Parrish and Pemberton families papers
Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107
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Overview and metadata sections
The Parrish family were prominent Philadelphia Quakers, who previously lived in Maryland near Baltimore. They were descendants of Captain Edward Parrish (1600-1679) who served as surveyor general of the Province of Maryland and was therefore able to acquire extensive land holdings in the region, although many later Parrishes were merchants or physicians.
Edward’s great-grandson John Parrish (1698-1745) married Elizabeth Roberts (1705-1745). When both John and Elizabeth died in the same year, one of their sons, John Parrish (1728/29-1807), being left an orphan at still a young age, moved to Philadelphia where he became apprenticed to learn a trade. He married Ann Wilson in 1753, and together they had several children. Throughout his life, John Parrish became increasingly concerned with slavery and the colonists' unfair policies toward Indians. His interest in the condition of Native Americans was heightened during a trip among the Indians of western Pennsylvania in 1773. In 1777 he received a call to the ministry. Thereafter he devoted the rest of his life to a series of benevolent causes, including emancipation, Indian relations, and penal reform. He was present at the signing of treaties with the Indians of western New York in 1793, which he related in a letter to his friend and supporter John Pemberton (1727-1795) in August of that year. In 1784 he served as a missionary carrying the Gospel to the island of Barbados. The last years of his life were increasingly devoted to concerns over abolition. In 1806, shortly before his death, he published the pamphlet, Address to the citizens of the United States…such as hold the black people in bondage.
John Parrish (1698-1745) had several other children, among then Robert Parrish (1727-1815), who was active in the Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures, an organization dedicated to ending Indian attacks in western Pennsylvania due to grievances over the loss of land during the Seven Years’ War.
Another son of John Parish (1698-1745) was Isaac Parrish (1734-1826), who married Sarah Mitchell (1739-1825). Among their children were Joseph Parrish (1779-1840) and Ann (or Anne) Parrish (1760-1800). Joseph became a well-known physician in Philadelphia, who also devoted himself to a variety of benevolent causes, notably penal reform and the abolition of slavery. Dr. Joseph Parrish distinguished himself during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. When parents Isaac and Sarah fell victim to the epidemic, it was said that his sister Ann Parrish vowed to devote her life to charitable works if they survived; they did, and Ann became a well-known philanthropist who founded the House of Industry, supplying work to poor women in Philadelphia, and the Aimwell School for needy girls.
Joseph married Susan (or Susannah) Cox (1788-1851), daughter of John Cox (1755-1847) and Ann Dillwyn (1755-1797). John Cox was a preacher in the Society of Friends and devoted much of his life toward maintaining peaceful relations with the Indians. He and Ann lived at an estate called “Oxmead” in Burlington County, New Jersey. Among the children of Joseph and Susan Parrish were Dillwyn Parrish (1809-1886), Edward Parrish (1822-1872) and Samuel Parrish (1830-1889).
Dillwyn Parrish became a pharmacist and was for many years president of the College of Pharmacy. He also served as president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society from 1851 to 1886, a position that had also been held by his father, Dr. Joseph Parrish. Dillwyn was one of the founders of the Orthopaedic Hospital and the Women’s Medical College. In later life he was active in the Society of Friends as overseer, elder and clerk. He was married twice, to Elizabeth Thomas and later Susanna Maxfield (1841-1884). His brother Edward Parrish (1822-1872) was one of the founders and first president of Swarthmore College, and his great-grandson was the painter Maxfield Parrish.
Samuel Parrish (1830-1889) was a literary and antiquarian enthusiast, spending many years collecting letters and documents relating to the early Quakers in Pennsylvania, including family histories and correspondence of the Cox, Parrish and Pemberton families. Samuel, his brother Dillwyn and their niece Susannah Parrish Wharton (1852-1928), all shared in preserving and publishing Parrish family history.
The Pemberton family were wealthy Quaker merchants who devoted their lives to benevolent and charitable work. Phineas Pemberton (1650-1702) came to America in 1682, where he purchased an estate on the Delaware River at Grove Place in Bucks County known as Bolton Farm. Phineas’ son Israel Pemberton (1684-1754) moved to Philadelphia, where he became a highly successful merchant and was active in the Society of Friends. He owned a house at Front and Market Streets, and by 1738 a large estate called “Evergreens” in the southwestern part of the city, about where Pemberton Street now joins Grays Ferry Avenue.
Israel Pemberton (1684-1754) married Rachel Read in 1765, and together they had several children, among them Israel Pemberton (1715-1779), James Pemberton (1723-1809) and John Pemberton (1727-1795). Son Israel became a successful merchant and was active within the Society of Friends and in civic life. He was known both as “King of Quakers” and as “King Wampum,” because of his affection and concern for the indigenous population. This concern caused him to resign from the Provincial Assembly in 1756 when war was declared on the Delaware Indians. He then became a leading force within the Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians by Pacific Measures. The Friendly Association was largely organized and directed by Israel Pemberton and his two brothers. During the American Revolution the Pemberton brothers, as pacifists, refused to take up arms or take the oath of allegiance to Pennsylvania, for which they were exiled to Winchester, Virginia, where Israel died in 1779. Israel was twice married, first to Sarah Kirkbride in 1737, and when Sarah died in 1746, to Mary (Stanbury), the widow of Robert Jordan in 1747. Israel had children from both marriages. His grandson, John C. Pemberton (1814-1881) was lieutenant-general in the Confederate army during the Civil War and commanding officer at the fall of Vicksburg in 1863.
