Biography of Catherinc C. Parsons (w/o William C.)
Orleans County, NY Biographies





Parsons, Catherine M., was born in 1813, and was nearly three years of age when her father, Austin Day, came from Vermont to this county. She was educated at Wilkesbarre Seminary. On November 12, 1839, she married Elijah Freeman, a resident of Rochester, N. Y., he being one of the owners of a popular line of packets on the Erie canal He died August 6, 1842. On October 7, 1844, Mrs. Catherine Freeman married William C. Parsons, a native of Litchfield, Conn., a son of a prominent physician of that place. Mr. Parsons was born May 16, 1808, and came to New York State at an early age. He was educated at Geneva College, studied law and became a successful practitioner and lecturer of note on educational, political economy and temperance questions. A man of strong individuality and moulder of public opinion, he became one of the founders of a society, the outgrowth of which was the Republican party. His close identity with this great movement brought him into personal contact with John C. Fremont and later with Abraham Lincoln, with whom he was on the most intimate and friendly terms, and through his personal friendship the destiny of this great nation was materially effected. Prior to the breaking out of the war Mr. Parsons located at Washington, D. C., where his family expected soon to follow and there make their permanent home. On February 23, 1881, Mr. Lincoln arrived at Washington, and during the journey to the capital great care was exercised to prevent any designs upon the president's life. Mr. Parsons having in charge one of the departments of the Secret Service, with headquarters at Washington, was a valuable assistant to the government authorities, and through his shrewdness the life of President Lincoln was undoubtedly saved, for Mr. Parsons discovered a deep laid scheme, which had it been consummated would have resulted in the president's death, and through his agents he discovered and thwarted a plot to burn the city of Washington. Mr. Parsons learned that they had fixed upon the southeast angle on the north wing of the capitol as the most favorable spot from which to accomplish their object. With a number of Union friends Mr. Parsons came early on the morning o( that day and occupied the place. Not long after the conspirators also arrived, and looked their rage and disappointment at finding their vantage ground preoccupied. The rebels had proposed before the attack on Sumter to destroy Washington with fire and pillage, under the direction of the Knights of the Golden Circle. A strong force was to come up from Richmond and sack the city on the morning of April 14, 1861, and set it afire. Just before the Sumter affair the rowdies of Washington suddenly disappeared, and it is now thought they had gone to join the marauders from Richmond. About the same time the rebel mayor of the city had ordered all the fire hose destroyed, as being useless from long wear. He evidently was in the secret and wished to cripple the fire department. And this is the ruse by which Mr. Parsons defeated the iniquitous scheme: With his sequestrated knowledge he was able to assume membership in the Knights. The postmaster of Richmond, as he knew, was a member of the order. To him Mr. Parsons addressed a letter, bearing the marks of the utmost haste, to this effect: "We do not think it best under present circumstances to attack Washington tomorrow. There are 60,000 men within a few hours march of the city. It will be madness to undertake it with the handful of men we have." The letter was addressed "My Dear Brother of the K. G. C." and signed with the cipher of the order, as nearly correct as the writer could make it, trusting that the evident haste would appear to account for its lack of correctness. It was sent to Richmond on the 13th of April. This letter, Mr. Parsons learned through his agent, was received at night, read before the Knights, and caused them to postpone their attack until a more convenient season. Mr. Parsons also industriously circulated among the Virginians he met reports that nearly every public building in Washington was swarming with armed men concealed ready for action. These reports had the effect to frighten the plotters, and history remains as it is known. At the opening of hostilities, Mr. Parsons, with many other citizens, served for a time in the defense of Washington under Cassius M. Clay, as a soldier, and was honorably discharged. He refused the appointment of a consulship under Mr. Lincoln, thinking he could better serve his country at home. Mr. Parsons died April 6, 1862. The children of Catherine M. and W. C. Parsons were as follows: Mary D. (deceased); Minerva, wife of George W. Barrell, of Albion; Catherine, wife of C. C. Carpenter, of Rochester; William A., of Buffalo; Francis, deceased, and Cora E., of Albion, N. Y.

From:
Landmarks of Orleans County, New York
Edited by: Hon. Isaac C. Signor
Assisted by: H. P. Smith and others
D. Mason & Co., Publishers
Syracuse, N. Y. 1894


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