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George F. Parry family volumes


Held at: Historical Society of Pennsylvania [Contact Us]1300 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19107

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

George F. Parry was born on August 22, 1838, to Charles Parry and Phebe Fell of Buckingham Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He had two older sisters, Susan (1826-1890) and Helen (1829-1854), and another sibling, Rachel, died in 1825. Susan Parry was one of the United States' first professionally trained female physicians. Her practice was located in Bucks County.

In the late 1850s, George attended the Boston Veterinary Institute, the first veterinary college in the United States, founded by George H. Dadd (with whom Parry maintained a close friendship). Parry graduated from the school in 1859, a year before it closed, and moved back to Bucks County. Parry was among only a handful of students who completed their veterinary training at the institute, and he was likely among the first veterinary practitioners in Pennsylvania. While Parry may have opened up his own facility in Bucks County in the early 1860s, his practice was cut short when he was mustered into the U. S. Army on June 22, 1863. Again Parry was among the few as there were hardly any trained veterinarians in the Army to care for its service animals, but he quickly settled into his role as a veterinary surgeon for the 7th Pennsylvania Calvary.

Parry served with the Union Army from mid 1863 to the end of the war in mid 1865. During that time, he both attended to the needs of his regiment's (and others') horses and mules and fought alongside his squadmates. Parry spent most of the war in the southern United States and traveled throughout parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, and to a much lesser extent, eastern Illinois, northeastern Mississippi, and northern Florida. He participated in battles at Chickamauga, Georgia (September 1863); Dallas, Georgia (May-June 1864); Selma, Alabama (April 1865); and witnessed much of the Atlanta Campaign (May-September 1864) undertaken by Union General William T. Sherman and others.

After the war, Parry took ill and was shipped between hospitals in Alabama and Kentucky before finally becoming well enough to return to Pennsylvania in the fall of 1865. He set up shop for good in Newtown, Pennsylvania, where he both farmed and maintained a veterinary practice in which he mostly took care of horses, cows, and similar livestock. Additionally, Parry attended local Quaker meetings, was a member of the Newtown Lodge, No. 427, Ancient York Masons, and, in 1880, was elected a councilman of and worked as a clerk for Newtown Borough.

In 1869 George married Sarah Elizabeth Hough. A year later, on April 10, 1870, the couple welcomed their first child, a girl named Helen Amanda. On December 13, 1876, George and Sarah had another baby, a boy they named William Hough. Helen A. Parry (1870-1948) went on to marry Mahlon Barnes Fretz (1866-1926), a Philadelphia druggist, in 1894. Fretz later opened up a drug store in Newtown. William graduated from the nation's first pharmacy college, the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (now part of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia) in 1897. He died on December 23, 1898, at the age of 23.

This collection is comprised of twenty-four volumes and five folders. The materials span from 1858 to 1898 with a few gaps in years, but Parry's 1886 diary (Volume 22) contains two brief entries dated 1917 in which are listed amounts of money "in hand." It is unclear who wrote them. Also, a few of the volumes contained loose items, mostly clippings, notes, and ephemera. These materials were moved to folders, which are listed in the collection's inventory.

The majority of the volumes belonged to George F. Parry. Among them are one 160-page student notebook from the Boston Veterinary Institute; three Civil War diaries, which detail Parry's veterinary work with army horses and his experience of military campaigns in the southern United states; and sixteen diaries and one ledger, which together document his civilian career as a veterinarian in Newtown, Pennsylvania, after the war, as well as his personal life, farming, and current events such as the 1877 railroad strike and regional and national elections. Parry also made frequent mention of his wife, his children, and his sister Susan, whose name appears throughout his post-Civil War diaries and the ledger. There is also one small family photo album that contains approximately 24 cartes de visite and 1 tintype, including two images of George Parry (one in army uniform), one image of his wife, Sarah, and two images of his daughter, Helen, as a small child. Most photos in the album are unidentified.