James Pemberton (1723-1809), also a successful merchant, was a founder and member of the Pennsylvania Hospital and of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society. He inherited both the “Evergreens” estate and the Bolton Farm in Bucks County. James married Hannah Lloyd in 1751. Among their children was Rachel Pemberton (1754-1786), who later married Dr. Thomas Parke (died 1835).
John Pemberton (1727-1795) was also a merchant, and was active in causes related to native peoples and the abolition of slavery. Like his brother Israel, he resigned from the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1756. He became president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1790. As a Quaker missionary, he preached extensively throughout Europe. He married Hannah Zane in 1766, but they remained childless. John later died while preaching in Europe.
The Parrish and Pemberton families papers (Collection 1653) consist of two boxes of documents relating to the Parrish and Pemberton families of Philadelphia, wealthy Quaker merchants who shared a dedication to various benevolent causes, notably the abolition of slavery, Indian relations, penal reform, and concern for the poor, especially women. Throughout this collection runs a thread of activism on behalf of the disenfranchised. The collection has been arranged into three series: Series 1 contains Pemberton family documents, largely correspondence, but also papers relating to the Friendly Association for Regaining and Preserving Peace with the Indians, and papers relating to the Society of Friends. Series 2 contains Parrish correspondence and various papers collected by family members, as well as photographs and portraits. Series 3 contains volumes written or transcribed by Parrish family members, as well as several works relating to Quaker history and practice.
The Parrish/Pemberton family connection remains unclear. There is no attested relation by marriage evident in the documentation, but there is clear evidence that the two families knew each other well and worked together in the same benevolent organizations. Robert Parrish (1727-1815) was a long-term member of the Friendly Association, organized and directed largely by Israel Pemberton (1715-1779). John Parrish (1728/29-1807), who worked tirelessly on behalf of indigenous peoples, shared his efforts in correspondence with John Pemberton (1727-1795). Samuel Parrish (1830-1889) was a family historian and antiquarian, who had in his possession a large collection of Pemberton correspondence, although not necessarily the documents in this collection.
Gift of Anna H. Denniston, 1936.
Collection was rehoused in acid-free folders in the order found.
- Carter, James.
- Cox, John, 1754/55-1847.
- Parke, Thomas, 1749-1835.
- Parrish, Anne, 1760-1800.
- Parrish, Dillwyn, 1809-1886.
- Parrish, John, 1729-1807.
- Parrish, Joseph, 1779-1840.
- Parrish, Samuel, 1830-1889.
- Parrish, Susannah Cox, 1788-1851.
- Pemberton, Israel, 1715-1779.
- Pemberton, James, 1723-1809.
- Pemberton, John., 1727-1795
- Penn, William, 1644-1718.
- Proud, Robert, 1728-1813.
- Scott, Abraham.
- Vaux, Richard, 1751-1790.
- Historical Society of Pennsylvania
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by James R. DeWalt.
- Finding Aid Date
- ; 2015.
- Access Restrictions
Open to researchers without restrictions.
The Pemberton papers, which are arranged alphabetically by creator or organization, contain correspondence dating mostly from the 18th century, relating to family matters, business practice, and philanthropic concerns. Much of it is written by or addressed to one of the three Pemberton brothers: Israel Pemberton (1715-1779), James Pemberton (1723-1809), and John Pemberton (1727-1795). The many letters from Richard Johns, Jr. to Israel Pemberton address Israel as “friend and schoolmate.” Correspondence by other Pembertons concerns mostly family matters. Significant correspondence not directly related to the Pembertons includes family letters of merchant Abraham Scott to his mother and step-father, Ann and John Ball, residing in England, business correspondence of David and John Barclay and their nephew Robert Barclay, some addressed to Israel Pemberton regarding debts of his son-in-law Samuel Richards, and correspondence of merchant Richard Vaux to Dr. Thomas Parke. Vaux, in exile because of his pacifist views during the American Revolution, wrote from the Caribbean to Parke, the son-in-law of James Pemberton.
The Friendly Association papers date from 1756 to 1761 and appear to complement the Friendly Association papers located in Series 7 of the Cox-Parrish-Wharton papers (Collection 0154). The documents include meeting minutes and resolutions. This section is in particularly fragile condition, and researchers are requested to use the photocopied pages supplied with the original documents.
