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1808 DIARY BYFIELD - NEWBURY MA kept by GORHAM PARSONS
“GORHAM PARSONS 1808” is printed inside the front cover, and the diary includes a description of taking on a 4-year-old boy as an INDENTURED SERVANT till he reaches the age of 21.
This old 1808 Almanac & Diary (4.5 x 7) is loaded with interesting information from Byfield Parish, Newbury, Massachusetts. The booklet is string-bound with marbled paper covers. The title is “FARMER’S ALMANACK … 1808,” printed by and for John West, Boston, about 80 pages. This illustrated Almanac has a large number of astronomical calculations and the farmer’s calendar for every month in the year.
Last half of the booklet has severe damage along the bottom of each page (see scan below). This damage increases all the way to the back cover which also has the lower corner torn-off. However, this damaged section is largely confined to the lower margin of the pages and only intrudes into a line or two of text on about 10 pages. Otherwise this old diary is in good condition on paper of excellent rag content.
Gorham Parsons of Byfield Parish Newbury, MA, was born in Gloucester Essex MA 27 July 1768. He married Sarah Parsons, and died in Byfield in 1844. His father, Eben or Ebenezer Parsons was born in 1746 in Gloucester, and died in 1819 in Byfield. In 1767, he married Mary Gorham in Gloucester MA. Eben was the older brother of Theophilus Parsons, an eminent jurist and chief justice of the commonwealth of Massachusetts.
[Scroll down to the bottom of this description to read expanded biographical information for Gorham and his father Eben Parsons.]
Some of the subjects covered in this little diary kept by Gorham Parsons include:
Farming Work & Construction
Travel to nearby towns & Communities
Hiring various Laborers to work on his or HIS FATHER’S farm, etc.
There are a number of entries in which Gorham mentions or names his father EBEN PARSONS
In one most interesting October entry, Gorham describes INDENTURING a four-year-old boy as a SERVANT for 17 YEARS (until the age of 21):
-Monday Oct 10th. Juliet Clark arrived from Brookfield with Daniel Henry a boy I have engaged to have bound to me till 21 years of age. Born Oct 17 at Brookfield 1804.
A partial transcription of Gorham Parson’s diary follows:
Receipts for Sprain or Bruise in Horse
1 gill Brandy
1 gill Neat (?) oil
½ gill Spirits of Oil Turpentine
Simmered well together …
-Mon Jan 4th brought in from farm 2 pigs which weighed 39 & 29 pounds
-Wednesday Jan 20th brought from farm another Pig which weighted 36 pounds
-Tuesday Feb 16tth … Brighton
-Feb 23rd … litter of pigs, 7 very good ones
-Feb 24th Heifer Silver Tip Calved
-Tues March 1st John a Dutchman arrived at store North end from New York sent on by Messrs. (?) & Champlin as a gardener. He arrived in town Monday evening 29 February – went out to Brighton the evening of March 1st and boarded with Mr. Randall.
-Friday evening March 4th Cow Byfield a Calf.
-Monday March 7th Killed 3 pigs at Brighton Sunday
-Thursday morning March 10 Found Old Ewe Woolly with two fine Lambs
-Friday March 11 Hired Thomas Keys to work on farm at Brighton from this day till first of November at twelve dollars per month – See Agreement
-Friday March 17 1808 This day agreed with James Tate an Irishman to work at Brighton one month to commence tomorrow morning at $10 per month.
-Monday March 21 … Goat brought two Kids
-March 21. John Barker began to work on Farm …
-Tuesday March 22 Heifer Daisy calved
-Monday March 28. Denny Hooker came in to Boston and went out same day to Brighton and began to work.
-Thursday March 31. Cow Tilly calved
-Wednesday Morning April 6 Nicholas Verbage(?) went out to Brighton to work on Farm at 10 dollars per month.
-Saturday 9th April Finished Sowing & laying down little hill in meadow by Fish Pond with Hard Grass & Clover.
-Wednesday April 13 Finished leveling and drying lower meadow by fish pond.
-Thursday April 14 Mr Summer planted early corn front of my house
-Saturday April 16th Killed Calf Silver Tips … Heifer Violet calved …
A fine wild Gander lit in poultry yard and was caught
-Trees from New York … 15 April
6 Pears … 6 Apple … &c
Freight from New York 1.75
Sent to Byfield for Mr. EBEN PARSONS of above trees …7 Trees
One bundle Grape Vines from Winery
-April 18 Mr. Summer rec’d at cost and charges 2 of above trees.
-Friday Afternoon April 22. Gardiner Gibson brought William Parsons horse -- and my man Caledmin from Croidon (Croydon?)
-Saturday 23. Gardner Gibson sent to Boston Mr. William Parsons Horse and he was very much dissatisfied with the appearance of Horse much chaffed & taken(?) flesh.
-Saturday April 23. Mr. Randall put in ground by stone bridge – 5 rows potato sprouts and 4 rows Canada corn.