Additional volumes in the collection include one diary from Helen dated 1884, which she kept as a teenager. In it she discussed her attendance at school and church, social activities, family relationships, cash purchases, and other matters. There is also a diary (partially used) from Parry's son, William, from 1898. It contains brief entries with mention of illnesses of several extended family members and others, some of whom died. Diphtheria is mentioned, but other illnesses may have been involved as well.

Altogether this collection contains a wealth of information on nineteenth century veterinary medicine and practices. In his school notebook, Parry kept detailed notes on horses he saw, surgeries, and autopsies. There is specific information on illnesses contracted by the animals and their symptoms, as well as the types of treatments that followed. The book also contains Parry's general notes on diseases, medicines and recipes, and horse anatomy and physiology.

Parry's veterinary work is less apparent in his Civil War diaries, but it's nonetheless documented, if sporadically, in his entries. In many passages he wrote about attending to horses, discussing his work with his superior officers, and the results of the war on the regiment's animals. He often mentioned bouts of starvation among horses and mules resulting in the deaths of many animals. He wrote about the regiment receiving and dispersing new horses, as well as the discovery of lone, wandering horses and mules that he took in if they were well enough. At the end of each diary, in addition to financial transactions, Parry kept track of medicines he prescribed to horses with recipes notes.

Upon returning to Pennsylvania after the war, Parry kept up with his journals, though the entries became shorter and less detailed. The post-war diaries span from 1867 to 1886, but there are no volumes for the years 1868, 1869, 1876, 1880, and 1883. Throughout most of the 1870s, he also kept a ledger of veterinary transactions, complete with owners and their animals, their illnesses, and cost of treatments. Similar records can also be found in his diaries. But Parry also noted family events, such as the birth of his children, kept track of farming needs, and, later in life, frequently wrote about the deaths of friends, family, and notable people, such as President Ulysses S. Grant and Colonel George C. Wynkoop. At the ends of each diary are further financial notes, memoranda, and addresses.

Parry's Civil War diaries and his student notebook have been digitized and are available to view at

Purchase, 2012.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania
Finding Aid Author
Finding aid prepared by Cary Hutto
Processing made possible by a generous donation from Mary-Elizabeth Ellard.
Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Collection Inventory

Student notebook, 1858.
Volume 1
Scope and content note

Parry used this volume to record various notes pertaining to his studies at the Boston Veterinary Institute, and he divided it into several sections. The first contains detailed notes dating from September to December 1858 on horses that Parry saw as a student doctor. They contain information on individual horse's ailments, symptoms, and the treatments Parry administered to them. Following this is a section titled "Miscellaneous Notes" that contains information on anatomy and diseases. Skipping several pages, Parry then started a section called "Properties and action of some of the medicines used in veterinary practice" in which he listed various chemical and natural medicines, including components and dosages. Next, there is a page on how various poisons affect the body. The next major section is called "Remarks on the structure of the hoof," which is immediately followed by an extended set of notes on illnesses and recipes of remedies. There is then a section titled "Remarks on Brain." It is followed by the notebook's final passage, "Osseous tissue and disease of the bones."

Photograph album, circa 1860.
Volume 2
Ledger, 1869-1879 (Bulk, 1874-1878).
Volume 3
Scope and content note

Parry kept this ledger from 1869 to 1879, though the bulk of its entries date from 1874 to 1878, and he used it mostly for veterinary transactions. At the front of the book are several pages of clippings pertaining to Quaker poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. The first page of the volume contains a list of expenses pertaining to a house purchased (presumably by Parry) of the Stacy Watson Estate on Washington Avenue in Newtown, Pennsylvania. After this, Parry's veterinary financial records start. The book is filled with debits and credits of individuals who sought out Parry's services. Under each person's name, Parry listed the types of animals they brought (Bay Horse, Sorrel Mare, cow, and so on), the animal's illnesses, which included everything from pneumonia and indigestion to worms and abscesses, and payments due and received.

