Joseph Parsons of Laurens County South Carolina during the Revolutionary War
Joseph Parsons Sr.---Tory Militia Captain in the Revolutionary War?
In the 1892-93 document that T. M. Parsons wrote on the history of the Parsons, he mentions that Joseph G. Parsons served in the Revolutionary War, but failed to mention which side. Researcher, A.B. Parsons, quotes a statement made in the will of William Owens (Owings), who was the husband of Elizabeth Parsons Owens. Elizabeth was the daughter of Joseph and according to this document William said his wife, Elizabeth Parsons, was the sister of Samuel Parsons a Captain during the War of 1812, and the daughter of Joseph Parsons who was a Captain of a company of Tory Militia during the Revolutionary War.
Excerpt of field stone markers at Dials Methodist Cemetery obtained from the Laurens County (SC) Library concerning William Owings, Sr, born 4 Aug 1771, died 18 July 1856. "This record says that his wife was Elizabeth Parsons, born 1775, died 186?, that she was the sister of Samuel Parsons, captain of a company of infantry during te War of 1812, and that she was the daughter of Joseph Parsons, captain of a company of Tories during the Revolutionary War."
There are several books and web sites on the Loyalist during the American Revolution and I have not found any reference to a Captain Joseph Parsons. In March of 2017 I contacted the library in Macon, Georgia who has one of the largest collections of Revolutionary War soldiers from Georgia and the Carolinas. In their search they also found no references to Joseph Parsons.
The British kept very accurate records and today we have their pay records listing individuals by command and dates of their service. One record does have of a Joseph Parsons from the ninety- six area of South Carolina dated 1760. This Joseph Parsons led a battalion of British soldiers from Saluda to the Broad River and was paid 1 pound 11 shillings for his service. This military action was to put down an Indian uprising. The date of 1760 places this long before the Revolutionary War and if this is our ancestor then he would have be about 16-20 years old.
I’ve also searched for a Captain Joseph Parsons in the Patriot Army and found a Captain Joseph Parsons listed in the area from Anson and Montgomery County North Carolina. These counties border with South Carolina. According to his petition for pension he was born in 1760 and his wife is also mentioned in the petition and it’s certain that he is not our ancestor Joseph Parsons.
The closest that I have found of any person that could be a reference to our Joseph Parsons is found in a pay abstract dated 1780. A Captain Joseph Person is listed as a captain of a company of Tories from the ninety six district of South Carolina. He served under Major Patrick Cunningham who had a plantation in the same area. According to this pay record he served for 192 days and was due pay from the British.
(Many Loyalist officers were banished and moved to Canada, Florida and Nassau after the war, but Major Patrick Cunningham was allowed to remain in South Carolina after and served in the South Carolina Legislature from 1792-1794. James McClintoch was a Presbyterian Chaplin and was known by his middle name Timothy). This document is from “Loyalist in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War” by Murtie June Clark.
The dates that Captain Joseph Person served included two significant battles. First, the battle at Williams Plantation which was just over the border in North Carolina and second, King’s Mountain in North Carolina which proved to be one of the most significant battles of the war. In the list of officers that the British have, Joseph Person fought in both of these battles. The King’s Mountain battle was a rout and the British forces decisively defeated. Historians say that all of the British participants were either killed or captured. Colonel Benjamin Cleveland and Major Joseph Winston took charge of the 698 prisoners. Riding down the Yadkin Valley, the Patriots under their command delivered the captured Loyalists to the Moravian settlement at Bethabara, where the captives were imprisoned in a stockade. The Whig Militiamen had taken almost 700 prisoners on 7 Oct 1780, but by the time they arrived at Bethabara on the 24th, they had no more than 300 prisoners. Most of the prisoners had escaped. Once they arrived at the prison where they were to be held and order was given that their names and places of residence would be recorded, however I have not found any such record online. Those that were imprisoned were later part of a prisoner exchange.
This individuals name is Person and not Parsons, however, I have found numerous records where the name Parsons is spelled Person. I have many land documents where the reference is obvious Parsons but spelled Person or Persons. Since the original documents were handwritten it is common to find various spelling of names in genealogy research. Is Captain Joseph Person our Joseph Parsons? 1. He has the correct rank. 2. He is a Tory. 3. He has the correct first name. 4. He is from the correct location….the ninety six district of South Carolina. All of this agrees with Elizabeth Parsons Owens account that her father Joseph Parsons was a Captain in a company of Tory Militia.
I have searched records for a Joseph Person in the first Census records of 1790 for South Carolina also, I have been through the Petit and Juror records for this area that date before the 1790 Census. I have not seen any Joseph Person listed. Our Joseph Parsons is listed in the ninety six district in the 1790 Census, but no Joseph Person.
In the Historical Library in Birmingham I found a book titled “Roster of Loyalist in the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge” 1992, B.G. Moss. In it he has the following:
“Parsons (Person), Samuel
Samuel Parsons was appointed Captain of the Anson County Militia on 6 Dec. 1772, by Gov. William Tryon. On 17 March 1774, he was appointed Captain under Col Hugh McDonald by Gov. Josiah Martin. He was in the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge, was captured and confined in the jail at Halifax, North Carolina. N.C. Col, x486; PC822, Force, Fourth Series, V, 63.”
This Samuel Parsons is the same person that A.B. Parsons mentions in his Land Deeds of Anson County, North Carolina. He was one of the Parsons who witnessed land deeds with several families that eventually moved to Laurens County, South Carolina. It is an example of how Parsons was commonly misspelled Person. Samuel had a son name Joseph who is mentioned above and served as a Captain in the American Patriot Army. As I mentioned he was born in 1760 and his history is well documented and is not our Joseph. Their family is an example of how the Revolutionary War affected families… father and son loyal to different sides.
Thomas Allen writes: “South Carolina Militia was expanded by General Henry Clinton in May 1780 when he ordered British Army Major Patrick Ferguson, Inspector of Militia, to form “Companies consisting of, from 50 to 100 Men each, and will when the local and other Circumstances will admit of it, form Battalions consisting of, from 6 to 12 Companies each, allowing such as cannot conveniently be assembled in Battalions, to remain as Independent Companies.” In 1781, when British troops evacuated the state’s interior, militia regiments took over occupation. Troops of cavalry became better regulated and disciplined, smaller regiments were merged into large units. During the war, by some estimates, about 5,000 men served the South Carolina Militia—many first as Rebels and then as Tories. “Tories: Fighting for the King in America’s First Civil War”, by Thomas B. Allen
I believe the current evidence supports the idea that the Joseph Person, listed as a Captain in a Company of Tories is indeed Joseph Garrett Parsons, our ancestor. I know that the Parsons family would rather believe that he was a Patriot and fought for our nation’s independence. But there is not one bit of evidence that this is true. Rather, all the evidence is that he sided, at least in the 1780’s with the British Loyalist.
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