Monday, December 1, 2014

Two Revolutionary War Ancestors
 
Two ancestors of mine – father and son Deliverance and Oliver Parmenter – appear in a scene of my Revolutionary War novel “Crossing the River.”  Hearing the toll of the Sudbury, Massachusetts Colony, meeting house bell in the mid-morning of April 19, 1775, 30-year-old Deliverance Parmenter unyoked his oxen in his farthest field, drove them into his yard, grabbed his musket, powder bag, shot bag, and powder horn, and hurried to the town common.  He and his company of militiamen hastened to Brooks Hill, several miles east of Concord, to intercept Colonel Francis Smith’s 700 redcoat army on its return march from Concord to Boston.  It was early afternoon when the long column of soldiers began its descent of the hill.  From both sides of the road Deliverance and his company burned powder.
 
I utilized my two ancestors in the fictitious scene below to serve several purposes.  I wanted to dramatize the concern and love that fathers and sons had to have felt reciprocally prior to engaging in mortal combat.  I wanted to demonstrate the fear that they must have experienced.  I wanted to communicate what compelled them to risk not only their lives but the welfare of their families.  I wanted to depict how difficult it must have been for Christian men to square with their consciences the taking of lives of actual, wholly visible human beings.
 
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A half-mile east of Meriam’s Corner, where the road reached the top of Brooks Hill, Sudbury militiamen waited. The column would draw fire initially from Captain Cudworth's company. Captain Wheeler’s militiamen would pursue the column’s rear guard down the hill toward Tanner’s Brook.
 
The two companies had begun their thirteen-mile trek to Brooks Hill shortly after 9 a.m. Upon hearing the muster call thirty minutes earlier, Deliverance Parmenter had left his oxen and plow in his back field and gone directly to the Common, his older son Oliver accompanying him. After Parmenter had been told that Lexington militiamen had been killed and that his company would retaliate, Oliver had wanted to take part.
 
“No, son, you’ll be going home!”
 
Seated beneath a large beech tree one hundred feet from the Brooks house and another hundred feet from the family tavern, Parmenter flexed first his left and then his right knee. He drew the back of his right hand roughly across his mouth. Their leave-taking had been difficult, nearly as difficult as was this waiting.
 
Their conversation had been contentious. What Oliver had said near the close of it, though, had gratified him. Needing to savor his boy’s words, Parmenter recalled their exchange.
 
Ordered home, Oliver, nearly thirteen, the oldest of Parmenter’s four children, had refused to budge.
 
“Should the Lord see fit t’take me,” Parmenter had said, ignoring Oliver’s petulance, “you’ll be obliged t’take my place. You’re close t’being old enough. Your uncles will help, but being they have families, they won’t be wanting to and having that much time.”
 
“I want t’go with you!”
 
“Oliver.”
 
“I want t’go! Thaddeus can do it!”
 
“Thaddeus is seven. Your mother is five months forward with child. You’re being foolish! I need you at home!”
 
 
Regretting his harsh tone, Parmenter had tried to put a hand on the boy's shoulder. Oliver had stepped away.
 
Angered, Parmenter had declared, “What do you think happens in battle?! Men get killed! Without meaning to! Without expecting to! Who am I t’declare who the Lord might protect?! Keeping you at home keeps you safe!”
 
Oliver had then looked at him directly, briefly, his stubborn expression gone.
 
“Say the worst happens. Your mother’d be blaming me. Hating me! I’d be hating myself!”
 
Head down, Oliver had kicked at an embedded stone.
 
“I must depend on you.”
 
“I want t’fight the redcoats!”
 
“Have my words been wasted on you?!”
 
“No sir.” Rolling the stone with the sole of his shoe, he had murmured, “I just ... want t’be with you.”
 
His son’s declaration of love had moved him. For several seconds he had been unable to speak. Embarrassed, hiding his affection, he had eventually said, “I’m that certain I’ll take care of myself.”
 
By then Captain Wheeler had come out of the Meeting House. The men in the road had begun forming evenly spaced ranks.
 
“As for your fighting the British,” Parmenter had said to placate Oliver, “the time may come.” Seeing the Captain engaged in conversation, he had said more. “I fear what is happening today will be war. I’ve never known a quick war. The war with the French -- near the end of it you were just a baby -- lasted seven years.” Studying his son, approving of him, he had concluded, “About this fighting today, what it’s going t’mean. I’m hoping for your sake, and for a lot more reasons, I’m wrong!”
 
