore and Ann on 6 Oct 1653 in Windsor, CT. Sarah was born about 1635 in Dorchester, MA. She died in Jan 1676 in Springfield, MA.
They had the following children:
22 F i Sarah Parsons was born on 18 Aug 1656 in Springfield, MA. She died on 27 Jun 1740. 23 M ii Benjamin Parsons was born on 15 Sep 1658 in Springfield, MA. He died on 29 Dec 1728. 24 F iii Mary Parsons was born on 10 Dec 1660 in Springfield, MA. She died on 27 Jan 1662/1663 in Springfield, MA. 25 F iv Abigail Parsons was born on 6 Jan 1662/1663 in Springfield, MA. She died after 1695 in Springfield, MA. 26 M v Samuel Parsons was born on 10 Oct 1666 in Springfield, MA. He died on 17 Feb 1735/1736. 27 M vi Ebenezer Parsons was born on 17 Nov 1668 in Springfield, MA. He died on 12 Sep 1752. 28 F vii Mary Parsons was born on 17 Dec 1670 in Springfield, MA. She died on 3 Nov 1758. 29 M viii Hezekiah Parsons was born on 24 Nov 1673 in Springfield, MA. He died on 18 Mar 1756. 30 M ix Joseph Parsons was born in Dec 1675 in Springfield, MA. He died on 21 Oct 1733.
Benjamin married (2) Sarah Heald on 21 Feb 1676/1677 in Springfield, MA. Sarah died on 23 Nov 1711 in Springfield, MA.
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