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

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Wyoming Forts A-Fort Durkee, B-Fort Wyoming or Wilkesbarre, C-Fort Ogden, D-Kingston Village, E-Forty Fort, G-battleground, H-Fort Jenkins, I-Monocasy Island, J-Pittstown stockades, G-Queen Esther’s Rock Source: Lossing, Benson, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, January 7, 1859, p. 353

In many ways, the life of Abraham Parrish wasn’t that different from any other person participating in the formative decades of the grand American Experiment.

In other ways, he lived a unique life that exposed him at an early age to the rarified frontier air that existed when Western New York emerged from its dense terra incognita forest. He witnessed firsthand nearly all the major personalities of our region and saw how they forged this thickly wooded region into an industrious civilization.

But let’s not get far ahead…

Zebulon Parish represents a typical American story. He was born on February 12, 1726 in Windham, a town in the eastern half of the Colony of Connecticut between Hartford and the Rhode Island border. He not only shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln, he shares something else – his descendants were active in the abolition movement.

There was a very good reason Zebulon’s family joined the fight against slavery – his grandfather, John Wattles, came to America as a slave.

Our story, therefore, begins in Scotland…

John Wattles was born in Scotland and lived in tumultuous times. Great Britain’s King (Charles I) had a son (also named Charles) who was King of Scotland. A lot of folks didn’t like Charles I. In fact, they didn’t like the whole idea of a monarchy. They preferred a republic. (Hmm, interesting idea, given this was more than a hundred years before the American Revolution.)

Parliament decided Oliver Cromwell was the man to lead this new republican government. Charles I disagreed and so began a roughly decade long battle for control of Great Britain. Ol’ Chuck was tried for treason and beheaded in 1649. The execution was quite a spectacle, with people not knowing what to think. Even the executioner refused to shout the usual “Behold the head of a traitor!” for fear people would recognize his voice.

Meanwhile, back in Scotland…

The younger Charles would have none of this. He was popular in Scotland and drew an army of Scots to take one last stand against Cromwell’s forces. Among those Scotsmen was the one named John Wattles.

The Scots didn’t have quite the success Charles envisioned. During the Battle of Worcester (September 3, 1651) Cromwell’s army captured Wattles, along with thousands of others faithful to King Charles I (“the martyr”). The good news: unlike Charles I, they weren’t executed for treason. The bad news…

On October 20th, 1651, Parliament, now controlled by Cromwell, granted amnesty to these prisoners with the stipulation that they pay their own way to the Colonies to serve out their sentence. Wattles, apparently listed as “John Woodall” and/or “John Wodell” on the ship’s manifest of 272 passengers, boarded the John & Sara in London. The boat was then inspected at Gravesend before setting sail.1

Upon reaching Massachusetts Colony in 1652, Samuel Richardson of Woburn paid twenty pounds to buy “John Woodall” for a term of eight years. Although Richardson died in 1658, Wattles didn’t gain his freedom until 1660 and took up settlement a few miles from Woburn in a town on the edge of the frontier called Chelmsford. Given 15 acres of land, he built a place to live and farm. In 1666 he married Mare Goole (Gould). The had several children before John was killed by Indians in King Philip’s War in March of 1676.2

What makes John Wattles interesting to us isn’t his heroic exploits. It’s his eldest child. Mary Wattell (why the “s” dropped off is anyone’s guess) was born in 1668. She really must have liked her father because, in 1685 she married John Parish. The thing of note about John Parish is that he lived in Mendon, Massachusetts, but that’s merely a coincident fact in our story. More important is where they moved. Having suffered one too many Indian attacks in Mendon, the young family promptly moved to a place called Preston in New London County, Connecticut Colony.3

John had a son by the name of Isaac, born in 1697. By 1720, however, Isaac Parish moved to Windham, a bit inland from Preston. Isaac was Abraham’s grandfather. He was a tavern-keeper in Windham.4 Keep that in mind.

It was in Windham that Zebulon Parish, Abraham’s father was born and was married (to Hannah Kimball). It’s also where Abraham was born. They didn’t stay too long. This branch of the Parish family was one of several families to move Connecticut Colony’s then western-most settlement – Westmoreland. Today, that settlement is located in what is now Wyoming County – the one in northeastern Pennsylvania.

“Pennsylvania?” you ask?

Yes, that’s a long story, a different story. Maybe I’ll tell it later. This story is about the Wyoming Massacre.

On the evening of June 30, 1778, Colonel John Butler brought 400 British regulars to the edge of Wyoming Valley and the Connecticut Yankees’ settlement. Along with him came 500 Iroquois (mostly Seneca) warriors5, led by Sakayenguaraghton, a.k.a. the “Old King” of the Seneca tribe.6

In the dawn of July 3rd, the settlers, aware of the approaching enemy, congregated in the Forty fort, which was the main fort of the area. The defenders could count 368 men among them. Little did they know until later that morning that the Tory sympathizers manning nearby Wintermoot fort willingly gave up their charge to the British. After discovering this, the men had a heated debate: should they retain their defensive posture or should they attack?7

A 3 o’clock in the afternoon, they chose to attack,8 but against a force more than twice their size, they soon fell back. Many settlers, including women and children fled to the Pocono mountains and the Delaware River. Those that feared the long trek sought refuge in Wyoming fort. The next day (ironically, July 4th), the British and Iroquois partners forced the fort to surrender.

