Archives provinciales du Nouveau-Brunswick

Dictionary of Miramichi Biography

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PARKER, WILLIAM (1820-1873)

PARKER, WILLIAM, land surveyor, customs officer, and JP; b. Derby, c1820, s/o Christopher Parker and Ann Brown; m. 1850, Ellen Spratt, d/o Joseph Spratt and Ann Coy; d. Newcastle, 6 Apr 1873.

William Parker's paternal grandfather was a soldier who served with the British forces during the Revolutionary War. In 1806 his father, Christopher Parker, bought land at Derby, and in 1810 he received a 400-acre grant of the property at Derby through which the Parker Road to Williamstown was later built. He experienced serious financial setbacks in the 1820s and 30s, being sued by Richard Simonds and others for failing to fulfill his business obligations and by John Ambrose Street for trespass. His financial plight, as well as his capacity for deception, are revealed in a document from 1829 in which he purports to sell to George, Hugh, and William Parker (his sons, aged fifteen, eleven, and nine, but not identified as such) two lots of land in the city of Saint John, seven lots on the Nashwaak River from those reserved for the soldiers disbanded from the 42nd Regiment, and a lot at Derby adjacent to the lot of the late George Brown, a Davidson settler, who may have been his father-in-law. In September 1839 he was sentenced to six months in jail for forgery. A few days later he escaped and disappeared. An inn which he and the family conducted at their home in Derby from as early as 1819 was being managed in 1851 by his wife, who was enumerated in the census of that year as a widow. She was a devout Methodist churchwoman, whose children were bright and successful. Besides William Parker, the children included George Parker, a career teacher in Northumberland and York counties; Margaret Parker, the second wife of Rowland Crocker; and Christopher Parker Jr and Thomas Parker, respected residents of Derby parish during the second half of the 19th century.

William Parker had "very meagre schooling," but he possessed "an original mind" and was extensively self-educated. He was occupied from an early age at land surveying and by 1852 was a deputy provincial surveyor. In 1855 he was appointed labor act commissioner for Blackville, North Esk, and Nelson parishes and, in 1858, agent for the sale of crown lands in the westerly half of the county. His home was at Derby until around 1864, when he and his family moved to Newcastle. In 1865 he succeeded Richard Sutton as deputy treasurer of the port of Newcastle, and in 1867 he became the first collector of customs at Newcastle under the Canadian government.

Parker was a school trustee in Nelson (later Derby) parish in 1847. He joined the 2nd Battalion of militia as an ensign in 1848 and was made a captain in 1864. In 1855 he was appointed a justice of the peace. Over the course of his lifetime he built up a fine personal library and became an excellent writer and lecturer. He was an officer of the Newcastle and Douglastown Mechanics' Institute and was sometimes the guest speaker at meetings. In 1867 he delivered two addresses, the titles of which were "The Greatness of Little Things" and "Pitt and His Times." He was a leading member of the Methodist congregation in Newcastle and a participant in the work of the Miramichi Religious Tract Society. At the time of his death in 1873, at about age fifty-three, he was a trustee of the County Grammar School and chairman of the County Court of Quarter Sessions.

Parker and his wife, Ellen Spratt, had five children who survived childhood, including Olivia Parker, who taught at Harkins Academy for some years; Adeline Parker, a music teacher; and Hedley Parker, the well-known Miramichi folk poet.


[m] Gleaner 2 Sep 1850 [d] Telegraph 8 Apr 1873 / Advocate 26 Mar 1868, 15 Dec 1870; 16 Apr 1873, 25 Jul 1883; church records (baptisms of children of Christopher Parker and Ann Brown); county records (8/18, Babcock to Parker, 24 Jun 1806; 29/132, Parker to his sons, 15 Jan 1829; and 54/185, will of Ann Parker, reg'd 28 Feb 1873); Facey-Crowther; Gleaner 30 Mar 1830, 24 Sep 1839, 8 October 1839, 16 Feb 1847, 3 Nov 1855, 11 Aug 1855, 8 May 1858, 4 Mar 1865, 2 Feb 1867, 23 Mar 1867; JHA 1852 (re. pensioned widows of Revolutionary War soldiers) and 1867 (re. militia); Manny Collection (F22); Manny (Parker); PANB (probate files re. Christopher Parker Jr, 1883); Royal Gazette, 24 Jul 1872; Stufflebean; World 23 Dec 1896