The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part II)

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Source: Ontario County Times, April 16, 1897

When last we left the family of Zebulon Parish, they had packed up their bags and the young’uns, including the toddler Abraham, and ventured out into the frontier wilderness of Connecticut. The family landed right smack dab in the middle of a hornet’s nest. More on that in a moment.

Abraham Parrish was born on March 30, 1772. There’s a couple of things you should know about Abraham: one which you’re already asking; and one which you probably don’t know enough to ask.

First, as you might have noticed, Abraham’s last name contains two r’s (“Parrish”) while his father (and his three oldest brothers Jacob, Nathan, and Isaac), kept the original spelling with one r (“Parish”).15 It’s not clear why.

Here’s the thing you likely don’t know: Abraham was named after his older brother. The first Abraham was five years old when he died a couple months before the second Abraham (and the hero of our story) was born.

Our Abraham was just about two years old when the family moved to the Town of Westmoreland in 1774. Zebulon “Parrish” is listed as among the settlement’s first emigrants, and, that same year, 22-year-old Isaac was named tithing man and Zebulon was appointed Fence Viewer. Their names appear on the Westmoreland Tax Lists until 1778, the last year Zebulon being referred to as “Captain Zebulon Parish.”16 You can probably guess why the names didn’t appear after 1778.

The story of the Wyoming valley is as interesting as it is complicated. It had long been a southern battlefront in the Iroquois’ never-ending war with the Algonquin tribes (in this case the Lenni-Lenape or “Delaware” tribe as they are more commonly known). In 1754, Delaware chiefs sold the land to the Susquehannah Company of Windham, Connecticut.17

The so-called “Connecticut Yankees” sought to settle the land which they felt belonged to their colony. Well, the folks in Pennsylvania had a different opinion, and so did the Indians for that matter. After a series of raids and a miniature civil war (the first of three – yes, you can see where this is headed – “Pennamite-Yankee Wars”), the Royal Crown decreed “that no Connecticut settlements could be made until the royal pleasure was known.”18

In 1773, King George sided with Connecticut and migration from Windham to Wyoming commenced anew. That’s where the Parish family re-enters the picture, just in time for the Second Pennamite War. By this time, the Pennsylvanians began settling right next to those Connecticut Yankees and, well, that was like mixing oil with water. The two simply weren’t what we would call “good neighbors.”

Things were such a mess in northeastern Pennsylvania that Thomas Paine offered it as yet another reason America should split from England. In his 1776 masterpiece Common Sense, he says:

“The difference between Pennsylvania and Connecticut, respecting some unlocated lands, shows the insignificance of a British government, and fully proves, that nothing but continental authority can regulate continental matters.”19

Ol’ Zeb Parish took this sentiment to heart. And when General George Washington came acallin’, Zeb and most of the able-bodied men from the Wyoming Valley took up arms and marched off with the soon-to-be Father of Our Country. That’s how he came to be known as “Captain” Zebulon Parish.

Of course, when word got out the Tories and their allies were marching towards Wyoming, the continental army released these boys to return to and defend their homes. We therefore find Captain Parish at home with his family in the Town of Westmoreland when the attack occurred. He was one of the Connecticut Yankees to first hear the story of the slaughter from Lebbeus Hammond who had just escaped certain death on what is today known as Queen Esther’s Rock.20

To show you the character of Zebulon Parish, rather than make a hurried escape with the rest of his family, he took his son and Stephen Kimble to warn the neighboring settlement (who were, shudder, Pennsylvanians!). Alas, on the way the three were captured and taken prisoner. Zebulon was released after the war. Kimble died a prisoner. But young Jasper, why that’s a whole story by itself.21

Incidentally, Stephen Parrish, Zebulon’s third son, along with Reuben Jones, was also kidnapped while escaping in the aftermath of the Wyoming Massacre. Described as a “weak, feeble man,” his captors must have had mercy on him, for they instructed him in the ways of the Indian “materia medica,” (essentially, the various applications of herbs, spirits, and chants that constituted he workings of an Iroquois “medicine man”).22

So learned was Stephen in these arts that he practiced them upon his release and was known as “Doctor Parrish” for the remainder of his life. Stephen eventually relocated to Rush where he died in 1826.23 By the way, good news, Reuben Jones also survived his tenure as an Iroquois prisoner and ultimately died in nearby Wayne County.24

But it is the story of Jasper that has the greatest bearing on the life of Abraham.

Jasper was only 11 years old in 1778 when he was captured by the Delaware tribe. In the process of moving from one tribe to another, Jasper learned several Indian dialects as well as making many friends among the Iroqouis.25 So immersed in Iroquois language was he, that when Jasper returned to his family in 1784 at the age of seventeen, he had to go to school for not quite a year to relearn English!26

In 1792, George Washington appointed Jasper as chief interpreter for the negotiations with the Iroquois and he relocated to Canandaigua.27 This is where he real story of Abraham Parrish begins. Well, sort of.

Zebulon Parish died in 1794 in Little Britain, New York, and his widow subsequently moved to Canandaigua to live with Jasper.28 She wasn’t alone. She brought along her two youngest children, including Abraham.

Now, Abraham wasn’t really that young when he moved to his older brother’s Canandaigua house. He was 22 years old. But what he saw must have amazed him. Though his brother was “only” an interpreter, he was critical to all negotiations. He likely entertained many dignitaries traveling throughout the Greater Western New York region. In fact, the Parrish household in Canandaigua might have even seemed like it was a tavern.

And that’s a hint to what’s in next week’s concluding episode of “The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper.”

15Portrait And Biographical Album, Chapman Brothers, Chicago, 1888, pp. 294
16The Michael Shoemaker Book, by Williams T. Blair, International Textbook Press, Scranton, PA, 1924, p. 537
17Connecticut, by Alfred Van Dusen, Random House, New York,1961, p. 124
18Ibid, p. 124
19Common Sense, Thomas Paine, 1776, 1859 reprint by Honyoake and Co., London, p. 33
20The Historical Record of Wyoming Valley, The Wilkes-Barre Record, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1897, p. 169
21Ibid, p. 169
22 History of Wyoming, p. 471
23 https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/36890095/stephen-parrish, accessed April 12, 2021
24 History of Wyoming, p. 471
25The History of Genesee Country, Volume I, Chapter VIII, “The White Man Takes Possession, 1783-1842,” by Arthur Caswell Parker, M.S., S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1925, p. 262)
26“Jasper Parrish: A pioneer of a different sort,” by Lynn Paulson, Daily Messenger, September 2, 2019
27Ibid.
28Portrait And Biographical Album, p. 294

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