Robert Parsons


June 3, 1865 - March 20, 1953

Story by Robert Parsons, written March 6, 1947


Photo of Robert, 1886

As I am the only member of my father's family still alive, it gives me great pleasure to tell anything that I can remember that might make interesting reading for my great grandchildren. My father, Charles Parsons, born June 5th 1822, and his brother, Richard, born about 1815, and his brother William, born October 10, 1818, migrated from Tullamore, Ireland, with their sister Hannah and their mother Hannah Banks-Parsons in 1841, and settled at Zanesville, Ohio where their friends the John Banks and Robert Banks families lived.
All three brothers served apprenticeship in Ireland and were expert shoemakers in this country. They made harness for horses in addition to boots and shoes. Father and his two brothers had a shop on Main Street when they first came to Zanesville, Ohio. Uncle William bought property in west Zanesville and his sons, Robert and Henry, built a planing mill and ran it making doors and window sash and flooring. Their father started a shoe shop and built a home next to the factory.

Photo of father, Charles Parsons, 1860

The Muskingum river divides Zanesville from West Zanesville and as the west bank of the river was low and the river frequently overflowed the land, the County and city built an embankment over a mile long. Zanesville was divided into nine wards and when I was a boy about 15 years old they extended the water and gas mains to the Ninth Ward on the west side of the river and claimed a population of 18,000 people. One of our main sports in winter was to start on Putnam Hill on our sleds and long coasters, long enough to seat 10 or 12 with their feet sticking out on both sides, and riding down a long hill and then out on the frozen ice of the river for half mile or so.

The Fall brother Dick was 4 years old and I was 6 years, we had measles and whooping cough so I did not start to school until I was seven. I remember some of the older boys would get 2 or 4 or 6 of the little ones and hitch them to a rope and drive them or race with other teams or we would play football or baseball or "one old cat".

My brother Charles was three years older than I, and he traded a little iron-wheeled wagon for a sled to a minister's boy who moved from Denver to Zanesville. The sled was painted a bright red and the name "DENVER" printed in bright gold letters. This was one of the best sled in town, it hat steel runners and you could coast down a hill and run farther and faster than all rivals or competitors. Charlie was the business boy in the family. He carried evening papers for a couple years and then turned the route over to me. When he was 19 years old he wanted to quit school and go to Kansas and take up land. He said if Mother did not give her consent, he would run off and go anyway. Mother had a friend she had known many years, and this lady had a cousin who had gone to Newton, Kansas. She wrote the cousin and he wrote to send the boy out and he could live with them and work for him. Charlie went out and this cousin was the kind to get the most for the least pay out of anyone that worked for him. Charlie worked a few months then became sick with typhoid fever. They sent for a neighbor doctor who served a large territory because doctors were so few and far between.

Dr. Horner saw at a glance the boy had been neglected and wrapped him up in blankets and buffalo robe and took him home with him. He told this good cousin he had so many patients he could not drive so far to take care of Charlie. After Charlie recovered he never went back, but went 30 miles to where friends and acquaintances from Zanesville lived on a big stock farm of several sections of good bottom land. He got a job on the farms of Mason, Wiles and Potwin near Eldorado, Kansas. Later, his brothers negotiated a trade of 160 acres of farm land about 12 miles form Eldorado for the home in Zanesville. So the family moved to Eldorado about 1881. Here they lived on the farm until the family moved to Colorado, coming to Denver from Eldorado, Kansas about 1893.

