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Cutline for James Parker Part 13

Founder’s namesake

Named for his illustrious grandfather, the James Parker buried beneath this stone at Groton’s Old Burying Ground, was the son of Samuel Parker. Samuel was one of five sons of Capt. James Parker to follow in their father’s footsteps as town selectmen.

English-born 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 settlement, repeated Indian wars, and persistent resettlement.

After Capt. James Parker’s death, his son, Samuel, took over his father’s traditional spot on the Groton board of selectmen for a time.

Samuel married Abigail Lakin, daughter of another of Groton’s important early families. Among their eight children was Jonathan, born about 1698. He wed Sarah Pierce on Oct. 27, 1720, and they had a son, also named Jonathan, born Jan. 1, 1722.

Jonathan Sr. and Sarah Parker both died on Sept. 21, 1723, possibly from an Indian attack (although it is not documented) or more probably from disease. A total of 10 Groton residents died during the last 10 days of September that year, according to Virginia May, indicating some type of epidemic was at work.

Through some quirk of fate, little Jonathan survived and was raised by his grandfather, Ephraim Pierce. Two of Jonathan’s uncles, Ephraim Jr. and David, were among the earliest settlers and officials in the new Town of Lunenburg. When David died sometime in the 1840s, his widow remarried the prominent John Fitch, recently returned from captivity among the Indians. The future founder of Fitchburg thus became Jonathan Parker’s step-uncle-in-law.

As it turns out, John Fitch also had interests in the infant New Hampshire town of Rindge about 20 miles northwest of Lunenburg. It was likely from Uncle Fitch that Jonathan and his wife, Ellen Hunt, and three sons acquired land and relocated to Rindge in 1760.

One of Jonathan’s three sons, Benjamin, my great-great-great-great grandfather, fought in the 1775 battle of Bunker Hill, perhaps alongside his fellow Groton natives who served so valiantly in that battle for American freedom.

After a couple of decades in Rindge, Jonathan, Ellen and their three sons later moved once again, this time to Clarendon, Vt., between 1780 and 1785.

Benjamin’s brother, Jonathan Jr., also a Revolutionary War veteran, became a significant landowner in the young Vermont towns of Medway and Sherburne (now Killington).

A tract of some 3,000 mountainous acres south of Killington and Pico peaks, granted by the Vermont General Assembly to Jonathan Jr., was known as Parker’s Gore. After most of this land was annexed to Medway in 1804, that town was renamed Parkerstown and carried that name until changing to the current name of Mendon in 1827.

After another 175 years, fate was again quirky when it led me, in 2001, to relocate to the Nonacoicus section of old Groton (now Ayer). It provided me with the tools and the interest to reconnect with an important family progenitor, all during a time when the Groton was celebrating its 350th birthday.

Further reading

Compiling this biography of Capt. James Parker has been considerably simplified by the tremendous efforts and publications of numerous previous historians. Caleb Butler’s “History of Groton,” written over 150 years ago, was the first published effort to unveil the valuable “Indian Roll” of town records from the town’s earliest years. Dr. Samuel A. Green’s interest in Groton history led him to decode and compile these town records into the chronological book “The Early Records of Groton, Massachusetts” in 1880. He followed this with the even more impressive “Groton during the Indian Wars” in 1883, which intermixes local records with various colonial documents in Boston and elsewhere.

Additional material related to Groton was published in Dr. Green’s four-volume “Groton Historical Series,” published in 1899. Virginia May’s 1976 “Groton Plantation” gives a more contemporary perspective on the town’s rich history.

Several other town histories were helpful in tracing Capt. Parker’s life prior to his relocating to Groton. These include Samuel Sewall’s “History of Woburn” (1868), John Farmer’s “Historical Memoir of Billerica” (1816), the Rev. Wilson Waters’ “History of Chelmsford, Massachusetts” (1917), and the Rev. Elias Nason’s “History of Dunstable” (1877). Similar histories of Rindge, N.H., and Clarendon and Mendon, Vt., were also useful in tracing the later Parker generations’ migration through other New England states.

On the genealogical side, two volumes were of especial importance: Augustus G. Parker’s “Parker in America 1630-1910,” and “Some Descendants of Captain James Parker,” published privately in 1986 by Doris Parker Moffitt. Joseph Willard’s 1858 memoir “The Life and Times of Major Simon Willard” provided an in-depth view of his illustrious ancestor.

Numerous resources on the Internet helped bring the various Indian wars into focus, as did the 2000 video “King Philip’s War: American’s Forgotten War.” There is also a wealth of material on the Web about such Groton-related topics as Maj. Simon Willard, the Rev. Samuel Willard and Elizabeth Knop (Knap).

Helping put all this information into the proper Puritan context was Francis J. Bremer’s 2003 “John Winthrop: America’s Forgotten Founding Father” as well as various original documents written by the Rev. Samuel Willard and Cotton Mather available on the Internet.

One final note concerns the reproduction of entries from early town records. In many cases, writers like Butler and Green included these old passages verbatim, using all the various phonetic spellings of the originals. At times, these writers included extra explanatory material within square brackets to help readers over particularly difficult sections. In reusing these items, I have kept these explanations, and even added a few of my own. One particularly confusing usage in the old records is the use of u’s and v’s, seemingly interchangeably. I have attempted to use the correct letter in all cases. Unfortunately, due to the wonders of the computer age, my word processor has “auto-corrected” some of the other strange spellings. Despite these unwitting automatic corrections, the flavor of the old colonial wording and spelling still comes through.

“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 http://home.comcast.net/~rvanveghten/parker.

Copyright © 2005 by Rudy VanVeghten. Used by permission.

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