Society of Friends extracts and copy of writings records early writings and letters of religious and various other concerns from 1655 to 1704, and includes significant portions in shorthand. Other Society of Friends papers in this series contain documents relating to yearly and monthly meetings from 1676 to 1870.
Documents written by John Parrish (1728/29-1807) include a letter written to John Pemberton (1727-1795) concerning relations and a treaty with the Indians signed near Niagara, New York (August 3, 1793) and a copy of a letter written to an unnamed congressman concerning the slave trade, undated.
This series contains correspondence and various documents related to the Parrish family dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Items here are arranged alphabetically by creator or type. There is significant correspondence from both Dillwyn Parrish (1809-1886) and Samuel Parrish (1830-1889), both of whom were actively engaged in preserving Parrish family history. There is virtually nothing relating to the Pemberton family save a list of Pemberton correspondence in the possession of Samuel Parrish.
Of note among the correspondence is an autograph letter of Benjamin Franklin dated March 14th, 1748/9, written on behalf of the directors of the Library Company thanking a Mr. Richard Hockley for the gift of a reflecting telescope and five volumes of voyages.
Most correspondence relates to Parrish family matters. The Hunt correspondence includes letters from relations of Anna Hunt, wife of Samuel Parrish (1830-1889) and Margaret Scheve Hunt, wife of Edward Parrish (1822-1872). The Dillwyn Parrish letters are all to relations. Samuel Parrish documents include items of genealogical and antiquarian interest, including genealogical material relating to the Parrish and Fenwick families, early Quaker colonists.
Portraits and photographs in this series include about a dozen images, none relating directly to the principal persons represented in this collection, with the exception of a drawing depicting the settlement of an Indian treaty in 1793 near Niagara Falls, which includes an image supposed to be that of John Parrish (1728/29-1807) among the assembly.
Two documents by Robert Proud contain notes and opinions concerning slavery. There is a photocopy of a deed from the Indians to William Penn in 1682. A facsimile of a letter by George Washington dated April 6, 1778, concerns the appeal of several ladies in the case of Quakers being confined in Winchester, Virginia. This item complements another facsimile letter dated March 31, 1778 in Series 1 written by Mary Pemberton to George Washington which was relating to these men, and specifically to the death of one of them while in confinement, presumably Mary Pemberton’s husband Israel.
Series 3 contains twelve bound volumes and lengthier works concerning the early history of the Quakers and the Parrish family in particular. It seems that most if not all of these volumes were in the possession of either Dillwyn Parrish (1809-1886) or his brother Samuel Parrish (1830-1889). They include meeting extracts from the first Quaker colonists in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, source material relating to William Penn and early Pennsylvania collected by Quaker historian Robert Proud (1728-1813), sketches and recollections of prominent Friends recorded by Quaker preacher John Cox (1755-1847), along with an early copybook of poetry written by his daughter Susan Cox Parrish (1788-1851). A small volume of “Visitations to the sick,” by philanthropist Ann Parrish (1760-1800) records some of her charitable work in her own hand. There are volumes of Parrish family history and genealogy collected by both Dillwyn Parrish and Samuel Parrish, along with the text of an address by Samuel Parrish regarding the “Ranters,” a 17th century religious sect. A curious and very brief notebook relates to religious concerns of a James Emlen.
Joseph Parrish (1779-1840) “Essays on capital punishment, legal opinions and letters, 1790-1836” (Volume 1) contains copies by Samuel Parrish of some of his father’s more noteworthy writings. In 1816, Joseph Parrish undertook to answer a writer signed “Civis” who, in an article in Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser had advocated for the practice of capital punishment. Samuel took an opposing viewpoint in a series of essays under the name of “Caritas.” Another essay records the “Deposition relative to John Randolph” of Roanoke, Virginia, whose 1819 will, granting manumission of his slaves, and 1822 codicil providing for transportation and purchase of land for the former slaves in Ohio, had been challenged in court. A further essay addressed to the Daily Advertizer [sic], discusses Joseph Parrish’s experiments concerning the supposed poisonous properties of the poplar worm, and his experiments to disprove this misapprehension. In “Reply to a Presbyterian,” he addresses a period of religious discord within the Society of Friends.
James Carter’s “Account of his sufferings in slavery” (dated July 16, 1807) (Volume 3), also referenced as “Journal of the suffering of his family as slaves,” tells the personal story of Carter, who had escaped from several slave owners, notably the Baylors of New Market, Caroline County, Virginia, eventually making his way to Philadelphia where he was taken in by Elias Boudinot, then director of the United States Mint. The narrative itself was written at the request of Edward Stabler, a Quaker apothecary in Alexandria, Virginia, for the use of a Philadelphia Friend. The Friend is never specified, as Carter at the conclusion of his narrative asks “Mr. Boudinot please to tell what friend it is.” There are two Stabler letters among the Pemberton papers in Series 1, but they do not refer to this incident. The text of this manuscript was published in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 105, No 3 (July 1981), pp. 335-339.
Essays on capital punishment; Legal opinions and letters; 1790-1836, undated