1833: Col. Joshua Parsons to Solomon Parsons

This letter was written by Joshua Parsons (1796-1884) was born in Norway, Maine. Joshua was married (1819) to Sibilla Bridgham (1798-1877), the daughter of John and Sibilla (Shaw) Bridgham. A history of West Minot says that “Col. Joshua Parsons located here in 1817 and carried on carding and cloth dressing until 1843, when he built the gristmill, which was later run by Jeffery Parsons and Mr. Allen in the early 1900’s.” As described in this letter, Joshua was elected to the Maine Legislature in 1833 after successfully defeating his brother-in-law, Caleb Bridgham. He later (1839) served in the Maine Senate.

Joshua wrote the letter to his brother Solomon Parsons (1797-1872) who was a merchant in Bangor, Maine. Solomon partnered with Josiah Towle in the lumber and grocery business.

Stampless Letter

Stampless Letter

Addressed to Solomon Parsons, Esq., Bangor, Maine

West Minot, [Maine]
December 10th 1833

Affectionate Brother,

It is always with a pleasing degree of pleasure that I take an opportunity to spend a few moments to write to a worthy and esteemed Brother. But at this time I feel some degree of diffidence when I reflect that you are indebted to me for such a favor. I say a favor for I do really take pleasure in perusing letters from my absent friends. But to you, my poor uninteresting scrawls may be but an unsatisfactory compliment who is attending to higher respects at some of your leisure hours. I do not, however, intentionally intrude upon your attention. It may be that you have forgot you have a brother Joshua or it may be, having removed your residence from a small country town into so popular and thriving a village that your leisure time is more agreeably employed than to be writing to a poor brother who is expecting only to fend off the tide of poverty so he can obtain the every day comforts of life. I see I have used the word village, but it may be very improper — pardon me if it is. I hear that your wealthy town is fixing to apply for a city charter. I have no doubt but tis worthy of it. I am well aware of the growing importance of the place — the wealthy and accomplished gentlemen residing there.

It cannot be that I am under a mistake that your residence is Bangor. I must confess I presume so from here-say. I have see ought in Black & White. Your last letter to me was dated Sebec and said you had sold out in that place and where you should go it was undetermined. But if it should be in that country, it most probably [would] be Bangor. I frequently see acquaintances from Bangor and take pleasure in enquiring after you and often times hear something of you but no letters. My last letter was sent by private conveyance. I shall venture this by mail, Answer it if it is your pleasure. Otherwise, consign it among your paper rags.

I was at Portland last month and heard from you at Boston and that you would be in that City the second day after I left. I had some idea of dropping a line there, but courage failed. Today I have closed this season’s work. My trade has about run down to a cipher. I know not what I should [have] done this winter if the town had not provided a place for me.

Our boys continue to grow and strengthen in body & mind. Franklin attended to his studies 8 weeks last spring — and in the fall has done much else — commenced the Latin grammar — has read the latin reader a little. Our town school commenced this week. He has now commenced the arithmetic and something must go if goes at all. But our son Solomon keeps a steady draw, no flinch — has taken hold of the Geography — already devoured the little Peter Parley — and there is no skimming things with him. He digs to the bottom. His mother observed him in reviewing his grammar the evening before the school began. She was surprised at his correctness of memory. They both have got to be quite grammarians. But enough of this.

I have not heard from Norway this 5 weeks but presume they are in their usual state of health. Our parents visited us last June — appeared very cheerful and in good spirits — much pleased with our new house. Mamma’s health the course of the summer was not so good. We cannot expect they will see but few years more. Parents think oftener of their children than children do remember the all absorbing cares that are continually coming up into minds of affectionate Fathers & Mothers for their children. I am sensible that it is a great pleasure to our parents to have visits from their children — and indeed for them to see you and to have you take the pains and to see the expense of making them a visit would be to them a source of much happiness. They would take delight in enquiring of your welfare and their minds would undergo many pleasing reflections in having refreshed, as it were, their parental feelings anew and say amen to all their anxieties.

As to myself, I know not what to write. As to public business, I care but little about — and as to political promotion, I have felt but little anxiety as to any events [that] might happen to me. It has so happened that I have been opposed in being promoted in public business by those whom we should naturally suppose would be most interested in my popularity than any in town. I served [as] one of the Selectmen last year, and had 10 votes more last spring than my colleague, but the Jackson ticket prevailed by about 20 majority. It was sounded in the great democratic Argus that there was achieved in Minot a great triumph. The summer passed with but little said — politicks being very mild. I have said but little this 2 or 3 years past as Calvin Bridgham ¹ was run last year for Representative against Grosvenor and come in three votes. It was considered morally certain that this year he would be elected — in fact, he all but thought it was already so, for I & wife were invited by a domestic of their family to visit Augusta the next winter as Esquire Bridgham would be in the Legislature!!

As the time of election drawed near, I found that friends were looking to me as their candidate — politicks still cool. I suggested the idea of not rousing parties by a caucus until a day or two before meeting. The Jacksonites had had theirs and as expected nominated C. Bridgham. Friday before election, we met & I was nominated, and till then the Jacksonites supposed we should not make a trial. I had no hopes that we should succeed. I thought I could not refuse as I had been run for office when there was a fair prospect of success. Each party at the meeting moved shoulder to shoulder and threw 421 votes, and then all stood waiting to hear the result, which appeared to our party more favorable than expected, for previous our party had but little hopes of success. But behold! Brother Calvin was void and found lacking — he having 208 votes and Joshua Parsons 213, all counted. So, of course, health permitting I shall visit Augusta in little over a fortnight — and it would be necessary to add that I should be pleased to see you in course of the winter and hear of you by letter.

Your obedient & humble Brother, — Joshua Parsons


¹ Calvin Bryan Bridgham (1792-1856) was Joshua’s brother-in-law. He was a merchant in Minot and we learn from the letter that he ran for the Maine Legislature in 1833 as a Jacksonian Democrat. Joshua Parsons won the election representing the National Republican Party.


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