Last week Niagara Discoveries looked at the life of Rev. Silas Parsons and his brief residency in Niagara County. He and his wife Sarah had nine children, and although Rev. Parsons did not settle in this county until 1827, some of his children were here much earlier. Two of Parsons’ sons, Seth and William, were in the village by 1822, possibly earlier. A third son, Silas, Jr., was in Wilson in the 1830s before moving to Lockport by the end of that decade. Two daughters, Theodocia and Paulina, also resided here with their husbands later in the century.
Seth Parsons was born in Massachusetts in 1785. It is uncertain when he came to Lockport. His children’s birthplace in 1809 and 1811 is listed as Lockport but it may have been elsewhere in the county. Seth opened a store with his son-in-law, Lathrop Fellows. Seth Parsons & Co., as it was known, advertised “Iron Cider in new barrels.” They also bought and sold lumber and staves. Credit in stores was a common practice at that time and merchants would run “duns” in the newspapers asking patrons to pay their debts. This may have been why Seth Parsons left Lockport circa 1835 to start a new business in Milwaukee. His daughter Melinda and son-in-law Lathrop remained in Lockport until 1845, when Lathrop died, leaving his pregnant wife and two young children. She then joined her parents in Milwaukee. Seth Parsons died there in 1851.
William Fiske Parsons was born in 1790 in New Hampshire. After his marriage in 1817, he moved to Niagara County and his children were born here. By 1823, William was operating a dry goods store, known as the “Yellow Store,” in the block where the Clinton Building now stands. It was just a few doors down from his brother Seth’s store. An ad for William’s store appeared in the Lockport Observatory in 1826, advertising “New Goods! Cheap Goods! ... Dry goods, Groceries, among which are Rum, Brandy & Wines of the first quality – warranted pure; … Lump and Brown Sugar; Codfish & Mackeral of a rare kind; Plug and Cut Tobacco; Spanish Segars, etc...” When Seth left Lockport, he sold his business and other interests to his brother William.
In addition to his business, William Parsons was a founding member of First Presbyterian Church and was superintendent of the Sunday School for 28 years, from 1827 until his death in 1855. He left a bequest to the church to purchase books for a church library. During his years in Lockport, Parsons also helped establish the Niagara County Agricultural Society and served as its first president in 1841, and then again in 1844. Other offices he held included Superintendent of the Poor, Chairman of the Board of County Canvassers and County Coroner. His home was on the south side of Walnut Street just east of Cottage Street. In 1852, his eldest son, William, Jr., drowned in a boating accident in California, where he had been living since 1849. William Parsons died in 1855 at the age of 64. He is buried in Cold Spring Cemetery with his wife Amanda and son William. Most of his children moved to Milwaukee and are buried there.
Silas Parsons, Jr., the Reverend’s youngest son, was born in Massachusetts in 1806 and moved to Lockport in 1838 after having lived in Wilson for a few years. Unlike his merchant brothers, Silas, Jr., concentrated his efforts on farming and orchards. He owned a large tract of land between Transit and Saxton streets just south of LaGrange Street. In 1844, the Niagara Courier ran an article describing the property. “The Greenhouse of Mr. Silas Parsons, on the Transit … [he] has exercised much taste in laying out his grounds and in his green house may be found a very extensive variety of flowers from every clime.” He also offered other amenities to patrons including “serving up delicious ice creams and other seasonable refreshments …” as well as “the pleasant and healthful exercise of swinging to their hearts’ content.”
Parsons' grounds contained orchards and in 1846 he grew a record-breaking (for that time) peach 9 and 1/16 inches in circumference. Despite his success, in 1848 Parsons sold his property to Benjamin Draper, who later established a brewery on the other side of Transit Street. Parsons then moved to Buffalo, where he became a commission merchant dealing in produce. Parsons’ wife died in Buffalo in 1871and was buried in Cold Spring Cemetery. After her death, he moved to Albion and operated a general goods store, Silas Parsons & Co., until 1876 when the business failed. He moved back to Buffalo and before 1880, he remarried. Parsons ended his career as a clerk with the New York Central Railroad in Buffalo. He died there in 1888.
Two of the Reverend Parsons’s daughters also made their home in Lockport.
Paulina Parsons was born in 1792 and married George W. Pratt. She lived at 66 Genesee St. until 1891, when she would have been 99 years old. When and where she died or where she is buried is unknown.
Theodicia Parsons was born in 1797. According to her obituary, when she died in 1883, she had been living in Lockport for 50 years. She and her husband, Warren Warner, lived on Transit Road south of the village. He died in 1863 and Theodocia then went to live with her only daughter, Julia, wife of William T. Rogers, a prominent banker in Lockport. Their home, actually a large estate, was at 401 East Ave. Theodocia passed away in 1883 and is buried in Cold Spring Cemetery.
Ann Marie Linnabery is the assistant director of the History Center of Niagara.