J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, June 11, 2017

Moses Parker, “the most prominent military character”

Moses Parker was born on 13 May 1731 in Chelmsford. Seven years earlier, his father Joseph had served as a “Lieutenant of a company of snowshoe-men” in what would be called Dummer’s War. Once back home, Joseph Parker served on committees and boards for both his meetinghouse and his town.

In 1738, when Moses was seven years old, Joseph Parker died. According to a Parker family genealogy he “perished, with his whole command, in a terrible battle with the Oneidas.” However, I can’t find any other mention of such an event. And his body was buried in Chelmsford, not a frontier battlefield. Joseph Parker’s gravestone appears here, courtesy of Find a Grave.

As an adult, Moses Parker followed his father into the provincial military service. A Chelmsford company set out for northern New York in March 1755 and stayed until January. Moses Parker went out as a sergeant and evidently came back as an ensign.

Wilkes Allen’s 1820 History of Chelmsford then says of Parker:
In 1758, he was honored with a lieutenant’s commission in a company commanded by Capt. Jona. Butterfield, and raised for the express purpose of a general invasion of Canada. He was promoted to a captain in the succeeding year, and in 1760, commanded a company at Fort Frederick, St. John’s. In this expedition he distinguished himself as a brave soldier, and as an intrepid and dauntless officer, he was endeared to those under his care by his assidiuous [sic] attention to their wants and constant endeavors to render their situation as pleasant as circumstances would permit.

Such was his reputation that when Governour [Francis] Bernard in 1761, was selecting from a multitude of applicants, thirty captains for that year’s service, Capt. Parker stood forth the most prominent military character on the list. Col. [Nathaniel] Thwing [1703-1768] and Col. [William] Arbuthnot [1726-1765] declared, that “they would not go without him, that he was the only Captain they had insisted upon.” So great was his popularity, that his friends assured him, that if he would accept of a captainship, “fifty men might be immediately raised to serve under him.” [Footnote citation: “M.S. Letter of Oliver Fletcher, Esq.”]
According to the Rev. Wilson Waters’s 1917 history of Chelmsford, Parker’s farm was 150 rods south of where “the Middlesex turnpike [now Turnpike Road]…crosses River Meadow brook.”

In May 1774, Moses Parker was named as one of Chelmsford’s committee of correspondence. In April 1775, he commanded a company that responded to the Lexington Alarm. And on 19 May 1775 he accepted a commission from the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, with Dr. Joseph Warren presiding and signing the paperwork, as a lieutenant colonel.

Parker was in the regiment of Col. Ebenezer Bridge, a thirty-one-year-old Harvard graduate and son of Chelmsford’s minister. The major was twenty-three-year-old Dr. John Brooks of Reading. At age forty-four, with four military campaigns under his belt, Lt. Col. Parker was the regiment’s veteran officer.

On the night of 16 June 1775, Col. Bridge’s regiment was ordered to march onto the Charlestown peninsula under Col. William Prescott and fortify Bunker’s Hill.

TOMORROW: In the redoubt.


Unknown said...

An interesting piece, I look forward to tomorrows installment - which I'm sure you've already written and will include an image of the death of Warren at Bunker Hill which features Moses on the far left, wounded with his head down. I wonder where he is buried, I'll have to go look for him.

I was unaware of Joseph's headstone which is a Park headstone, from the stonecutters at Groton, they are quite distinctive. Joseph's cousin Phinehas has a very similar stone. https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=47209039

It might be interesting to read an article on the Parks, they stayed neutral during the war, their headstones are quite distinctive, and can be found in towns throughout Middlesex county. Each subsequent Park had their own style - I forget which one is which, the third Park was into putting faces, purportedly reflecting the deceased onto his stones, like this unadorned one https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=83952591

The immigrant Park may be found here: https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=83001617

Jack Parker

J. L. Bell said...

Because Moses Parker died in Boston, I assume he was buried in that town, probably in an unmarked grave. Though Find a Grave lists him out at the cemetery in Chelmsford, it doesn't show any gravestone for him there, unlike his father.

Thanks for the information and link about Park gravestones.

J. L. Bell said...

I originally wrote that Moses Parker was part of a Chelmsford company that went to Crown Point in 1775-56. They were indeed recruited for such a mission, but author Bruce Venter tells me that site remained in French hands during that period, with the British forces getting no further than Fort William Henry on Lake George. So I changed that line.

Unknown said...

It has been two years and I haven't returned? Sigh. Too many things to keep an eye on. Find-a-Grave is an unreliable resource except when there is an actual headstone. There is a custom of "plopping" someone into a cemetery because they lived in that town or near it and the researcher wants the memorial to be findable. I'm still trying to clean up the Groton Find-a-Grave site which has some 40-odd "plopped" memorials. Moses may very well be buried in Boston, unless there was some arrangement made to return the body - which you would think we would have heard about. It should be noted that Chelmsford is proud of him, the high school is named after him.

Jack Parker

Unknown said...

I think I figured out the whole Joseph Parker thing. The battle against the Oneida makes no sense since they are a New York tribe, also why would he be buried in Chelmsford if he had been killed afield with his entire command? 1738? What war was going on at that time? Every reference that I have seen of it uses almost exactly the same wording - as though repeating from a single original source.

Joseph Parker was a Lt in a snowshoe company formed in 1724, the reference must be to "Lovewell's fight" which took place in 1725 during Dummer's war. There were 20 or so survivors. Joseph must have been one of those.

Jack Parker

Unknown said...

Further comment on Lovewell's fight. Looking at the list of men in Lt. Joseph Parkers company and comparing it to the men involved in Lovewell's fight, there is no overlap - they are different people. There are several common surnames.

Unknown said...

Digging through in some detail, I find no reference to a violent death for Capt Joseph Parker aside from the prose offered by William Thorton Parker in "Gleanings", which appears to have been quoted almost word for word in "Parker in America" (p369) (which was printed 4 years earlier). There are two other references to Joseph Parker in "Parker in America" neither of which mention a violent death.

Joseph shows up in the Chelmsford town records as a selectman in 1734 and 1736 and then as Captain Joseph Parker, Selectman in 1737, finally as moderator in 1738, the year of his death.

There is record (in a letter from Col Tyng to Gov Dummer written May 14th) of Col. Tyng requesting 15 men from Robert Richardsons company (of which Joseph was Lieut.) after the Lovewell fight, followed by a list of 12 men (including their ages), all of West Chelmsford (later Westford), from this one must assume that these men were alive on May 14th 1725, a week after the Lovewell fight. On top of which the men who died in Lovewell's fight are well documented, I did not note the name "Parker" in those lists.

Going through the list of 40 men in Joseph's company, I can find mid to late 18th century deaths in Chelmsford records that could be attributed to 29 of them, 7 of them with correct ages that leave little to doubt.

Going through the history of Chelmsford, there are numerous entries of individual deaths from Indians, I find it unlikely that the death of a body of men by such means would go uncommented upon.

I am of the opinion that William Thornton Parker was guilty of an embellishment.

Jack Parker

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, the notion of Joseph Parker dying in battle with some group of Native Americans seems quite unreliable.

Bonnie Wade Mucia said...

Very interesting! Lt. Col. Moses Parker is my 5th great grandfather and my proven DAR Patriot. I'm interested in finding out more about his wife, Sarah Parker Parker. Thank you for this post!