Sustained by the camaraderie of his friends and neighbors, his conversation with Oliver, and the conviction that fighting the King’s army was necessary and just, Parmenter had managed initially to control his fear. Subsequent talk within the company that redcoat flankers were clearing all fields and woods had brought it hurtling back. The Captain’s consequent deployment of a dozen men to protect the company’s rear and left flank had not helped him.
 
There was no way he could control what was about to happen!
 
Other weighty concerns were afflicting him.
 
Could he square with his conscience his killing of a man? Despite his reasoned justification, despite the hostility he felt toward these foreign invaders, he could not be certain. Taking a life was the gravest of sins.
 
There was also the Lord’s purpose to construe. Parmenter did not subscribe to the belief that because Massachusetts’s cause was just that God would intercede. The Lord intervened only to administer His will! How could he be sure about anything?
 
For Parmenter, for each Sudbury man in the woods at the top of Brooks Hill, time had neither hurried nor hesitated. When Cudworth's company fired its first volley, Parmenter, a meticulous person, noted the minute. 1:02 p.m. What will be the exact time when I, too, sight on a man? he thought.
 
On the road from Sudbury he had called upon his respect of ancestry to justify his participation. He, his seven brothers, and his three sisters were the fifth generation of his immediate family to have lived in Sudbury, the immigrant ancestor John having settled in 1639. Like his forebearers, a man of principle, Deliverance Parmenter adhered to immutable beliefs.
 
Foremost was his conviction that the land he possessed was his, his alone! At great sacrifice the immigrant progenitor, John Parmenter, had earned the land, in perpetuity. That sacrifice and that which subsequent generations had contributed neither an avaricious cabinet nor an autocratic king could abrogate! Ownership of land was the foundation of a man’s essence. Recent encroachments by the Crown and Parliament -- the denial of self-representation, the curtailment of individual livelihood -- had been an attack on the inherent components of ownership. With moral certainty Deliverance Parmenter would defend his ancestors’ legacy and his family’s providence to the furthest extremity!
 
Firing repeatedly from behind his tree trunk, Parmenter fulfilled his obligation. For a good two minutes, having pursued the column’s rear guard halfway down the hill, he marveled at the denouement of his defense of ancestral entitlement.
 
Holding to his convictions, he had surely killed a man!
 
Notwithstanding, the Lord had shielded him!
 
At home, in the presence of his wife and children, he would extol his Heavenly Protector; privately, he would seek His absolution. Thereafter, he would strive to embody each day, as he had most of his years past, each of his Savior’s teachings (Titus 289-292).
 
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Who were Deliverance and Oliver Parmenter, who were their (and my) ancestors in America, and what became of them?  Genealogical study frequently reveals interesting information.
 
The oldest Parmenter to settle in Massachusetts Colony was John Parmenter, born in the parish of Little Yeldham, Essex County, England, a short distance from the Suffolk parish of Sudbury, probably in 1588.  He, his wife Bridget, his daughter Mary, and his son John emigrated to New England in 1639.  They were among the first settlers of the town of Sudbury in Massachusetts Bay Colony (the town’s name derived from the fact that a few of its settlers – John Parmenter included – had lived in or near Sudbury Parish in England).  John was a member of the committee appointed to lay out property lands of the new community.   He was a proprietor and a selectman, a commissioner to settle minor conflicts, and a deacon of the Sudbury church.  After his wife Bridget died April 6, 1660, he moved to Roxbury, where he marred twice-widowed Annis (Bayford) (Chandler) Dane.  John died in Roxbury May 1, 1671, at the age of 83.  His son John remained in Sudbury.  John II died April 12, 1666, five years before his father.  Here is the direct line of descendents from John II to Deliverance and Oliver Parmenter.
 
