Andrews Parsons

Biography of Governor Andrews Parsons

Andrews Parsons
Andrews Parsons

Andrews Parsons, Governor of Michigan from March 8, 1953 to Jan. 3, 1855, was born in the town of Hoosick, County of Rensselaer, and State of New York, on the 22d day of July, 1817, and died June 6, 1855, at the early age of 38 years. He was the son of John Parsons, born at Newburyport, Mass., Oct. 2, 1782, and who was the son of Andrew Parsons, a Revolutionary soldier, who as the son of Phineas Parsons, the son of Samuel Parsons, a descendant of Walter Parsons, born in Ireland in 1290.

Of this name and family, some one hundred and thirty years ago, Bishop Gilson remarked in his edition of Camden’s Britannia: “The honorable family of Parsons have been advanced to the dignity of Viscounts and more lately Earls of Ross.”

The following are descendants of these families: Sir John Parsons, born 1481, was Mayor of Hereford; Robert Parsons, born in 1546, lived near Bridgewater, England. He was educated at Ballial College, Oxford, and was a noted writer and defender of the Romish faith. He established an English College at Rome and another at Valladolia. Frances Parsons, born 1556, was Vicar of Rothwell, in Notingham; Bartholomew Parsons, born in 1618, was another noted member of the family. In 1634, Thomas Parsons was knighted by Charles I. Joseph and Benjamin brothers, were born in Great Torrington, England, and accompanied their father and others to New England about 1630. Samuel Parsons, born at Salisbury, Mass., in 1707, graduated from Harvard College in 1730, ordained at Rye, N.Y., Nov. 3, 1736, married Mary Jones, daughter of Samuel Jones, of Boston, Oct. 9, 1739, died Jan. 4, 1789, a the age of 82, in the 53rd year of his ministry. The grandfather of May Jones was Capt. John Adams, of Boston, grandson of Henry, of Braintree, who was among the first settlers of Massachusetts, and from whom a numerous race or the name are descended, including two Presidents of the United States. The Parsons have become very numerous and are found throughout New England, and many of the descendants are scattered in all parts of the United States, and especially in the Middle and Western States. Governor Andrew Parsons came to Michigan in 1835, at the age of 17 years, and spent the summer at Lower Ann Arbor, where for a few months he taught school which he compelled to abandon from ill health.

He was one of the large number of men of sterling worth, who came from the East to Michigan when it was an infant State, or, even prior to its assuming the dignity of a State, and who, by their wisdom, enterprise and energy, have developed its wonderful natural resources, until to-day it ranks with the proudest States in the Union. These brave men came to Michigan with nothing to aid them in the conquest of the wilderness save courageous hearts and strong and willing hands. They gloriously conquered, however, and to them is due all the honor for the labors so nobly performed, for the solid and sure foundation which they laid of a great Commonwealth.

In the fall of 1835, he explored the Grand River Valley in a frail canoe, the whole length of the river, from Jackson to Lake Michigan, and spent the following winter as a clerk in a store at Prairie Creek, in Ionia County, and in the spring went to Marshall, where he resided with his brother, the Hon. Luke H. Parsons, also now deceased, until the fall, when he went to Shiawassee County, then with Clinton County, and an almost unbroken wilderness and constituting one organized township. In 1837 this territory was organized into a county and, at the age of only 19 years, he (Andrew) was elected County Clerk. In 1840, he was elected Register of Deeds re-elected in 1842, and also in 1844. In 1846, he was elected to the State Senate, was appointed Prosecuting Attorney in 1848, and elected Regent of the University in 1851, and Lieutenant Governor, and became acting Governor, in 1853, elected again to the Legislature in 1854, and, overcome by debilitated health, hard labor, and the responsibilities of his office and cares of his business, retired to his farm, where he died soon after.

He was a fluent and persuasive speaker and well calculated to make friends of his acquaintances. He was always true to his trust, and the whole world could not persuade nor drive him to do what he conceived to be wrong. When Governor, a most powerful railroad influence was brought to bear upon him, to induce him to call an extra session of the Legislature. Meetings were held in all parts of the State for that purpose. In some sections the resolutions were of a laudatory nature, intending to make him do their bidding by resort to friendly and flattering words. In other places the resolutions were of a demanding nature, while in others they were threatening beyond measure. Fearing that all these influences might fail to induce him to call the extra session, a large sum of money was sent him, and liberal offers tendered him if he would gratify the railroad interests of the State and call the extra session, but, immovable, he returned the money and refused to receive any favors, whether from any party who would attempt to corrupt him by laudations, liberal offers, or by threats, and in a short letter to the people, after giving overwhelming reasons that no sensible man could dispute, showing the circumstances were not “extraordinary,” he refused to call the extra session. This brought down the wrath of various parties upon his head, but they were soon forced to acknowledge the wisdom and the justice of his course. One of his greatest enemies said, after a long acquaintance; “though not always coinciding with his views I never doubted his honesty or purpose. He at all times sought to perform his duties in strict accordance, with the dictates of his conscience, and the behests of his oath.” The following eulogium form a political opponent is just in its conception and creditable to its author: “Gov. Parsons was a politician of the Democratic school, a man of pure moral character, fixed and exemplary habits, and entirely blameless in every public and private relation of life. As a politician he was candid, frank and free from bitterness, as an executive officer firm, constant and reliable.” The highest commendations we can pay the deceased is to give his just record, — that of being an honest man.

In the spring of 1854, during the administration of Governor Parsons, the Republican party, at least as a State organization, was first formed in the United States “under the oaks” at Jackson, by anti-slavery men of both the old parties. Great excitement prevailed at this time, occasioned by the settling of Kansas, and the issue their by brought up, whether slavery should exist their . For the purpose of permitting slavery their , the “Missouri compromise” (which limited slavery to the south of 36° 30’) was re-repealed, under the leadership of Stephen A. Douglas. This was repealed by a bill admitting Kansas and Nebraska into the Union, as Territories, and those who were opposed to this repeal measure were in short called “anti-Nebraska” men. The epithets, “Nebraska” and “anti-Nebraska” were temporally employed to designate the slavery and anti-slavery parties, pending the desolution of the old Democratic and Whig parties and the organization of the new Democratic and Republican parties of the present.

Source: Chapman Brothers. Portrait and biographical record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola counties, Michigan. Chicago: Chapman brothers, 1892.

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