Manuscript Group 287, James Parker (1725-1797) and John Parker (1729-1762) Papers, 1752-1781


Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs

Manuscript Group 287

James Parker (1725-1797) and John Parker (1729-1762)

Papers, 1752-1781

.25 linear feet / ½ small mss. box

Processed by Irina Peris as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Biographical Note:

James Parker (1725-1797), the son of Janet Johnstone (d.1741) and John Parker (1693-1732), served in the colonial military as a young man. Some time after 1746, he left the army and partnered with Beverly Robinson and Andrew Johnston in a mercantile business. The company traded with the West Indies and in 1750-1751, Parker traveled to Jamaica for business reasons. Soon after this trip he settled in Perth Amboy, New Jersey to manage the family estate, which included the mansion known as “The Castle.” He married Gertrude Skinner (d.1811), the sister of Cortlandt Skinner (1727-1799), and with her started a family.

Parker served in a number of different capacities throughout his lifetime. He was an agent for the East Jersey Proprietors; an agent for the Hunterdon and Sussex County properties of Sir Robert Barker, an absentee landlord; a lawyer; a councilor under Governor William Franklin (1764-1775); and mayor of Perth Amboy (1771). In 1775, he declined the appointment as one of Perth Amboy’s delegates to the Provincial Congress, choosing instead to stay neutral during the escalating conflict. Though he had loyalist connections and sympathies, he remained neutral and moved his family to the farm he called “Shipley” in Bethlehem (now Union), Hunterdon County, New Jersey. In November of 1777, James Parker and two others were taken as loyalist hostages to ensure the safety of patriot captives. Parker was soon allowed to return to his family at “Shipley,” where they remained until the end of the war. In 1783, the Parkers moved to New Brunswick, New Jersey for two years before returning to the family home in Perth Amboy. James Parker died on October 4, 1797, leaving his son, James (1776-1868), to manage the remaining family lands.

John Parker (1729-1762), James Sr.’s younger brother, served for five years (1745-1750) as a midshipman on board the British vessel Chester, and soon after sailed to Jamaica, Virginia, and Newfoundland. He then earned the rank of colonel through his service in the campaigns against the French in 1755 and 1756, and at Fort William Henry in 1757. In 1761, he was taken prisoner at Martinico, where he died on February 15th of the following year. John Parker never married.


Clayton, W. Woodford, ed. History of Union and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey, with Biographical Sketches of Many of Their Pioneers and Prominent Men (Everts & Peck: Philadelphia, 1883), pgs. 612-613.

Provenance Note:

This collection was donated by Charles W. Parker in 1932.

Scope and Content Note:

This collection consists of the account book of John Parker, the diaries of James Parker, and an undated typewritten transcript of the diaries. The collection dates from 1752-1781 and is organized by author and then arranged chronologically.

The account book dates from 1752 and documents John Parker’s commercial transactions while in Virginia. The volume records such activities as the sale and purchase of sugar, cider, and coffee. The account book is part of a large notebook which also contains the earliest section of James Parker’s diary.

The diaries of James Parker date from May 16, 1778 to September 21, 1779; January 1, 1780 to October 8, 1780; and January 1, 1781 to October 8, 1781 – the time period that Parker and his family lived at “Shipley” in Huntington County, New Jersey. The entries largely consist of farming and business records that deal with such things as planting techniques and work injuries. Parker also comments on such matters as slave labor, cattle sales, prices, land sales, early lotteries, the cost of education, and news of the war. This last topic includes such subjects as the movement and quartering of troops (December 1778), the collection of grain and cattle for the army (January 1780), and militia summonses (June 1780).

Related Collections:

Manuscript Group 18, Parker Family Papers (Perth Amboy, NJ)

Manuscript Group 546, James Parker (1725-1797), Lawyer, Journal

Manuscript Group 747, James Parker (1776-1868) and Cortlandt Parker (1818-1907)


Folder List:

Folder Title Dates
1 John Parker. Account book 1752
James Parker. Diary 1778-1779
2 James Parker. Diary 1780-1781
3 James Parker. Diary. Typescript copy n.d.

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