According the Beaminster Town Historian (Marie Eedle), nothing is known of Joseph's father (William Parsons) before he showed up in town about the same time a woolen mill was opened nearby. Family tradition indicates that William came from Great Torrington or Tiverton, Devonshire, about 63 miles to the east. However, there are no records to support this assumption. In those days, people did not generally travel long distances.
Joseph's mother (Margret Hoskins) was born in Beaminster, about 1584, her parents were Robert and Margret Hoskins. Unfortunately, there were two Robert Hoskins families living in Beaminster at the time. Both families had daughters named Margret, both men were married to a Margret, and both men had similar professions, one a Glover and the other a Tanner. Most of the Hoskins Families in Beaminster were generally well off, being owners of pubs, ranches, and other properties.
Joseph's parents (William & Margret) apparently meet sometime after William's relocation to Beaminster and were later married in St. Mary's Church on the 15th of November 1602. The Parsons family must have been well off also because they lived in town on East Street, not a poor area. Joseph's parents both died in Beaminster and are presumably buried in St. Mary's Cemetery (no records exist to support this). It was the custom of the day to have multiple burials within the same grave, one on top of another, and no grave markers (headstones).
According to the Bishop of Salisbury Transcripts (1585-1638), Joseph was baptized at St. Mary's Church in Beaminster on the 25th of June 1620. It is assumed that Joseph must have been born either in 1620 or a few years earlier. All of Joseph's siblings, that we know of, were also baptized at St. Mary's.
Unfortunately, nothing is known of Joseph's childhood or early life after this point such as schools, profession, and residence.
According to Henry Parsons (PARSONS FAMILY, Vol. 1, 1912, page 30, paragraph 3, line 6), at the apparent age of about 15 or 17, Joseph and his younger brother (Benjamin) immigrated to the America from England in July of 1635, aboard the Barque Transport (Edward Walker, Master) out of Gravesend, Co. Kent, England.
NOTE: Without additional information concerning Joseph's later teenage life, the Gravesend departure does not seem plausible. The question keeps coming up: Why would two brothers travel all the way across England, just to catch a ship to America? If they still lived with their parents, it would have been more plausible for them to leave from one of the nearby ports of Plymouth or Waymouth. In those days, it was not common for people to travel long distances. Other publications indicate that his brother (Deacon Benjamin Parsons) may have gone back to England and returned to the America at a later date.
1635 Joseph Parsons and his brother Benjamin arrived in America aboard the Barque Transport (Edward Walker, Master) out of Gravesend, Co. Kent, England.
NOTE 1: Various publications disagree as to whether or not Joseph and his brother Benjamin Parsons immigrated to the US together or separately. According to a reference book entitled PARSONS FAMILY, by Henry Parsons, they arrived in America aboard the Barque Transport (Edward Walker, Master) out of Gravesend, Co. Kent, England.
NOTE 2: According to Gerald J. Parsons, Comet Joseph Parsons
and his brother, Deacon Benjamin Parsons, did not immigrate together in
1635. Their names have not been found on any existing ship lists. Joseph
probably did come in 1635 as the first record of him is on 15 July 1636
when he witnessed the Springfield Indian deed. It has been stated that
he came on the "Transport" of London in 1635, but that listing
is for one "Jo: [hn] Parson]" not Joseph Parsons (see John Camden
Hotten, ed., THE ORIGINAL LISTS OF PARSONS OF QUALITY...,1600-1700 (London,
1874; reprint Baltimore, 1983), p. 102; and SPeter William Coldham, THE
COMPLETE BOOK OF EMIGRANTS 1607-1660 (Baltimore, 1987), p. 154).
Benjamin Parsons was still a resident of Beaminster in March 1649/50, when he surrendered his cottage there. He apparently left soon after, for he first appeared in Springfield, MA, on 4 November 1651, when he was appointed a fence viewer (see THE NEW ENGLAND HISTORICAL AND GENEALOGICAL REGISTER, 148 (1994):222-223.
NOTE 3: It has been suggested that both versions could have been somewhat correct. Initially, Joseph and his brother Banjamin Parsons could have come over together in 1635, as Henry suggests. However, Benjamin could have returned to England to take care of family business and then returned to Springfield in 1651.
1636: The first record of Joseph Parsons being in the America was on the 15th of July 1636. In New England, he was a witness to a land deal between the local Indians and William Pynchon. There is a nine year gap in Joseph Parsons life, where no records exist between 1636 and 1646. Also, there is no record as to the exact date Joseph moved to Springfield.