Items removed from Volume 3, undated.
Box 1 Folder 1
Civil War diary, 1863.
Volume 4
Scope and content note

In the first half of this diary, Parry primarily noted his daily social interactions. Numerous individuals are mentioned, most prominently members of the Buckman, Taylor, Linton, Tomlinson, and Connard families. In a few instances he made mention of work-related activities such as buying or checking out horses and hauling farm goods. In June, once he was mustered into the 7th Pennsylvania Calvary, the tone and length of his entries changed. He began making detailed descriptions about the whereabouts of his regiment, and he concentrated on his surroundings rather than his military/veterinary work. By the end of June, he was in Tennessee, and he spent the remainder of the year travelling through Tennessee, northern Alabama and northern Georgia. In September he participated in the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia. He was back in Tennessee by the end of the year.

Civil War diary, 1864.
Volume 5
Scope and content note

Parry began 1864 in Tennessee travelling by boat up the Cumberland River. He eventually ended up in "Caro" (Cairo), Illinois, near the end of January. Soon after, he received a furlough and travelled back to Pennsylvania where he spent the month of February in Bucks County. Parry's hiatus ended in early March, and he was sent back down to Nashville, Tennessee, where he met up with the rest of his regiment. In April, he held inspections of horses that were sent to the city and he picked out ones for his own use, first "Lightning," then "Rosencrans." The regiment was on the move south by the end of April, with stops in "Steavenson" (Stevenson), Alabama; Raccoon Mountain in eastern Tennessee; and "Fayette" (probably Lafayette), Georgia. As the regiment headed further into Georgia, Parry witnessed much of what we now know as the Atlanta Campaign – a series of battles between Union and Confederate forces that took place in the state between May and September of 1863. Parry participated in the Battle of Dallas, Georgia, at the end of May. His notes reveal frequent casualties among soldiers and starvation among the regiment's animals. Throughout the summer and into the fall, Parry moved in and around Atlanta, and saw more fighting in spots such as Marietta. But the regiment moved on and Parry was in Louisville, Kentucky, by the end of the year.

Civil War diary, 1865.
Volume 6
Scope and content note

Parry was in Louisville, Kentucky, at the start of 1865. But his stay there did not last long as the regiment again headed south within the first couple weeks of the new year. As he travelled, he frequently mentioned the destruction in their midst, sometime in the form of fields of wounded and dying soldiers, sometimes in the form of bad roads and damaged terrain. By March, the regiment was in northeastern Mississippi heading towards Alabama. It soon reached the outskirts of Birmingham and quickly turned and marched south towards Selma. Parry participated in the Battle of Selma, Alabama, at the start of April. Afterwards, he passed through Montgomery and eventually ended up in Macon, Georgia. The city peacefully surrendered to the Union troops. During the springtime, he noted the burning of towns and cotton fields (by his regiment and others), and made sure to mention a few special events, such as the capture of Richmond, the death of President Abraham Lincoln, and the capture of Confederate president Jefferson Davis.

At war's end, Parry, who had battled with various illnesses over the course of his service, fell quite sick and ended up in a hospital in Huntsville, Alabama. In August, he was shipped to a hospital in Louisville, Kentucky. On September 1, Parry returned to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where he returned to civilian life in Newtown. He met up with his family, restarted his farm and veterinary practice, joined the Masons, and frequently attended Quaker meetings.

Personal diary, 1867.
Volume 7
Scope and Contents note

By 1867, Parry had established himself as a veterinary surgeon in Bucks County. In December, he attended a party with "Miss Sally Hough," presumably his future wife, Sarah E. Hough. (The couple married in 1869.) In this and subsequent diaries, Parry's diary entries are much less descriptive. He only occasionally mentioned family events and mostly used his journals to keep track of his veterinary work. Many entries simply contain lists of customers, their animals, and costs of services. The latter half of his 1867 diary is filled with financial transactions.

