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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.
If you would like supporting documents email me...firstname.lastname@example.org
The Many Joseph Parsons in South Carolina
The parents of Joseph G. Parsons Sr. and his background has been a mystery for Parsons Researchers. Some Researchers believe that our Parsons ancestor came to the Carolinas from Virginia; others believe they came directly from England. As of today I have seen no document that establishes our Parsons family outside of Laurens and Craven County, South Carolina. Much research will need to be done to discover their origin, but for now a study of the land grants, government documents and census records, give us some clues about the Parsons in North and South Carolina. The great benefit for researchers today is that more and more documents are becoming available online for that time period.
One difficulty faced is distinguishing the different Joseph Parsons in Anson County, N.C. and South Carolina. Some Parsons researchers have taken information from one Joseph Parsons and applied it to another Joseph Parsons assuming they were the same Joseph Parsons. The results have been much confusion. Also, adding to the confusion is the different spellings of the name “Parsons”. In some documents the name is spelled “Person” or “Persons” when without doubt it’s referring to a “Parsons”. I’ve also seen the name “Pearson” used for Parsons in land deeds when it’s obvious the reference is to Parsons. This can be seen in some of the land documents for Laurens County South Carolina which I have available on my web site. Many people during that time could not write and spell their name. Joseph was one of these, and that’s evident by several sales deeds where he used his mark to witness documents.
In my research I have found several Joseph Parsons in the vicinity of the Ninety Six and Cheraws districts of South Carolina. Some of these may be referring to the same individual, but trying to identify these “Josephs” has been a challenge.
Different Joseph Parsons mentioned: Notice dates of Individuals and events.
1. Joseph Parsons in Anson County, North Carolina born 1760 according to his Pension Declaration. Patriot Captain in the Revolutionary War. His history is well documented and I have a copy of his Petition for Pension. In the Pension dated 1832/39 , the file includes a copy of a bond signed 12 Feb 1790 by Joseph Parsons and George Taylor and witnessed by Samuel Parsons for the marriage of Joseph Parsons to Nancy Jordan. Also, it states that he had a brother, Thomas Parsons. The Pension document was signed “Jo Parsons”. Some researchers believe he was the son of Samuel and Rachael (or his second wife—Harriet Ann Wilkins or Elkins). These Parsons are associated with Anson County N.C. Joseph held several government offices in North Carolina in Montgomery County N.C. This is not our Joseph Parsons.
2. A Joseph Parsons who witnessed with his mark “J” the land sale to Joseph Attaway in Anson County N.C. 1765 and Laurens County, S.C. in 1795.
Aug. 10, 1765 Notes from a Parsons file in B’ham, Al. Public Library p. 318 Joseph Attaway and wf Goolspring of Anson, to John Spencer of same, for l90 proc. Money …200 A on Bupores (?) fork of little river, granted to William Stone 26 May 1757….Joseph Attaway (seal) Goolsring Attaway x (seal), wit. William Spencer, Jos. Persons (“J” His Mark), recorded July term 1766, Sam. Spencer, C.C. (My notes: Little River was located in or near Anson County, N.C. where the following Parsons lived…John, James, Samuel and Rachael. Plus James Goolsby, Joseph Attaway, and Abner Bishop).
( In 1795 our Joseph Parsons sold 250 acres in Laurens County S.C. to Soloman Langston. Signed Joseph Parsons (one researcher recorded “ In Lau. County S.C deed bk. F p. 59 and p. 387 Joseph Parsons signed with the mark “J”).
It may be significant that the Joseph Parsons witnessing the Attaway sale in Anson County N.C. used a mark “J” and the Joseph Parsons, who is our Joseph, signed with a mark “J” selling property in Laurens County, South Carolina). It is significant that Joseph Attaway moved to Laurens County S.C. later and acquired a plantation next to Joseph and Alceys.
3. A Joseph Parsons in Nov. 18, 1774 served as a Petit Juror in South Carolina. His name is included in a letter complaining to the British authorities of their taxation in the Cheraws District of Craven County S.C. (This location is near the land grant property of May 15, 1772 just South of Anson County N.C. see #4 below) This appointment would have been made by the British Government.
4. A Joseph Parsons 1778-80 served on Petit Juror in South Carolina, Cheraws Distict. This appointment would have been by the Whig government (Patriots). Before 1775 the appointments would have been by the British government.
5. A Joseph Parsons on May 15, 1772 received a land grant of 150 acres in South Carolina from King George III. This property in South Carolina bordered on Anson County N.C and was bounded to the N.E. by John Westfield property. The location is Westfield Creek in Craven County. Because of the location, this is probably the same Joseph Parsons as #3. In A.B. Parsons list of Land Grants, Deeds, etc. In the sale of 100 Acres to James Mclintock it say, “Joseph Parsons, planter and Alcey, his wife, of Craven County and Province of South Carolina”. This identifies our Joseph with having lived in Craven County S.C. However, this is probably not our Joseph Parsons.