John Parmenter II, born Dec. 15, 1612, Little Yeldam, Suffolk, England; died April 12, 1666, Sudbury, Massachusetts Colony.  6 children.  Lived 53 years
George Parmenter I, born Feb. 14, 1646/47, Sudbury; died October 26, 1727, Sudbury.  8 children.  Lived 80 years 
George Parmenter II, born May 5, 1679, Sudbury; died October 27, 1727, Sudbury, one day after his father’s death.  6 children.  Lived 48 years
Deliverance Parmenter I, born Dec. 15, 1709, Sudbury; died 1785, Sudbury.  6 children.  Lived 75 years
Deliverance Parmenter II, born May 6, 1744, Sudbury; died 1780, probably Sudbury.  7 children.  Lived 36 years
Oliver Parmenter, born October 12, 1762, Sudbury; died June 14, 1841, Moriah, New York.  4 children.  Lived 78 years
 
Epidemics of smallpox and other European diseases, carried by European explorers, fur traders, and fishermen in the 1500s and early 1600s, had decimated Native American populations throughout New England.  Indian population, consequently, was sparse near Sudbury when it was founded.  Sudbury became the third permanent inland (above the flow of tidewater from the Atlantic Ocean) settlement in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  (The first inland settlement was Concord and the second Dedham)  Even though relations with local tribes remained quiescent for several decades, three reasons explain why Sudbury was believed by many settlers to be at risk.  There was no possibility of escape by ship if evacuation was necessary; emergency resources were about 10 hours away in the Boston area; and wilderness predominated beyond the southern and western borders of the town.  The first occupants of Sudbury settled intentionally in what would become the eastern part of the town.  The Sudbury River flowed through it from south to north, providing the eastern section some measure of protection from potential Indian attack. 
 
King Philip’s War raged throughout New England from June 1665 to August 1666.  Over half of nearly 100 towns were damaged or destroyed.  The loss of life and property was greatest in the frontier settlements.  This was particularly true of towns west of Sudbury, including its neighbor town Marlborough.  Sudbury was attacked April 21, 1666, by substantial forces.  Many attackers and defenders were killed.  A majority of the defenders were soldiers sent to Sudbury from other settlements.  Loss of life and destruction of property was greatest west of the Sudbury River, although most of the residents there were able to escape to fortified houses stocked with food, water, weapons, ammunition, and gunpowder.  These houses were defended for many hours.  East of the Sudbury River, the town militia and soldiers from other towns were able to drive off the attackers.  Late in the day, Indian warriors west of the River withdrew to their base camp northwest of Marlborough.  The battle at Sudbury proved to be a turning point of King Philip’s War.  Thereafter, elsewhere Indian forces consistently lost battles.  Deprived of food, weapons, ammunition, and gunpowder -- which they had attempted to seize in their attacks – their leaders killed or captured, King Philip’s warriors eventually stopped their assaults
 
Sudbury’s population in 1775 was 2,160.  Nearly all of the male adult population (about 500) volunteered to fight at some point in time during the Revolutionary War.  More than 350 of them were experienced soldiers, having served at least once during the French and Indian War.
 
Charles A. Bemis wrote the following about Deliverance Parmenter in his book “History of the Town of Marlborough,” published in 1881.  “Deliverance, Jr. was a zealous patriot.  On the memorable 19th of April, 1775, he was ploughing in the field near his house when the news reached him of the battle of Lexington and Concord.  He immediately unyoked his oxen, drove them into his yard, and with gun in hand started on the run to meet the British.  He was at the battle of Bunker Hill and remained in the service until October, when he returned home.  The following spring he again enlisted, and remained in the army three years” (Bemis 597).
 
My great grandfather, Edwin B. Titus, wrote this entry, dated July 22, 1874, in his journal.
 
“Charles A. Bemis
P.O. Box 85
Marlborough
Cheshire Co. N.H.
A cousin of my mothers side.  A new cousin just heard from.  He writes to learn about the Parmenter family as he wishes to make a record of all he can learn of them.  His mother is cousin of my mother.  [Edwin’s mother was Mary Parmenter, daughter of Oliver Parmenter]  Glad to hear from them as I have never known many of my Mothers relatives.” 
 
At the back of his journal Edwin listed Oliver Parmenter’s children and the children of Oliver’s brother Noah Parmenter.
 
Bemis’s book is full of names and accounts of former citizens of Marlborough, New Hampshire.  We can assume that his information about Deliverance Parmenter was obtained from Parmenter’s descendent relatives and is probably accurate.  However, I must tell you the following.
 