1646: Joseph Parsons was appointed, at a Springfield Town Meeting, to his first official public office on the 8th of January 1646, that of highway surveyor of Springfield, MA. Joseph met and married Mary Bliss on the 26th of November 1646, in Hartford, Connecticut. Through the years, they had 13 children that we know of, 8 boys and 5 girls.
1647: According to the Springfield Town Tax Records in 1647, Joseph Parsons owned 42-1/2 acres of land and was taxed 11s 9d (1, 7).
1650: Springfield Town Records indicate that on the 5th of November 1650, Joseph Parsons and John Clarke were appointed Overseers of the Fences from the meeting house, downward.
1652: The Springfield Clerk's Office states that in 1652, Joseph Parsons owned a parcel of land that his house was on. The parcel was 10 rods wide and 28 rods long, located between the Mill lot on the South and the George Colton property on the North. According to the Springfield Town Records, at the annual town meeting on the 10th of February 1652, Joseph Parsons was elected to the office of Selectman. This was an office of great honor and trust, he held the office for five terms from 1653 to 1657. Joseph Parsons was a successful businessman, records of his business accounts exist from the 1st of September 1652 to the 28th of June 1671, on file at the Springfield City Library.
1653: According to the Springfield Town Records, at a town meeting on the 1st of November 1653, Joseph Parsons and Miles Morgan were appointed highway surveyors of Springfield, MA, This was Joseph's last public office in Springfield before moving to Northampton.
1654: The Northampton City Clerk's Office states that in 1654, Joseph Parsons and four others were given a contract to build the Northampton Town House.
1655: There is no record as to the exact date that Joseph moved to Northampton from Springfield, only that it was in 1655. One of the earliest known records concerning Cornet Joseph Parsons and his brother Deacon Benjamin Parsons was in Maj. John Pynchon's account books, dated 12 March 1655/56. In a statement to Joseph Parsons, discussing a 10d payment for a half bushel over-shipment from your brother Benjamin.
1656: Also, in 1656, a slander suit was filed by Joseph Parsons against Sarah Bridgman, wife of James Bridgman. The accusation was that Sarah called Joseph's Wife (Mary Bliss) a witch. During the trial, Joseph's brother Benjamin offered testimony in Mary's defense. At a Northampton Town Meeting, in February of 1656, it was agreed for 20s to free Joseph Parsons from any public office for this year. In December of 1656 in Northampton, Joseph Parsons was elected to the second Board of Selectmen. He also served in the years 1659, 1664, 1667, and 1670.
1657: On or about the 12th of May 1657, shortly after Joseph moved to Northampton, the court recorder states that all of Joseph Parsons land holdings in Southampton were sold to John Stebbins. On the 24th of August 1657, Joseph Parsons made a trade agreement with John Webb concerning trade at Nolwotog and required supplies for one year, to be paid for in beaver pelts, ranging from £2 5s to £3 10s. Northampton Town Records indicate that Joseph Parsons received several grants of land, dating from the 1st of December 1657 to the 19th of February 1660.
1658: On the 28th of September of 1658, at the First Court held in Northampton, Joseph Parsons filed a complaint against John Webb for not delivering a cow and a calf. Joseph was demanding £4 owed him.
1659: In Northampton, Joseph Parsons was elected again to the Board of Selectmen, on the 11th of March 1659.
1660: The Northampton City Clerk's Office states that on the 19th of February 1660/61, Joseph Parsons owned 81 acres of land in addition to the 4 acres that his house was on.
1661: In March of 1661/62 Joseph Parsons testified in a Northampton court that he had been a witness to the Indian-Pynchon deed back in 1636. Court records show that in 1661, 1662, and 1664 a license was issued to Joseph Parsons of Northampton to keep an Ordinary or house of entertainment (tavern) in the town of Northampton. The license authorized him to sell wines, strong liquors, and to keep good rule and order in the tavern.
1662: On the 30th of September 1662, the County Court in Springfield ordered Joseph Parsons and two others to conduct a study for a new highway and required bridges between the town of Hadley and Springfield.
1664: In Northampton, Joseph Parsons was elected again to the Board of Selectmen in 1664. In 1664, a Springfield court charged Joseph Parsons of Northampton with opposing and resisting the Constable of Northampton in the execution of his office. The charge was not denied and the fine was 20s. On the 26th of March of 1664, at a Northampton Town Meeting, Joseph Parsons and three others were appointed to run a boundary line between the town of Hadley and Northampton.
