Biography of Ashbel Parmelee
Franklin County, NY Biographies





Ashbel Parmelee, D. D., born at Stockbridge, Mass., October 18, 1784, moved to Vermont with his parents at an early age, and until 1802 did such work on the farm as would he expected from a boy poorly circumstanced. Having resolved to become a minister, he set about in earnest to acquire an education, but was so handicapped by eye trouble that for two years he could pursue his studies only by having fellow students read them to him. Thus it was not until 1808 that he was licensed to preach. Serving churches in Vermont for the next year or so, he came to Malone in 1809 to marry Lucy Winchester, a great aunt of Mrs. Henry J. Merriam, which visit opened the way to his settlement at Malone in the latter part of the same year, to become pastor of the Congregational Church. His compensation was to be $400 a year, payable one third in money and two thirds in grain; and it never exceeded $650 per annum. The relation thus begun continued without a break for nearly thirty six years, and, fellowship with the society for sixteen years longer. During this latter period Doctor Parmelee preached in Bangor, Beilmont and other nearby places, as well as not infrequently in his old church, and for three years was prison chaplain at Dannemora. The weakness and infirmities that afflicted him in his young manhood disappeared within a few years, and, though of slight physique and apparently frail, he developed a capacity for great endurance and remarkable mental effort. He was all energized force, with untiring application, and his labors were prodigious. Besides his immediate pastoral work, he often gave two lectures or sermons a week in school houses in rural neighborhoods, and, taking a vacation, would travel on horseback and engage in missionary work for weeks at a time in St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Clinton and Essex counties. During the war of 1812 he acted as chaplain without pay in General Wilkinson's army. With it all, he built his church into a strong body, and himself into a dominating figure in the community. With an intellectual endowment of the highest order, and a strength and tenacity of conviction that no personal or public pressure could weaken or cause to waver, with inflexible standards of right and wrong, and with rigid conception of obligations of civic duty and even of the proprieties of individual walk and conduct, he so impressed upon the people generally, outside of his own church almost equally as within it, that whether or not men bore themselves as he believed and taught that they ought, they at least judged their friends and neighbors by test of whether they ohserved or disregarded Doctor Parmelee's dicta. Men of his time who had ample opportunity for observation and capacity for judgment were all agreed, even those of them who were not of his religious faith, that no man in Malone was ever so much of a factor in moulding the character of the community, or contributed so much to make the town what the best thought and the finest aspirations wished it to be. Of course his theology was of the type that is now commonly regarded as narrow and intolerant, but it was sincere and compelling to him, and was softened to others by a personal kindness and helpfulness that counted greatly. In a biography by his son I find the following: " He feared his Maker; he feared nothing else. Whenever he discovered a schism or heresy arising in his church, or an evil gaining root in the community, he put his foot boldly upon it. And he never took it up until the viper was crushed, It was a hard foot to get out of the way." Doctor Parme]ee often expressed the hope that his end might come without warning, and his wish was gratified. May 24, 1862, when in apparently better health than he had enjoyed for a number of weeks, and while in the very act of performing a neighborly service, he fell into the arms of his friend and expired. Former Vice President Wheeler so appraised his work and venerated his character that on a memorial tablet which he erected he caused it to be inscribed that he was "instantaneously translated."

From:
Historical Sketches of Franklin County
and its several towns.
By: Frederick J. Seaver Malone, New York.
J. B. Lyon Company, Printers Albany, NY 1918.


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