I believe that # 3, 4, and 5 is referring to the same Joseph Parsons but I do not believe this is our Joseph. In 1772 our Joseph is in Laurens County, S.C. according to some land deed documents. Also, some books on Carolina History believe that # 3, 4 , 5 is referring to #1 Joseph Parsons. However, that Joseph Parsons was born in 1760. I doubt if he was serving on a Jury at the age of 14 and receiving land grants at the age of 12.
6. A Joseph Parsons who guided Colonel Powell’s battalion in 1760 from Saluda to Broad River in 96 district S.C. Laurens County was created out of this district. He is listed in the Pay voucher of 1760 during war with Cherokees. This is the earliest mention I have found of a Joseph Parsons in the area. If this is our Joseph then he would have been about 17-20 years old. Whoever this Joseph is would have had to be familiar with the area to be able to lead the battalion. Saluda and the Broad River area is where we know that Joseph raised his family later.
7. Joseph Parsons who married Alcey Goolsby in about 1763 in Laurens County S.C. Without any doubt this is our Joseph Parsons.
8. Joseph Parsons who was the son of Joseph Parsons….He would have been Joseph Parsons Jr. born 1763 or 65-1770. Some witnessed land documents has their signature as Jr. and Sr. This is the son of our descendent referred to as Garrett Parsons in Jefferson County Documents.
9. A Joseph Stanyarne Parsons. Listed in Pay abstract 1781. He was a witness to the pay of Daniel Jordan. South Carolina Militia, Captain John Fanning’s Independent Troop, S.C. Volunteer Horse. I have not been able to find any information on this individual. Col. Fanning was a Loyalist.
10. A Joseph Parsons Sen. Listed in the British pay abstract of 1781. Listed as dead and his pay was given to his daughter, Anne Smith. I have not been able to find any information on this individual.
11. Joseph Parsons Jun. Listed in pay abstract recorded in 9. 1781 Listed as dead and pay was given to his sister, Anne Smith. I have not been able to find any information on this individual.
12. A Joseph Parsons is mentioned in a South Carolina magazine. ( Early American Garden and Landscapes) “Joseph Parsons (c1743-1823) was also listed as a gardener on Hampstead in the 1809 and 1813 Charleston City Directories. Parsons was born in Henrico County, Virginia. He married Alcey Goolsby in 1763 in Laurens, South Carolina, and served as an Indian spy in the Revolutionary War”. I have looked at the Charleston City Directory cited and the only thing mentioned is that a Joseph Parsons was a Gardener on the Hamstead. There is no mention of any of the other details. I believe the author of the article found the information about Joseph Parsons our ancestor online and assumed he was the same Joseph Parsons, the gardner. There is no record of our Joseph living near Charleston. In the 1790, 1800, 1810 Census our Joseph Parsons is listed in Laurens County, S.C. Also, the comment in the article concerning Joseph Parsons place of origin and that he was an Indian spy has no documentation that I have been able to find. There was a Joseph Parsons who was an “Indian Spy” but documentation has him in Virginia.
13. In the same magazine article, a Joseph Parsons appeared in the records as a gardener in 1807, as the husband of Esther, the widow of Conrad Hook, a carpenter. They appeared in land records; until his death in 1823. His obituary in the City Gazette in Charleston on April 23, 1823 read, “Died, in the city on Monday, the 7th inst. after a long illness, Mr. Joseph Parsons, aged 40 years, formerly of Wiscasset, but for the last 20 years a resident of this state.” When he died, they were living in Hampstead “near Mr. Nell’s Rope-Walk.”
14. Joseph Persons…The reason I have included this Joseph with a last name Persons is because it was not uncommon to misspell names and Persons is a common misspelling of Parsons. A.B. Parsons in his research (see his Parsons Family dated 1986) tells of finding a document that says that our ancestor Joseph Parsons Sr. was a Captain in the Tory Militia. This information came from a document he found in the Laurens County S.C. Library and was written by William Owens (Owings), husband of Elizabeth Parsons Owen (Owings). Elizabeth was the daughter of our Joseph Parsons Sr. and William was the son-in-law of Joseph.
I have searched for a mention of a Joseph Parsons who served in the Ninety Six district during the revolutionary period that was a Tory Captain but with no success. However, I have found a Captain Joseph Person. He served in the Little River Loyalist Militia, Ninety Six Brigade, Major Patrick Cunningham’s Regiment. One pay abstract is dated 1780. He is also listed as a participant in the Kings Mountain Battle. See my document Joseph Parsons in Revolutionary War. I think this is our Joseph Parsons. He has the correct rank, correct location and dates. The only difference is the spelling of his name which was common.
