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Charles Parsons (1786-1835) and Thomas Parsons (1781-1819) Papers

Charles Parsons (1786-1835) and Thomas Parsons (1781-1819) Papers

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CHARLES PARSONS (1786-1835) AND THOMAS PARSONS (1781-1819) PAPERS, 1777-1864

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Parsons, Charles, 1786-1835
Title:Charles Parsons (1786-1835) and Thomas Parsons (1781-1819) Papers
Quantity:1.5 linear feet (3 boxes)
Abstract:The Charles and Thomas, Jr. Parsons Papers contain correspondence and shipping papers of the Parsons family shipping business.
Collection Number:MH 175

Series List

SERIES I. Correspondence and Accounts
SERIES II. Ships' Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Charles and Thomas, Jr. Parsons Papers contain correspondence and shipping papers of the Parsons family shipping business. The shipping papers are particularly detailed, covering the provisioning of the vessels prior to departure, accounts of individual “adventures,” and current prices of commodities in various ports in Europe. Much trade was done in the Spanish ports and in the Russian ports of St. Petersburg and Cronstadt. The collection has been divided into two series.

Series I. Correspondence and Accounts contains correspondence from Thomas, Jr. and Charles Parsons to their father, Captain Thomas Parsons. These are business letters, for the most part, giving details about the cargos, the going prices of commodities in each port, and progress in the purchase and sale of goods. It also contains the correspondence of Charles C. Parsons, Boston shipping merchant and agent for the Parsons, relating news of incoming ships, commodities prices and disposal of cargo. Letters to and from Captain Thomas Parsons also relate to the family shipping business. There are a few letters to Judith Parsons, Captain Thomas Parsons’ wife. Folder 13 contains a notebook of Captain Thomas Parsons, with recipes for various varnishes, wood, and metal treatments and boat designs. It is not clear whether the account book in Box 1 Folder 13 is the work of Capt. Thomas or of Thomas, Jr. Although Folder 18 of Box 1 contains miscellaneous papers of Thomas Parsons, it should be noted that, given the late dates of the papers, that the person referred to is neither Captain Thomas nor Thomas Jr.

Series II. Ships’ Papers contains the shipping papers of the brig Garland and several other vessels. Some letters are from “adventurers,” investors placing goods on board the Garland to be sold or traded by the captain for maximum profit. The paper of the schooner Martin (B3 F7) include a deposition of Captain Thomas Parsons describing the Martins’ capture and condemnation by a French privateer, and appeal by the owners to the United States government for indemnification under the “Spanish Treaty” and the statement of award. The papers of the brig Halsey (B3 F4) describe damages sustained during a violent storm.

Biographical Sketch

Captain Thomas Parsons was born in Gloucester, Massachusetts, on November 2, 1756 to Isaac and Hannah Parsons. The family was a prosperous merchant family and Thomas and his brothers, Isaac, Ebenezer, Nehemiah, and Aaron, were all engaged in shipping and owned many ships. Thomas sailed out of Boston. On December 10, 1780, Thomas married Judith Kinsmen. The couple had three children, Thomas Jr., Charles, and Judith. He died on June 15, 1837.

Thomas Parsons, Jr. was born in May 10, 1781 to Thomas and Judith Parsons. By 1797 he had already gone to sea as first or second mate. By 1880 he was master of the Greyhound and subsequently of many other family-owned vessels. He died on October 27, 1819, at the age of 38.

Charles Parsons was born on March 25, 1786, the youngest of Thomas and Judith Parsons’ children. He also went to sea at a young age, as part of the family’s shipping business, and was ship’s master on many voyages. He died, unmarried, on October 12, 1835.

Charles Chauncy Parsons was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts, on April 8, 1872 to Theophilus and Elizabeth (Greenleaf) parsons. He graduated from Harvard and was a shipping merchant in Boston, acting as agent for the Parsons family and part of the family firm of “Thomas, C.C. and C.T. Parsons.” On November 16, 1809, he married Judith Parsons, the daughter of Captain Thomas Parsons, and the sister of Thomas, Jr. and Charles. There were two children of the marriage, Elizabeth and Thomas.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Parsons family
Parsons, Charles Chauncy, b. 1782-
Parsons, Thomas, 1781-1819
Parsons, Thomas, b. 1756
Active (Brig)
Antelope (Ship)
Brunswick (Schooner)
Chance (Brig)
Charming Nancy (Schooner)
Fanny (Schooner)
Garland (Brig)
Halsey (Brig)
Liverpool (Schooner)
Louisa (Ship)
Martin (Schooner)
Mary and Elizabeth (Brig)
Sally (Schooner)
Sarah and Susan (Ship)
Stieglitz and Company
Shipping--Russia (Federation)--Kronshtadt
Shipping--Russia (Federation)--Saint Petersburg
Boston (Mass.)--Commerce
Russia--Commerce--United States
Saint Petersburg (Russia)--Commerce


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Charles Parsons (1786-1835) and Thomas Parsons (1781-1819) Papers, MH 175, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


This material was found in the collection. Some letters and shipping papers were donated by Morgan Plummer on October 2, 2002 (acc #2002.056).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Frances Malamy, September 2005. Updated by Tamara Gaydos, September 2015.

Related Material

Sibbalds, Mary H. The Descendants of Jeffery Parsons of Gloucester, Massachusetts. Vol. One, Generations 1-5. Rockport, MA: Higginson, 2003.

Parsons Family Papers, 1720-1880, MSS 145

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