Thursday, February 6, 2014

James Parker, New Jersey printer

I just discovered a very interesting relative-- love it when that happens!

James Parker was the first printer in New Jersey-- considered among the best in the 13 colonies, who worked with Benjamin Franklin. He was also the grandson of my 9th great-grandfather Elisha PARKER (1635-1717), my first cousin nine times removed.

James was born in 1714 in Woodbridge, New Jersey to Samuel and Joanna (nee INGLISH) Parker; Samuel's father was Elisha, who had removed with his family from Barnstable, Massachusetts to New Jersey. 

When his father died, 11-year-old James was apprenticed as an indentured servant to a New York printer named William Bradford, but  he ran away from him. Now with a reward on his head, he was a "wanted man."

James Parker ended up in Philadelphia, where he started working for a printer by the name of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin convinced Parker tot go back to New York and finish out the time he owed to William Bradford. Once his his indenture had been paid off, Parker returned to Philadelphia, where he worked with Franklin as a journeyman and lodged with him. Franklin financed Parker and made him a silent partner.

In the 1750's, James Parker opened his own printing shop in his birthplace of Woodbridge, New Jersey. This was a great location, as the only other cities in the northeast with printers/publishers were New York and Philadelphia. He published a very wide variety of materials-- hymnals, magazines, fiction, reference books, and poetry. 

In addition to journalism and printing, James Parker was very active in civic matters, even becoming a judge in the court of common pleas of Middlesex County. 

He was married to Mary Ballereau and they had two children: Samuel Franklin and Jane Ballereau Parker. James suffered bad health due to gout, and died on 2 July 1770, at the age of 55 or 56. 

He didn't live quite long enough to see the American Colonies rebel against Britain. I can't help but wonder what he would have thought, and whether he would have used his presses to help the cause?

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

My Parker line:

Elisha PARKER (1635-1717) m. Elizabeth HINCKLEY

Thomas PARKER (1658-1730) m. Mary UNKNOWN

Benjamin PARKER I (b. 1692) m. Unknown

Jonathan PARKER (1714-1792) m. Unknown

Benjamin PARKER II (1745-1816) m. Rachel THROPP 

James Manning PARKER (1792-1877) m. Euphemia SINCLAIR

Margaret Esther PARKER (1826-1913) m. Christopher SIMMONDS

Thomas Parker SIMMONDS (1871-1953) m. Jessie May BAKER

Estelle May SIMMONDS (1893-1930) m. Horace William HOWES

Henry Richard HOWES (1913-1987) m. Dorothy Elizabeth PALMER

S. HOWES (1937-1999) m. my father (b. 1933)

Me (b. 1974)

The Parker family in general were quite prominent and interesting, and I'll write more on this branch.