-Thursday April 28. Cow Rutland Calved
-Friday April 29. Sow Pig’d. 8 in litter
-Saturday April 30. Completed Sowing(?) & harrowing (?) Lot. Barley Herb Grass & Clover
-Monday morning May 2. James Winship(?) came in from Brighton and set out for Byfield to work in Mr. E. PARSON’S Garden
-Same day May 2. Denwood(?) Family to Brighton
-Friday May 6. Planted in (?) by Stone Bridge sweet corn Summer & Winter Squashes … pole beans …
-Saturday May 7. Planted front of Mill House with Potatoes the Eben Brown early kind
-Sunday evening May 8th. Weighted cow Byfield calf which came March 4th last
Before the calf suckled it weighed & measured as follows …
-Monday May 9th. Very cold yesterday and this day, wind last night prevented frost. Mercury in thermometer front entry 5 o’clock A.M. at 44.
-Peaches, Cherries & Apricots fruit … many Apples trees and all the Peaches in full blossom
-May 11 No frost be thankful.
-May 11. Finished planting Corn & Potatoes in lot on main road by Mr. Capens(?). Early Corn & Eben Brown Potatoes. Beds for vegetables.
-Saturday May 14. Killed Cow Tidy’s Calf …
-Sunday May 15. Turned out to pasture this morning by Stone Bridge Cows Tidy, Rutland, Byfield, Cherry, Heifers Silver Tip, Daisy & Violet. Also 5 sheep & 2 Lambs
-Sunday May 15. Cap. Hardy & James Winship returned from the farm. Been grafting. The latter gardening for MY FATHER.
-Saturday May 21. Caledonia brot a horse colt. Call him Arab.
-May 21. Tho Keyes set out for Byfield with calf of cow Byfield. Small horse cart with Jenny the mule. Returned Monday May 23rd.
-Saturday May 28th. Nath. Brigham returned from Rhinebeck with horse Steady.
-Saturday even. Killed calf of heifer Violet.
-Sunday June 12th. Plucked first Cucumber.
-Monday June 13th. James Tate set out on a journey to Thompson
-June 14th. Killed 2 small Hens
-June 14th. Tuesday morning Joseph Priest sat out for Gardner -- to be about one week.
-Thursday June 16th. (?) went to Byfield to work as gardeners for MY FATHER MR. E. PARSONS.
-Friday morning June 17th. James Tate returned from Thompson
-June 21. Joseph Priest returned from Gardner
-June 22. John Law came last evening to work one month for 12 dollars
-July 23. Saturday. Finished planting potatoes cucumbers for pickles turnips & cabbage in ground by Stone Bridge above and below bridge.
-Sunday July 31. Gathered corn for boiling in lot East Stone Bridge. Well grown.
-10 o’clock A.M. August 10th. Began to mow meadow by Cap Hardys. Good Weather and brought home the last load Saturday night.
-Monday August 22nd. Mowed piece front of farmhouse. A very fine crop. Paid Amos a Blackman with Mr. Conant therefore 21/
-Tuesday 23. Mowed piece front of Mr. Turner by Amos a Blackman. 12/
-Wednesday 24. Mowed piece behind Mr. Belcher by Amos a Blackman 9/
-Saturday night Aug 27. Finished getting home & under cover including one large load in Mr. Turner’s barn floor …
-August 29th. Made first cut of peppers …
-Wednesday morning Sept 7th. Began to mow Dana lot. Finished it Thursday morning then began on Orchard Finished it Friday Morn.
-Saturday night got home. 4 tons good mowing from Dana lot, and one from Orchard, including one heavy ton on Mr. Sumner’s wagon & in his barn.
-Thursday noon. Sept. 15th. Robert Fletcher came to work getting out rocks from Cap. Howard’s lodge at 4/ per day.
-Denny Hooker returned from Rutland.
-Wednesday 21 Sept. Began to raise new Meeting House.
-Wednesday night a severe frost cut off the cucumber, melon, squash vines in every place except the garden, touched the winter squashes in field.
-Friday 23 Sept. Finished raising Meeting House gave three cheers Sung “Old Hundred”
-Tuesday 27 Sep. Weaned colt Arab…
-Thursday 28 … This morning Sam Randall went to Byfield on mare Caledonia to drive a pair of Oxen got yesterday for 85 dollars for MY FATHER.
-Friday morning 30. Sold Gardner Gibson mare Caledonia.
-Friday even 30. Sam Randall returned from Byfield with old bull raised here and sent to MY FATHER.
-September 22. Measured fence between Mr. Ben Hill & Mr. Hasting ground here by them and my woodland.
-Agreed with Mr. Tewill Oct 18 1808 to build (?) under horse manure cellar. To build front wall lay brick above wall set door and two windows in a handsome manner for 12 dollars he to board himself.
-Oct 24 agreed with Mr. Tewill to build front wall in barn south of (?) set two windows and one door for hogs, brick above stonework. To build handsome faced wall against (?) two brick partition walls, back wall of brick from manure cellar. Set doors & windows in cider cellar and on north side of barn. And complete all the work including brick pens & for 60 dollars. He to board himself and have brick & materials furnished him.
