HOME OF ISAAC PARSONS
(The Old Red House)

Excerpted from:
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.

As already set forth, the original Cornet Joseph Parsons house on Market Street descended through Squire Joseph to Josiah. This Josiah had two sons, Josiah and Isaac. Their father, so tradition relates, offered to build a new house for the son who married first. The younger son Isaac proved more enterprising in the matter: in 1744, at the age of 29, Isaac married Lucina Strong; in 1751, the older son Josiah, at the age of 38, married Prudence Kellogg. Josiah inherited the old house, but Isaac established his bride in the new house. This stood in a direct line behind the ancestral home, at the opposite end of the tract, facing what came to be called the Bridge Street Park. Family letters of the early 1800's refer to it as "The Old Red House"; but by the time I knew it, the red bad vanished into grays and blacks laid on by wind and weather. Its entire southern side was mantled by trumpet creeper, wisteria, and woodbine.

Originally, windows were equipped inside with sliding wooden shutters. Nevertheless, as the French and Indian Wars had not yet concluded, and as the building stood far on the outskirts of civilization, it was considered so risky at night that Isaac and his bride consequently slept for a while in the paternal residence on Market Street.

After the Battle of Denninjiton in 1777, several captured English officers were quartered with Isaac Parsons. Apparently gay young blades, they noisily interrupted family prayers, until their host effectively chastened and silenced them by quoting for their benefit during devotions apposite Biblical texts, which may be found in II Kings 19, 28: "Because thy rage against me and thy tumult is come up into mine ears, therefore I will put my hook in thy nose, and my bridle in thy lips, and I will turn thee back by the way by which thou camest.' They cordially made a comrade of the eight-year-old rebel Josiah, held him on their knees, let him polish their buckles, roared at his juvenile sallies -- as he reminisced with amusement in later years.

When this little Josiah's son Lyman was head of the household in pre-Civil-War era, his roof occasionally sheltered runaway slaves on the Underground Railway to Canada. They were secreted in a nook opening off the attic stairs. Sojourner Truth, a famous Negress who preached the cause of Emancipation through the North, was several times an honored guest in the house.

Eventually, the city seized all this remnant of original Parsons land for the expanding Bridge Street School, and the Isaac Parsons house fell beneath the tide of civic progress in 1910.


Please send your comments and suggestions concerning the Parsons web page to:
Mr. Gary A. Parsons, Web Page Administrator, at: parsons@frys.com