1665: In 1665 at a Northampton court, Joseph Parsons filed suit against Prayserver Turner for non payment of a debt plus damage, £30. The action was withdrawn and both paid equal amounts for court costs. In a Northampton court, a suit was brought against Joseph Parsons by Peter Hendricks for the sum of £10 14s 6d. On the 26th of September of 1665, the County Treasurer reported that Joseph Parsons fine was paid by the sale of an acre and a half of his land.
1666: On the 12th of May 1666, at a Northampton Legal Town Meeting, Joseph Parsons petitioned to build a fence from the great Connecticut River to the mountain at Pascomuck.
1667: In Northampton, Joseph Parsons was elected again to the Board of Selectmen in 1667. Joseph Parsons served quite often as a juror in Springfield during the years 1667, 1668, and 1677.
1668: On the 7th of October 1678, the General Court appointed Joseph Parsons, Sr. to be Cornet of the Troop of Hoarse, Hampshire Co., under the command of Maj. John Pynchon. This appointment made Joseph the color-bearer of the Hampshire Cavalry, third officer in command. On the 14th of December 1668, a Northampton Town Meeting appointed Joseph Parsons and two others to a committee to study alternative plans concerning the proposed Connecticut duty on grain being shipped down the Connecticut River.
1670: In Northampton, Joseph Parsons was again elected to the Board of Selectmen in 1670. On the 30th of June 1670, Joseph Parsons, Sr. and six others were chosen for a committee to order the settlement of all highways to rectify errors in the meadow. On the 27th of September of 1670, Joseph Parsons filed suit against John Ingersoll of Westfield. However, the case was settled out of court.
1671: Joseph Parsons was a successful businessman, records of his business accounts exist from the 1st of September 1652 to the 28th of June 1671, on file at the Springfield City Library. on the 28th of September at the Springfield Court, Joseph Parsons brought action against Edward Blake for withholding a debt of £13 for a hogshead of flax.
1672: In 1672, the County Court appointed Joseph Parsons and four others to lay out a highway from the town of Hadley, over the Fort River, and part way to the bay.
1673: On the 25th of March 1673 in a Northampton court, Joseph Parsons brought action against John Abbott for fraudulent dealing concerning the delay, withholding, and not delivering a written lease or agreement.
1677: Joseph Parsons served quite often as a juror in Springfield during the years 1667, 1668, and 1677.
1682: The last case Joseph Parsons filed in any Northampton court was on the 26th of September 1682. This was a suit against Benoni Stebbins of Northampton for a debt of about 50s. Joseph Parsons served quite often as a juror in Northampton during the years 1682 and 1683. The pay for a juryman was 2s a day.
1683: Cornet Joseph Parsons died in Springfield, Massachusetts, on the 9th of October 1683. His exact place of burial is not known, but is most likely in the Elm Street Cemetery in Springfield. When the land on the west side of the cemetery was needed for the railroad, most of the remains were removed and reburied in a single mass grave near the Pine Street entrance.
CORNET JOSEPH PARSONS: One of the Founders of Springfield and Northamptom, Massachusetts, by Henry M. Burt, 1898. Published by Albert Ross Parsons, Garden City, Long Island, NY
GENEALOGICAL GUIDE TO THE EARLY SETTLERS OF AMERICA, by Henry Whittemore, 1967. Published by the Genealogical Publishing Co., pp404
IMMIGRANT ANCESTORS, Edited by Frederick Adams Virkus, 1986, pp52
PARSONS FAMILY, Descendants of Cornet Joseph Parsons, Volume 1, by Henry Parsons, 1912
PARSONS FAMILY, Descendants of Cornet Joseph Parsons, Volume 2, by Henry Parsons, 1920
SEARCH FOR THE PASSENGERS OF THE MARY & JOHN, 1630, by Burton W. Spear, Volume 9, Terry thru Wolcott, 1987, pp10
SEARCH FOR THE PASSENGERS OF THE MARY & JOHN, 1630, by Burton W. Spear, Volume 14, West Country Planters to New England, 1620-1643, 1987, pp49
THE PARSONS FAMILY: Descendants of Cornet Joseph Parsons (c.1618-1683), Through His Grandson Jonathan Parsons (1693-1782), by Gerald James Parsons. Gateway Press Inc., Baltimore, MD, 1984
THE PARSONS HERITAGE, Part 2, by Charlette Olive Parsons, 1989. Unpublished manuscript is in the possession of Mr. Gary A. Parsons.