In Zanesville, there was J. R. Thomas, an expert wool buyer, and at sheep shearing time he would drive out in the country to see people who raised sheep and buy their crop of wool for so much a pound according to the quality of the wool. My brother, Dick or I would often ride with Mr. Thomas and usually would be gone all day. I remember one route we used to take that was the roughest and most interesting road I have ever seen in all my life. We started down the Moxihala creek, the crossing this on an old fashioned bridge. The floor was made of logs similar to railroad ties only longer. Then they used big heavy logs for trusses on each side of the bridge which added greatly to the strength of the bridge, and on top of these lines of trusses the roof was built of boards and shingles, a half pitch roof. After crossing this bridge you were at the foot of Nigger Hill. You could see strata of coal and rock varying in thickness from 3 inches to 4 or 5 feet thick. Then the road went up a switch- back. When you got were the top ought to be, you drove across a bridge over a narrow chasm and started to climb another hill. They placed logs across the road with a four inch drop on the upper side. When the hind wheel of your vehicle crossed the log, you horses could rest and get their breath without holding the weight of the wagon while they rested. After climbing hills like this, do you wonder that we missed them after moving to Kansas where you could see houses and windmills five, ten, twenty-five miles away, and covered wagons miles away and hours before they go near you?

I remember a few details of the pluck and patience needed by parents of a big family. My uncle Richard and aunt Margaret, his wife, had eleven children and uncle Richard died not long after the family was so large. This left the responsibility of raising the family and keeping them together on the mother and older children. They got along until the older children procured work to help pay expenses. They were lucky in having a few lots with fruit trees and bushes and they made good use of it to help save the family purse. Three of the older girls were good school teachers, two of the boys were college graduates and some of the other were clerking in stores.

Aunt Margaret had a few notions or hobbies. one was that she did not mix much with other people, but you can see she did not have time for that. Another was that she did not want any of her children to marry, and only two of the boys broke that rule. The other queer habit she had was once a week she walked to the cemetery for a short visit to her husband's grave and she kept that up for years.
I think this sketch of our family would be as incomplete as a big farm wagon with only three wheels, if Mother,the main spoke in almost every large family was not considered worthy of the highest praise and best of our thoughts and actions from early childhood till our last day on earth.
Photo of Mother, Maria (Bagnell) Parsons,1860
It was Mother who heard us if we were restless in the night. It was Mother who kept us covered and kept us from taking cold, all through the nights. It was Mother we went to when we got a splinter in our hand or bare feet. Mother died on our farm home in Kansas. The first of our family to go. We buried her in the cemetery at Edorado, Kansas, March 13, 1886. Sister Mary was a very successful teacher in the public schools for 30 years. In the summer of 1907, she with friends attended a Chautauqua meeting in San Francisco, where they had a most wonderful vacation. She planned to go by sea to visit a friend in Portland, Oregon. The passenger ship was rammed at sea by a lumber vessel and many of the passengers were lost at sea. Mary went down with the ship although her friend was rescued. The disaster was July 21, 1907.
Photo of Parsons family, 1896, Standing: Robert, Maud (Nichol), Tallie, Richard, Mamie (Garlick) Parsons
Seated: Ann Margaret (Nichol) Frost, Ella (Garlick) Gould, Mary Parsons, Charles Parsons.
Children: Philip Parsons, Charles Gould.

My sister "Tallie" (Hannah), was three years younger than Mary, When she was about 22 years of age she had typhoid fever and was a very sick young woman. Only by Mother's good nursing and a doctor's care, she could never have recovered but the nerves of her face were affected and her eyes were affected so they would twitch. She followed Mother to the better land and was buried in Denver.

My big brother, Will, was the idol of my boyhood. He was six feet one inch in his stocking feet, and finer brother never lived. He had a deep base voice and used to sing in our home church choir, and in larger choruses and as a soloist.

Our Mother was one of the most perfect women. Old Dr. Hildreth told father he had never in his lifelong experience as a doctor met a more perfect woman from a physical and mental point of view than his wife. She raised two girls and four boys until they were of age and had father's mother in our home most of the time. Grandmother lived to be 94 years old.

Father smoked a little when he was a young man but quit smoking when brother Will was born. Father and we four boys signed the temperance pledge when we boys were young and never broke it as long as they lived.

