(The house was located about where the red star is, behind the red car)
Photo taken from Market St., up Graves St., by Mr. Gary A. Parsons, 1998
THE PARSONS HOUSE OF THE NORTHAMPTON HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Compiled by the Northampton Historical Society, about 1972. Published by Rosemary Press, Northampton in New England, MCMLXXII.
According to those tales, my birthplace stood
on ground assigned to Cornet Joseph Parsons at the founding of Northampton
in 1655. The area now bounded by Bridge Street, Market Street, Union Street,
and Bridge Street Park was divided into three strips of about four acres
each, stretching from Market Street to the Bridge Street Park. The middle
strip was allotted to Cornet Joseph Parsons, and certainly thereon he erected
his house, facing the swampy little stream that came to be called the Market
Street Brook. This brook now lies buries deep beneath the railway tracks.
When the grade crossing was eliminated and the level of Main and Bridge
Streets was lowered at this point, the brook was exhumed temporarily in
mire that hampered the laborers. On rising ground on the opposite side
of the brook from Cornet Joseph's residence, ran the stockade enclosing
the center of the settlement.
Reference to this house may be found in Solomon Clark's annals of the First Congregational Parish. When Isaac Parsons Joined the church, the reverend Mr. Clark noted that the ancestral home of Isaac fronted Market Street, directly behind Isaac's house facing Bridge Street Park at the opposite end of the tract.
Although I never saw this original mansion, it has been described to me by a man thirty years my senior, who remembered it well as "a great big structure, black with age, dilapidated from lack of care, and covered with vines." An elderly lady of that same generation also reported that as a girl she daily went along Market Street to her work. In passing the old house, she always hurried timidly because of its gloomy and ominous air.
Cornet Joseph's wife Mary Bliss was accused of witchcraft. Although she was acquitted, possibly the episode made Northampton a not altogether pleasant abode for them. At any rate, they returned to live in Springfield, leaving the house to their eldest son, who became known as "Squire Joseph." Squire Joseph's oldest son "The Reverend Joseph," being a clergyman with a parish elsewhere, did not live in Northampton. Consequently, the ancestral home descended to Squire Joseph's second son Josiah, and grandson also Josiah.
This latter Josiah married late, had three daughters but no son. The first daughter remained a spinster, the second married and removed to Williamstown, the third married Elisha Graves. Through her, ownership of the house passed into the Graves family, eventually to Henry Graves, who lived on Union Street, nearly opposite the County Jail. In 1884, Henry Graves demolished the old Cornet Joseph Parsons house to make way for a new street on that site: Graves Avenue now crosses the spot where Cornet Joseph erected his mansion. Reporting operations at the time, The Hampshire County Gazette refers to the building as "one of the oldest houses in town."