Sometimes we receive a question at Jenks Library that sends us off in a new research direction. Recently, in trying to answer a question about Samuel Parlin, we (re)discovered that some of the most helpful resources come from our own archives.
One of the first online sources that we found was a memorial listing for Samuel Parlin on FindAGrave.com, with a photo provided by one of own our researchers. In the photo, the grave is marked by a flag denoting military service. (The flag holder seems to be a War of 1812 marker, but given his birth in 1747, that service was unlikely.) We expected to find details about his service in the compendium Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War. To our initial surprise (and a bit of consternation), we could not find him listed there. Unfortunately, not all who served from Acton were documented. Even those Actonians memorialized with a monument on Acton’s Common for their service and death on April 19, 1775 are not listed in Mass. Soldiers and Sailors.
We checked our standard town histories by Fletcher and Phalen, both of which reprinted Rev. James T. Woodbury’s listing of Actonians who were known (at the time the list was created, sometime in the mid-1800s) to have served in the Revolution. The list is not perfect, and Rev. Woodbury acknowledged at the time that it was incomplete. However, Samuel Parlin did appear in that listing. Some of his children and other relatives living in Acton were the likely sources.
Our next challenge was to try to determine when Samuel actually served. Fortunately, our quest was made much easier when we were able to turn to the Robbins papers in our own archives. Not every man who served is listed there either, but for lucky people researching certain individuals, the papers can be a goldmine. It happens that Samuel Parlin was listed as one of the Actonians who signed up on September 29, 1774, “thinking our Selves Ignorant in the Military Art and Willing to be Instructed” by Captain Joseph Robbins in a militia company. Later, Captain Robbins documented the fact that Samuel Parlin had served under him in 1776 (as did his brothers Nathan and Asa). We also discovered that much later, Concord’s Gazette and Yeoman listed those who were living in Acton in April 1824 who had fought at Concord on April 19, 1775. Samuel Parlin was included. (April 24, 1824, p. 2)
Having confirmed that Samuel Parlin did indeed serve in the Revolutionary War, we set out to learn about the rest of his life. Samuel was born in Acton on May 18, 1747 to Jonathan Parlin and Sarah Warner. His family were among of the original residents of Acton when it became a town in 1735. They lived in the northern part of Acton (previously Concord) that eventually became Carlisle. A map of historic home sites done by Donald Lapham in 1969 shows that the Jonathan Parlin house was located at 322 West Street (at the corner of Acton Street) in present-day Carlisle.
According to The Descendants of Nicholas Parlin, Samuel had numerous siblings, the oldest of whom (Jonathan) died as a soldier in the French and Indian War in 1758. The book lists two brothers (Nathan and Asa) serving in the Revolution and, with some question, an additional soldier brother Nathaniel. Aside from a muster and payroll record indicating that “Nathaniel” Parlin marched from Acton to Roxbury on March 4, 1776 and served six days, we could find no vital or other records for a man of that name. It is very likely that the record was actually Nathan’s. Samuel had a sister Elizabeth who never married, and as the Parlin genealogy added, unhelpfully, “There were four other children, all girls.” (p. 22). We were able to find in Acton’s vital records that Samuel had three additional sisters, Sarah, Lucy, and Mary. Sarah died in 1759. Acton death records do not mention Lucy and Mary, but they must have died before their father, as his probate record does not list them as survivors. (It also does not list a son Nathaniel.)
Samuel’s father Jonathan died in 1767. His estate included an 87-acre farm, partly in Acton and partly in Westford, bordering on the land of John Heald Jr. The farm was left 1/3 to Samuel’s mother, as was customary, and 2/3 to the eldest surviving brother Nathan who lived out his life in Carlisle. Asa eventually farmed nearby and served the town of Carlisle for many years as town clerk and selectman.
Samuel Parlin, however, moved to a part of town that remained Acton. On March 26, 1772, he married Lucy Davis (1749-1829), daughter of John and Sarah (Flint) Davis of Acton. Samuel and Lucy had eight children:
- Samuel (1773-1778) - The Parlin genealogy has this child living to adulthood, but Acton records and a gravestone show that this Samuel died Sept. 29, 1778.
- Lucy (1774-1800) married Lieut. Phinehas Wheeler
- Jonathan (1777-1830)
- Eunice (1779-1822) married Joseph Robbins Jr.
- Warner (1781- 1839) married Lydia Davis (another Capt. Isaac Davis relative)
- Sally (1785-1859)
- Susanna (1788-1825)
- Davis (1791 – 1857), married Nancy Barnard and Sarah Keyes. For information about his son Henry Davis Parlin, see our blog post on F. W. Pelton’s students.
We know that Samuel Parlin lived at what would now be 48 Hammond Street. The house, which stood until a tragic fire in 1985, was believed to have been built approximately 1772 -1776, presumably based on the date of Samuel’s marriage to Lucy Davis. Supporting that estimate, we found that in the tax valuation of 1771, Samuel was listed without taxable property, but in Lucy’s father’s 1778 probate record, Samuel Parlin was already a landowner. Lucy inherited eight acres of pasture and woodland, known as part of the “Proctor Place” that bordered land of “Samuel Parling.” The probate record also noted that Lucy’s father had previously given her 86 pounds, 19 shillings and 9 pence, probably the value of land John gave to Lucy and Samuel as they started their life together. Lucy inherited an additional thirty-acre lot on the “westerly side of Nagog Hill” when her eldest brother John died in an accident on March 2, 1791. The lot was bounded by land that had been set off to her sister Abigail Conant and by land of Simon Tuttle and Samuel Jones Jr.
According to church records, on Nov. 24, 1791, Samuel Parlin was chosen for the office of Deacon of the First Parish church of Acton. On April 19, 1792, the record continued that Samuel Parlin having declined, the church chose Simon Hunt who accepted and “took the seat” in August. While the Parlin genealogy refers to him as “Deacon Samuel,” there is no record that Samuel Parlin actually ever “took the seat” himself. The story of why he declined the honor never made it to the history books.
- Acton Town Meeting Records and First Parish Church Records, available through Acton Memorial Library here. Vital Records, Land Records, and Probate Records, available through FamilySearch.org, Ancestry.com, AmericanAncestors.org. Military Records, available through Fold3.com.
- Bull, Sidney A. History of the town of Carlisle, Massachusetts, 1754-1920. Cambridge, MA: The Murray Printing Company, 1920.
- Fletcher, James. Acton in History. Boston: J. W. Lewis & Co, 1890.
- Lapham, Donald A. Carlisle, Composite Community (and accompanying map dated 1969). Carlisle, Mass.: no publisher, c. 1969.
- Massachusetts Historical Commission. Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System:
- Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War. Boston: Wright & Potter Printing Co., 1896-1908.
- Parlin, Frank Edson. The Descendants of Nicholas Parlin of Cambridge, Mass., 1913
- Phalen, Harold R. History of the Town of Acton Cambridge, MA: Middlesex Printing Inc., 1954.
- Robbins Papers, Jenks Library, Acton Historical Society.
- Tuttle, Horace. Historical Map of Acton. Boston: Forbes Co., 1890.
- Wilkins, Ruth. Carlisle: Its History and Heritage. Carlisle: Carlisle Historical Society, Inc., 1976, 2002.