About 1888 or 1889 my brother, William, got a job as expressman at Colorado Springs, Colorado. He knew Mr. Stubbs, head of Wells Fargo Express Co. who lived in Colorado Springs. William recommended me to Mr. Stubbs so I left the farm near Eldorado and was sent to Denver in 1888. The 16th Street viaduct was being erected soon after I went to work for Wells Fargo Express in Denver Union Station. I worked the night shift with Dan Klein for about three years. Denver City Directory for 1889 lists, "Parsons, Robert - porter, Wells Fargo & Co. Express, r 2104 Arapahoe St." I was one of 300 male voices singing in chorus at the laying of the cornerstone of the Colorado State Capital Building. I met Greenway and went to work for Greenway & Palmer who ran five greenhouses and truck farm on west side Broadway between Alameda & Byers streets. Greenway and Palmer had a long spring wagon and my job was to sell the produce and flowers, house to house and in stores and market. Later Greenway sold off his land in city lots and I got a Job with Donald & Oderfield, grocers. Fred Fernald ran a meat market next door. While working as order boy in grocery and market, I learned enough about meat cutting to wear the butcher's apron.
In 1892 Miss Maud Frost became bookkeeper for Mr. Fernald. On September 21, 1893 I was united in marriage to Maud Lillian Frost, who was born near Barrett, Kansas, January 24, 1871 and had left the home of her parents in Oskaloosa, Iowa, coming to Colorado to regain her health.
Photo, 1890, Maud Lillian Frost

Note added by Philip G. Parsons, son, written August 15, 1970
As my father did not finish his story, I will continue. Mother and Dad set up housekeeping in a small home at 73 S. Logan Street. Dad continued to work as meat cutter in several Denver grocery and meat markets for years. Mother continued to work for Mr. Fernald a short time, then I, Philip George Parsons, was born on June 2, 1894 at 35 Grant Ave. Soon we moved to 85 Pennsylvania Ave. during 1896 and 1897, then to 44 S. Clarkson Street. In 1899 Dad quit meat cutting for a short time possibly 3 years and undertook a butter and egg route. About 1900 they purchased lots at 21 Ogden Street and built a three-room house, the first property they had owned in Denver. My sister, Marion Helen and brother, Robert William ("Wilbur") were born at 21 Ogden Street. About 1907 we sold and moved to 3101 Lowell Bvd. as Dad had work at Murray's on Lowell near 32nd Ave. The next summer we bought a home at 982 S. Pennsylvania Ave. and I attended 8th grade at Lincoln School where both aunt Mary and uncle Dick (Parsons) taught. My brother, Donald Brooks Parsons was born at 982 S. Pennsylvania on August 4, 1908.
Dad's wages were very slender in Denver, so he went to New Mexico and later to Sweet Grass Montana in search of better finances. These moves proved to be costly, as his expenses away from home more than offset the increase in wages.
Photo of Don, Marion, and Wilbur, about 1915
I think he went to Montana in 1917 or earlier and became postmaster of Sweet Grass about 1920. As the years passed, his interest in his family in Denver seemed remote, Mother sued for a divorce, and on October 26, 1921, Dad and Mrs. Mary (Mae) Katherine Wanke were married at Great Falls, Montana. They lived very happily among many friends in Sweet Grass, both working in the post office until 1935, when they moved to Miles City, Montana to be with Mae's daughter and husband, Stanley and Maude Warren. They were successful and happy on a small chicken ranch in Miles City until about 1943, when they again moved to be with the Warren's, this time to Dayton, Ohio.
Photo of Robert, Jan 8, 1950.
In Dayton, they found life pleasant except that Mae was beginning to have poor health and in winter of 1944- 5 she fell and broke a hip. She never recovered and about a year later she passed away, December 1, 1945. Dad was greatly bereaved and came to Fort Collins, Colorado to live at my house. He tried bravely to make the best of things in his fading years, passing to the Better Land, March 20, 1953.
Photo, 1948: Phil, Hazel, Maud, Don, Marion, Robert.

For Ray Parsons' home page and related stories use your "BACK button".

Send mail to Ray Parsons by clicking here.