Items removed from Volume 7, 1867, 1869, undated.
Box 1 Folder 2
Personal diary, 1870.
Volume 8
Scope and content note

This is mostly a diary of work and financial information, but in it Parry made mention of the birth of his daughter, Helen Amanda, on April 10.

Personal diary, 1871.
Volume 9
Personal diary, 1872.
Volume 10
Personal diary, 1873.
Volume 11
Personal diary, 1874.
Volume 12
Personal diary, 1875.
Volume 13
Scope and content note

On December 13, there is a note about the birth of George and Sarah's new baby boy. No name is mentioned, but the boy is eventually called William Hough.

Personal diary, 1877.
Volume 14
Scope and content note

In July 1877, the Great Railroad Strike occurred. Over the course of a month and a half, there were numerous violent clashes between railroad workers and state or federal troops in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Illinois. Parry noted this event with a couple of brief entries in July about troops being sent to Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

Personal diary, 1878.
Volume 15
Scope and content note

Parry noted the grand opening of the Philadelphia-Newtown Railroad on February 2.

Items removed from Volume 15, 1878.
Box 1 Folder 3
Personal diary, 1879.
Volume 16
Scope and content note

On December 30, a group met at Parry's house to form a "social club," with those elected as follows: President – Y. P. Chambers; Vice-President – E. H. Smith; Secretary – Geo. F. Parry; Treasurer – Dr. J. S. Bryan, other members – Edward Buckman, Eddie H. Buckman, J. H. Barnsley.

Personal diary, 1880.
Volume 17
Scope and content note

Among the notable events Parry mentioned in this diary were a Republican convention that he attended in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, and his election as councilman and clerk of Newtown Borough. Also, in July, the family experienced a serious accident in their horse-drawn wagon and everyone was injured to varying degrees, with son William receiving the most minor of the group. Sarah took a severe cut to her arm, Parry ended up with a broken leg, and daughter Helen was knocked unconscious. Everyone eventually recovered.

Personal diary, 1881.
Volume 18
Scope and content note

One of the front pages of this volume contains embossing stamps of the Newtown Lodge, No. 427, Ancient York Masons. While Parry may have previously been a Mason, this is the first indication in the diaries of the lodge to which he belonged.

Personal diary, 1882.
Volume 19
Personal diary, 1884.
Volume 20
Personal diary, 1885.
Volume 21
Items removed from Volume 21, undated.
Box 1 Folder 4
Personal diary, 1886.
Volume 22
Scope and content note

This is Parry's final diary. He wrote in it until November 29th and died on December 10th. Despite this, someone from a later generation wrote in the diary with handwriting much different that Parry's own. There are a few scant notes near the end of the diary with two passages dated March 11, 1917, and April 14, 1917. Each contains lists of money "in hand," and it is unclear who made these notes.

Helen Parry diary, 1884.
Volume 23
Scope and content note

Parry's daughter Helen kept this diary between the ages of 13 and 14. It contains passages on school, church, weather, and friends and family, particularly deaths among them. She also frequently mentioned having contact with members of the Fretz family of Newtown, particularly Billy Fretz. (Helen would eventually marry Mahlon Barnes Fretz. It is not known if he was "Billy.")

Items removed from Volume 23, 1883, undated.
Box 1 Folder 5
William Hough Parry diary, 1898.
Volume 24
Scope and content note

Among all the diaries in the collection, this contains the briefest entries and is only about a third full. It has been attributed to William, Parry's son, due to the mentions of Helen (his sister) and Mahlon (his brother-in-law), and trips he took with his mother ("Mamma"). Death of various individuals, including one Grover McCoy are mentioned, as is the allusion to a store in which William may have worked. (He was a druggist.) The diary ends abruptly in April with just a few notes about flowers made in a later months. William died on December 13, 1898.

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