After agreeing to peaceful terms, the Tories promptly reneged, burning the 23 homes in the village of Wilkesbarre, separating the men from their families and forcing the remainder on a 60-mile hike through the swamps with little food or clothing. The survivors called this trek through the wilderness “The Shades of Death.” In all, the settlers suffered more than 300 casualties – nearly all the men.9

Those that delayed their leave watch in horror as the warriors tortured their prisoners to gruesome death. One historian says, “that between the 3rd of July and the morning of the 4th of July, there was a massacre of the male settlers, and of the Americans engaged in the conflict of the 3rd of July, equalling anything of the kind in Indian history for cruelty and atrocity!”10

John Butler paid $10 for each scalp brought to him, and by the end of the 4th, he had already collected 227.11 Ishmael Benn, who was at the fort when it surrendered, later testified “on the night after the battle, seeing fires under some large oaks near the river, he with his father, Squire Whitaker and old Captain Blanchard, went down to the river side, they could see naked white men running around the fire, could hear the cries of agony, could see the savages following them with their spears, it was a dreadful sight.”12

But there was a fate worse than death. It was one that befell Major Roswell Franklin and his sister. After fighting alongside his father, he watched in horror as his mother and his other sister were killed right in front of him. Then he and his surviving sister were taken prisoner, Franklin for three years, his sister for eleven (which would be six years after the war had ended). Franklin, by the way, was the last living person who saw action in the Wyoming Massacre. He became the first settler of Aurora, New York in 1787 and died there in 1843.13

Where was Abraham Parrish during all this? And why is this last tale of particular relevance to the Parrish family and, ultimately, to the Town of Mendon? Stay tuned next week for Part II of The Story of Abraham Parrish.

1Autobiography of Gurdon Wallace, by Gurdon Wallace Wattles, Scribner Press, 1922
2Ibid website, accessed April 4, 2021,
4History of Windham County Connecticut, Volume I, by Ellen D. Larned, printed by Charles Hamilton, Worcester, MA, 1874 p. 555
5History of Wyoming: In a Series of Letters, from Charles Miner, to His Son William Penn Miner, L. Crissy, Publisher, Philadelphia, 1845, Appendix p. 79
6The Massacre of Wyoming, Rev. Horace Edwin Hayden, Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, Wilkes-Barre, PA, 1895, p. xi
7Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, Vol. II, by John F. Waston, 1850, p. 125
8The Massacre of Wyoming, p. xiii
9 Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, Vol. II, p.125
10The Massacre of Wyoming, p. xiv
11Ibid, p. xiv
12Ibid, p. xvi
13Annals of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, Vol. II, p.127

Let’s Start Laughing Again!

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Everybody loves to laugh. So why don’t we anymore?

This isn’t funny. It’s true.

If you want to know the reason why, go to almost any social media platform. For that matter, read any headline. Whether from the right or from the left, you’re vilified once you stray too close to the shoulder of an ever-narrowing path.

Time was you could walk smoothly in a sea of honest humor. You’d laugh. You’d cringe. You’d get that awkward feeling. But it was all good. You accepted this variety of hits and misses because you liked to laugh. And there were enough hits to keep you laughing which made the trade-off worthwhile.

It seems today people would rather get angry than laugh. They’d prefer to take the easy Continue Reading “Let’s Start Laughing Again!”

Why Is New York State Trying To Kill Print Newspapers?

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Do you enjoy reading this newspaper? Do you enjoy reading anything in print as opposed to reading a screen on an electronic device?

If the answer to either of these questions is “yes” the State of New York is brewing a budget that will certainly disappoint you. And the clock is working against you to prevent this.

As you can read from the Letter to the Editor below from Michelle Rea, Executive Director of the New York Press Association, the Extended Producer Responsibility Act may soon make it financially impossible for newspapers – and especially small newspapers like the Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel – to maintain a sustainable business.

That’s too bad. We recently asked our readers “In your own words (not to exceed 25), Continue Reading “Why Is New York State Trying To Kill Print Newspapers?”

How Has Your Workday Changed?

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It’s been a year. For twelve months we’ve been (or at least many of us have been) working from home. Even those fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on your perspective) to have returned to the office have discovered there’s no going back to what once was.

If you can take a moment (do you even have a moment anymore) to sit back and consider the evolution of work, it may strike you we’ve come full circle.

Skipping caveman times, let’s accelerate right up to what is known as the “Agricultural Economy.” You remember learning about that in school, don’t you? It existed pretty much Continue Reading “How Has Your Workday Changed?”

Who’s Really Going After Cuomo?

