Biography of James M. Parsons

JAMES M. PARSONS, In the life history of the late James M. Parsons, one of Elwood’s honored residents and substantial business men, is found exemplification of the truth that success is the result of labor- and untiring labor. Starting out in life with no advantages save those of an energetic nature, an inherent ability and a commendable determination to gain a position for himself in the world, he worked ceaselessly and perseveringly, and became known as one of those belonging to the class which can lay claim to the American title of self-made man, Mr. Parsons was born in Butler County, Ohio, July 26, 1832′, a son of James and Sarah Ann (Ward) Parsons.

The paternal grandfather of Mr. Parsons, John Parsons, was probably a native of Maryland, He was a ship carpenter by trade, but when he went to Butler County, Ohio, as a pioneer of that section, turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, in which he was engaged during the remainder of his life, The name of his wife is not remembered, but it is known that he had two sons, James and William, and four daughters, among whom was Ann. On the maternal side, the grandfather of Mr. Parsons was Joseph Ward, a native of New Jersey, who spent his life in the East. He had children as follows: Calvin, Luther, Amos, Jonathan, Sarah Ann, Phoebe and Malinda.

James Parsons, father of James M. Parsons, was born in Maryland, and there reared to manhood, As a youth he learned the trade of shoemaker, and for three years was a sailor, but eventually accompanied his father to Butler County, Ohio, and settled near the city of Oxford, There he engaged in farming until coining to Madison County, Indiana, in 1835, and here he spent the remainder of his life, passing away in 1883, when about eighty-three years old, while his wife died in 1860; aged sixty-five years, and was buried at Comersville, They were Methodists in their religious belief, Mr. and Mrs. Parsons had a family of seven children, as follows: Charlotte Ann, who married Stephen Ball and makes her home at Arapahoe, Oklahoma; Jonathan W. who is deceased; Martha, also deceased, who was the wife of J. C. W., and later of John L. Milner; James M., of this review; John Wesley, who met his death in the battle of Murfreesboro, during the Civil war; George W., living at Rigdon, Indiana; and Frances Marion, who died when six years of age.

James M. Parsons was about two years of age when brought to Indiana by his parents, the family settling in Decatur County, where he resided until he was twelve years of age, there attending the public schools, They next located on a farm in Fayette County, and there he made his home until May 3, 1853, when he joined the old circus company of Spalding & Rogers, with which he traveled all over the United States during the next five years, starting as property boy and later becoming a performer, At the end of that time he had accumulated a fund of experience that decided him against circus life, this experience including being bitten on the head by an enraged lion. Accordingly he returned to his home and adopted the vocation of shoemaking, a calling which he followed for the greater part of his life, Mr. Parsons came to Elwood in 1860, and here followed his trade until 1885, at which time he was appointed postmaster, and after the expiration of his four-year term was made deputy sheriff for two years and city marshal for four years, After leaving the latter 0ffice he was engaged in shoemaking, and at the time of his death had a modern establishment in the Adams Block, No, 1515 Main street, and was enjoying an excellent trade, He was ever honorable in his methods and painstaking in his work, and his reputation was that of a thoroughly reliable man of business, and one who was to be trusted to live up to his obligations, During his long residence here he formed a wide acquaintance, and in this he numbered scores of personal friends, The pleasant home is situated at No, 1353 South B. street.

Search Military Records - Fold3

On April 14, 1860, Mr. Parsons was married to Miss Caroline A. Shafer, daughter of James and Frances (Wardwell) Shafer, and to this union there were born children as follows: Ella, Jonathan C., Charles M., Frank, James Edward, Joseph, William E., Ward, Maude and Bessie. Of these, Ella lives in Indianapolis, She married Charles Mount, by whom she had two children, both now deceased, as is Mr. Mount, For her second husband she married William Clark. Jonathan C., now superintendent of police at Elwood, Indiana, was a painter and paper hanger in Elwood, where he married Lilly Long, and they have one daughter, Beulah. Charles M., who is his father’s partner in the shoemaking business, married Metta P. Riley, Frank is a clothing salesman of Walla Walla, Washington, and is the husband of Vessie Mount, by whom he has two children-Elizabeth and Frances, James Edward died when five and one-half years old, Joseph, a traveling salesman living in Tacoma, Washington, married Ida Cheever, and they have one daughter, Karline, William E., a tailor, who died in 1906, married Caroline Bentley, and they had four children, of whom two are now living: Charline and Thomas; Ward, Maude and Bessie all died in infancy. The first wife of Mr. Parsons, who was born in Butler County, Ohio, died in 1878, aged thirty-four years, in the faith of the Methodist church, Her father passed away in Elwood about 1893, while her mother is still living, aged eighty-seven years.

On May 25, 1881, Mr. Parsons was married to Mrs. Nellie Smith, who was born in Clermont County, Ohio, January 29, 1848, a daughter of George and Mary Van Trump, natives of Ohio, who died when Mrs. Parsons was still a child, They had seven children: John, George, Ann, Benjamin, Nellie, Mollie and Lula. Mrs. Parsons married Irvin Smith, who is now deceased, By her marriage with Sir, Parsons there have been four children: Raymond K., who is in the telephone and telegraph business at Phoenix, Arizona, married Mary Steele, and has one daughter, Rosaline; Chase J., a mail clerk in the Elwood post office, who married Hazel Creagmile, and has one child, Martha Nell; Leo, who is proprietor of a cigar store, Elwood, married Gladys Yelvington; and one child who died in infancy.

Mrs. Parsons is a member of the Methodist Church, Mr. Parsons belonged to Quincy Lodge No, 200, I. 0, 0, F., and to the Knights of Pythias, A Democrat in politics, he was stanch in his support of his party’s candidates and policies, and served four years as a member of the city council and one term as a member of the board of Township trustees, James M. Parsons passed to his final reward May 19, 1913, aged eighty years, nine months, twenty-three days, He lies buried beside his children in Elwood cemetery.



Forkner, John. History of Madison County, Indiana: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people and its principal interests. Chicago: The Lewis publishing company, 1914.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top