Introduction to the Genealogy and Life of Joseph G. Parsons Sr. and His Descendents
After living in the Carolinas for most of his adult life, Joseph Garrett Parsons Sr. in 1817-19 journeyed with his youngest son John “Jack” and his wife, Mary “Poly” Cox Parsons to West Jefferson County, Alabama. Alcey, Joseph’s wife, had died about 20 years before and now having raised 10 children and many grandchildren he decided to make Alabama his new home.
Alabama had just become a state in 1819 and many residents of surrounding states had what historians called “Alabama Fever” with a desire to move to the fertile land of Alabama. The Western part of the county, which would later be called “the Garden Spot” of the county, was experiencing the influx of families from Tennessee, Georgia and the Carolinas. Joseph’s arrival came when he was about 76 years old and John about 32. They chose land that was on lower 5 mile creek between the present day 5 mile creek bridge and a mill that one of the McAdory’s had built on Valley Creek. His property was near one of the main roads during that time period called Bear Meat Cabin Road and later the Old Huntsville Road. Old Alabama maps show a spring called “Parsons” that feeds 5 mile creek and identifies the general location of the original homestead. This area was called Jonesboro named after the first settler, John Jones, who settled the area with his brother-in-law, Caleb Friley in 1813. Here they built a timber stockade called “Fort Jonesboro” to protect against the possibility of Indian attack. Some attribute the founding of Jones Valley to Jeremiah Jones who purchased land in Blount County (present day portion of Jefferson County, AL) in 1814 and was there in 1816 census with his wife and 3 daughters.
In the following years, many of Joseph’s children and grandchildren would also make the journey to the “garden spot” of Jefferson County settling in the areas that are now known as Adger, Johns, Mud Creek, Oak Grove and Hueytown. This land they found was described in Teeple and Smith’s book…”the land was productive and required little labor to produce the necessities of life. The woods on both sides of the valley were the hunter’s paradise abounding in deer and turkey, with some bear and panther…cattle and horses were raised in the woods and afforded all the butter, beef and milk that were needed. Cotton was hauled to the falls of Black Warrior, as Tuscaloosa was called then, and exchanged for coffee, salt, sugar and calico… The beautiful streams were clear as crystal in which you could see fish in ten feet of water.” Alabama’s most gifted poet of the era was A.B. Meek. Surrounded by the beauty of the area he wrote, “the fisherman in his canoe, dugout of a poplar tree, with his gig in his hand and his rifle lying beside him, ready for a deer if he should venture in sight, with the muscadine vines hanging is festoons from the tops of tall trees that overhung the water with their cluster of black, delicious fruit, and the beautiful red- horse fish sporting beneath his canoe, with their silver sides and red fins and tails, in the most desirable and healthful climate in the United States, the thirty-third degree of north latitude, almost entirely free from cyclones and northers….
Joseph’s descendants purchased from the government and were granted (because of military service) thousands of acres. The following was written about the area during the period 1815-1861 by Teeple and Smith in their “History of Jefferson County” published in 1887. “down on big creek in the northwest part of the county, the county belonged to almost three or four families, viz: the Waldrops, Parsons, Vines and Smiths, three of which families could raise a captains company and did come very near doing so in the late Unpleasantness”. The reference to “Big Creek” refers to Valley Creek that was one of the many pristine creeks that was so important to the early settlers. Also, an article In a newspaper item from Livingston Journal, Sumter County, May 18, 1877 (His birthday) “Dr. Sam Parsons of Jefferson County is 83 years old, was a soldier of 1812, has 12 children, 45 grandchildren, and 34 great grandchildren.” “Dr. Sam” was a grandson of Joseph and moved to the county around 1838. In my discussion with one of the area historians, he said the area should have been called “Parsons” because of the extremely large number of Parsons who settled the area.
Almost all of the Parsons and so many other families in the Western Jefferson County area can claim Joseph Garrett Parsons Sr. as their distant Grandfather. Joseph died in 1823 and is buried in an unknown site near 5 Mile Creek. T. M. Parsons, in his brief history of the Parsons family, wrote; "Joseph Parsons, an old man who had served in the Revolutionary War, came to this county in the Fall of 1817 with his son, John "Jack" settled near lower 5 mild creek and died there."
During the remainder of the 1800’s the Parsons became Farmers, Gin Owners, Justice of the Peace, Jefferson County Commissioners, Store Owners, Postmaster, Blacksmiths, Church Planters, School Teachers, School Originators, and much more.
Birmingham, Al. Dec. 2016
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