Maybe 15 years ago I requested information about Deliverance and Oliver Parmenter from the National Archives in Washington, D.C.  I received information about Oliver and a copy of a letter written by Mr. Ralph M. Stoughton of Turners Falls, Massachusetts, dated December 17, 1935.  Mr. Stoughton had requested “the record of Deliverance Parmenter, Junior, of Sudbury, Massachusetts, whose widow, Mary Osborne Parmenter, lived in Marlboro, New Hampshire, and drew a pension on account of the services of her husband in the Revolutionary War …” The archive official who responded stated that no record had been found that a claim for a pension or bounty had been made.  Such claims for pensions had been authorized by an act of Congress June 7, 1832.  As I previously stated, Deliverance died in 1780.  The date of Deliverance Parmenter’s widow’s death is unknown.  Because she was born in 1742, she would have had to live past the age of 90 to have been able to file a claim.  It is logical to assume that no record of Deliverance’s service in the Revolutionary War exists in the National Archives because no claim for a pension could have been made.
 
Mr. Stoughton did receive information about Deliverance’s son, Oliver.  Seventy-one years old, he was living in Moriah [near Lake Champlain], Essex County, New York, when his claim for a pension was granted June 21, 1834.  He received thereafter $22.42 annually.  He died in Moriah June 14, 1841. 
 
I obtained the following information about Oliver Parmenter from the National Archives response to Mr. Stoughton’s letter, Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, and Charles A. Bemis’s book.
 
Not yet 18, Oliver volunteered August 1, 1780, to serve three months in Captain Brintnal’s company of Colonel Howe’s Massachusetts regiment.  He was marched to Rhode Island where on Butts Hill he helped build a fort.  He enlisted in Captain Daniel Bowker’s company of Colonel Webb’s Massachusetts regiment August 27, 1781.  He served in New York for several days at Verplank’s Point before being moved to Gallows Hill.  His regiment remained there several weeks before being marched to the Highlands.  Thereafter, Oliver was detached with other privates to Fish Kiln to cut wood.  At about the ninth day of December he was dismissed, having served his three months term, and traveled 200 miles home.  There is no indication in his records of his having experienced combat.
 
In 1783 Oliver moved to Bernardston (in western Massachusetts five miles south of the New Hampshire border) to live near his father’s brother, Jason Parmenter.  He stayed there 7 years.  Probably a year or two before he left Bernardston Oliver married Jason’s daughter, Cynthia Parmenter.  On April 14, 1790, Oliver made this public declaration: “Whereas Cynthia, the wife of me the Subscriber, has in violation of her marriage covenant, withdrawn herself from my bed and board and unjustly and without cause refuses to live with me and whereas by her unfaithful behavior I have reason to fear she will endeavor to injure my interests by contracting debts on my account I hereby notify and warn all persons against harboring or giving her any credit for any matter whatever on my account, as I will not pay any demands made against me on her account” (Messer 1).  Oliver and Cynthia were first cousins.  No divorce proceedings were advertised.  Later, both had other spouses. 
 
Oliver moved to Marlborough, New Hampshire, (approximately 50 miles by road from Bernardston) where he worked for a short while for his oldest brother Thaddeus.  He purchased a lot of wild land in the north part of town and located his house on a knoll.  He lived there 3 years.  On April 4, 1793, he married Vianna Fay of Athol, Massachusetts, who soon afterward died.  Having made little improvement on his land, he disposed of it and moved approximately another 50 miles to Springfield, Vermont, where a second brother, Noah Parmenter, resided.  Oliver married Nancy McIntire (I have not been able to find any information about her) probably in 1795.  Living in the Parker Hill section of Springfield 34 years, they produced four children.  Oliver and Nancy moved to Moriah in upstate New York shortly after 1830.  Nancy died there July 3, 1831.  Their daughter Mary married my great great grandfather, Russell L. Titus, a resident of Moriah, probably that same year.  Oliver died June 14, 1841. 
 
Living close to his son and daughter-in-law was the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 soldier, John Titus.  I will tell you about him in my next post.
 
Works cited:
 
Bemis, Charles A.  History of the Town of Marlborough: Cheshire County, New Hampshire.  Press of Geo. H. Ellis, Boston, 1881.  Print.
 
Messer, Don.  “Re:PARMENTER, Jason, Deliverance MA.”  Geneology.com. March 2, 1999.  http://genforum.genealogy.com/parmenter/messages/171.html.  November 29, 2014.  Web.
 
Titus, Harold.  Crossing the River.  BookLocker.com, Inc., 2011.  Print.