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Allow me to begin with this caveat: I am not a fan of Andrew Cuomo. I do not support the bulk of his policies. I do not condone what many call his “thuggish” behavior. Above all, I feel he is a discredit to all those Italian-Americans who have tried to live a life that transcends the Hollywood stereotype of our honored heritage.

If you doubt any of the above, then go back and reread some of my previous columns.

That being said, even I find it somewhat suspicious that this once-darling of the politically woke now finds himself dodging quite serious accusations against his policies, his administration, and his very character.

My first inclination might have been “couldn’t happen to a nicer guy,” but the coincidences Continue Reading “Who’s Really Going After Cuomo?”

Forget About The Known Unknowns, It’s The Unknown Unknowns That Get You Every Time

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There’s an old adage that stipulates “generals are always fighting the last war.” This says more about the stultifying effects of age and experience than it does about military acumen.

As we live our lives, we accumulate knowledge. We use this knowledge to provide convenient short-cuts when we make decisions. That’s a good thing.

But those short-cuts assume a certain kind of status quo that cannot exist. That’s a bad thing.

Since we’re on the subject of old adages, there’s one from ancient Greece which warns “you can never step foot in the same river twice.”

At first that makes no sense. Why, just about any GPS will lead you to the same river time and time again. You can even dip your toe in each and every occasion.

Ah, but is it really the same river? Has not the water you touched that very first instance traveled far down the river and probably emptied itself into some larger body of water?

You see, a river is like time. It is constantly moving. The only way to make it stand still is to Continue Reading “Forget About The Known Unknowns, It’s The Unknown Unknowns That Get You Every Time”

Blackballed Again: Are You Prepared?

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Be honest. If the title had been “Are you prepared to be cancelled?” would you be reading this first sentence? Or how about “Are you prepared to be de-platformed?”? Would that have lured you in? Or does it sound too geeky?

The fact is, those modern-day synonyms merely reflect an awful tradition that dates back centuries, if not to the beginning of man’s time on Earth.

Indeed, there’s a really bad 1986 movie called The Clan of the Cave Bear. It stars Daryl Hannah, whose main character is ostracized from her Neanderthal family. As far as I can tell, they blackballed her because, unlike all the brunettes in the clan, she had blonde hair. (Of course, being caveman times and the lack of adequate shower facilities, perhaps it would be more accurate to describe her as a “dirty blonde.”)

In terms of good cinema, there’s always Looney Tunes’ 1953 cartoon “Bell Hoppy,” featuring Sylvester the Cat voicing the phrase “Blackballed again” when the Loyal Order of Alley Catz Mouse and Chowder Club declines his membership.

Most of us have had the unfortunate experience of being left out. It usually happens when Continue Reading “Blackballed Again: Are You Prepared?”

How Divide and Conquer Works (And How To Avoid Falling Prey To It)

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While getting his MBA from Duke, a college classmate of mine was asked by a visiting speaker why my classmate thought he (the speaker) preferred hiring ex-athletes?

Now, my classmate was the perfect person to ask this question to. He’s played hockey from his youth to well into his adult years. He is the ultimate athlete, the ultimate team player, and the ultimate performer. I don’t know if the speaker knew his background prior to asking the question, but he could sure guess it once my friend offered his answer. This is how the young MBA candidate responded:

“You prefer to hire ex-athletes because of the following traits: alignment toward a common goal, teamwork, communication, trying to perform your best, etc.”

The speaker said that was all good, but it wasn’t the biggest reason he hired former Continue Reading “How Divide and Conquer Works (And How To Avoid Falling Prey To It)”

Criminal Hubris: It Gets Them Every TIME

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Search for the term “criminal hubris” and chances are you won’t find anything (except, hopefully, this woeful column). We know what a criminal is. We know what hubris is. But there is no definition of “criminal hubris.”

Yet there is, and it’s staring at us right in the face. Metaphorically, it’s all around us. Cinematographically, it resides on the screens we watch. Its roots, however, lie within the body of literature – both philosophical and dramatic – we ought to be most familiar with.

Whether as a metaphor for real-life, a character in a story, or an actual crime, “criminal hubris” is easy to spot (if you’ve got a trained eye), hard to avoid (if you’re arrogant), and, best of all, wonderful to watch (because it hoists offenders with their own petard quite regularly).

Before I reveal the “7 Steps of Criminal Hubris” let’s explore the origins of “hubris” and Continue Reading “Criminal Hubris: It Gets Them Every TIME

So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…

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The signs were ominous.

As I pulled into the familiar parking spot, I couldn’t help but notice the unbroken blanket of fresh fallen snow. No one had parked here. In fact, save for a long pair of footprints making a path in the snow to the door, there was no sign of life.

I glanced up at the storefront windows to see if the lights inside were on. But the blinds shuttered the windows completely, barring any spying eyes from the outside.

On one hand, the daily hours remained posted in their usual spot. On the other hand, there was neither a “We’re Closed” sign or a “We’re Open” sign.

That was strange.

I told my father to wait in the warm car and that I’d check out the situation. I got out of Continue Reading “So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…”