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The Parsons

Thomas (2) Parsons, 1688-1772

Although it is clear that Thomas (2) Parsons left Bucks County sometime after the death of his father in 1721, it is unknown when he left and it is unknown where he went.  A Parsons history and several Parsons family trees imply that he traveled directly to Hampshire County, Virginia, where he married his wife Parthenia Baldwin in 1729.  However, it is likely that Thomas (2) spent some years in western Pennsylvania before moving on to Virginia.  In fact, Hampshire County did not even exist until 1753 when it was created from Frederick County by the General Assembly of Virginia.  Additionally, the Parsons are not listed in any legal or historical document as one of the region's nine earliest families that settled in the area between 1725 and 1740.  That said, it is possible Thomas (2) had arrived in the area by 1748 for by that time over 200 people lived in and around the town of Pearsall's Flats, later renamed Romney
, however the first legal or historical document in which his name appears is dated 1761. 

Philadelphia Wagon Road

Many of these 200 pioneers from Pennsylvania had traveled to area via the "Great Philadelphia Wagon Road," which went west from Philadelphia, joined with the "Great Valley Road" through the northern Shenandoah Valley.  At Winchester, they turned westward once again via what would come to be known as the "Old Northwestern Turnpike" and entered what would become Hampshire County.  It is highly likely that Thomas (2) followed this route west, and it is highly likely that he stopped and lived for sometime at some point along the route.

When reports of the numerous settlers around Pearsall's Flats reached Lord Thomas Fairfax,
the owner of the land, he realized that he was sitting on a potential goldmine.  Lord Fairfax, who had seen much of his family fortune depleted in England, had inherited the land between the Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers, including what is now western Virginia and West Virginia, from his mother.  So he moved to the colony and settled in Winchester in 1735 to live upon and watch over his domain.  By 1748, Lord Fairfax understood there was considerable money to be made by selling his western lands to new settlers, which would also provide a buffer between Winchester and the French and their Native American allies.  So, he hired James Glenn, the only certified surveyor in Virginia,Thomas (2) Parsons' Lands and a team of six assistants, including 16-year old George Washington, to survey the region and lay-off plots for sales or rentals, not just to the current occupants, but for the scores of pioneers who were arriving on a regular basis from Pennsylvania.  Whether or not Thomas (2) bought his property directly from Lord Fairfax, he held sizeable tracks of land along the South Branch of the Potomac River by end of the 1750s, the most significant being in the vicinity of the towns of Romney and Moorefield.

For some time, the French had been instigating their Native American allies against the English and war parties routinely attacked rural homesteads.  When open hostilities finally broke out with the French and Indian War in 1753, life in Hampshire County became perilous as the raids increased in both frequency and ferocity. 

Shawnee Raid

Even after the war officially ended, the Delaware and Shawnee continued to launch murderous raids on homesteads and settlements throughout the region until they were finally defeated by the British Army at Bushy Run in western Pennsylvania.

Parsons Land on the Cheat RiverBefore that occurred, however, a young man named Thomas Howell, thought by some to be an adopted son of Thomas (2), was captured by the Indians, possibly in 1762, and taken as a slave to lands on the other side of the Ohio River.  Nine years later, Howell managed to escape from his captors and blaze a trail back to Moorefield.  There he described to Thomas (2) Parsons and his two sons, Thomas (3) and James, not only his adventure, but the excellent lands along the Cheat River that he found on his journey home.  Together they decided to retrace Howell's trail and claim the western land.  Unfortunately, Howell and Thomas (2) died before the trip could be made, but Thomas (3) and James explored and claimed the region in 1772 and established homesteads in 1774 between the present day towns of St. George and Parsons.

Also in 1774, another pioneer named John Minear, possibly at the invitation of James
Parsons, led about a dozen families into the area.  They had no sooner begun to establish homesteads when Lord Dunmore's War broke out, and they chose to abandonHolly Meadows and Horseshoe Bend the area.  Although, all of the land that now comprises West Virginia was sold to Virginia by the Iroquois Confederacy in 1768, the Shawnee's, who had become familiar with the region during the French and Indian War, placed designs upon it and attempted to prevent new settlers and drive out the existing settlements.  Two years later, after the war ended in 1776, the Minear party returned to restart their "colony," and initiated a land dispute with the Parsons.  In the end, the Parsons were granted almost all of their original claim with James' living in the land in-and-around Horseshoe Bend and Thomas owning the land in-and-around Holly Meadows; the Minear group settled closer to what today is St. George.