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Part 12: Giving new life to the town

English native James Parker was one of the principal Puritan figures during Groton’s formative years three and a half centuries ago. Previous installments of this series have followed Capt. Parker’s involvement in Groton’s early history, and the town’s trials through repeated Indian wars.

Survivors of the 1694 Indian attack on Groton, at least some of them, were ready to abandon the town once again. Among them were Capt. James Parker’s eldest son Josiah, who moved first to Woburn, the town of his birth, and in 1696 to Cambridge, where he lived until his death in 1731.

But the old militia captain himself was still unwilling to quit and leave behind the investment he had made in Groton. To the contrary, the record proves his efforts were in the opposite direction.

In December 1694 he and Lt. Jonas Prescott were named to go to Boston and “get som other incoridgment for the town to stay in the town.”

Historian Dr. Samuel Green reports in his series of Groton-related writings that the legislature on March 12, 1695, passed an act “which prohibited the desertion of frontier towns by the inhabitants.”

Groton was one of the 11 towns included. He adds that another act was passed in 1700, this time including Groton and 13 other towns. Butler notes that in 1707, following a lecture day in Groton, Capt. Parker’s son Josiah wrote to “his Excellency the Governor” that “I have read your Excellency’s order to the inhabitants, and the law against deserting the frontiers.”

Indian attacks continued to plague Groton for another 30 years, with incidents recorded in 1697, 1704, 1706, 1707, 1709 and 1724. Despite this, Groton remained viable as a community.

Perhaps the reason once again rests with Capt. Parker and the unique example he set. Despite his 70-something years and the long legacy he had already accumulated, James Parker Sr. decided the time was right to take himself a new wife, settle down, and raise another family. Sometime around 1694 or 1695, the septuagenarian wed the widow of former minister Samuel Carter.

And proving his continued virility, James Parker sired another child, his first offspring since Eleazer was born some 37 years earlier. Sarah Parker was born to James and Eunice Parker on December 12, 1697. The captain was an 80-year-old dad.

Even with his renewed home life, Capt. Parker kept up with his community responsibilities. At a town meeting on Oct. 4, 1697, voters named him and Ensign John Farnsworth “to be our Agents” to again petition the provincial government to forgive their taxes. Where the politicians in Boston hear about Indian attacks only “by Rumour upon Rumour,” the petition states, “we not onely hear but feel see & woefully experience the same.” Signers of the petition included Captain Parker’s sons Samuel Parker, selectman, and Eleazer, constable.

Finally, Capt. James Parker began to slow down, and mention of him declines in the town record book, although the names of his sons Samuel and Eleazer continue prominently in various capacities. Capt. Parker was last elected as a selectman in 1699, and the final mention of him in the municipal log came on August 22, 1699, when he was among a committee chosen to determine where to locate a new bridge over the “Lancster” (Nashua) river.

James Parker of Marlborough, England; of Charlestown, Woburn, Billerica and Chelmsford; and most especially of Groton, died sometime in 1701 at the age of 84. In his will, dated May 25, 1700, he left “all my house and land on the west side of the highway (along with other property and cash), for the bringing up of my daughter Sarah, till she is eighteen years of age, or till marriage.” His son Josiah was named as executor of the estate.

As the earliest gravestones in the town dates from 1704 and later, the location of Capt. James Parker’s grave is unknown.


His property was his legacy to his family, but the more important final legacy of Capt. James Parker was to all the future residents of Groton.

When the original proprietors looked for volunteers to move to the western frontier town six or seven years after the town charter, James Parker stepped forward. When residents were later chased away by Indians, James Parker brought them back. He consistently provided the leadership and the example to take care of the religious and civic needs of the town.

Parker’s efforts were invaluable also to the many future towns set off wholly or in part from land once claimed by Groton. These towns include Pepperell, Shirley, Ayer, Littleton, Harvard and Westford. Add to these the towns of Woburn, Billerica and Chelmsford, where Parker once lived, and offshoots of these including Lowell, Wilmington, Burlington, Tewksbury, Winchester and Carlisle. And don’t forget the Town of Dunstable, where Parker was a founder and a non-resident selectman, and its offshoots Tyngsboro and much of south-central New Hampshire including Nashua and Amherst.

“The Life and Legacy of Capt. James Parker” came about through writer Rudy VanVeghten’s search into his maternal ancestral roots. He has uncovered a significant amount of information about these ancestors and how they settled in Groton in the mid-17th century, with later generations eventually migrating north. This series is a capsule of what he discovered about one of Grotons’ — and one of his family’s — founding fathers. The entire series is posted on the Internet at

Copyright © 2005 by Rudy VanVeghten. Used by permission.