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by: Louise Harlow

The Parsons family was one of firsts in Northampton, Massachusetts.  Cornet Parsons, the patriarch of the long line and grandfather to John Parsons, whose will you will find in these important historical documents.

Joseph Cornet Parsons

Cornet Parsons was born on June 25, 1620 in England, he migrated here around 1647 and one of the first settlers of Northampton.  Her family later immigrated to HartfordConnecticut, where she married Joseph Parsons on November 2, 1646. The couple later moved to  Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1655, Joseph Parsons purchased a land tract from the local Native Americans in what would become Northampton

In the early 1650s a feud developed between the Parsons and a neighboring family, the Bridgman’s. Parsons was said to have a strong personality, which had led to rumors following her from Springfield. Unlike the Parsons, the Bridgman’s were struggling financially. In addition, Mary Parsons had several healthy children while Sarah Bridgman had lost several children. People in the town started blaming Parsons for the death of livestock and injuries to people.[1] Bridgman began to spread rumors that about Parsons, claiming that she had threatened her son[2] and that she was a witch.[3]When Parson’s mother confronted Bridgman, she claimed to have heard a story that Parsons had cursed a blind man’s daughter in Springfield, causing the girl to have fits.[4]

This led to a slander trial, which was found in favor of Mary, however it didn’t end there.  In 1674, Bridgman charged Parsons with witchcraft. After her slander lawsuit, the rumors in Northampton about Parsons being a witch had subsided. However, the sudden death of Sarah Bridgman’s daughter, Mary Bartlett in July 1674 prompted her mother to formally accuse Parsons of witchcraft. 

In September 1675, the local magistrates ordered a search of Parsons’ body for “Witches’ marks“. It is not known if any marks were found. The magistrates then decided to send her to Boston to await her trial at the Court of Assistants. After a trial, the court in Boston acquitted Parsons of witchcraft.

These accusations and trial preceded the famous Salem Witch Trials by several decades.

Mary Bliss Parsons

The first child of Coronet & Mary Parsons; Joseph Jr. was also the first child born in Northampton, 1647.

 Their Son Benjamin was the first to die in 1649.

Joseph Parsons Jr. lived most of his life in Northampton. He was involved in several business enterprises before he became active in politics, and living up to the family of firsts, he was the First Moderator at General Court in Northampton.

His Son Lt. John Parsons (1674-1746), whose last will and testament this auction offers, served the city of Northampton in much the same way his father and grandfather did.  He inherited not only wealth, but increase it, by investing in land and profitable business ventures.

His will was recorded, Probate Records, Vol 7, 1745-1752

In it, the will has been copied to a ledger by a scribe, who swears oath to witnessing those who witnessed the will. 

In the will he gives one third of his estate that includes his personal estate to his second wife Hannah, also 15 pounds in Old Tenor Bills.

In his legacy to his only daughter, Eunice he gives 400 pounds to be paid in moveable’s or old tenor bills.  To each of his five living sons and the heirs of his son Moses he bestows the other two thirds of his estate to be divided equally.   There is a mention that his oldest son John was bequeathed a great sum from his grandfather; Cornet Parsons. 


The next will and testament of this Colonial Period belongs to

Johns son Ephraim (1713-1799.)

As Ephraim had no children he has given his estate to his brother Joseph (1722-1807)

(Small bit of interest, he married Rachel Keep, who was witness to his own father John’s (1674-1746) will)

The will is short and direct.


The Parsons House Museum in Northampton possesses various artifacts and extensive history of the Parson’s family.  On land originally purchased by Coronet Parsons, he gave the land to his son Jonathan, who in turn deeded it to his son Nathaniel Parsons (1686-1738) owned the property from 1709-1738.  It was donated to the Northampton Historical Society in 1941. 

The Nathaniel Parsons House, 46 Bridge St. Northampton, Ma

Lot 44. has 3 Land Documents that are part of this collection, they include;

Land Transfer from Samuel, his mother Hephzibah & wife Elizabeth Pomeroy  to John Parsons, dated 1699-1701.

Transfer from Noah Parsons to John Parsons

Dated 1719.


Land transfer from William King to John Parsons

Dated 1726.

The portions of two other documents may be part of land transfers.  They may also be something exciting…


Joseph Parsons

In March 1663 divers persons ‘in the soldering’ in Northampton formed a company of Cavalry which was called the “Hampshire Troop  officers included a Lieutenant, two quartermasters and a coronet.  William Allis of Hatfield was the first Coronet, a few years after Joseph Parsons succeeded him, and always after this bore the title of Cornet. 

Lot 44. Colonial Massachusetts can be viewed here.

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