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Groton s Founding Father <p>

Part 4

Capt. James Parker, a
native of England, sailed
in the 1630s to the Puritan
colony at Massachusetts
Bay. He became one of
the principal figures
during the formative years
of the town of Groton,
which this year celebrates
its 350th birthday. Previous
installments of this series
have followed his early
life and gradual migration
from Charlestown to Chelmsford
to Groton.

Deacon, Sergeant and

As noted previously,
James Parker was known
by various name prefixes
over the years. At Groton’s
first settlement in
1662, he was called
James Parker, denoting
his important role within
a community where, like
the rest of the colony,
there was little separation
of church and state.
By the following December,
he was being recorded
as “Sergeant”
James Parker, indicating
his duties within a
militia “squadron”
in defending the town
from attacks from the

On May 6, 1773, he was
appointed by the colonial
General Court as lieutenant,
and on October 15 of
the same year as captain.
“The military
Company of Groaten being
destitute of military
officers,” reads
the commission, “The
Court Judgeth it meet
to choose & Appoint
James Parker to be their
captane Wm Larkin to
be lieftennant &
Nathaniel Lawrence to
be their ensigne.”

As noted in Butler’s
history of Groton, Parker
was also “moderator
of most of the town
meetings, a member and
chairman of all important
committees … He was
chosen, October 30,
1693, to represent the
town in the General
Court in November of
that year.” Later
historian Samuel Green
adds a report that “Captin
Parkr” was one
of three “Comishinurs
too jud[ge] small casis
in Toown accordin too
law” in both 1681
and 1682.

Duties of James Parker
and the other Groton
selectmen during the
town’s first years,
in addition to “calling”
a minister, building
a meeting house and
laying out highways
as noted before, included
such jobs as supervising
the distribution and
fencing of lands, overseeing
the building of a sawmill
and a town pound, assigning
pews at the meeting
house, paying the financial
obligations of the town,
apportioning taxes,
and paying a bounty
on wolves.

It was also the duty
of the selectmen, as
outlined in a 1682 list
of instructions, to
see “that the
Sabbath day’s
service may be performed
in the season of it,
that the Sabbath may
not be profaned, as
it is, too much.”

James Parker’s
property holdings in
Groton were extensive,
as evidenced by his
50 acre rights. Among
his land grants was
much of the property
on the westerly side
of Gibbet Hill in what
is known as Half Moon
Meadow. His land extended
from Martin’s
Pond down to and across
the current Main Street
near the present Town
Hall, in addition to
numerous parcels in
other sections of town.

It has been stated by
various sources that
his residence was either
near Martin’s
Pond or at a garrison
house along Main Street,
near the “Parker
House” historic
marker. Of course, it
is possible that he
maintained residences
in both locations, with
one possibly used as
a home for one of his
many children.

There is some disagreement
among Groton historians
whether or not James
Brook is named for James
Parker. Butler notes
that this brook was
the original outlet
of Martin’s Pond.
The brook’s name,
says Butler, “was
unquestionably given
to it from James Parker,
who lived near it in
the center of Groton.”

Later writers, including
Dr. Green and Virginia
May, have argued that
the brook was named
for an Indian named
Jeams or James who once
fished a section of
the brook along Old
Ayer Road. Plus, one
1680 reference to the
brook calls it “the
Brook by the Captains”
rather than James Brook,
which these two writers
say is unlikely if the
stream was in fact known
as James Brook.

Had the brook been named
for the early town leader,
goes another argument,
it most likely would
have taken his last
name — Parker
or Parker’s Brook
— similar to Knopp’s
Pond after James Knopp
and Martin’s Pond
after William Martin.
Then again, perhaps
James Parker Jr. (about
10 years old when the
family moved to Groton)
had some connection
to the stream and his
father named it James
Brook after him.

No theory is entirely
convincing or conclusive.
Perhaps it’s best
now to say that the
brook is possibly named
for James Parker.

Copyright © 2005
by Rudy VanVeghten.
Used by permission.