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 . 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. Boston
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.
A half-mile east of Meriam’s Corner, where the road reached the top of Brooks Hill,
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. Sudbury
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
been killed and that his company would retaliate, Oliver had wanted to take
“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!”
“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
cause was just that God would intercede. The Lord intervened only to administer
His will! How could he be sure about anything? Massachusetts
For Parmenter, for each
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. Sudbury
On the road from
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. Sudbury
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).
Who were Deliverance and Oliver Parmenter, who were their (and my) ancestors in
and what became of them? Genealogical
study frequently reveals interesting information. America
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 ,
probably in 1588. He, his wife Bridget,
his daughter Mary, and his son John emigrated to Sudbury 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
). 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 England church. After his wife Bridget died April 6, 1660, he
moved to Roxbury, where he marred twice-widowed Annis (Bayford) ( Sudbury ) Dane. John died in Roxbury May 1, 1671, at the age
of 83. His son John remained in Chandler . 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. Sudbury
John Parmenter II, born Dec. 15, 1612, Little Yeldam,
England; died April 12,
1666, Colony. 6 children.
Lived 53 years Sudbury, Massachusetts
George Parmenter I, born Feb. 14, 1646/47,
died October 26, 1727, . 8 children.
Lived 80 years Sudbury
George Parmenter II, born May 5, 1679,
October 27, 1727, ,
one day after his father’s death. 6
children. Lived 48 years Sudbury
Deliverance Parmenter I, born Dec. 15, 1709,
1785, . 6 children.
Lived 75 years Sudbury
Deliverance Parmenter II, born May 6, 1744,
Sudbury; died 1780, probably . 7 children.
Lived 36 years Sudbury
Oliver Parmenter, born October 12, 1762,
Sudbury; died June 14, 1841, . 4 children.
Lived 78 years Moriah, New York
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
was founded. Sudbury 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 )
Even though relations with local tribes remained quiescent for several decades,
three reasons explain why Dedham
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 Sudbury area; and
wilderness predominated beyond the southern and western borders of the
town. The first occupants of Boston settled intentionally
in what would become the eastern part of the town. The Sudbury
flowed through it from south to north, providing the eastern section some
measure of protection from potential Indian attack. Sudbury River
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 ,
including its neighbor town Marlborough.
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 ,
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 Sudbury River .
The battle at Marlborough
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
Charles A. Bemis wrote the following about Deliverance Parmenter in his book “History of the Town of
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 Marlborough Lexington and . 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 Concord 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
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
. 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. Marlborough, New Hampshire
Maybe 15 years ago I requested information about Deliverance and Oliver Parmenter from the National Archives in
I received information about Oliver and a copy
of a letter written by Mr. Ralph M. Stoughton of Washington,
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. Turners Falls, Massachusetts
Mr. Stoughton did receive information about Deliverance’s son, Oliver. Seventy-one years old, he was living in Moriah [near Lake Champlain], Essex County,
, when his claim for a pension was granted
June 21, 1834. He received thereafter $22.42
annually. He died in Moriah June 14,
1841. New York
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
regiment. He was marched to Massachusetts where on
Butts Hill he helped build a fort. He
enlisted in Captain Daniel Bowker’s company of Colonel Webb’s Rhode Island regiment August 27, 1781. He served in Massachusetts for several days at Verplank’s
Point before being moved to Gallows Hill. His regiment remained there several weeks
before being marched to the New York 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
five miles south of the
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. New Hampshire
Oliver moved to
, (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 Marlborough, New Hampshire ,
who soon afterward died. Having made
little improvement on his land, he disposed of it and moved approximately another
50 miles to Athol, Massachusetts , 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, Vermont 34
years, they produced four children.
Oliver and Nancy moved to Moriah in upstate Springfield shortly after 1830. New York
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. Nancy
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.
Bemis, Charles A. History of the Town of
Press of Geo. H. Ellis, Cheshire County, New
1881. Print. Boston
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.