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 Jasper 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, 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
28Portrait And Biographical Album, p. 294


  1. Thanks for that article. Going to put it with my genealogy. Jasper Parish father was my great great ~~~~ grandfathers brother. So his father was a uncle.
    Thanks again
    Jay Parish

  2. Sam Parrish says

    I’d love to know from Jay Parish which of the PARRISH brothers he was a descendent of. I am a descendent of the youngest of the PARRISH boys Abraham. Jasper was my uncle Zebulon would’ve been my grandfather. I sent all this information to Chris so he could write the article. I’ve been researching a Family history for the last 12 years to find out the story of each generation. He did a great job of putting it all together and adding a lot to it and writing this series of articles. You can find another article at the Wallenpaupack historical Society.They have a lot of information on the time we spent as the Susquehanna settlers only in the Wyoming Valley. Hope that helps. Glad to hear from another member of the family.

  3. Jay Parish says

    Hi Sam. Zebulon’s brother John would of been my Grandfather. John had a son Henry T. Parish. He had three sons. John Preston Parish Appleton Wi. Seth Parish Shoemaker in Ft. Edwards NY. And My grandfather Philo Carter Parish shoemaker Appleton Wi. He had a son Philander who had a son Jay. Then Harold and my father Jay. All in Appleton. I am 72 and still in Appleton. I have a book called the white Mohawk. Which is about Jasper.

  4. Hi cousin. This is great information and great news. Can’t wait to find out how to get a hold of your book. I will have to find a way to get in touch with you so that we can exchange information. Another one of our cousins has a really fantastic website on the family. He publishes it out of Chicago. By the way you might like To know that you are a distant cousin of Frank Lloyd Wright. And you might like to know that some of our cousins were involved in the underground railroad and as lawyers on behalf of the men seeking their freedom in the court case known as the Amistad.

  5. Hello to Chris and Jay. Be sure to take a look at the Don Parrish website online. It covers a couple of topics including some excellent information on the Parrish/ Parish family and it’s genealogy. By the way our first known grandfather in North America, John Parrish/ Parish is buried in old Stonington Connecticut next to our Scottish grandfather John Waddell and our grandmother Mary Waddell Parish. Sam

  6. By the way, I assume you have our family genealogy book that was written by Roswell Parish. It goes under a couple of names but one of them is “New England parish families“ all the websites that have our family information are based on this book. So this is the ultimate source. By the way I have the copy that belong to Frank Lloyd Wright starter in law who passed away recently. She was trying to prove that he was a descendent of our family. I have her notes in the margins and some correspondence that she left inside.

  7. Jasper’s son Isaac built a house on he finger lakes in 1837. It’s called the cobblestone cottage. It’s a bed and breakfast. Has a false wall probably use in the Underground Railroad
    He was the first boat captain on the lake.

  8. I also have the parish bible. There was a misprint on my grandfather Henry. He is listed as Freeman.

  9. Hello again to both of you. There was an article written on the house that Jasper Sun Belt. It is definitely still standing and it is now a bed-and-breakfast. You can visit the room where he kept slaves. He did Carrie escaping slaves on the steamboat that he captained for one year He was the first captain on the lake of steamboat. He sometimes hid the slaves on squaw Island on that lake. Jaspers home was around until not that long ago. Temporally it had been turned into a funeral home and then was torn down to make away for a gas station. The historic Still has pictures of it. The home that the family lived in before they left Windham Connecticut is still standing and has been recently conserved. It was written up in the New York Times real estate section. You can even go online and look at pictures of the house inside and out. The grave of John Parrish our first grandfather can be found on find a grave online. And the historic society has a copy of his will. I am amazed that you have the farm family Bible. It would be great to see pictures of it and of any pages in it that the family wrote in! By the way the kitchen table that was in the home of Jasper parish in Canandaigua still exists. It is in the Rochester historical Society Museum in their kitchen exhibit. They published an article on it in the paper. So you can even see it online. By the way I’m sending you a link to the article on the house of Jasper’s son that is still standing. Sam

  10. Jay Parish says

    I contacted Rochester historical society and they don’t have Jaspers table.

  11. Hi sorry for the delay in replying. My computer was down for a while and Apple just fixed it for me. I have a Digital copy of the article on their exhibit space with the table in it. I have corresponded with them about this and they assured me they still had the table. I will have to check back with him. Meantime if it’s OK with Chris I will send him a copy of it and you can reach him through his newspaper since I don’t have your email address. Thanks for waiting patiently.

  12. Hi . I just contacted Bill Keeler and he said they don’t have Jasper’s table. Maybe it’s in Buffalo.

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