-Monday Oct 10th. Juliet Clark arrived from Brookfield with Daniel(?) Henry(?) a boy I have engaged to have bound to me till 21 years of age. Born Oct 17 at Brookfield 1804.
-Tuesday 25th. Mr. Wood’s carpenter came to work at 6/ per day.
-Thursday night Oct 27. Although the day uncommonly pleasant & wind WSW, came on a serious snowstorm with rain till 11 o’clock Friday. Snow fell 8 inches and in the shade at night was 3 inches. Notwithstanding the sun came out clear at 12 o’clock.
-Sunday night Novem 20. New cow Tidy bought or exchanged for old Tidy the 7th
-Wednesday night Nov 30. Sow under barn pigged with 10 pigs.
-Monday Decem 19, Rec from Brighton by Nicholas Veshage 6 Barrow Pigs taken from Dam.
Some further biographical information follows:
[from “The Story of Byfield a New England Parish” by John Louis Ewell, Boston: George E. Littlefield 1904]
Gorham Parson, Esq., was in many respects the leading man of the parish during the earlier part of the period. He was the only son of Eben Parsons, and his successor at Fatherland Farm. Fatherland Farm continued to be a model of enterprise and beauty. Mr. Parsons got his foreman James Ferguson, from England, and his head gardener from Holland, and choice breeds of animals from various parts of the world. He is said to have imported cows from far away Calcutta. His breed of swine was very noted and he delighted to send smoked hams and shoulders to deck the tables of his friends. Like his father, he was a great benefactor to the agriculture of the region.
[from “The New England Historical and Genealogical Register”
January 1896 Volume L Boston, Published by the Society, 1896, p61-63]
GORHAM Parsons was born in Gloucester, July 27, 1768. His early years were spent in that town and in Boston, excepting the time he was a pupil at Dummer Academy. In April of 1790, he was married to Sarah, daughter of Capt. Thomas Parsons of Newburyport. After residing a few years in Boston he purchased a large and valuable estate in Brighton and made his home there, embellishing the place with lavish hand. Having inherited his father’s fondness for agriculture he spared no pains in the cultivation of his farm, and in the production of choice fruits. He also continued the importation of fine cattle, sheep and swine. After the death of his father he kept up the Byfield farm in addition to the Brighton estate, but continued to reside at the latter place until after the death of Mrs. Parsons [in 1837] who preferred the home there to Fatherland Farm. … He was a valued member of the Massachusetts Agricultural Society … Gorham Parsons died in the Byfield home in the month of September, 1844, at the age of 76 years …
EBEN Parsons, the founder of Fatherland Farm, was the second son of Rev. Moses Parsons, who was ordained pastor of the Congregational Church in Byfield , Newbury, June 20th, 1745, and who during that summer removed his family from Gloucester to the old parsonage in this parish … Eben was born, Feb. 27th, 1746. As a boy he attended the town school until the opening of Dummer Academy in 1763, when he became a pupil of that institution in charge of the famous Master Moody.
It is said of him that after leaving Dummer school he preferred business to the college education which was offered him by his father; and that accordingly he took his clothing in a bundle, and, with his shoes under his arm, started off on foot to Gloucester, declaring that when he had earned money enough to do so he should come back and buy the Dummer farm at Newbury Falls. In Gloucester, Eben Parsons engaged in fishing off the coast of Cape Ann, but soon extended the business, acquiring several vessels of his won, by which he obtained the means to engage largely in commercial pursuits, later on sending his ships to all foreigh ports then open to trade. He finally became one of the largest importers in the country, and had the reputation of being in old time parlance, -- “a princely merchant.”
In May of 1767 Mr. Parsons was married to Mary, daughter of Col. John Gorham of Barnstable, and a few years later he removed to Boston where he had purchased a large and valuable estate as a home for himself and family …
In the year 1801, the subject of our sketch being then 55 years of age, carried out his declared intention of returning to his native town and buying the Dummer place …
The present mansion was built by Mr. Parsons in 1802, as evidenced by the discovery, during late repairs of coins of that date beneath hearth-stones of the main house …
Meanwhile improvements on the land were going on, and during the years of 1808 and 1809 a marshy tract on the northern side of the farm was reclaimed, or manufactured into a fertile field by means of a very stout wall, impervious to water, being constructed along the margin of the Falls River at this point, and the entire space of bog filled in with stones and gravel, topped with loam, all of which ingredients were respectively drawn from neighboring premises by ox-team, and spread into level space by hand labor. The name of this new-made portion of the farm was Sewell’s Point as given in old letters of Mr. Parsons to his foreman, Jeremiah Allen, under whose supervision the work was carried on. The owner was then residing in his Boston home, which was not given up until after the death of his wife, Sept. 10th, 1810. But frequent visits were made by himself and family to this country place, which out of regard for his father’s memory and love for his native town he had named Fatherland Farm … Marvelous tales they tell of boxes and bags of silver coin brought over the road by oxen, with which to recompense the army of artisans of various kinds employed upon the premises. … Of thirteen children born to Mr. And Mrs. Eben Parsons, this son [Gorham] was the only one who survived the years of childhood.
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