Select Parsons Miscellany

Here are some Parsons stories and accounts over the years:

Richard Persons at the Third Crusade

In 1192 during the Third Crusade Richard Persons or Parsons was said to have been one of King Richard’s body of battle-axe guards. 

Legend has it that he saved the life of the King at Ascalon when he killed two of the enemy with a single blow of his battle-axe.  He was knighted on the field by King Richard and was granted three tigers’ heads for his arms and a battle-axe for his crest

Parsons of Kington Magna

Richard Parsons was a weaver and flax-dresser from Wincanton in Somerset who in later years was a farmer in Kington Magna, just across the county border from Somerset in north Dorset.  He died there in 1682.  Generations of the Parsons family continued to live at Kington Magna until the 19th century.

William Parsons was an inn-keeper and land-owner at Kingston Magna and at Holton in Somerset where he died in 1835; while Charles Parsons was a prosperous farmer at Marston Magna in Somerset.  Three of Charles’s children decided to move to Southampton.  John Parsons, born in 1845, was one of them and he became a well-known Southampton publican. 

Meanwhile Parsons continued at Holton where a later William Parsons served as churchwarden.  Freeborn Parsons emigrated to New Zealand in the 1870’s.  The Freeborn name was handed down to his son and then to his grandson who died at the Battle of Alamein in 1941.

Humphrey Parsons' Fame

Humphrey Parsons is said to have been brought under the notice of King George II during hunting, a sport to which he was passionately addicted.  His spirited English courser outstripped the rest and, in contravention of the usual etiquette, brought him in at the death.  At an interview which followed, Parsons offered his horse which had attracted the King's admiration for his Majesty's acceptance.  The horse was accepted, and the king, who showed him every mark of favor, presented him in 1731 with his portrait set in diamonds.

A broadside of 1741 entitled A Hymn to Alderman Parsons, our Lord Mayor described him as a churchman, an incorruptible Tory, and being proof against the bribery and wiles of the Whigs.  It then proceeded:   

“In France he is respected,   
The French King does agree   
That he should bring his beer   
Over there duty free.

The Leviathan of Parsonstown

The Leviathan of Parsonstown was the unofficial name for the Rosse six-foot telescope.  It is a historic reflecting telescope of 72 inch aperture and was the largest telescope in the world from 1845 until the completion of the 100 inch Hooker telescope in Los Angeles in 1917.

The Rosse six-foot telescope was built by William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, on his estate of Birr castle at Parsonstown in county Offaly, Ireland.

In its construction Parsons improved upon the techniques of casting, grinding and polishing large telescope mirrors from speculum metal and he constructed steam-powered grinding machines for the parabolic mirrors.  In 1842 he cast his first six foot mirror.  But it took another five casts and three years before he had two ground and polished mirrors.  Speculum mirrors tarnish rapidly.  With two mirrors, one could be used in the telescope while the other was being re-polished.

After the 3rd Earl died in 1867, his son Laurence continued to operate the telescope until 1890.  When he died in 1908, the telescope was no longer used and was partially dismantled.  But interest revived in the 1990’s and a reconstructed version of the telescope was completed in 1999

Benjamin Parsons' Descendants in New England

Charles Nickey’s 1913 book Parsons’ Family History and Record began as follows:

“Benjamin Parsons came from England in 1635 and settled at Springfield, Massachusetts.  Of his children I have been able to learn but little.  His grandson Ebenezer Parsons was deacon of the church at Springfield and had a numerous family, of whom I can name five sons – Jonathan, Moses, Solomon, David and Nathan.

Jonathan Parsons, born in 1705, was a man of pre-eminent talent and a very celebrated preacher of the New Light or Revival Class.  It was said that he had a passion for fine clothes, for gold and silver lace and ruffled shirt fronts, which distressed some of the good Puritans of his church.

He had thirteen children, one of whom was Samuel Holden Parsons who settled as a lawyer in Middleton, Connecticut.  He was a Major General in the Revolutionary War and afterwards was appointed by George Washington as Governor of the Northwest Territory.  He drowned in the Ohio river near Pittsburgh in 1789."

Gustavus Parsons and Thomas Jefferson

Gustavus Adolphus Parsons had been born at Charlottesville, Virginia in 1801, close by Thomas Jefferson’s home at Monticello.  He worked there as a young man and he served as the last personal secretary to Thomas Jefferson when President.  After Jefferson’s death he moved with his family in 1837 to Jefferson City in Missouri.

A few years after their arrival, a young nephew of Thomas Jefferson came to live there.  He married one of Captain Gustavus’s daughters.  But soon afterwards Merriwether Lewis Jefferson was stricken with illness and he died at his father-in-law’s home.   He was buried in an unmarked grave in the Parsons lot next to his wife Mary Ann who had already passed away at the young age of twenty one.

Gustavus himself lived into his eighties and died at Jefferson City in 1882

John Parsons and Parsons, Tennessee

Clarence Parsons in his book A History of the Parsons Family stated:

"Dr. John Parsons settled in Decatur county in western Tennessee, living in what is now known as Parsons, Tennessee.  He practiced medicine here in this area for about 50 years.  Dr. Parsons owned several pieces of land at one time or another and, according to the records in the state archives in Nashville, owned 300 acres north of railroad track in Parsons. This railroad, built in the 1880’s, ran from Memphis to Perryville. The officials of this, the Tennessee Midland Railroad, honored Dr. Parsons by naming the town of Parsons, Tennessee for him."

Some of these facts may not be right.  Dr. John died in 1879 and was buried at the New Beech Grove cemetery west of Lexington.  He was probably not an M.D. but rather a D.D. (Doctor of Divinity) as his tombstone described him as Rev. John Parsons.

And John died in 1879.  So he was not the Parsons Flats land owner when the railroad was built 10 years later.  There was indeed another John Parsons.  In an article about Parsons in Decatur County, Tennessee Families and History, Edwin C. Townsend wrote:

"Located on Buckner Street about two blocks north of Main Street was a stagecoach inn operated by John Parsons. Parsons owned a considerable amount of land known as Parsons Flat. The survey crew for the Tennessee Midland Railway stayed at the Parsons Inn while they were surveying the right-of-way for the railway."

Return to Top of Page
Return to Parsons Main Page